AS (2016) CR 01



(First part)


First sitting

Monday 25 January 2016 at 11.30 a.m.

In this report:

1.       Speeches in English are reported in full.

2.       Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.

3.       The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates

4.       Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.

5.       Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been        circulated.

The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the report.

(Ms Durrieu, the doyenne of the Assembly, took the Chair at 11.35 a.m.)

1. Opening of the 2016 ordinary session

      The PRESIDENT* – I declare open the 2016 ordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

      I regret to have to inform you of the recent death of two former Presidents of the Assembly: Mr Karl Ahrens, President between April 1983 and April 1986, who died on 6 March, and Mr Louis Jung, President between April 1986 and May 1989, who died on 22 October. I propose that we stand to observe a minute’s silence in memory of their contribution to the work of this Assembly.

      The Assembly observed a minute’s silence.

      I start by expressing my profound and heartfelt gratitude to Anne Brasseur on the day on which she steps down as President. In her time in post, she has acted with conviction, elegance and great competence. Ms Brasseur, the Council of Europe’s image depends on the dignitaries and honourable members we appoint; you have done an admirable job in that respect, so many thanks to you.

      Under our rules, the longest-standing member of the Assembly presides over the opening sitting. I was elected to the French Senate back in 1992, and have been a member of this Assembly since 1993. Please do not start counting, but that is plenty of years – almost a lifetime. That period is a big chunk of my political life, and it covers many of my most exciting and powerful moments.

      I do not want to give a long overview of what we have done, but I would like to express my profound respect for this institution. The Council of Europe was created back in 1949 by 10 founding member States, quickly joined by an 11th, Turkey; I remind colleagues that Turkey is one of our founding member States. Turkey is a source of strength to the Council, but membership brings with it many obligations. I also thank our founding fathers, including Churchill and Adenauer.

      I should also like to mention the enlargement of the Council of Europe in 1992 and 1994. I was here during a period of enlargement to include eastern countries. That process gave rise to many questions: “The Balkans, fair enough, but the Caucasus? Is that part of Europe? Are the Urals in Europe, or beyond it?” I was very enthusiastic about following the work of the founding fathers, including Louis Jung, who died recently, and Martínez.

      I remind members of the Council of Europe’s remit and its mission, which expresses a profound political conviction based on solidarity. Some people say that we have perhaps been too naïve in our enthusiasm, but one example of our solidarity is the relationship between Germany and France. The Council of Europe expresses an ideal: the bringing together of values, and a shared desire to form a new European model of citizenship.

      It saddens and sometimes angers me to have to say that the values and structure of the Council, and of Europe as a whole, are under threat. There is often a growing gulf between reality and our values. Jaurès, the French politician, talked about the disappointments of reality. I do not want to talk about failure, but consider all the conflicts that have flared up in Europe, this area of peace: conflicts that continue to simmer; frozen conflicts; and States failing to respect borders and violating the integrity and sovereignty of member States of the Council of Europe. Those borders, which were created through agreements and negotiations, cannot be changed without new agreements. They are a precious achievement for Europe. Over the years, we fought hard to open up those borders within the Schengen Agreement; now we are talking about closing them. Drifts towards populism and identity-based politics in many member States, accompanied by a flaring up of terrorist acts, are also part of a gloomy picture.

We find ourselves at a major turning point in Europe’s history. What can and should we do if we want to wake Europe up? Should we build a new European project? Should we look for a new shared dimension for Europe based on respect for human rights? What is Europe? It is part of a shared ambition. It is an identity that all its members desire. Europe is the place in which we should forge that shared European identity, so we must reflect carefully on what we do here in the Council of Europe. We have an enormous responsibility to shoulder in the face of not only our citizens and our member States but the wider world. I can but look to those countries whose co-operation and support we have been calling for, and who are now our Partners for Democracy. I salute Jordan, which will join us tomorrow, Morocco, which joined recently, Palestine and Kyrgyzstan. Those countries closely follow what we do and say. They are looking for a message in what we say to them. They wish to share our values. The renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish said: “What can we do when reason falls silent? All that’s left is dreams and more dreams”.

We must take up the sublime mission of the Council of Europe – that of uniting peoples in peace and justice. Thank you.

2. Examination of credentials

The PRESIDENT* – The first item of business is the examination of members’ credentials.

The names of the members are in Document 13953. If no credentials are challenged, the credentials will be ratified.

Are any credentials challenged?

I call Mr Xuclà.

      Mr XUCLÀ (Spain)*Thank you, Madam President. For the second year running, the delegation from Moldova has submitted an incomplete list, with just seven of the 10 names. That does not cover the full gamut of the parliament. We need to be constructive on the Moldovans’ credentials; they could perfectly well attend deliberations this week and, on 4 March in the Standing Committee, we could look at the full list of 10 members.

The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Xuclà. I remind the Assembly that under Rule 7 a challenge must be supported by at least 10 members, from at least five national delegations, present in the Chamber. Would those members supporting this challenge please rise in their places and remain standing while we check whether the requirement is met?

The challenge has the support required under the Rules of Procedure. Accordingly the credentials of the Moldovan delegation are referred without debate to the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs for report.

The committee shall report within 24 hours if possible.

I remind you that members whose credentials are challenged may sit provisionally with the same rights as other Assembly members until the Assembly has reached a decision. However, those members shall not vote in any proceedings relating to the examination of credentials which concern them.

Are there any other challenges?

      The other credentials set out in Document 13953 are ratified. I welcome our new colleagues.

3. Election of the President of the Assembly

      The PRESIDENT* – The next item on the agenda is the election of the President of the Assembly.

      I have received one candidature: that of Mr Pedro Agramunt, Spain, Chairman of the Group of the European People’s Party.

I therefore declare Mr Agramunt elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for this ordinary session, and I invite him to take the chair.

On behalf of all members, I congratulate Mr Agramunt on his election and offer my best wishes to him for his subsequent work.

(Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Ms Durrieu.)

4. Speech of the President of the Assembly

The PRESIDENT* – Good morning Mr Secretary General, ambassadors, dear colleagues and friends.

Today is the first day of my term of office as President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and it is an honour to address you all for the first time on this very special official occasion.

I would first like to thank my predecessor, Ms Anne Brasseur, for the energy and dedication she has shown in the past two years at the helm of the Assembly.

Anne, I know that these two years have not been easy because of all the events that have taken place in Europe in that time, but you had the vision needed to address those challenges and to lead the debates in this house of democracy. Many thanks, Anne. (Applause)

I would also like to thank all those who backed my candidacy to be the new President of the Assembly for their support. I wish to thank my fellow members of the Group of the European People’s Party and my colleagues in other groups, namely the Socialist Group, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, the Group of the Unified European Left and the European Conservatives Group.

My thanks go also to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, the Deputy Secretary General, Ms Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, and the Secretary General of the Assembly, Wojciech Sawicki.

I would also like to mention the staff of this Assembly, whose work ensures the success of every session and every period between parliamentary sessions.

I would also like to say a word for my children, who have come here today to support me on this special occasion.

This is our first meeting for four months, and during that period many member States, such as France, Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina have been the victims of jihadist terrorism. Other countries and their nationals – including the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany and Russia – have been targeted on foreign soil.

Many other States outside Europe have also suffered jihadist terrorism, including some of our closest neighbours, such as Tunisia, Syria and Egypt. I express solidarity with the victims of terrorist atrocities and their families.

(The speaker continued in Spanish.)

I am Spanish and will always be Spanish, but I am, and feel, European. I am European because I am Spanish.

Common interests are the soundest and most lasting basis for good political relations between peoples, and that should always be the case.

When the process of European integration is called into question because of financial or political problems, we need to adopt a historical perspective to appreciate the actions of such figures as the founding fathers of the Council of Europe, who, in a dramatic period of European history, overcame adversity to initiate a process of reconstruction and unity across national differences.

Adenauer, Monnet, De Gasperi and Spaak were the driving forces behind the new Europe, and they fought alongside other figures of their generation for the classic Europeanist ideals of peace between nations, good democratic governance and socio-economic well-being. They laid the foundations for the greatest period of peace and prosperity that the continent of Europe has ever known.

When the Council of Europe set up its Parliamentary Assembly, its first President, Paul-Henri Spaak, referred to it as a “Grand Assembly”. His objective was that the parliamentarians meeting here should have a dual mandate – European and national. Their role is to take to the European level the plurality of views and opinions of millions of European citizens, and to take back home with them a European vision and a plethora of national perspectives to share with their citizens, thus enriching the political and social debate.

Spaak believed that achieving a unified and united Europe would be a protracted and difficult process. And so it has been.

Twenty-seven years after the end of the Cold War, the process is clearly still ongoing – history has not come to an end – and the values of democracy, pluralism, human rights and the rule of law have yet to be fully respected in all European States.

Euphoria has given way to anxiety. The world is not necessarily a more dangerous place than it was during the Cold War, but it has certainly become more chaotic, unclear and complex.

The level of global unrest is astounding. In the Middle East we are seeing the threat posed by Islamic State, the bloody war in Syria and the breakdown of States such as Iraq, Libya and Yemen.

Here in Europe, we are faced with four interrelated challenges that create a state of constant upheaval. First, international terrorism constitutes a fundamental and multifaceted danger. Secondly, the refugee crisis has triggered much debate about European identity and values.

Thirdly, there are conflicts that are still unresolved in Europe. The situation in Ukraine remains very delicate. The conflict has already taken more than 9 000 lives, Russian-backed separatists still control part of the country and peace remains elusive. Threats to security and frozen conflicts still exist in the regions of Transnistria, the Republic of Moldova, Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, and Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. Moreover, the recent crisis between Turkey and Russia cannot but raise concerns.

Finally, the wave of left-wing and right-wing populism, rising nationalism and, in some places, the erosion of democratic principles and human rights affect our cohesion and capacity for joint action. These challenges interact, fuelling and exacerbating each other. They are the questions that dominate our agenda at the beginning of the year. They have grown more urgent and threaten to undo decades of progress towards greater union, more open borders and closer integration. We have to change that now because Europe will be lost if it remains divided. We are democratic and open societies, and we have to be aware of the threats to our security, stability and institutions. We have to find the means to protect ourselves. We must not forget that we have to be militant democracies, and we have the legal basis for that.

(The speaker continued in French.)

Islamic terrorism seeks to destroy the West’s principles, rights, traditions and civilisation. Nothing motivates terrorists more than the erosion of the values attributed to the West and the eradication of individual freedoms and safeguards. The so-called Islamic State is not an illustration of Islam. These criminals and murderers, who revere a cult of death, represent only a small fraction of individuals compared with the billions of Muslims in the world, including the millions of European Muslims who reject their ideology of hatred. If we wish to defeat terrorism, we need to co-operate and recognise the Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, instead of pushing them towards suspicion and hatred.

We should not forget that the majority of the victims of terrorism in the world are Muslims. Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of the world’s Muslims to put an end to the erroneous perceptions that lead to radicalisation. It is the responsibility of us all, whatever our religion, to reject discrimination. We have a duty to defend ourselves against terrorism, but in this Assembly we also have a teaching and educational role, which must prevail over demagoguery. We must engage in a battle to protect our way of life, instead of descending into racism, Islamophobic hysteria and a new so-called war on terrorism.

The citizens who have suffered terrorist attacks in their countries have been wounded in their hearts by the assault on one of our principal values: freedom – the freedom to go out, to travel, to enjoy themselves, to listen to music or just to go about their daily lives. It is for that reason that I would like “the freedom to live without fear” to become one of the main focuses of our work during my presidency. Individual freedom is and always will be the greatest asset we all have. All Europeans should be able to live their daily lives to the full, without having their freedoms restricted by terrorist threats or conflicts.

Europe cannot be subjected to the fear imposed by the so-called Islamic State. Repression tends to generate greater radicalisation, which results in the training and emergence of new jihadists. It is a vicious circle. If we get to that point, the attacks by the so-called Islamic State will have achieved their objective: to show the Muslims living in our societies who are opposed to Islamist fundamentalism that they will never be accepted as equal citizens and that, ultimately, it is the western States – in other words, us – that are their enemies.

The Parliamentary Assembly recently adopted a series of recommendations to combat terrorism and fanaticism in Council of Europe member States. We must attach particular attention to this problem and ensure that it is monitored by an institutional body that, if appropriate, can keep a close watch on questions relating to the fight against terrorism that is affecting the whole of Europe. That will be a major challenge for the months and years ahead if we wish to live in peace both in Europe and with our neighbours.

(The speaker continued in Spanish.)

We hold a mandate from the founding fathers: to be united in values, in a union of rights and responsibilities. Millions of people are heading towards Europe, on the road to salvation. People are fleeing horrific civil wars like the one raging in Syria, which has claimed 250 000 victims. Last year, 1 million refugees arrived in the member States of the European Union, and we must not forget that 2 million refugees also arrived last year in Turkey, one of the member States of the Council of Europe. The refugee crisis poses a challenge to our values. For the women and men of the Middle East and Africa, today’s Europe represents a beacon of hope and a haven of stability. I draw two conclusions from the refugee crisis. First, to dismantle State institutions without acting quickly and effectively to set up new political, administrative and security structures has always been a very high-risk operation. Secondly, the difficulties involved in integrating new communities into European societies have led to political radicalisation, which plays into the hands of the nationalist parties, and a consequent fragmentation of the continent. The refugee crisis is a test of Europe’s ability to reach a consensus.

If demagogic and intolerant discourse is allowed to prevail, the concept of Europe as a community of States committed to human rights and the rule of law will begin to crack. Solidarity must be a two-way process. The member States cannot accept solidarity in the form of, for example, funds from the European Union, and then withhold solidarity when it comes to sharing the burden of the refugee crisis. Solidarity must apply in all spheres. We are increasingly faced with the same recurrent challenges. We have the same problems to resolve, which is why foreign policy is increasingly turning into domestic policy, and vice versa.

The Council of Europe has existed for nearly 70 years. The hallmarks of that period have been democracy, human rights and the rule of law, including liberty and peace, diversity and tolerance, and justice and solidarity.

Upholding our values is not an abstract subject for fine speeches. The challenge of living our values lies in our everyday political activities. Despite all its achievements, the Council of Europe will have to continue to act as the guardian of those European values. A disunited Europe will never be a major global player, whereas a united Europe will always be in a better position to compete peacefully with other States.

      The development of our continent would not have been possible without Franco-German reconciliation, and, today, stability in Europe has still not been finally achieved. The process of reconciliation started in 1989, but cracks have appeared in the past few years with the war in Georgia, the illegal invasion of Crimea, and Russian support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine. The situation in Ukraine remains highly inflammable. In the areas controlled by the separatists, there are many reported human rights violations of a serious nature, and the Council of Europe should be given access to these areas to investigate further.

Two years ago, Ukraine wished to embark on a more democratic and pro-European path and to rid itself of a kleptocratic regime that had committed human rights abuses and imprisoned opposition leaders. For that reason, we must never forget that what started the crisis in Ukraine was the population’s profound disillusionment with its political institutions. Russia must facilitate the return to Ukraine of control over its territory, and the Ukrainian President must show a readiness to engage in dialogue with the east of the country, apply European standards for the protection and promotion of national minorities and foster the region’s economic recovery. For our part, we must continue to debate the frozen conflicts in certain regions of Europe, such as Transnistria, the Republic of Moldova, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia, and Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan, which constitute threats to Europe’s security.

(The speaker continued in English.)

One of the objectives of my presidency is to defend the rights of the Assembly’s parliamentarians so that they can carry out their mandate as elected representatives in the Council of Europe and in their own countries. Thus, the liberation of figures such as the Ukrainian Nadia Savchenko and other political prisoners, including Giorgi Ugulava from Georgia, and the defence of their liberty, freedom of movement and freedom of speech, must be one of the priorities to take up with the authorities of the countries concerned.

We are not assembled here today in the belief that Europe is perfect. We are here because we believe that in Europe we must solve our problems together. Since its origin, the Council of Europe has been a central driving force for reconciliation. The success of the reconciliation between Germany and France in the 1950s and 1960s, in the aftermath of the Second World War, was crucial in building a strong, prosperous and united Europe. It was with that example in mind that we opened up our doors towards the East after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Ensuring a successful transition from authoritarian rule to a system of democratic governance, respecting pluralism of opinions, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, was one of the greatest achievements of the Council of Europe and of our Assembly, which, historically, has been the motor and the driving force of that process, yet the process of transition is still far from over and we continue to see, especially on our eastern borders, tensions and conflicts – both “frozen” and “burning”.

      The conflict in Ukraine has wide and far-reaching implications not only for Ukraine and Russia – two of our member States – but for Europe as a whole. This conflict, which has already taken more than 9 000 human lives and ruined hundreds of thousands of families, must stop and it is our responsibility as Europeans to solve it. Europe needs genuine and sincere reconciliation because confrontation is against our common European interests. Russia has a crucial role to play in that process and must show respect for the values and standards we share. At the same time, we must all shoulder our responsibilities, be ready for dialogue, and seek solutions together. It is important to keep a dialogue with Russia, and the Council of Europe is an appropriate forum for such dialogue.

      I believe that broad reconciliation in Europe is not only necessary, but possible. It is therefore the Assembly’s responsibility to invest all necessary efforts so that this process is possible. We must listen to the parliamentarians and representatives of civil society, propose recommendations and make proposals that contribute to the reconciliation. Europe is living a tumultuous period, confronted with the problems of national selfishness and a lack of agreement on which policies to apply to refugees, as well as the cooling of relationships among some countries. In this context, it is necessary to acknowledge good practices among States to improve their mutual relations, promote co-operation, foster reconciliation and work towards common goals.

      I would like to suggest establishing a special award to be given to politicians, civil society figures and individuals who are making outstanding contributions to fostering good neighbourly relations between our member States, as well as at a global level. The Assembly is an appropriate institution to grant such an award given its historic role in promoting co-operation among European States. I look forward to discussing this idea with all of you.

      Another issue that requires our attention is Belarus. Our strategic objective is the integration of Belarus into the Council of Europe on the basis of the Organisation’s values and principles, pursuant to the declaration of the May 2005 Warsaw Summit. Therefore, we should make new efforts to normalise relations with Belarus in the same way as the European Union has by lifting the sanctions on that country. Belarus has released political prisoners and it is up to us to re-establish contacts with its parliamentarians and civil society, especially in the run up to the parliamentary elections that will be held later this year. Our aim should be to unfreeze the special guest status – but not at any price. For that to happen, essential conditions must be met by Belarus and they have been clearly spelled out in Assembly resolutions: a moratorium on the use of the death penalty must be introduced and progress must be made in terms of respect for the democratic values and principles upheld by the Council of Europe.

      When addressing the Parliamentary Assembly in 1988, Pope John Paul II described the European identity as something “not easy to define”. Identifying a European identity is a less arduous task today than it was 25 years ago. The first sign of a common European identity is adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights. However, there remains much left to do. The nationalists, warmongers, Eurosceptics and populist movements in Europe have a common hatred of any form of co-operation among European countries. They are trying to weaken traditional democracy, so it is necessary to work together against the aggression of ultranationalists. Our values were built over hundreds of years. We cannot sit idly by and see them destroyed in a day.

      We should all be united around the Council of Europe’s ideals of democracy, human rights and the rule of law as a means of ensuring peace in our continent. Our common political destiny and future can stop the minorities that seek to obstruct the will of the majority and challenge our ideals. In Europe, the citizens of one nation should think of those of another nation as “one of us”. If we focus on the otherness of other people it will be hard to sustain common policies.

      I intend to reinforce the concept of common identity to ensure that Europe’s youth become familiar with the cultural identity of all the people of Europe and recognise that we are all affected by our common problems. We must not forget that, for the younger generation, the Second World War is like the Napoleonic wars or the Thirty Years War, which happened long ago. Such wars have fortunately not been repeated in recent history, but we have not been spared serious conflicts such as those in the Caucasus, the former Yugoslavia and, more recently, Ukraine. We therefore cannot take peace for granted. We have to work on it time and again, generation after generation. Democracy needs to be sustained every day. To sustain it, you have to love it. To love it, you must know what democracy is.

      This week, the Assembly will welcome the Jordanian Parliament as one of its Partners for Democracy, but we would like to welcome other countries of the Mediterranean and central Asia, so we should keep working to attract a greater number of them. However, we should not seek to impose western-style democracies on them, and we should not be arrogant. We cannot exclude societies that do not have our long history and experience of political openness, because that may cause a rejection of Western values, which could be more dangerous than the situation that we want to encourage them to reform.

      It is clear that the creation of the Parliamentary Assembly was essential for the success of the Council of Europe and to ensure that European principles were embodied in international legal standards. The Assembly may have relatively few formal powers, but it has considerable moral authority. The former Prime Minister of the French Fourth Republic and President of the European Parliament, Pierre Pflimlin, summed up the situation succinctly in 1963 when he described the Assembly as having “hardly any powers, but real moral authority”. I extend my hand to co-operate with all of you. I will work with the chairs of all political groups, committees and national delegations.

      Our predecessors made a historic contribution to democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe, and every generation must do so anew. Parliamentary diplomacy is an irreplaceable tool. Cuento con ustedes. I am counting on you. Je compte sur vous. Ich zähle auf sie. Ya na tebya raschityvayu. Conto su di voi. Vasízomai páno sas. Conto com vocês. Thank you very much. I wish you every success in your work.

5. Election of Vice-Presidents

      The PRESIDENT* – The next item of business is the election of Vice-Presidents of the Assembly.

      Eighteen nominations for Vice-Presidents are listed in Document AS/Inf (2016) 01.

      If there is no request for a vote with respect to one or several candidates, they will be declared elected.

      As there has been no request for a vote, I declare the candidates elected as Vice-Presidents of the Assembly, in accordance with Rule 16 of the Rules of Procedure. They will take precedence by age.

6. Appointment of members of committees

      The PRESIDENT* – The next item of business is the appointment of members of committees.

      The candidatures for committee members have been published in document Commissions 2016 (01) and Addendum 1.

      These candidatures are submitted to the Assembly for ratification.

      Are these proposals approved?

      The proposed candidatures are approved and the committees are appointed accordingly.

7. Proposal for debates under urgent procedure and on current affairs

      The PRESIDENT* – Before we examine the draft agenda, the Assembly needs to consider requests for three debates under urgent procedure and one on current affairs. The Bureau has received the following: a request for an urgent debate on the subject of “Combating international terrorism while protecting Council of Europe standards and values” from the five political groups; a request for an urgent debate on the subject of “the functioning of democratic institutions in Poland” from the Group of the European People’s Party, the Socialist Group, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and the Group of the Unified European Left; a request for an urgent debate on the subject of “The protection of women and the honest reporting of unpalatable truths” from 26 members of the Assembly; and a proposal for a current affairs debate on the subject of “Recent attacks against women in European cities – the need for a comprehensive response” from the five political groups.

      At its meeting on 14 December, the Bureau expressed a positive opinion on the proposal for an urgent debate on “Combating international terrorism while protecting Council of Europe standards and values” and suggested that the Assembly hold the urgent debate during this part-session. Does the Assembly agree to this proposal from the Bureau?

      Under Rule 26, the Bureau proposes that the debate on “Combating international terrorism while protecting Council of Europe standards and values” be referred to the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy for report, and to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination for opinion.

      It is proposed that the debate take place on Wednesday 27 January at 3.30 p.m. in conjunction with a report on foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.

      The Assembly should take a stand on this request from the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, which is supported by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

      Does the Bureau agree to this proposal?

      The reference is adopted.

      The Assembly now needs to consider the request for a debate under the urgent procedure on “The functioning of democratic institutions in Poland”.

      At its meeting this morning the Bureau approved this request. Does the Assembly agree to this recommendation?

      There is an objection to the Bureau’s recommendation on the request for an urgent procedure debate on “The functioning of democratic institutions in Poland”. We must therefore proceed to a vote. On this question only the following may be heard: one speaker for the request, one speaker against and a representative of the Bureau.

      Who wishes to speak in favour of holding this debate? I call Mr Nicoletti.

      Mr NICOLETTI (Italy)* – The proposal to hold an urgent procedure debate is supported by the political groups, and the Bureau – of course – does not wish to call into question the sovereignty of Poland or that country’s major contribution to extending democracy and freedom in the East. However, concern has also been expressed by citizens and European institutions about the law on the media and the independence of the constitutional court, and I think that that requires and warrants discussion. A debate under the urgent procedure would be the best and most appropriate form of such a debate, because under that procedure a report must be drawn up that would be based on the facts. It would also enable Poland to express its position and clarify those facts.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Who wishes to speak against holding this debate? I call Mr Ghiletchi.

      Mr GHILETCHI (Republic of Moldova)* – Dear colleagues, we are aware that issues may raise concerns when it comes to respecting the fundamental principles of the Council of Europe in Poland, but I do not think it is wise to react in an urgent manner. We need facts, not political opinions, so let us wait until the Venice Commission and other important European bodies come to their conclusions. For that reason, I propose that this item be withdrawn from our agenda.

      The PRESIDENT* – The Bureau is in favour.

      We shall now vote on the request. The decision requires a two-thirds majority for the debate to be accepted. Those who are in favour of holding the debate should vote yes, and those who are against holding the debate should vote no.

      The vote is open.

      The request failed to achieve the required two-thirds majority, with 98 votes for, 89 against and 14 abstentions.

      The urgent debate on the functioning of democratic institutions in Poland will not be included in the agenda of this part-session.

      There has been a third request for an urgent debate, on the subject of “The protection of women and the honest reporting of unpalatable truths” from 26 members of the Assembly.

      Following a request from the five political groups at its meeting this morning, the Bureau decided to recommend to the Assembly that instead of such an urgent debate there should be a current affairs debate with the title “Recent attacks against women in European cities – the need for a comprehensive response”.

      Does the Assembly agree to the recommendation of the Bureau?

      Sir Roger GALE (United Kingdom) – On a point of order, Mr President. There is now time for an urgent debate because the previous urgent debate fell. I would like to recommend to the Assembly that this be taken as an urgent debate, with a full report prepared by Thursday.

      The PRESIDENT* – We shall now vote not on the proposal of the Bureau but on a request for an urgent debate with the title “The protection of women and the honest reporting of unpalatable truths”, which was the first idea. If we approve that we will hold an urgent debate with a report, and I presume that will be held on Thursday morning. If the Assembly votes yes we will hold an urgent debate on a report. If not, it will be held as a current affairs debate.

      I call Mr Liddell-Grainger.

      Mr LIDDELL-GRAINGER (United Kingdom) – I was at the Bureau meeting with the other party groups. I thought we agreed that if any other urgent debate fell, the third debate would become an urgent debate. I agreed to this becoming a general debate only because you quite rightly said that we could have only two urgent debates. I feel as though I have been misled, and I feel quite upset that you have downgraded this debate and are not prepared to do what I felt we agreed in the Bureau.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Liddell-Grainger. Mr Kox, do you wish to speak?

      Mr KOX (Netherlands) – I was at the Bureau meeting, so I know that the majority voted in favour of a current affairs debate and against an urgent debate. My colleague Mr Liddell-Grainger wishes to quote from what was said at the Bureau, but that is what was decided and it is what you should inform us about. Everyone is then, of course, free to vote in the way he or she wishes.

      The PRESIDENT – We will now vote on whether to have an urgent debate, with a report, on Thursday. A two-thirds majority is required in order to have this urgent debate. If that majority is not secured, we will vote on whether to have a current affairs debate.

      I call Mr Evans.

      Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – As one of the emergency debates has fallen, does the Assembly have the opportunity to have two emergency debates? I need clarification on that.

      The PRESIDENT – This is very easy: we are going to vote now, people who want to have the urgent debate must vote yes and if there is a two-thirds majority we will have the urgent debate on Thursday – if there is not, we will continue the discussion.

      The vote is open.

      The request is adopted, with 140 votes for, 53 against and 17 abstentions.

      We will therefore have an urgent debate about this issue on Thursday morning, and I ask the Assembly to send the matter for a report by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

      As the urgent debate has been agreed, the proposal for a current affairs debate falls.

      Ms RAWERT (Germany)* – On a point of order, Mr President. The decision on a debate under the urgent procedure and the topical debate has been taken, but I am working on the hypothesis that the new debate will need a new title. Do I assume that that was part of the vote? Does this mean that the debate under the urgent procedure, which you have just suggested, will be given a new title? I believe that was the basis for your decision.

      The PRESIDENT – Personally, I would agree, but it is not possible to do it like this. The matter is very simple: the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination may change the name and everything will be solved. I hope that everybody is agreed on that. It seems that they are.

8. Adoption of the agenda

      The PRESIDENT* – The next item of business is the adoption of the Agenda for the first part of the 2016 ordinary session.

      The draft agenda submitted for the Assembly’s approval was brought up to date by the Bureau on 14 December and this morning, Document 13932, prov 2.

      (The speaker continued in French.)

      According to the decision taken by the Assembly on the urgent debate and current affairs debate, we will have an urgent debate on Wednesday afternoon on “Combating international terrorism while protecting Council of Europe standards and values” and a further urgent debate at 10 a.m. on Thursday under the previous title of “Protection of women and the honest reporting of unpalatable truths”. Of course the title may be changed by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. I propose that the committee report on challenge to credentials be added to the agenda on Wednesday afternoon.

Is the draft agenda, as amended, agreed to?

It is adopted.

9. Time limits on speeches

      The PRESIDENT* – It is clear already that there will be a large number of speakers for certain debates. To enable as many members as possible to speak, the Bureau proposes that speaking time be limited to three minutes on all days this week except on Friday.

Is this agreed?

It is adopted.

       I may make further proposals on these matters as required.

10. Adoption of the minutes of proceedings of the Standing Committee

      The PRESIDENT* – The minutes of the meeting of the Standing Committee held in Sofia on 27 November 2015 have been distributed, AS/Per (2015) PV 03.

I invite the Assembly to take note of the minutes.

11. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee

The PRESIDENT – The next item on the agenda is the debate on the Progress Report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee, Document 13945 and addendum I and II and Document 13952.

Let me remind members that speaking time has been limited to three minutes. I will interrupt the list of speakers at 1.00 p.m. The debate will continue this afternoon.

In the debate, I call Ms Brasseur to present the progress report on behalf of the Bureau. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.

Ms Brasseur, you have the floor.

      Ms BRASSEUR (Luxembourg)* – Thank you, Mr President. I do not think I am entitled to 13 minutes as it is already 10 minutes to 1, and I do not want to deprive myself of the pleasure of handing over the reins to you at 1 o’clock. I congratulate you on your election as President of our Assembly

      (The speaker continued in Spanish.)

      Dear Pedro, I wish you all the best.

      (The speaker continued in French.)

      I say that because I think you will need much courage given the enormous challenges ahead of us. I am handing on the torch at a time when we are coming up against huge tests. We are seeing conflicts between member States and in neighbouring regions, terrorism, the tragedy of migration, the erosion of human rights and the rule of law in some countries, the rise of populism and xenophobia, and assaults on our fundamental freedoms. There is one means available to us with which to fight all those dangers and that is the European Convention on Human Rights. As you reminded us in your inaugural address, Mr President, the Convention was drafted by our predecessors with a view to putting an end to the deadly wars that had plagued the continent and to protect citizens. With the passage of time, however, we have unfortunately come to take those freedoms for granted.

      Today more than ever it is our role as parliamentarians to see that the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights are abided by. It is not enough just to state that or to declare it in this Chamber; we must remind ourselves of it in our national parliaments when we see proposals, whether government or opposition, that depart from the principles enshrined in the Convention. We must resist pandering to our electorates, which is happening in an increasing number of countries. More and more, we hear raised voices saying that we need to protect traditional, national and patriotic values. Yes, we need to uphold such values, but they should not be used as a pretext to reject the basic principles of the Council of Europe and the Convention. We share the same values and that is why we take up our seats in the Assembly. Human rights, democracy and the rule of law know no borders, and nor should they.

      What I am saying perhaps exceeds my role of presenting the progress report as rapporteur on behalf of the Bureau, but it is important that I spell out these elementary and essential principles as my two-year term in office ends. I do not want to exceed my speaking time, so I draw the Assembly’s attention to the fact that a little brochure has been made available to the national delegations listing my activities of the past two years. I have undertaken 137 missions, involving some 921 meetings and interviews, but the most important thing for me has been the personal contact. There are men and women behind each programme or idea, and it is important to get to know them, to listen to what they have to say and to try to understand their position in order to find some common ground, even if we disagree. My contact with politicians, civil society representatives, the press or ordinary citizens has been enormously enriching.

      I would not have been able to carry out my mission successfully without the competent, efficient and flexible support of all the staff. Secretary General Wojciech Sawicki, I ask you to convey my thanks to each staff member personally. I also thank the institutional representatives of our Organisation: the Secretary General, the Deputy Secretary General, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the President of the European Court of Human Rights. I also cannot forget the Committee of Ministers, with whom we have had excellent co-operation, or the many other bodies that make up the Council of Europe. We have also managed to strengthen our ties with various bodies within the European Union. I thank the Parliament of Luxembourg for its logistical help and the provision of an extraordinary adviser. I would not have been able to do my job without that help. I also cannot overlook the help and support given to me by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and the group’s secretary over the past two years. I thank all colleagues for their support, commitment and discipline, which has certainly helped my task. I also thank my friends and the members of the Presidential Committee.

      I will not go into the details of the progress report, which colleagues will have in written form. I imagine that it will meet with your approval. It was certainly adopted by the Bureau during its meeting this morning. Despite our best efforts, however, we have not managed to enable our colleague Ms Savchenko of the Ukrainian delegation to participate in our meetings. I also regret that Grigore Petrenco, a former colleague, is currently in detention in the Republic of Moldova following his participation in a demonstration. I am also thinking of all the human rights defenders with whom we have worked who are currently in prison and the journalists who have dared to speak out and express their opinions. In future, we must insist on the separation of powers and that all countries have an independent, competent judiciary.

      The Council of Europe and its Assembly have given me a lot, but I am unsure what I have personally given to the Council of Europe. That is why I shall continue to contribute as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly, channelling my energy and drawing on my convictions to defend the principles and values that unite us. Above all, I will continue to support our action to fight hatred and intolerance – a fight that we should all engage in, because hatred and intolerance seriously imperil our democracies. You will have found a little badge on your desks. Please wear it and take it home. We need to say no together to hatred, to hate speech and to intolerance. I will conclude with some thoughts from Albert Camus, which I also read out during my investiture speech. Democracy can be conceived, created and supported only by men and women who know that they do not know everything. Democrats are modest; they confess their ignorance. They recognise that some of their endeavours are ground-breaking and that not everything is handed to them on a plate. On that basis, they know that they have to supplement what they know with the knowledge of others. It is in that spirit that I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Parliamentary Assembly.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Brasseur. You have four minutes remaining. The debate and vote on Ms Brasseur’s report will take place this afternoon.

12. Date, time and agenda of the next sitting

      The PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3 p.m. with the agenda that was approved this morning.

      The sitting is closed.

      (The sitting was closed at 1.00 p.m.)


1. Opening of the session

2. Examination of credentials

3. Election of the President of the Assembly

4. Speech of the President of the Assembly

5. Election of Vice-Presidents

6. Appointment of members of committees

7. Proposal for debates under uregent procedure and on current affairs

8. Adoption of the agenda

9. Time limits on speeches

10. Adoption of the minutes of the Standing Committee

11. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee

Presentation by Ms Brasseur of the progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee, Document 13945 and addenda

12. Date, time and agenda of the next sitting

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



Brigitte ALLAIN/Jean-Claude Frécon

Jean-Charles ALLAVENA

Werner AMON/Eduard Köck

Luise AMTSBERG/Mechthild Rawert

Lord Donald ANDERSON


Sirkka-Liisa ANTTILA



Khadija ARIB/Marit Maij

Volodymyr ARIEV





Gérard BAPT/Anne-Yvonne Le Dain


José Manuel BARREIRO*


Guto BEBB*

Marieluise BECK

Ondřej BENEŠIK/Jana Fischerová




Włodzimierz BERNACKI

Anna Maria BERNINI/Claudio Fazzone

Maria Teresa BERTUZZI/Carlo Lucherini



Tobias BILLSTRÖM/Kerstin Lundgren

Oleksandr BILOVOL



Maryvonne BLONDIN

Tilde BORK/Christina Egelund

Mladen BOSIĆ


Piet De BRUYN*

Margareta BUDNER





Vannino CHITI







Katalin CSÖBÖR/Mónika Bartos

Geraint DAVIES






Sergio DIVINA*

Aleksandra DJUROVIĆ





Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*




Mikuláš DZURINDA/Darina Gabániová

Lady Diana ECCLES


Franz Leonhard EẞL




Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU*

Doris FIALA/Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter

Daniela FILIPIOVÁ/Ivana Dobešová





Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Martin FRONC


Sir Roger GALE






Francesco Maria GIRO

Pavol GOGA

Carlos Alberto GONÇALVES*


Rainer GOPP

Alina Ștefania GORGHIU*




Gergely GULYÁS*

Emine Nur GÜNAY



Maria GUZENINA/Olli-Poika Parviainen


Sabir HAJIYEV/Sevinj Fataliyeva


Alfred HEER


Michael HENNRICH/Sybille Benning

Martin HENRIKSEN/Rasmus Nordqvist

Françoise HETTO-GAASCH/Serge Wilmes



Johannes HÜBNER/Barbara Rosenkranz

Andrej HUNKO


Ekmeleddin Mehmet İHSANOĞLU


Denis JACQUAT/Frédéric Reiss

Gediminas JAKAVONIS/Egidijus Vareikis



Andrzej JAWORSKI/Jacek Osuch

Michael Aastrup JENSEN



Florina-Ruxandra JIPA*


Aleksandar JOVIČIĆ/Dejan Kovačević



Mustafa KARADAYI/Hamid Hamid


Niklas KARLSSON/Azadeh Rojhan Gustafsson

Nina KASIMATI/Evangelos Venizelos






Bogdan KLICH/Aleksander Pociej


Haluk KOÇ/Metin Lütfi Baydar

Željko KOMŠIĆ/Saša Magazinović

Unnur Brá KONRÁÐSDÓTTIR/Brynjar Níelsson




Rom KOSTŘICA/Gabriela Pecková


Tiny KOX

Borjana KRIŠTO/Damir Arnaut


Julia KRONLID/Johan Nissinen

Eerik-Niiles KROSS


Ertuğrul KÜRKÇÜ



Pierre-Yves LE BORGN’

Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT*


Valentina LESKAJ






François LONCLE/Pascale Crozon



Philippe MAHOUX

Muslum MAMMADOV/Rovshan Rzayev


Soňa MARKOVÁ/Pavel Holík



Alberto MARTINS*

Meritxell MATEU


Michael McNAMARA*

Sir Alan MEALE



Ana Catarina MENDES*


Jean-Claude MIGNON/André Schneider

Marianne MIKKO


Arkadiusz MULARCZYK/Daniel Milewski




Marian NEACȘU/Titus Corlăţean



Miroslav NENUTIL


Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI




Judith OEHRI




Joseph O’REILLY*






Florin Costin PÂSLARU


Agnieszka POMASKA

Cezar Florin PREDA



Gabino PUCHE




Christina REES

Mailis REPS




Helena ROSETA*





Nadiia SAVCHENKO/Boryslav Bereza

Deborah SCHEMBRI/Joseph Sammut



Ingjerd SCHOU




Predrag SEKULIĆ*

Aleksandar SENIĆ


Samad SEYIDOV/Vusal Huseynov






Jan ŠKOBERNE/Anže Logar



Lorella STEFANELLI/Gerardo Giovagnoli



Ionuț-Marian STROE





Goran TUPONJA/Snežana Jonica

İbrahim Mustafa TURHAN/Burhanettin Uysal

Konstantinos TZAVARAS

Leyla Şahin USTA


Snorre Serigstad VALEN/Ingebjørg Godskesen






Vladimir VORONIN*

Viktor VOVK



Karl-Georg WELLMANN*

Katrin WERNER/Annette Groth

Jacek WILK


Morten WOLD

Bas van ‘t WOUT*

Gisela WURM



Tobias ZECH



Emanuelis ZINGERIS*

Naira ZOHRABYAN/Armen Rustamyan


Vacant Seat, Croatia*

Vacant Seat, Croatia*

Vacant Seat, Croatia*

Vacant Seat, Croatia*

Vacant Seat, Cyprus*

Vacant Seat, Spain/José María Chiquillo

Vacant Seat, Spain*

Vacant Seat, Spain*

Vacant Seat, Spain*

Vacant Seat, Spain*

Vacant Seat, Spain*

Vacant Seat, Republic of Moldova*


Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote





Volkmar VOGEL






Partners for democracy


Mohamed YATIM