AS (2016) CR 02
2016 ORDINARY SESSION
Monday 25 January 2016 at 3.00 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. 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 Mateu, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.00 p.m.)
The PRESIDENT* – The sitting is open.
1. Changes in the membership of committees
The PRESIDENT* – Our next business is to consider the changes proposed in the membership of committees. These are set out in Document Commissions (2016) 01 Addendum 2.
Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?
They are adopted.
2. Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee (continuation of debate)
The PRESIDENT* – We will now continue with the debate on the Progress Report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee contained in Document 13945 and its addendums, and Document 13952.
In the debate I call first Mr Fischer, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
MR FISCHER (Germany)* – I thank you, Ms Brasseur, most warmly for two outstanding years as the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. (Applause) Yes, a round of applause is appropriate. I thank you for what you have achieved. I use the word “achieved” because it genuinely is an achievement.
Earlier, you said you had been on about 137 visits and given countless speeches, but it is not really about the number; it is about the high quality. You have made us more visible across Europe. In the past, that has been a real problem for us. That is why I am delighted that you served as our President for two years.
I state unequivocally that we take note of your report, which shows us where there is work still to be done. As you have said, there have been some achievements, but a number of difficult problems lie ahead. You have managed the tricky issues very ably. You are going to be a hard act to follow. You have shown that you can go from being President to working as a regular member. With all your experience, that is going to be a huge benefit to us in the Assembly. We are going to continue to take advantage of the fact that you are here.
We expect you to comment and speak where appropriate. We are not going to agree on everything but as democrats we will always be willing to talk to one another and ensure that we resolve crises by talking to one another. That is our job. That is a useful message for the Council of Europe as a whole. We should try to broaden our horizons and listen to other views even if we do not agree with them. We should try to come up with solutions. That is precisely what you have done. You have been able to find consensus between diverse views. I thank you in particular for the last meeting you had in Germany. You specifically chose to go to a school in a municipality in which the mayor had invited refugee families along. Members of the Assembly have already talked a lot about refugees, and we will return to the issue later in the week. You said that you wanted to visit somewhere where there are positive connotations to the term “refugee”, so thank you for doing that.
We endorse the report and we are delighted you are still a member.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Schennach to speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.
MR SCHENNACH (Austria)* – I should like seamlessly to follow on from where Axel Fischer left off. Ms Brasseur, not only are you a remarkable politician and a terrific woman, but you were an outstanding President, the second woman to fill that role in the history of the Council of Europe. You have achieved a great deal.
You experienced a certain number of complications, as one always does in life, but the last two years have been particularly difficult. You call this a progress report but suffice it to say that we have had to contend with the crisis in Ukraine and with tense relations with the Russian Federation. We have political prisoners, journalists in jail and refugees, the No. 1 debate for Europe. You have also visited refugee camps in my own country. You have been along to look at exemplary refugee integration projects. We can only thank you for all your hard work. I am impressed that you intend to continue your work here with us; the progress report simply marks the fact that you are leaving office.
On gender, not all delegations can have 75% female representation, as yours does, Ms Brasseur, but some delegations have an extremely low percentage of female members, so a great deal remains to be done in that respect.
I want to flag up the No Hate Speech Movement. Anne Brasseur’s report encompassed the bloody terrorist attacks in Paris, which showed just how important it is to continue with these efforts, and to try to make it clear to young people that hatred will not get us anywhere; with hatred, one only stands to lose. Democracy is everything. I should like to mention two people: a former member of this Organisation, Grigore Petrenko; and Nadia Savchenko, who ought to be able to take up her seat in the Assembly, but is in jail.
Let me use my last few seconds to mention someone who is leaving the Assembly. He has taken part in all votes in the Assembly and has been on 95 electoral observation missions, and is a cornerstone of the Assembly’s progress: Andreas Gross. I thank him, and you, Anne.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Schennach. The next speaker is Mr Xuclŕ, who speaks on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Mr XUCLŔ (Spain)* – Thank you, Madam President. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe had the honour of putting Anne Brasseur’s name forward for President of the Assembly. In talking about progress, we should not focus exclusively on the past few months; we should instead look at her entire term of office – the past two years.
The report shows that Madame Brasseur has been extremely diligent. If you look at the contents page and see what she done, you will see that this is not a routine progress report; it is a compendium of the most important events of the past two years. She starts the report by talking about the conflict in Ukraine, and goes on to cover relations with the Russian delegation. She also highlights the work done under her presidency on the migration phenomenon and the plight of refugees, and talks about tackling hate and intolerance, and upholding Council of Europe standards. That is why I heartily recommend reading the report.
There is nothing routine about this progress report; it is testament to the hard work done by Ms Brasseur over the past two years. She had a total of 921 official meetings and has made 130 trips to Council of Europe member States. Hers was an outstanding presidency, and she leaves an outstanding legacy. It has been a pleasure to be a member of the Assembly for the past two years. Ms Brasseur, you are strict, but that is because you know well where the dividing line is between what is right and what is not. You have steered our work most ably. You deserved that earlier round of applause, and more applause in the future. I thank you personally, and on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Party. We are terrifically proud to have had you as our President. Thank you.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Xuclŕ. I call Mr Liddell-Grainger to speak on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.
Mr LIDDELL-GRAINGER (United Kingdom) – I am surprised to be called, Madam President – I am not sure that my name was meant to be put down on the speakers list – but I am delighted to be able to say a few words about our former President, Madame Brasseur, and about the report.
The progress report of the Bureau is very important, as is the Standing Committee. My first time on the Bureau was interesting, because I had to learn the hard way – thank you for allowing me to do that, Madame Brasseur; you were absolutely fantastic. I have learned from the way in which the former President kept the continuity and cohesiveness of the Bureau. One of the most important things to take from the Standing Committee and from progress reports is that the Council of Europe faces incredible challenges. Today, two debates have changed: the Polish debate and the debate on violence against women. It is the beauty of this great place that we can make those decisions. I praise the former President for guiding us through what have been two incredibly interesting days for me, because there were three new members on the Bureau – members from the Group of the European People’s Party, the European Conservatives Group and the Socialist Group – and we were all trying to learn as we went along. She has done a remarkable balancing act.
As I said on the committee, we were set up in 1949 to champion democracy and the rights of the underdog, as we say in England – the people who cannot speak back, or cannot do what they want to do. In the past two days, I have learned just how important the Bureau and the Presidential Committee are. If I may add a point from the humble position of one just starting out in their post, together we are very strong; apart, we are nothing. The strength of this place is its ability to bring together in one forum countries that may not agree – indeed, that may be diametrically opposed; we have seen that time and again. Upstairs, we have just had a debate between members from two of our countries that are very much against each other, but they were talking openly about the challenges that they face, and why they face them. Incredibly importantly, former President, you allow people their democratic rights, but also point out their democratic responsibility.
I admire what you have done, Madame Brasseur; it is incredibly difficult. The new President has an amazing job, but as you said quite firmly, be careful what you wish for. Progress reports, the Standing Committee and the Bureau are working well. They are a credit to us all. Thank you.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I give the floor to Mr Kox, who speaks for the Group of the Unified European Left. He will be the last speaker to take the floor on behalf of a group.
Mr KOX (Netherlands) – Thank you, Madam President. The past two years were not the Council of Europe’s best, nor the best years of the Assembly. We have seen a deteriorating situation in one of our biggest member States, Ukraine, where, as was mentioned, thousands of people lost their lives because problems there could not be overcome, and we were not able to assist in an appropriate way. We have seen a growing shift between our biggest member States – between the Russian Federation and the States represented by many of us in this Assembly.
We have seen the ongoing economic crisis and the growing inequality throughout our continent. We have seen the emerging refugee crisis – it might be only beginning – and the great difficulties that member States of the Council of Europe have in coping with it and acting in solidarity. We have seen a deteriorating situation, with far too many areas where our institutions cannot function because there are black holes – the results of frozen conflicts or other conflicts. As mentioned by the rapporteur herself, we have seen growing pressure on the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. These are bad developments. As Stefan Schennach said, this is no progress – this is regress. All politicians should be aware that, for the major part, we are to blame because we were not able to change regress into progress.
Madam former President, you did not choose your two years to be our President; a rotation system decided that it would be your turn. However, we should all be happy that in these two difficult years of sometimes dark days you were prepared to be our President and to guide this Assembly and all its organs. I co-operated with you in the Presidential Committee, the Bureau, the Standing Committee, the Assembly and on many other occasions and, as I said this morning in the Bureau, I never saw you slam the doors and say, “If you don’t do this I will leave.” There was no moment of doubt that these two years had to be your two years; you had to lead this Organisation, and you did it highly appropriately. In this Assembly, we often focus very much on confrontation. Thanks to you, once in a while, we also looked for consensus and to see where we could overcome our problems and conflicts.
It was an honour to be presided over by you, Madame Brasseur. To do at least the same as you, our next President has a lot to do, but I very much agree with you that we should now work with him and the new system in any way possible. Thank you very much, Anne; not only were you an excellent President but you are an excellent friend, and I am happy that you will stay in this Assembly because otherwise we would miss you too much.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Kox. We have a few minutes left to run through some of the first people on the speakers list, so let me give the floor to Ms Bartos from Hungary.
Ms BARTOS (Hungary) – Madam President, thank you for this opportunity. Dear colleagues, we are living in times that many leading politicians and thinkers consider the biggest crisis of the European Union and Europe as a whole. The Parliamentary Assembly is an institution of one of the world’s most important international organisations in the field of human rights. In severe situations, human rights organisations, including the Council of Europe, share a big responsibility – it is also a major opportunity – to resolve the problems that Europe faces today.
Dynamics is key in our response to those challenges. In particular, I am thinking of the time dimension of our actions. Can the Council of Europe have a leading role in giving answers to society’s problems, or even shape the development of our continent so that it performs new tasks better in facing the world’s difficulties? These are questions that the new President, Mr Agramunt, will have to deal with. I hope that he has the opportunity to give timely answers, turning the Parliamentary Assembly into a motor of development within the Council of Europe. The Parliamentary Assembly should be a pioneer of development in human rights and should react quickly to the challenges our continent faces. I wish a lot of success and especially resilience to our new President, Mr Agramunt. Thank you.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much, Ms Bartos. Let me now give the floor to Josette Durrieu.
Ms DURRIEU (France)* – Thank you, Madam President, and thanks once again, from the bottom of the heart, to Anne Brasseur for her presidency.
I would like to say a few words about the elections in Kyrgyzstan, to which the person currently presiding in the chair was a member of the observation delegation. I do not know whether the elections were mentioned earlier, but they really were a revelation when it came to organising voting on the basis of new technologies. We are talking about a relatively small and poor country right in the middle of the Caucasus. The fact that new technology could be tried out there was exceptional, especially as it was a success. The general opinion was that, in difficult and complex circumstances, it nevertheless turned out that the electronic drawing up of lists, with the scanning of ballots and electronic counting, was extraordinary. In just a few minutes the results were known, and there were no major irregularities.
I am a member of the so-called Venice Commission – the Commission for Democracy through Law – and think that those elections offer an example that could be studied in much greater detail. If I am not mistaken, the funding was from Japan, Germany and South Korea, and it would be useful to garner a lot more detailed information about how the elections were organised. Are they an exemplar – something that could be spread and used elsewhere? Obviously, this needs to be watched over carefully. Generally speaking when we observe elections, things work fairly well on the day of the vote itself. On the other hand, we need to observe the electoral campaigns more closely, with much more vigilance, especially when it comes to gaining access to public resources and media, which are not always available on an equal footing. That operation could be a source of inspiration for us, improving the technology, the performances and the organisation. Let us take advantage of new technology when that can be done safely.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much, Ms Durrieu. Unfortunately we must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the official report. I remind colleagues that the texts are to be submitted in typescript, electronically if possible, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted. Ms Brasseur, do you wish to reply? You have four minutes remaining.
Ms BRASSEUR (Luxembourg)* – Thank you, Madam President. The first speaker, Mr Fischer, said that from hereon I would be a run-of-the-mill Assembly member, but I was a run-of-the-mill member as a President. The fact that you preside does not mean that you are not a member; you are, but it is even worse because you do not have the right to vote. It is exceptional to be a member of a parliament who does not have the right to vote. Now I become a run-of-the-mill member with all the rights that I did not have when I was President, including the right to vote. A number of you have called me Madam President or Madam ex-President, but we are in France and in France you always keep your title. I have held a lot of positions in my life and I still have the titles, but please do not refer to me as Madam President. We have a new President, whom I congratulate on his election. I assure him that we all support him in his very difficult task.
Members have been kind enough to praise me; it is always a pleasure to hear praise. It is difficult to pass on the baton, but I am eager to take up the everyday work of a normal member and to devote myself in particular to the campaign against hatred. We all need to be united in saying no to intolerance and to hatred. I have been told today that I have been appointed as ambassador for that campaign. Even though I have attended a lot of functions, I have never been a diplomat – I am not a fan of diplomats – but I am proud to have been appointed as the Council of Europe ambassador of the campaign to combat hatred. It is a very noble task and I will leave no stone unturned in bringing the campaign to fruition.
I hope that members will support my progress report, as well as the Bureau’s recommendations. I am no longer the President, so I will not welcome the Bulgarian Minister on his arrival, although I am pleased to see him.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Brasseur. That brings our debate to a close. Before adopting the progress report, we need to take a position on is recommendations.
The Bureau has proposed a number of references to committees for ratification by the Assembly, as set out in Document 13945 and addendum I.
There is no objection, so the references are approved.
I invite the Assembly to approve the other decisions of the Bureau, as set out in the progress report, namely Document 13945 and addendum I.
The progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee is adopted.
(Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the chair in place of Ms Mateu.)
3. Communication from the Committee of Ministers
The PRESIDENT* – We now come to the communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Assembly presented by Mr Daniel Mitov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers. After his address, Mr Mitov has kindly agreed to take questions from the floor.
(The President continued in English.)
It is a pleasure to welcome the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers. I was glad to meet him in my office a short time ago for a general discussion about the political situation not only in Bulgaria but in the whole of Europe. The Assembly supports the priorities he has set, particularly those on the protection of the rights of the child, the protection of our media from external influence and the fight against violent extremism and radicalisation.
We look forward to hearing the minister’s statement on the implementation of the chairmanship’s activities, and I am sure our members will have many questions to ask him. We also look forward to hearing his views on current developments in his country. I thank him for the work he is doing.
Without further delay, I invite Mr Mitov to address the Assembly.
Mr MITOV (Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers) – Thank you for the warm welcome, Mr President, and for the words of encouragement for the Bulgarian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. I am truly honoured to address this plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg, in my capacity as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers. This is the second time since Bulgaria became a member of the Council of Europe that it has held this Organisation’s chairmanship.
Last November, I had the pleasure of addressing the Standing Committee in Sofia. I presented the priorities that we intend to pursue during our term of office. Although I do not intend to present those priorities in detail today, I will nevertheless focus on some of their main elements. I will also refer to activities conducted by the Committee of Ministers.
Three days after I assumed the chair’s responsibilities on 10 November, we were all shocked by the barbaric terrorist attacks in Paris, which took more than 130 innocent lives. Sadly, the very first statement I had to make as chairman was a message of condolence, sympathy and support for the French people and its authorities after that terrible ordeal. The Ministers’ Deputies also adopted a declaration on the terrorist attacks.
Unfortunately, the tragic events in Paris were followed by other terrorist acts in Europe, including the bombing in Istanbul earlier this month. Those acts constitute a most blatant denial of our common fundamental values, the first and foremost of which is the right to life. The aim of terrorism is to induce fear, provoke antagonism and hatred within our societies and thus destabilise them. We should be determined not to allow that to happen.
The Council of Europe has an important role to play, through the arsenal of its legal instruments, in assisting our countries in the fight against terrorism while, of course, respecting the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.
In May 2015, the Committee of Ministers adopted an ambitious action plan on the fight against violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism. We are determined to continue to give the highest priority to the rapid and full implementation of the action plan, which was reviewed by the Ministers’ Deputies at the beginning of December on the basis of an overview prepared by the Secretary General. I draw attention to the additional protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, which aims to tackle the issue of foreign terrorist fighters and is now open for signature. Twenty member States, including my own country, Bulgaria, and the European Union have already signed it. I invite you to encourage the governments that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the protocol to ensure its rapid and effective entry into force. There is no doubt that the fight against terrorism will continue to be a priority for the Council of Europe far beyond our chairmanship. An Organisation like ours must undertake long-term action to secure a safe future for everyone, while ensuring respect for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. We must also deliver a promising perspective to young people and provide them with conditions in which they do not feel excluded and are able to develop their full potential and find their rightful place in our societies.
The first main priority of the Bulgarian chairmanship is strengthening the protection of the rights of the child and facilitating young people’s access to culture. We believe that all children must fully enjoy the protection provided by the relevant international legal instruments. We fully support the activities of the Council of Europe in this area, particularly the elaboration of the new Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2016-2021, which will provide guidelines on how to tackle the present-day challenges to those rights and their effective implementation. The Bulgarian chairmanship is planning to promote the new strategy at a high-level conference in Sofia in April. As the rights of the child will also top the agendas of the future chairmanships of Estonia and Cyprus, I am confident that the momentum from the launch of the new strategy will be maintained.
The Bulgarian chairmanship pays special attention to the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, as reflected by Bulgaria’s recent ratification of the Lanzarote Convention. On 18 November, on the occasion of the first European Day for the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, I issued a statement calling on the member States that have not yet ratified the Lanzarote Convention to do so. I also called on all governments, parliamentarians, non-governmental organisations, professionals working with children, and the public at large to take ownership of the European Day by acting together to combat such crimes.
Under the Bulgarian chairmanship, an international conference called “Building a Culture of Prevention through Disaster Risk Awareness Improvement among Children and Adolescents” was held in Sofia in December 2015, in the context of the medium-term plan for 2016 to 2020 of the European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement of the Council of Europe. The conference’s main objective was to bring together European experts and practitioners to take stock of progress in improving the resilience of children and adolescents to disasters. The good practices from different countries were used as a base and the necessary steps to build a strategy to promote a culture of prevention among children and adolescents were discussed and concrete actions were envisaged.
Bulgaria attaches particular importance to assisting young people to become active and responsible citizens of democratic societies. At a time when young people are seriously affected by unemployment and poverty, democratic practices, education and youth empowerment can protect States from internal strife. They are the best, if not the only, antidote against extremist views and movements that spread racism and xenophobia. With that in mind, the Bulgarian chairmanship will organise two events focusing on young people’s access to culture and cultural heritage governance. These fora will provide a good opportunity to discuss access to culture as a condition for self-expression and self-improvement, which could also facilitate social integration and decrease the risk of racist and xenophobic acts.
We very much welcome the recent decision of the Committee of Ministers to hold the 25th session of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Education in Brussels next April under the general theme: “The role of education for the development of competences for democratic culture”. The Bulgarian chairmanship has chosen as its second main priority the protection of media from external influence. We intend to focus on how hate speech could be the subject of regulation and self-regulation in the media, as well as on the role of independent media and freedom of speech in promoting tolerance in our societies. We will organise a specific event dedicated to those topics. Free and well-developed media constitute a cornerstone of democratic societies, yet freedom of the media is currently facing several challenges. In that respect, we share the findings of the second report of Secretary General Jagland, which found that the conditions for free media are worsening. We fully support his endeavours to tackle the problem in all its aspects. The Committee of Ministers has recently expressed its concerns about the media situation in some member States. We believe that the Council of Europe, which, over the years, has proven its strong attachment to free and independent media and developed a unique expertise in this field, is an appropriate forum for working with its member States to overcome the challenges they are confronted with.
Another aspect of the same issue is freedom of expression on the Internet, which is also of primary importance. On 10 December, International Human Rights Day, with the support of the Council of Europe two Bulgarian NGOs organised, in the framework of our chairmanship, an awareness-raising event in Sofia. The conference, called Human Rights of the Internet Users, attracted Bulgarian and international experts from various institutions and organisations, representatives of the business and political elite, and human rights activists and journalists, who presented and discussed trends, developments and perspectives in the field of protection of the fundamental human rights of internet users. The discussions were focused on the Council of Europe guide to human rights for Internet users.
Bulgaria is committed to pursuing its policy of protecting the rights of persons belonging to vulnerable groups, including the elderly, disabled, Roma and migrants, as well as to preventing their marginalisation and social exclusion. For that reason, we have chosen as our third main priority the protection of vulnerable groups. During our chairmanship, we will organise a number of events with a particular focus on the rights of refugee children, persons with disabilities and Roma.
I now turn to some of the main activities of the Committee of Ministers since last autumn. Freedom of association and assembly was the topic of a thematic debate by the Ministers’ Deputies in October. As a follow-up to the debate, they adopted a number of decisions. In particular, they recalled the obligation of member States, in accordance with Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the relevant jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, to ensure respect for the right to freedom of assembly and association, which involves a positive obligation for member States to create a favourable environment for the exercise of that freedom. As an operational follow-up to the debate, the Secretary General was invited to examine the feasibility of a protection mechanism for human rights defenders, with a view to submitting operational proposals, as well as to prepare an overview of good practices for promoting freedom of assembly and association. It is to be welcomed that, during this session, the Assembly will be examining both how to strengthen the protections for and role of human rights defenders and the inappropriate restrictions on NGO activities. Your findings will be carefully considered by the Committee of Ministers in pursuing its activities in this field. More generally, I am confident that, building on the good working relationship between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers, we will progress together towards implementing our common human rights and democratic agenda for Europe.
After October’s session, the Committee of Ministers held several interesting exchanges of views with the then President of the European Court of Human Rights, Mr Dean Spielmann, with the Commissioner for Human Rights, with the President of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice, and with representatives of the Consultative Council of European Judges and the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors. In late November, the Ministers’ Deputies approved the Council of Europe’s programme and budget for 2016-2017. This is the Organisation’s third biennial programme and budget. In this context, Turkey’s initiative to become a major contributor from 2016 brought significant additional means to the Organisation, allowing it to strengthen its operational capacity and to reinforce its action. In approving the budgetary decisions, the Ministers’ Deputies also supported the Secretary General’s continued reform process and the outcomes achieved to date.
The supervision of the execution of judgments and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights continues to be among the most important tasks and responsibilities of the Ministers’ Deputies. At their human rights meeting in December, the Ministers’ Deputies decided to close the examination of 831 decisions and judgments of the Court. As you can see, this figure is quite encouraging in the light of the consistent efforts for further improvement of the execution of judgments.
As regards co-operation with other organisations, on 1 December the Committee of Ministers had an exchange of views with Ms Astrid Thors, the Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Furthermore, the 22nd meeting of the Co-ordination Group between the Council of Europe and the OSCE, held in Vienna in October, reviewed the state of co-operation between the two organisations regarding the fight against terrorism and trafficking in human beings. The group will meet in Strasbourg in the first half of 2016 to examine co-operation in the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination and the protection of the rights of persons belonging to national minorities.
A number of political matters have also featured on the agenda of the Committee of Ministers since last October. These include the question of the conflict in Georgia. In November, the Ministers’ Deputies considered the Secretary General’s 12th consolidated report on the subject. The regular examination of the Secretary General’s reports enables the Committee of Ministers to follow the situation in Georgia closely. It is prepared to step up its action to guarantee the protection of human rights in the areas affected by the conflict. However, in order to do so, free access to the areas concerned is essential and I reiterate the appeal to all parties that can facilitate such access to do so.
With regard to the same region, the Caucasus, the Committee of Ministers reviewed in October the state of implementation of the commitments entered into by Azerbaijan when it became a member of the Council of Europe. In their decisions, those on the Ministers’ Deputies expressed serious concern at the deterioration of the legal and administrative framework in which civil society and independent media operate, and at the increased number of prosecution procedures against human rights defenders and journalists. At the same time, they welcomed the progress made by Azerbaijan in some areas and took note of the sustained efforts by the Azerbaijani authorities to promote intercultural and interreligious dialogue, in particular through the Baku process. The Ministers’ Deputies reiterated the commitment to continue to provide assistance to Azerbaijan and, in this connection, stressed the importance of the effective implementation of the 2014 to 2016 action plan.
A similar review of the implementation of commitments is under way regarding Armenia, based on the Secretariat’s report on the state of implementation of the commitments entered into by Armenia for the period May 2013 to June 2015. The Ministers’ Deputies are expected in the near future to adopt the relevant decisions on the report and the recommendations contained therein.
The committee is continuing to pay great attention to all aspects of the situation in Ukraine and is closely following the developments, including those in Crimea. Last November, it held an exchange of views with Sir Nicolas Bratza, Chair of the International Advisory Panel on Ukraine, who presented the panel’s report on the investigations into the events that took place in Odessa in 2014. The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine took part in this exchange of views. The Committee of Ministers also follows closely the process of constitutional reforms in Ukraine regarding decentralisation and the judiciary, and reforms aimed at strengthening the democratic institutions, the rule of law and the effective protection of human rights, as well as the fight against corruption. I welcome and encourage these reforms, which in many areas are conducted with the assistance of the Organisation through the action plan for Ukraine for 2015 to 2017.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the migration flow that continues towards Europe and that will, once again, be at the heart of your discussions this week. This matter continues to be a great source of concern. Our member States, including Bulgaria, are faced with serious material difficulties in managing this crisis. Nevertheless, refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to the protection afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights when they arrive in Europe. I appeal to all governments and you, members of parliament, to maintain all efforts to offer shelter to refugees in a humane and dignified manner, despite all the difficulties. We have to be aware that the way in which we treat refugees concerns not only them, but us and our future.
I would also add a few words in the light of the recent unfortunate events in Cologne and some other European cities. Without prejudging the outcome of the ongoing investigations into the complaints filed, the events are an indication of some of the challenges we face. In this respect, the expertise of the Council of Europe in the area of integration, education and equality would be extremely beneficial.
Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the Parliamentary Assembly, I cannot end my address without thanking Ms Ann Brasseur for the remarkable work she has done over the past two years as President of your Assembly or without congratulating your newly elected President, Mr Pedro Agramunt. I am sure that under his able leadership the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers will continue their fruitful co-operation in making the Council of Europe’s voice heard and in ensuring compliance with our democratic principles and human rights during these very difficult times.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you very much, Mr Mitov, for your interesting address. Members of the Assembly have questions to put to you. Let me stress that they should put questions, not make speeches, and they must be limited to 30 seconds. We will take the questions in groups of three.
The first speaker is Mr Vareikis, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania) – Minister, we have wars in areas that neighbour the Council of Europe; I have in mind the war in Syria and the flow of refugees via Turkey and Bulgaria to our countries. You have the presidency now. What is the role of Turkey, as a neighbour of Syria, in your plans?
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next question is from Ms Mehmeti Devaja, who will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Ms MEHMETI DEVAJA (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – My question is also about the growing refugee crisis. Has the Bulgarian chairmanship considered how to reconcile freedom of movement as a basic human right, guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, and border controls for the increased security of the European continent?
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. The third question is from Ms Lundgren, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.
Ms LUNDGREN (Sweden) – Thank you for your presentation. For the first time, a signatory country to the European Convention on Human Rights has passed a law giving it the right to overrule a Court decision. The Committee of Ministers is dealing with our Court’s judgments. What actions are planned to handle the new Russian law?
Mr MITOV – Migration is an extremely pressing issue for each and every one of us. It is the most significant challenge we face, so it is crucial that we have a comprehensive approach to tackle it.
There are three categories of countries in Europe when it comes to migration. First, there are countries that are members of the European Union and the Schengen area. Secondly, there are countries that are members of the European Union and not of Schengen. Thirdly, there are countries that are members of neither the European Union nor Schengen. That makes the issue complex. We cannot afford to consider the problem in parts; we need to tackle it in its entirety. We must proceed as a whole and apply the same rules on the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and on border controls. Border controls do not fall under the authority of the Council of Europe, so we cannot do much about them; nevertheless, we need an integrated approach. Discussions about such an approach are taking place in the European Union and in the context of the Council of Europe’s framework and capacities.
Our actions will not be effective unless there is, in tandem, an efficient information campaign, which must be a complementary element in overcoming the crisis. Our shared position is that we should enhance border controls and work together to fight resolutely against migrant smuggling and human trafficking within the existing international law and norms. Human trafficking is one of our biggest problems. We have said many times that the source of the problem is the conflict in Syria. At the same time, human trafficking is a crucial element of the problem we face today. I am afraid that, even if we solve the conflict in Syria, we will still need to tackle human trafficking. Bulgaria has already amended its legislation to criminalise and increase penalties against people who are involved in human trafficking and pose risks to individuals looking for security and better lives.
It is necessary to say a few things about Turkey. First, we must acknowledge and praise the huge efforts it has made to help refugees, and the Committee of Ministers has done so on several occasions. The refugee crisis cannot be solved by a single country; all member States have a collective responsibility to address it. The agreement on the refugee crisis concluded last November between the European Union and Turkey is an example of the sort of collective response that Europe needs to make. In addressing the crisis, member States should comply with international law, and migrants and refugees must benefit from the protection afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council of Europe is willing to provide assistance in its areas of expertise – including by promoting the exchange of good practice – to any member State.
On the specific measures that can be taken, Bulgaria is an external border of the European Union. After Turkey, it is one of the first countries in line to receive refugees. We are working closely with Turkey to ensure that measures are taken to control our borders. First, we are exchanging information. Secondly, we have signed an agreement for trilateral oversight of the borders between Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece. Much has to be done in that regard, but we are applying ourselves to the task. European citizens expect us to regain control of the situation and apply our own rules and principles. We must be aware that the general feeling that we are not in control of the situation gives ground to extremist, populist movements.
Addressing the crisis is the responsibility of all member States. Member States have obligations under international law – in particular, the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Council of Europe monitors the honouring of such commitments and obligations by all its member States. The Secretary General is to follow and report on the developing situation. To that end, he recently appointed a special representative on migration and refugees.
The Council of Europe provides assistance in its areas of expertise to member States that wish for it. It uses all the tools available to it with a view to promoting the exchange of good practice at national, regional and local levels. Its action focuses on areas such as improving reception conditions, ensuring access to fair status determination procedures, fighting people smuggling and trafficking in human beings, and protecting children. Measures are being taken to promote anti-discrimination and inclusion. The Bulgarian chairmanship will organise two international conferences in the coming months: one on migration issues, and the other on refugee children.
On the third question, in December the Committee of Ministers discussed the worrying trend of a number of member States questioning the binding nature of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, which is the basis of the system for the protection of human rights in Europe. Member States of the Council of Europe have all agreed to be bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, including Article 46, which requires States to comply with the Court’s judgments.
The convention system has played a major role in improving human rights protection in our continent in countless ways. I refer you to the document recently prepared by your Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on the implementation of European Court of Human Rights judgments. It gives many examples of the positive effects of the Convention in member States. As politicians, we should emphasise that and underline and explain the important role that the convention system has played and continues to play in protecting human rights, the rule of law and democratic values.
On the Russian Federation, the search for means to reconcile provisions of domestic constitutional law with international obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights concerns the highest courts in most, if not all, of the contracting States. The new law adopted by the Russian Duma on 4 December was discussed in the Committee of Ministers on 16 December. As the Secretary General then underlined, no country can invoke its constitution in order not to implement an obligation under an international treaty. I have every confidence that when implementing the law, the Russian authorities will search for solutions in a constructive and co-operative spirit in the interests of the protection of human rights.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is the Earl of Dundee, on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.
Earl of DUNDEE (United Kingdom) – Minister, following your remarks, what in summary are the main achievements of your Council of Europe chairmanship, and in which respects has your approach perhaps become more pro-active than that of your predecessors? What steps have you taken to encourage your successor national chairman to continue and progress from whatever you may have already structured and contributed?
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Hunko, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr HUNKO (Germany)* – Minister, you just said, quite rightly, that the war in Syria is the root cause of the migratory flows into Europe. I read recently in the Austrian media, in Der Standard, a headline that said that Bulgaria is fuelling the war in Syria because there have been arms exports via Bulgaria to Syria, in co-operation with the US and Saudi Arabia. Can you confirm that and let us know whether those arms exports will continue?
Ms DURANTON (France)* – The observation mission of our Assembly has called for reforms to correct the substantial shortcomings observed during the presidential election on 11 October in Belarus. That country is changing too slowly in both political and economic terms, but nevertheless it is displaying an undeniable will to come closer to Europe. The fact that negotiations on the conflict in Ukraine are being held in Minsk is not fortuitous. What about the relations of our Organisation with Belarus, and what are the prospects for change in that regard?
Mr MITOV – First, on the Bulgarian priorities I can refer back to my speech, but I will also re-tread some of the main points, and make detailed reference to the fact that we have shared priorities with Estonia and Cyprus, and wish to ensure the continuity of progress regarding the chairmanships. We attach paramount importance to the fundamental values of this Organisation, and promoting and protecting further our common European values is the primary strategic goal of the second Bulgarian chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. On the basis of the two reports provided by the Secretary General on the state of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and following the efforts of the chairmanships of Belgium, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria will work to achieve reform of the Organisation in conformity with the priorities of the Committee of Ministers. The Bulgarian chairmanship will pay special attention to the policy of democratic stability, followed by the Council of Europe’s aim to provide an adequate reaction to imminent political challenges.
I wish to highlight and repeat our priorities, and then give a little background about what we are trying to achieve. First, strengthening the protection of the rights of the child, and facilitating young people’s access to culture, focuses on the protection and implementation of the rights of the child, which is among the key priorities of the Republic of Bulgaria – and, of course, the successor chairmanship – and that has been confirmed by the national co-ordinating mechanism of human rights. During our chairmanship the new Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2016-2021 will be adopted, and a high-level conference for the promotion of the strategy will be organised. As I have already mentioned, we are planning an international conference named “Building a prevention culture among children and adolescents through raising awareness and improving knowledge of risks in times of disaster”, and “special attention will be paid to the problems related to access to culture...for self-expression and self-improvement to facilitate the social integration and to decrease the risk of racist and xenophobic acts.”
Our second priority, as I have mentioned, is protecting the media from external influence, and we will focus on the freedom of speech, pluralism, equality in the media environment and, of course, on more specific things such as hate speech and regulating that on the Internet. On protecting vulnerable groups, Bulgaria attaches particular importance to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities, and we will organise an international expert conference for the exchange of good practices. Bulgaria also considers the proper functioning of democratic institutions a necessary prerequisite for the effective management of the migration process, which we have already been discussing for a while. We will soon organise a high-level conference on the judiciary, and a lot of these questions will be included in the agenda for that. We spoke in detail about that – I had the chance to make a presentation about our priorities at the beginning of Bulgaria’s chairmanship, so I will not pay too much attention to that issue now, but if details are needed, I will be happy to respond in writing.
Belarus is one of our so-called “additional” priorities. The strategic objective of the Council of Ministers is the integration of Belarus into the Council of Europe, but we must be aware that serious deficiencies remain. Belarus still has a considerable way to go after the presidential elections of 11 October, and progress on human rights is also needed. Our special focus is of course the death penalty. The two death sentences of 2015, and one more in January 2016, are to be deplored, and our focus will be on trying to convince our Belarusian counterparts that they need to lift and abolish the death penalty from their practices in order to move forward to the rest of the agenda.
The release of six political prisoners – including former presidential candidate Nikolai Stankevich – before the presidential elections on 11 October was a positive step, and I hope that it will be followed by further steps to improve respect for the Council of Europe’s values. As I have said, we will invest efforts to bring Belarus closer to the Council of Europe if that country confirms in practical terms its readiness to comply with the main principles and values of the Organisation, particularly on the death penalty.
Lastly, I will of course respond to our honourable colleague on the arms issue, which is a national question and so I will reply in that capacity. I assure you that the Bulgarian State applies all the rules and regulations on the arms trade, and adheres to all the conventions we are part of at this very moment. I will not comment on media speculation, because I cannot possibly imagine what would be written here and there, now or tomorrow; the facts are facts, and they could be checked. We have had this conversation with many other international organisations, and I have to tell you that our best interest right now lies in stopping the war in Syria as soon as possible, defeating Daesh and having a stable, democratic Syria whose citizens decide upon its future through fair elections under the auspices of the United Nations. That is our primary goal and that is what we have been calling for all the time. That is what I have to say about this issue.
Ms HOFFMANN (Hungary)* – Children are one of the priorities of the Bulgarian chairmanship, and a new Council of Europe strategy on the rights of children is due to be adopted during the Bulgarian chairmanship in Sofia. This ambitious document lays down the five priorities of the Council of Europe in this field, one of which is the participation of children. What specific plans does the Bulgarian chairmanship have on the participation of children in democracy?
Mr R. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – Interreligious and intercultural dialogue has been among the most debated topics in our agenda. The issue of multiculturalism is given particular significance in my country, with 2016 even having been declared as a year of multiculturalism. However, there is also a mono-ethnic country among the Council of Europe member States, and certain member States give signs of assessing multiculturalism as an unpromising and failed policy. I would therefore like to know the attitude of the Committee of Ministers to this issue, as well as your view on the future prospects in this area in your capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Ms MAIJ (Netherlands) – My question is about the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. A lot of extra attention is being given to this topic because of the violence against women in Cologne over the New Year, but this problem exists across all our countries and for a long time has been an endemic problem. It should be addressed and stopped, using all our efforts. When will Bulgaria sign and ratify that convention? How will you, holding the presidency of the Council of Europe, promote the convention in order to fight the violence against women?
Mr MITOV – First, on children’s rights, the principle of course is that children should enjoy the full range of human rights as granted by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter. The Committee of Ministers will adopt a new Council of Europe Strategy for the Rights of the Child 2016-2021 in the near future. The main thematic priorities for 2016-17 will be: putting a special emphasis on the eradication of violence against children, in particular sexual violence, on the basis of the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse – the so-called Lanzarote Convention; the participation of children in matters affecting them; equal opportunities, with a focus on children in vulnerable situations; children in the digital environment; and child-friendly justice. In that regard, we will need the full support of the member States, in, first, translating children’s rights into laws, policies and practice, and, secondly, in making them known to children, parents, professionals and civil society. The awareness-raising campaigns will be extremely important in that regard. The Bulgarian chairmanship will hold a number of events in the upcoming six months, including a high-level conference to promote this new strategy.
I was asked about intercultural dialogue, including its religious dimension. Of course, intercultural dialogue is extremely important for promoting mutual understanding in a globalised world – a very dynamic and interrelated world. It is even more important at a time when extremists and terrorist groups call for hatred and murder, doing so under the guise of religion; they are hijacking religious concepts and turning them into something so ugly and violent, and this is a primary concern of ours. What is being done in certain countries in the Middle East right now is something to watch closely. Dialogue between the Muslim countries is aiming to change the paradigm of the relationship between Islam and political power. We all know that extreme ideologies or extreme interpretations have their roots; they do not come out of thin air. We need to study those roots well, but the solution needs to be found within the region; it cannot come from outside. We can, however, help and we can be part of that discussion in order to be sure that the human rights dimension is also well considered within it. The Council of Europe has a leading role to play in this area, and the promotion of intercultural and interreligious dialogue is one of the axes of the action plan on “The fight against violent extremism and radicalisation leading to terrorism”, which was adopted at the ministerial session in May. One particular contribution of the Committee of Ministers is the Council of Europe annual exchange on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue initiated in 2008 – the 2015 exchange took place in early November in Sarajevo, as you all know.
On women’s rights, I have to underline that Bulgaria intends during its chairmanship to sign and adopt the Istanbul Convention. Gender equality is central to human rights – and to a genuine democracy in general. More progress is needed to make it a reality, and the Council of Europe has played a pioneering role in this field through a solid legal and policy framework. The full implementation of this framework is key to achieving de facto gender equality. Fostering equal opportunities and an integrated approach to gender equality is key, and our chairmanship has included the protection and promotion of women’s rights in its priorities, with a particular focus on matters related to violence against women and domestic violence. What happened in Cologne adds more dimensions to this and makes the question even more serious. Women’s rights, starting with the right to physical integrity, are fundamental, and no infringement of these rights can be tolerated. All member States have made commitments to that end and they must ensure full respect for women’s rights, regardless of their origin. The Council of Europe has established a solid legal and policy framework as a basis for the protection and promotion of women’s rights. The full implementation of the framework is key to ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all women. Through its instruments and activities, in particular the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe offers member States efficient means to combat violence against women, and such means should be more fully exploited. As I have already mentioned, our chairmanship has decided to place a particular focus on this issue in its priority framework. We call on all countries who have not yet signed the Istanbul Convention to do so.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. We must now conclude the questions to Mr Mitov.
On behalf of the Assembly, I thank the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers.
(Ms Schou, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Agramunt.)
4. Free debate
The PRESIDENT – We now come to the free debate.
I remind members that this debate is for topics not already on the agenda agreed this morning. Speaking time will be limited to three minutes.
The free debate will finish at 5.30 p.m.
I call first Mr Çakirözer, on behalf of the Socialist Group.
Mr ÇAKIRÖZER (Turkey) – Dear President, esteemed colleagues, I am honoured to be a new member of this respected Assembly, which has been known as the Council of Europe since its foundation and which I see as our common house. I am excited to be contributing, with you all, to the struggle for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. I am also honoured that my mother tongue, Turkish, is now one of the official working languages of our honourable Assembly. With your permission, I would like to continue my speech in Turkish.
(The speaker continued in Turkish.)
My last job was editor of Cumhuriyet, one of Turkey’s oldest daily newspapers. Can Dündar, the new editor, and Erdem Gül, the Ankara representative, have been held in pre-trial detention for 61 days. They are in prison because they are journalists and have been charged with disclosing confidential State information and supporting terrorist organisations. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Jagland, added the situation to the Committee of Ministers’ agenda on 13 January 2016.
There are many examples of Turkey’s problems with freedom of the press. Most recently, some academics were charged with being traitors. Some have been taken into custody, and others face being made redundant from their university positions. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. As Secretary General Jagland has stated, fighting terrorism can be legitimate only if importance is given to the protection of freedom of speech. Freedom of expression is one of the Council of Europe’s main values. It is important that we follow the situation in Turkey and develop conclusive policies.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. Ms Zelienková is not here, so I call David Davies, who will speak on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.
Mr D. DAVIES (United Kingdom) – I am sure that all of us have been moved by the plight of refugees as they flee the violence in the Middle East, but it is time that we also said that allowing millions of people to come here without proper checks and balances, without recognising that they often come from cultures that have different views – even they do not share them – towards women and gays, and without being willing to demand that European cultural values are adopted is going to cause a catastrophe. We have already seen the disastrous result of this sort of thing, yet we are unwilling to face up to it.
Mr Mitov just referred to unfortunate incidents in Cologne. It was just a few words in a couple of seconds, but this is what happened: hundreds of women were surrounded by thousands of men, who tried to insert their fingers into the women’s vaginas. This is going on in European cities the length and breadth of the continent, yet nobody is willing to talk about it. The press wanted to cover it up. The police officers did not want to say what had actually happened. The response is to try to avoid difficult subjects instead of putting them out there in the open and deciding what we are going to do about them.
I call on all politicians to wake up and start insisting that European cultural values be applied to everyone who wants to come to Europe. Women should be allowed to walk wherever they want, wear whatever they want and work wherever they want without interference. The gays like those who were drinking in a pub called the George and Dragon in Tower Hamlets a few years ago should be allowed to do that without being unacceptably attacked by religious extremists. I think you can all guess which particular religion that was, although they certainly were not representative of their religions. When attacks happen, such as the many attacks on Jews, people all too often do not want to get to the heart of the problem, which in many cases is Islamic extremism and people coming from cultures where Jews, gays and women are treated differently from how we expect.
We should be proud of the European values that unite us, Muslim and Christian, in countries across our great continent. We should be proud of people such as Martin Luther, who demanded that the Bible be given to the people so they could decide how to interpret it and not have it done for them. I am proud of all those Enlightenment philosophers who gave us the right – all of us, not just politicians – to question our leaders, both spiritual and political. We should be proud of the suffragettes who fought for women’s equality. These are the values that hold us together, but they are under threat like never before. Wake up, politicians, because if you are not prepared to wake up and address these problems, other people will come to the forefront.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Kürkçü, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.
Mr KÜRKÇÜ (Turkey) – I draw the Assembly’s attention to the ongoing conflict and unacceptable human rights violations in Turkey’s south-eastern districts, which are mostly inhabited by Kurdish people. In those districts and provinces, a new wave of violence has erupted after the suspension of peace talks between the PKK leader Öcalan and the Turkish Government, which was advised by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe during the 2013 discussion of the progress report on Turkey.
Since then, violence has spread throughout Turkey’s Kurdish towns and provinces. Many civilians have already lost their lives: the number has already reached around 150. According to figures released by the Turkish armed forces, the total number of “terrorists” is around 450, but the Turkish Government never admits civilian losses.
I call on the Assembly to keep an eye on what is going on in Turkey. Actually, the western world, including the United States and European countries, has turned a blind eye to what is going on in Turkey, in return for simple material gains, using the Incirlik air base and keeping Turkey as a block against the influx of refugees in Europe. A blind eye is turned to the atrocities and violations of human rights.
I call on the Assembly to start to observe closely what is going on in Turkey. In fact, that is the duty of the Assembly. Already the European Court of Human Rights has made three decisions on the provision of medical aid to wounded civilians in the besieged town of Cizre, but that has been turned down by the Turkish Government. At least three people have lost their lives bleeding while waiting in the snow for an ambulance to arrive. We cannot just watch this tragedy. The Assembly has at the very least to call on the Council of Ministers to intervene and to ensure that the Turkish Government obeys the orders of the European Court of Human Rights to provide shelter and aid, and to stop the breach of human rights violations in Turkey.
The PRESIDENT* – The next speaker is Mr Nikoloski, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.
Mr NIKOLOSKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – I am honoured to address you on behalf of the EPP group. This Assembly is about elections. People elect us to represent them, to speak for them, to share their visions, desires, hopes and expectations and to work for them. As you know, last year Macedonia faced unprecedented behaviour by the political opposition, which illegally published wiretapped materials of the leadership of the country, Government officials and MPs.
We resolved that crisis through a political agreement between the main parties: the June/July agreement. The aim of the agreement was to share responsibility for the organisation of early elections, and it granted important posts to the opposition such as the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Social Care and Labour. The final stage of this agreement is the early elections on 24 April this year.
However, we now face an unprecedented situation, where the opposition Social Democratic Union is threatening to boycott the scheduled elections. I guess there is no example in your countries of parliaments where the opposition runs away from elections; in general the opposite is the case. The opposition usually asks to have elections as soon as possible and does not even think about boycotting them. I hope that that European practice will be recognised by the Macedonian opposition.
Elections are the most important part of democracy. That is the day when citizens choose their representatives. No party, organisation or institution can obstruct that right. I am happy that this Assembly this morning decided to send an observation mission to the 24 April parliamentary elections. Citizens must lead this democratic process. I invite all of you to observe the elections carefully because it is the duty of all stakeholders to do their best to have free, fair and democratic elections.
I remind you that the integration of Macedonia in the European Union and NATO is the joint responsibility of both the government and opposition. We hope that all four political parties that signed the June/July agreement will respect it and will participate in the 24 April elections, thus accelerating the integration process for Macedonia and its citizens.
Why should we hold these elections now? Macedonia needs, and its people deserve, a government that can act decisively in the national interest without the cloud of political crisis. This is the time for all of us – politicians and citizens alike – to put aside self-interest and participate in our democratic processes.
Lastly, and importantly, Europe is facing its biggest humanitarian crisis since World War Two. Macedonia is at the main gate where the majority of the refugees running away from war are crossing. We need stable government so that we can deal with that flow and take a humanitarian approach to those people following that destiny. That is in the interests not only of Macedonia but of Europe and the rest of the world. That is why I hope this Assembly will be able to observe all-party elections in Macedonia on 24 April.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. We now move to the speakers list. I call Mr Rochebloine.
Mr ROCHEBLOINE (France)* – In this very Chamber on 25 April 2012, I presented my report on good government and ethics in sport. Almost four years have elapsed, but what has changed? Although FIFA is attempting to reform, what do we remember from the past few years? We are talking about four difficult years. Each year has given us an image of a world football organisation that is more and more out of touch from reality, that is derided and held in contempt.
Let us remind ourselves of what happened last year. Members of the FIFA executive committee were arrested. That made headlines throughout the world. Those images had a profound impact on public opinion in Europe. The public became convinced of the existence of a system of corruption and money laundering. The Council of Europe has a key role to play in combating illegal practices because they pose a severe threat to our democracies.
FIFA has referred to the direct investment in football and to the construction of the headquarters of football federations. The organisation of a World Cup represents half of FIFA’s four-year expenses – in other words, $2 billion. What has happened to the social, cultural and educational projects? Where is the link with sporting activities?
Football is the most popular sport on the planet and Europe is its cradle. Let us not let it go into depression. FIFA needs to revise its position completely. In this difficult period in France, Europe and the world, football is seen by politicians as an insignificant leisure activity, but it is certainly not seen in that way by its citizens. Albert Camus said that there is no more beautiful place in the world for a man than a football stadium, and he was right.
Michel Platini is calling into question the independence of the FIFA ethics commission. Should that not lead us to question such sports organisations as a whole? Are sporting federations the best place to judge offences committed with regard to ethics and values? Faced with the scale and complexity of the mechanisms, do they have the means to detect acts of corruption and conflicts of interest? Injustice, even if we are talking about a leisure activity, is unacceptable. Ethics and values are moreover subjective notions. Is it legitimate for us to allow FIFA to make its own assessment of that? Surely the ethics commission should be attached to an outside institution such as ours. The Council of Europe has expertise and competency in this field.
I add that the president of FIFA’s Reform Committee is not at all independent, so far as Mr Blatter is concerned. We should remember that the criticisms levelled by FIFA at the Council of Europe on 14 January 2015, relating to two letters of 2012 and 2014, were validated and signed by Jérôme Valcke, who was sacked this month for violating the code of ethics – for nothing less than disloyal behaviour, conflict of interest, and offering and accepting gifts or other benefits.
How much longer will FIFA be above the courts and the law? A sports crime is a crime and should be judged in a court of law; that is a matter of principle. It is our duty to keep reminding ourselves of that tirelessly. This is about defending the rule of law and restoring football – that most beautiful of sports – to its former glory by invoking its values and ethical foundations.
Ms CROZON (France)* – I have spoken in this Assembly on a number of occasions – notably in the debate on abortion that inflamed passions in Spain – about my regret that sexual and reproductive rights are not enshrined in the founding texts of national and international law, or the European Convention on Human Rights. Whether we are talking about access to contraception, abortion, prostitution, self-determination as regards gender, or medically assisted procreation or surrogacy, sexual rights – particularly the rights of women – are interpreted in very different, sometimes contradictory, ways by the member States of the Council of Europe. Those rights are based on fundamental values; they cannot be reduced to being simply cultural or religious matters, because they are inherent to the human condition.
Of course, our Assembly regularly drafts recommendations on the interpretation of these rights. However, only the European Court of Human Rights produces concrete rights. It can only do this by interpreting principles. I am thinking in particular of the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights; the right to privacy in Article 8; and the prohibition of discrimination in Article 14. We know that those principles fly in the face of others; that is certainly the case with surrogacy. As I am sure members know, France remains wedded to the principle in Article 16(7) of our civil code, which renders any convention on surrogacy null and void. Article 16 proclaims the inviolability of the human body, and prohibits the claiming of any ownership rights over another’s body. However, given that these principles have not been consolidated internationally, we are not in a position to enforce those rights.
Our legislation is often in competition with the globalisation of trade and the emergence of a new form of sexual and reproductive tourism; that is the case for prostitution, medically assisted procreation and abortion. We are no longer talking about universal principles leading to the creation of rights; we are talking about the law of the market presenting States with a fait accompli. The law of the market is no more or less than the law of the jungle. It simply turns the weakest and most vulnerable – most often women – into objects serving the whims of the most powerful and the richest – most often men.
I want to defend the right of women to decide what happens to their bodies, and to limit that principle to prohibiting people from having control over someone else’s body. We can no longer settle for recommendations, which do not help with the legality and security of sexual and reproductive rights. We should argue for a new protocol, amending the Convention to clarify the exact scope of these rights, which could then be enforced in all our States.
Mr FARMANYAN (Armenia) – Thank you, Madam President. Colleagues, in a globalised world it is increasingly important to be aware of history and its various interpretations, and the influence that those interpretations have on politics and current events. Sometimes – I would say often, especially in our part of the world – history is abused by politicians. Today, I want to raise concerns about attempts to revise history.
Of course, the revision of history, and history itself, is the life blood of historical scholarship; that is certainly true of the academic dimension of revisions of history. History is a continuous dialogue between the past and the present, but we know very well that sometimes interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new political realities and new political perspectives gained over the passage of time. However, sometimes – often, I would say, especially in our part of the world – history becomes politicised, serving the concrete political perspectives of governments.
Many governments in wider Europe today are trying to consolidate political power through the use of mechanisms or tools that contradict the values of the Council of Europe. The revision of history usually follows efforts to consolidate power; it is just one step towards the consolidation of autocratic forms of governance. That tendency goes well beyond the borders of Europe. Many Governments are trying to make use of history, revisiting the past, so that history is not a bridge between the past and the present, but a bridge between the present and the future that they have goals for. I am talking about the consolidation of power by many governments across Europe. Turkey is not an exception, believe me. The list of countries goes well beyond Europe.
We should support the spread of a good knowledge of the past, and support all those who raise their voices for the use of history, but not its abuse for political purposes. Thank you.
Ms DURRIEU (France)* – It is important to draw attention to the Vienna Agreement, signed with Iran in July 2015, which has been called historic. It is intended to deal fully and finally with Iran’s nuclear military intentions by limiting its nuclear capacity. There are to be some 5 000 centrifuges, and uranium enrichment has been fixed at 3.67%. That is of vital importance, along with the transparency measures, and everything else that was required of Iran if sanctions were to be lifted.
18 October 2015 was another historic date: the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Iran had fulfilled all the conditions required of it, under the IAEA’s supervision, and that sanctions could therefore cease immediately. That was approved by both the Iranian Parliament and the US Congress. Some sanctions have been maintained in some areas – for instance, those to do with terrorism, and some for human rights will still be in place until 2020 or 2025 – but a new page of history has truly been turned for Iran. President Obama prudently talked about a new era. We in the Council of Europe should join in the positive response to what has happened, because it limits the likelihood of nuclear proliferation and brings Iran back into the fold. Iran is a vital player in what is happening; it has a constructive role to play because of its history and culture and the place that it has always occupied in the region. Let us be thankful that dialogue is now open. As rapporteur on Iran, I am delighted to make that announcement.
The PRESIDENT – Mr Zourabian of Armenia is not here, so the next speaker is Serhiy Sobolev of Ukraine.
Mr SOBOLEV (Ukraine) – Thank you very much. I want to discuss one important theme about which we must not shut our mouths. Just today, we have learned more about the death of the prominent member of the opposition in Russia Boris Nemtsov, who was killed in the centre of Moscow not far from the Kremlin. It is not the only case where members of the opposition in the Russian Federation – and not only in its territory – have been killed by Putin’s regime. The other day, it was proved – it is not a talk show or some political conclusions, but the facts found by an investigation by a British court – that Litvinenko was killed by Putin’s regime, and probably by a person who is now a member of the Russian State Duma. He is sitting at the high legislative organ of the Russian Federation as one of the 450 members of the State Duma, including others who voted for the occupation of Ukrainian Crimea by Russian troops.
When we investigate crimes organised by crime groups, that is one thing, but when we investigate crimes organised by the President of the Russian State, Putin, and by its secret services, it is another. I understand why the Russians are not now in this building. They are afraid to answer the questions that they need to answer about Boris Nemtsov and Litvinenko – and about Nadia Savchenko, whose tragedy is the same tragedy. There is a new hunger protest in a Russian prison by that prominent Ukrainian woman. When even the Russian court for two years has not been able to investigate the one case that it wants to investigate, it is a good illustration of the fact that the Russian regime is a regime of terrorists, organised at a high level by Putin and all his services.
We are here to do some important things. First, we must not keep silent. Secondly, each of our resolutions must be a resolution that divides the democratic world and the world of terrorists who want to change the rules all over the continent.
Ms GAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) – Thank you, Madam President. Ladies and gentlemen, I doubt whether someone would challenge the fact that nowadays the world community is facing many serious threats: serious damage to countries’ economies caused by the ongoing global processes and consequences of the financial crisis on one hand, and public concern with regard to confrontation occurring in the political arena on the other. Along with that and terror outbreaks, religious and racial discrimination cannot leave us indifferent to that problem. In particular, the terror acts that took place at the end of last year once again proved that no State or nation is protected from such negative events.
Therefore, co-operation, good faith and mutual respect with regard to different values are perhaps more valuable than ever before. In the current environment, particularly when religion is used so much by various groups trying to sow the seed of hatred between nations, it is important to create dialogue between religions and cultures, because the tolerant attitude towards different religions is one of the important conditions to ensure security in the modern world. Therefore, national governments should increase attention to that issue and realise that strengthening religious tolerance is the main way to ensure a sustainable peace and prevent conflicts on a religious basis. I strongly believe that the only choice we have is co-operation. We shall solve many problems through mutual respect in creating conditions to implement our interests and move towards co-operation based on good faith.
I have to point out that the Republic of Azerbaijan has always pursued foreign policy based on those values and intentions. Based on its experience, Azerbaijan has proved that tolerance and mutual respect for national and spiritual values are the best ways for a peaceful and secure environment for representatives of different religions and their traditions. Today, the representatives of Christian and Jewish communities have equal opportunities and rights with the Muslim majority in my country. Azerbaijan is a centre of intercultural dialogue, and has established itself as an important place for discussion of humanitarian issues.
I am very pleased that the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan declared 2016 in our country as the year of multiculturalism. That shows the world the tolerant and multicultural model that exists in Azerbaijan. It demonstrates the utmost importance that our country attaches to worldwide peace and harmony, with dialogue among cultures. I hope that this message from Baku will be properly appreciated and that these initiatives will find adequate response. In the modern world, practically, there is no alternative to tolerance and multiculturalism. We can realise it in Europe, the common space for all of us.
Mr NEGUTA (Republic of Moldova)* – Thank you, Madam President. Distinguished colleagues, until this morning, I wanted to use my timeslot to talk about the situation in my country, the Republic of Moldova. However, during the opening sitting of this part-session, our colleague Mr Xuclŕ contested the credentials of my country, so I use this opportunity to talk about that. The Republic of Moldova has five representatives in our delegation and five alternates. Today, four members of our delegation are in this room, including three representatives and one alternate. There is no problem about our delegation. Our member Igor Corman has left the parliament, and therefore our bureau decided to change our delegation. Ms Buliga has now become a full representative, and Mr Sergiu Sîrbu is an alternate.
As for the two other alternate places, there is no problem with those either. When the delegation was being put together, one of the five parliamentary parties – the Liberal Party – refused to put any member forward for it. Now the Liberal Party has seen a letter to our parliament’s bureau with the names of those in the delegation. Our next parliamentary session starts on 1 February, and all the members I have mentioned – or at least 80% of them – will be adopted by the parliament, which means that there is no problem with the credentials of the delegation from the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova.
I appeal to members of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs to be so kind as to use that information at their meeting tomorrow, because there really is no problem with the credentials of the Moldovan delegation. There are, of course, other, much more important problems in Moldova, to which we need to find a solution through voting, but that is not one of them.
Mr G. DAVIES (United Kingdom) – The fundamental principles of the Council of Europe – democracy, the rule of law and human rights – are under threat from transatlantic trade deals, the first being the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with Canada, which is due to be signed and which can be implemented provisionally without even being ratified by nation States such as the United Kingdom.
I am in favour of more trade and of the European Union, but the investor-State dispute settlement means that large companies can sue democratically elected governments if they pass laws to protect their citizens, environment and public health that impinge on future profitability. TransCanada is suing the United States for $15 billion as a result of Obama stopping the sand oil pipeline between Canada and the United States.
Governments such as that of the United Kingdom are sitting on their hands, saying that ISDS has not led to them being sued in the past, but that is because the trade agreements in which the United Kingdom Government is involved send investment out of Britain. Once the United States, which invests in Britain and other European countries, has the powers under ISDS to sue Britain, it will. In particular, fracking companies will sue Britain and other European countries once the environmental obligations of the Paris climate change summit – Conference of the Parties 21 – trigger new environmental laws that will impinge on the profitability of big corporations, including fracking corporations.
The investment chapter of the transatlantic trade and investment partnership gives investors legally enforceable powers that trump the multilateral environmental agreements in its sustainable development chapter, which has no such enforceability. ISDS means that commercial law trumps public law, and no consideration is given to the public interest, including the environment. That much was clear in the case of Compańiá del Desarrollo de Santa Elena, S.A. v. The Republic of Costa Rica. Indeed, ISDS trumps the supreme courts of nation States, as we saw when Deutsche Bank used it against Sri Lanka. The agreements – CETA, TTIP and the trade in services agreement – will last for 20 years, binding future governments, undermining future sovereignty and hobbling democracy.
In conclusion, we have a duty to pull the teeth of the ISDS out of those agreements; to ensure that investors are protected by public law, but not by private laws decided at private meetings; and genetically to edit CETA, TTIP and TISA so that environmental sustainability, democracy and human rights obligations come before profit. Yes, let us trade, but let us not trade our democracy, human rights and human law. We need scrutiny before the deal is done.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Davies. Ms Spadoni is not here, so I call Mr Badea from Romania.
Mr BADEA (Romania)* – I want to talk about a situation of great concern. The children of the Bodnariu family in Norway have been taken away from their parents, Marius and Ruth. The Norwegian authorities felt that their five children needed to be protected, so they removed them from their natural parents. The police received a complaint that the children were being subjected to religious pressure and the decision to remove them was made on the basis of alleged ill-treatment, but there was no proof of that. The family’s three-month-old baby was deprived of breast feeding, which is of paramount importance at that age.
The decision taken by the Norwegian social welfare authorities was disproportionate, especially given the fact that Norwegian legislation stipulates that children can be removed from their parents only as a last resort. All of the intermediate measures were ignored. No attempt was made to promote reconciliation or mediation, and no meetings were arranged with a psychiatrist. That would have enabled the facts to be established and it would have legitimised any subsequent decision. The decision should not have been taken, because it has split up the family, and it was also wrong to cite the best interests of the children.
Similar cases have also resulted in children being removed from their parents, and the issue affects foreign families in particular. There have been roughly 50 000 such cases in Norway, and 10 000 of them have resulted in children being removed from their parents.
Mr CSENGER-ZALÁN (Hungary) – I bring to the Assembly a quasi-symbolic question. Emblems, coats of arms and flags are symbols of communities both large and small, but the way in which such symbols are created gives rise to constitutional issues. Do local communities have the fundamental right to decide their own affairs if the principle of subsidiarity is being infringed upon?
On 13 May, the Romanian Parliament adopted a law on the use of the flags of the municipalities and counties. Although Romania ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government, the law stipulates which flags should be adopted; establishes a series of restrictions on their use; and imposes severe penalties of up to €2 300 on those who do not comply with its provisions. What is so shocking is that it also stipulates that if someone uses a flag other than those adopted by the government without making it clear where, when and in what circumstances, they will be fined and the flag will be confiscated.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance reported that the Romanian authorities are engaged in an ever-more intense war against the flag of Szeklerland. With the adoption of the new law, the authorities can proceed not only to harass but to fine people and local authorities that use the flag. It is another example of how although Romania commits itself to respect European values and the documents of the Council of Europe, it in fact treats them with disrespect and breaks some of them.
It is in the interests of the Szekler National Council that all issues of public life in Romania should be solved in accordance with the documents of the Council of Europe. I am sure that the new Romanian regulation is not in accordance with either the provisions of the European Charter of Local Self-Government or the basic principles of democracy and the rule of law. The Szekler National Council is interested in having reasonable disputes with the Romanian authorities for the sake of finding the right solution to the problem, so we suggest that the Council of Europe ask the Venice Commission for its opinion on the law in order to help the Romanian authorities to take the necessary steps back to the way of democracy.
Mr JAPARIDZE (Georgia) – I congratulate Mr Agramunt on his election to the presidency of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. His experience of and patience in respect of democracy will raise awareness of the Council of Europe among the public, as well as the organisation’s visibility. As power in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is transferred, it is a time of reflection on the past and the future. As President Agramunt mentioned Georgia a couple of times in his inaugural speech, I shall reflect a little on Georgia, as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has invested a lot of its resources and capacity in my country.
We are not perfect yet in Georgia, but who is perfect? We are much better than we used to be, and our progress has been recognised by European institutions. Georgia is committed to becoming a small pad of democracy in our part of the world. Why do we need the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe? Georgians need to put behind them the period when each transfer of power was considered a regime change. We need to have a straightforward debate on policies, to lay out our programme and to let the people decide. We do not need political supporters and apologists for any party in Georgia from Europe and elsewhere placing their political future above the interests of our country.
Let me be clear: the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s mandate is to oversee an electoral level playing field. To that end, we welcome probes, questions, electoral and media monitoring and fact-finding missions. The more the merrier. If disturbing facts are discovered, as they should be, we should name and shame the individuals whom we hold accountable – but the people themselves, not Georgia. There should be specifics, not rumours. President Agramunt mentioned in his speech the name of one Georgian whom he labelled a political prisoner. That person has been prosecuted in Georgia for misusing public funds. Am I happy that this person is in jail? Of course not, but nobody is above the law in Georgia.
Georgia is not some whipping boy to be kicked here and there; we are an independent and sovereign State. If that is important in any year, it is twice as important in an election year. If the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is to contribute to democratic consolidation in Georgia this year, partisan preferences should be tamed. Empowering citizens and democratic institutions, solidifying checks and balances, ensuring a level electoral playing field – that is what unites us, not what divides us. That is what we are here for. We all have preferences and weaknesses, but those are personal matters. Political groups, leaders, the President and vice-presidents have a mandate and a duty to serve democracy and human rights.
Mr YATIM (Morocco, Partner for Democracy) *– Who among us was not almost destroyed by the image of the boy from Syria, little Alan, drowned, lying in the sand on a Turkish beach? Who among us has not been struck by the pictures coming out of Madaya in Syria of people so malnourished and hungry that they are almost skeletons? There has been severe malnutrition in the city. Forty thousand people were eating grass and leaves, and drinking warm water with a few spices in it to conquer their hunger. Children are clearly severely undernourished. Who is responsible? The finger is pointed at the Assad regime and his allies, and at the extremists of the region, but it would be naďve of us not to go further and look at the root of the problem.
The whole humanitarian crisis in Syria and the entire region is a result of the policy of waging war against Iraq in the 1990s – a policy whose fruits we continue to reap. There are still threats to regional stability today, and there will be tomorrow. We are reaping what has been sown, today and in the past. Nothing is arbitrary in history, as we know from the philosopher Hegel. The history of this whole issue is marked by language that hides the interests of the great powers that are undermining democracy and human rights. It is time for us to put an end to this rift between words and deeds. It is time for us to do something that will regain the confidence of all the people who live in the region. Democracy through security is the basis of all stability and security.
The PRESIDENT – I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the official report. I remind colleagues that the texts are to be submitted in typescript, electronically if possible, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.
The debate is closed.
5. Next public business
The PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. with the agenda which was approved this morning.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 5.30 p.m.)
1. Changes in the membership of committees
2. Progress Report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee (continuation of debate)
Speakers: Mr Fischer, Mr Schennach, Mr Xuclŕ, Mr Liddell-Grainger, Mr Kox, Ms Bartos, Ms Durrieu
Progress Report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee adopted
3. Communication from the Committee
Questions: Mr Vareikis, Mr Devaja, Ms Lundgren, Earl of Dundee, Mr Hunko, Ms Duranton, Ms Hoffmann, Mr R. Huseynov, Ms Maij
4. Free debate
Speakers: Mr Çakirözer, Mr D. Davies, Mr Kürkçü, Mr Nikoloski, Mr Rochebloine, Ms Crozon, Mr Farmanyan, Ms Durrieu, Mr Sobolev, Ms Gafarova, Mr Neguta, Mr G. Davies, Mr Badea, Mr Csenger-Zalán, Mr Japaridze, Mr Yatim
5. Next public business
Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 11.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk
Brigitte ALLAIN/Pascale Crozon
Lord Donald ANDERSON
Khadija ARIB/Marit Maij
David BAKRADZE/Giorgi Kandelaki
Gérard BAPT/Anne-Yvonne Le Dain
José Manuel BARREIRO*
Anna Maria BERNINI/Claudio Fazzone
Maria Teresa BERTUZZI*
Tobias BILLSTRÖM/Kerstin Lundgren
Tilde BORK/Christina Egelund
Piet De BRUYN
David CRAUSBY/Lord George Foulkes
Katalin CSÖBÖR/Mónika Bartos
Joseph DEBONO GRECH*
Manlio DI STEFANO
Jeffrey DONALDSON/David Davies
Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*
Mikuláš DZURINDA/Darina Gabániová
Lady Diana ECCLES*
Franz Leonhard EẞL
Joseph FENECH ADAMI
Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU*
Doris FIALA/Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter
Axel E. FISCHER*
Sir Roger GALE*
Francesco Maria GIRO
Carlos Alberto GONÇALVES
Alina Ștefania GORGHIU*
François GROSDIDIER/Yves Pozzo Di Borgo
Emine Nur GÜNAY*
Maria GUZENINA/Olli-Poika Parviainen
Sabir HAJIYEV/Sevinj Fataliyeva
Michael HENNRICH/Sybille Benning
Martin HENRIKSEN/Rasmus Nordqvist
Françoise HETTO-GAASCH/Serge Wilmes
Johannes HÜBNER/Barbara Rosenkranz
Ekmeleddin Mehmet İHSANOĞLU
Denis JACQUAT/Frédéric Reiss
Gediminas JAKAVONIS/Egidijus Vareikis
Andrzej JAWORSKI/Jacek Osuch
Michael Aastrup JENSEN*
Frank J. JENSSEN
Florina-Ruxandra JIPA/Viorel Riceard Badea
Marietta KARAMANLI/Jean-Claude Frécon
Niklas KARLSSON/Azadeh Rojhan Gustafsson
Nina KASIMATI/Evangelos Venizelos
Filiz KERESTECİOĞLU DEMİR*
Haluk KOÇ/Metin Lütfi Baydar
Unnur Brá KONRÁĐSDÓTTIR/Brynjar Níelsson
Ksenija KORENJAK KRAMAR
Julia KRONLID/Johan Nissinen
Pierre-Yves LE BORGN’*
Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT
Luís LEITE RAMOS
Muslum MAMMADOV/Rovshan Rzayev
Soňa MARKOVÁ/Pavel Holík
Liliane MAURY PASQUIER
Sir Alan MEALE
Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA
Ana Catarina MENDES*
Jean-Claude MIGNON/André Schneider
Arkadiusz MULARCZYK/Daniel Milewski
Marian NEACȘU/Titus Corlăţean
Julia OBERMEIER/Volkmar Vogel
Florin Costin PÂSLARU*
Cezar Florin PREDA
Lia QUARTAPELLE PROCOPIO*
Christina REES/Baroness Doreen Massey
Vincenzo SANTANGELO/Maria Edera Spadoni
Nadiia SAVCHENKO/Boryslav Bereza
Jan ŠKOBERNE/Anže Logar
Lorella STEFANELLI/Gerardo Giovagnoli
Goran TUPONJA/Snežana Jonica
İbrahim Mustafa TURHAN*
Leyla Şahin USTA*
Snorre Serigstad VALEN/Ingebjřrg Godskesen
Imre VEJKEY/Rózsa Hoffmann
Bas van ‘t WOUT/Pieter Omtzigt
Vacant Seat, Croatia*
Vacant Seat, Croatia*
Vacant Seat, Croatia*
Vacant Seat, Croatia*
Vacant Seat, Cyprus*
Vacant Seat, Spain*
Vacant Seat, Spain*
Vacant Seat, Spain*
Vacant Seat, Spain*
Vacant Seat, Spain*
Vacant Seat, Spain*
Vacant Seat, Republic of Moldova/Valentina Buliga
Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote
Héctor LARIOS CÓRDOVA
Armando LUNA CANALES
Ulises RAMÍREZ NÚŃEZ
Partners for democracy