AS (2016) CR 02
2016 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday, 25 January 2016 at 3 p.m.
Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee
The following texts were submitted for inclusion in the official report by members who were present in the Chamber but were prevented by lack of time from delivering them.
Mr ARIEV (Ukraine) – The political agenda of the West seems to be set for the near future: terrorism and refugees. As those issues seem to be bound with Russia, the European Union might be tempted to risk another "reset", but certain issues stand in the way: annexed Crimea, dismembered Georgia, Russia's hate propaganda, and thousands dead in Ukraine – nothing sufficiently major to stop those who demand “We need Russia as a partner!” reaching out a friendly hand.
Therefore, it came as a bit of a bad surprise for “Russia-partner” adherents when the State Duma frankly showed its disrespect for the Council of Europe by signing a bill giving the Constitutional Court the right to cancel European Court of Human Rights rulings. This law was criticised at the Bureau discussion in London.
Instead of paying attention to objective thoughts by critics, Russia blamed Ukraine for the so-called degradation of the legislative process, sending correspondence to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. It is not a joke. That is what Moscow did after the above-mentioned bill was passed, after the law was voted on to ban foreigners from adopting children – even sick children do not have the opportunity to be healed in Russia. One of the latest laws permits the FSB to shoot at women and children, which is not in keeping with the principles of basic human rights, not to mention the famous Duma decisions on the annexation of Crimea and the permission to use Russian soldiers in Ukraine.
We in the Ukraine have many problems fighting corruption and implementing reforms, but we are overcoming resistance by old-fashioned bureaucracy in a bid to move forward. Can the same be said of modern-day Russia?
It is only right that Russia should not be present in this house of democracy while it breaks the main principles of the Council of Europe, and we should not lessen our demands to respect the human rights and territorial integrity of other States.
But if Europe does indeed decide to establish a new partnership, we Ukrainians have some advice to give: try to listen to what Russia says, not to your face, but behind your back. Watch their political debates and TV shows. Take them seriously. Do not disregard what they say, thinking "It’s just for domestic consumption; no reasonable person would ever buy it!" It just so happens that Moscow has its own measure of reason.
For instance, if they hammer into their public's heads that America itself blew up the World Trade Center, created AIDS, financed IS and wants economically to destroy Europe, it is not only how they see America, it is also how they see their own boundaries. So your partner-to-be might be full of surprises; you will always have a chance to find out later.
Ms NAGHDALYAN (Armenia) – 2016 is a remarkable year for us, as it is the 15th anniversary of Armenia’s membership of the Council of Europe. Over these 15 years, Armenia has undertaken considerable measures to fulfil its obligations, taken upon accession to the Council of Europe. We have registered substantial progress in the implementation of the Action Plan. However, building democracy is a lasting process and we are fully engaged in this process.
We attach great importance to the constitutional reforms in Armenia. On 6 December 2015, amendments to the Constitution were adopted by referendum. Unfortunately, some problems are still outstanding from the elections. The Armenian authorities are carefully examining all shortcomings to avoid any future repetition. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and other international stakeholders were requested to support the modification of polling stations across Armenia. We hope to have fully-equipped, modern polling stations by the next elections. The Venice Commission has been asked to participate in the preparation of the new Electoral Code, stemming from new realities. I assure you that lessons have been learned and all nesessary work will be done.
The process of constitutional reforms started in 2013 with the establishment of the Specialized Commission on Constitutional Reforms. The aim of the reforms is to create a stable, democratic system; to improve constitutional mechanisms; to ensure the appropriate balance of powers; and to increase the efficiency of public administration.
During the two-year process, the proposals for the draft amendments were actively discussed with all stakeholders, whose suggestions have been taken into consideration. The Specialized Commission closely co-operated with the Venice Commission. The proposed amendments corresponded with the opinions of the Commission and were deemed to be in line with European standards.
I would also like to make a special reference to the change of governance model in the country – from the current semi-presidential to a parliamentary system. The amended Constitution offers new possibilities for the development of strong authorities and strong opposition. The shift to a parliamentary system will provide greater transparency in the activities of legislative and executive authorities. I am convinced that we will have the support of the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission in the process of adjusting our legislation.
Regarding the resolutions to be discussed tomorrow, I consider them dangerous for the whole region. I call you to carefully read the last statement of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs which expresses the position of the international mediators dealing with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I ask my colleagues to vote against these two biased resolutions.
Mr R. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – It is already the 60th time that we, as members of the Azerbaijani National Delegation, have listened to the Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee. Certainly, each time the report reflects some data on outcomes worth celebrating, definite progress that has been achieved. However, as one of the relatively new members and young democracies of the Council of Europe, each time, Azerbaijan pays attention to the degree of achievements and advances gained in relation to the crucial issues concerning itself in such reports.
We are pleased to note that, within the term of the current report, Azerbaijan has held its fifth parliamentary election since its independence, and, having observed the election process, the observation mission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has given its positive assessment. Nevertheless, another aspect reflected in the report, with which we are completely discontent, is that, despite the ongoing civil protests against the incumbent regime in Armenia, which is accepted as an aggressor State in Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe official documents, the Council of Europe continues to treat this country, which is unwilling to obey international law and order, with amazing leniency.
Everyone in the Council of Europe is aware that 20% of Azerbaijani territories have been occupied by Armenia for over 20 years and that States are patronising it. Within the past 15 years, the Council of Europe has taken not one single step towards resolving the conflict. And the observations of the recent 20 years have proved that the Minsk Group is a nominal and artificial body which does not have an overdone work but a vision of activities.
News reported in the Armenian media on New Year’s Eve 2015 made me wonder about the reasons for such extreme thoughts towards this State. Professor R. Naapetyan, Doctor of Historical Sciences, held a press conference in Yerevan a few weeks ago and quite seriously stated that the Armenians used to celebrate the new year 2 500 years prior to the birth of Jesus. As for Santa Claus, he was born in the year 280, being Armenian by nationality. This statement by the notorious Armenian scholar fully corresponds to the appetite and ambitions of the Armenian State, which is pursuing its policy of aggression against its neighbours, as well as a policy of isolation against its own nation.
The year 2015 has come to an end, replaced by 2016 and, unfortunately, in the current progress report there is not the slightest allusion to any achievements concerning the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict which could somehow contribute to the problem in hand.