AS (2016) CR 08



(First part)


Eighth sitting

Thursday 28 January 2016 at 3.30 p.m.

In this report:

1.       Speeches in English are reported in full.

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

3.       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.

      (Mr Agramunt, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.35 p.m.)

      The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.

1. Change in speaking limit

      The PRESIDENT – In view of the time available and the number of speakers on the lists, I propose that speaking time in this afternoon’s debates be increased to four minutes.

2. The situation in Kosovo and the role of the Council of Europe

      The PRESIDENT – The first item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report entitled “The situation in Kosovo and the role of the Council of Europe”, Document 13939. Mr Conde is no longer a member of the Assembly, so I call Mr Mogens Jensen, Chair of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, to present the report. I remind you that in order to finish this item of business by 5.20 p.m., we shall interrupt the list of speakers at about 5.00 p.m. to allow time for the reply and votes.

      Mr Jensen, you have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – It is my responsibility today to present the report that the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy supports unanimously. Given the controversy that often surrounds discussions in Kosovo, that really is an achievement in itself, so I sincerely thank our rapporteur, Mr Agustín Conde from Spain, for his excellent work. As we know, Mr Conde is no longer a member of the Assembly, but he has left an important legacy with this report, which has been described as balanced and realistic by both sides – Pristina and Belgrade.

The report forms a line of continuity with the previous work of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, as developed by the former rapporteur, Mr Björn von Sydow. It follows a status-neutral approach while assessing the extent to which Kosovo applies Council of Europe standards in the area of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It puts the people of Kosovo at the centre of its preoccupations. I remind you that Kosovo has the youngest population in Europe: out of a total of approximately 1.8 million, 26.3% are under 14 years of age, and 18.1% are between 15 and 24. The average age is 27. Indeed, as the rapporteur says in his memorandum, this young generation must be provided with a European perspective as well as opportunities in terms of employment, democratic stability and participation in political decision making. Failure to do that may cause social unrest and irregular migration.

      The report argues that respect for the rule of law should be the No. 1 priority for the Kosovar authorities and points out widespread corruption as a factor that impacts negatively on both the lives of people in Kosovo and Kosovo’s economic development. The report recognises the progress that Kosovo has achieved in democracy, but it also stresses that numerous delays and deadlocks in the Assembly of Kosovo are signs of the inability of political forces to develop dialogue on issues of crucial importance. Recent manifestations of violence in the Assembly of Kosovo are liable further to undermine people’s trust in democratic institutions.

      As for the protection of human rights and intercommunity relations, despite the improvement of the security situation the report calls on the authorities to remain vigilant, to condemn all ethnically motivated attacks, to show a sense of responsibility in their public discourse and to ensure the delivery of justice. The report welcomes the availability of a European perspective for both Belgrade and Pristina, and encourages the continuation of European Union-facilitated dialogue between them.

      A new element introduced in this report is the concept of democratic security, which is so often referred to by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and which will be the main focus of his third report on the state of democracy and human rights in Europe. Compliance with high standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law is not only important for people’s lives but a factor of stability domestically and internationally. On the other hand, poor compliance, aggravated by an economy in a poor state of health, is a threat to stability and security that is bound to have repercussions outside domestic borders.

      As Chairperson of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy I hope that the report will contribute constructively to improving Kosovo’s capacity to experience democratic security and to promote it in the region of the western Balkans.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you. You have eight minutes remaining.

      I call Ms Mateu to speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

      Ms MATEU (Andorra)* – Our group considers this report to be excellent. Why? It was drawn up by our former colleague, Mr Agustín Conde. It is well documented and seeks to be as objective as possible. It is balanced. On a more personal note, I find it striking. It discusses the relations between Kosovo and our Assembly in a very neutral way.

      Colleagues such as Björn von Sydow and Dick Marty have in the past studied this territory while reporting on related subjects and have considered its relations with our Assembly. A lot of progress has been achieved and, in part, we owe that to Serbia and the Serbian delegation, who made efforts for that rapprochement. There is an enormous difference between the situation in 2010 and that in the beginning of 2013, and we need to pay tribute to the efforts of all parties in this place, which are clearly and objectively described in the report.

      The report records that there are many shortcomings in Kosovo. The chairman of the committee has recalled the history of that country. The average age of the population is 27 and a third of the population is under the age of 14, which means that they have no notion of what happened 20 years ago. The reality they are living today is different, and we need to bear that in mind. Another question that arises concerns the economic situation of Kosovo, which is finding it difficult to set up the structures it needs for its economy. Wages in the civil service are higher than those in the private sector, which is rather unusual, whereas the private sector accounts for 70% of GDP.

      As for the possible return of the Serbian population that used to live in Kosovo but had to leave because of fear or because they were expelled through the pressure exerted by the Albanian population, very few of those Serbs are coming back. The report says that only 800 have done so. That is only natural; why should they want to return to a country where there is no economic future and where young people have no work? The report also suggests a number of guidelines so that we can work with Kosovo at a parliamentary level and so that we can ensure that its representatives can come here, to speak to us and to listen to us. We can then also work towards their having closer ties with some of our institutions, particularly the Venice Commission. The ALDE group fully supports the report.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Mark Pritchard from the United Kingdom on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.

      Mr PRITCHARD (United Kingdom) – I thank the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy and the rapporteur for this thoughtful, well-considered report. It rightly recognises that Kosovo has made huge political and democratic progress since its independence in 2008, while identifying areas where progress is still required and where democratic backsliding has occurred. It is a candid assessment of what Kosovo is getting right and where it needs to improve. It is not a diktat. It does not recommend imposing on Kosovo the policies and values of other countries. Rather, it recognises the need for all countries to ensure that their governmental, political and judicial institutions are firmly based on the rule of law and are transparent, and that corruption is rooted out without impunity.

      In fairness to Kosovo, all democracies evolve – some faster than others. Democracy cannot be rushed, and there is no “one size fits all” approach, but there are universal principles that apply, whether the country is wealthy or poor, young or long-established. In this 801st year since Magna Carta – or the Great Charter of Liberties, as some call it – the United Kingdom’s democratic institutions, courts and constitutional settlement are still evolving, adapting and maturing. Change in the United Kingdom can sometimes be very slow. We still have an unelected second Chamber – the House of Lords – and a United Kingdom Supreme Court was introduced only in 2005. But changes are always guided by the principle of more, not less, democracy and the rule of law – domestic law, international law, international humanitarian law and human rights law.

      The challenge for all of Kosovo’s political parties, which have come so far in a short time, is not to tire in their pursuit of peaceful co-existence and non-violent means of resolving political differences. They must govern for the people, rather than for themselves. In time, Kosovo and Serbia will rightly become full members of an enlarged European Union, but most of the necessary democratic changes need to take place before membership. Both countries will have to work at it. There is no automatic political rite of passage, just because of geographical boundaries or past conflicts. Moreover, it is more likely that there will be peace on the streets of Pristina if there is peace in its parliament.

      All of Kosovo’s political parties need to welcome this report and, as has already been said, work with the Council of Europe, European Union institutions and other bodies to ensure that its conclusions are carefully considered. The report is a critical appreciation of Kosovo, rather than a criticism of it. After all, true friends are candid friends. Of course, our support for Kosovo in that endeavour will be greatly enhanced if more members of the Council of Europe recognise it as a sovereign State. It needs to lead by example in setting out the rule of law internationally and for its own people.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Matjaž Hanžek to speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

      Mr HANŽEK (Slovenia) – This report illustrates many of the issues faced by Kosovo. It systematically analyses the situation and makes critical points. It discusses the causes of the issues, sets out where there have been improvements and deteriorations, and notes the improvements that Kosovo’s authorities and the international community have made.

      The significant work that has already been done on resolving Kosovo’s problems for the benefit of its people and on reducing tension in the region can serve as the basis for future activities. Kosovo’s problems have remained the same for more than a century. They are so deeply rooted in society that it is difficult to resolve them. The most significant are its weak economy, the lack of the rule of law, corruption, nepotism, organised crime and, above all, the tensions and conflicts between nations. Kosovo’s economy is largely based on remittances from its diaspora and the support of international donors. It is one of the poorest parts of Europe. Unemployment and poverty are widespread. Its weak rule of law, which is improving too slowly, greatly inhibits the economy and leads to distrust of its State institutions. It is estimated that the judiciary is one of the most corrupt in the world.

      The great progress that has been made in resolving inter-ethnic conflicts is largely due to the improved relations between Kosovo and Serbia. Kosovo has agreed to establish a special court in the Netherlands for war crimes committed by its own people – a very rare commitment in the region. There will be a package of dialogue agreements with Serbia, including on the difficult issue of the establishment of Serb majority municipalities to promote the integration of Serbs in Kosovo. It has also committed to a border agreement with Montenegro – again, an uncommon achievement in the region. Such decisions mark decisive progress for Kosovo, but they have come at a high price for its internal politics and have led to a crisis in the past few months.

      Kosovo has many difficult and deeply rooted issues, but they are all slowly improving. Kosovo and its people deserve continued international assistance in various forms. The process of European integration can help to make the change that we want to see in Kosovo. We need engagement and progress, rather than rejection and isolation. We need to keep a European future open for Kosovo, including in the Council of Europe. The worst thing that could happen to Kosovo and Europe is for the people of Kosovo to be left alone to choose between bad alternatives.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you. I call Mr Attila Korodi to speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

      Mr KORODI (Romania) – I congratulate Mr Agustín Conde on preparing this report fairly and objectively, and I want to express my political group’s support for it. It was acceptable to both the majority and the opposition. We want to encourage all political forces in Belgrade and Pristina to engage in constructive dialogue on topics of crucial importance to resolve the remaining issues. To improve Kosovo’s institutions, the training of judges and prosecutors needs to be improved, including in the field of international human rights law. Kosovo should be encouraged to ensure that all minority communities participate in the consultations and decision-making processes, and Kosovo Serbs should be able to participate in the judiciary. The participation of minorities and the improvement of ethnic diversity will improve Kosovo’s stability.

      Pristina’s authorities must put in place mechanisms to enable the return of displaced persons. Their property rights must be recognised, and they must be integrated into the labour market. The protection of Serbian cultural heritage was not guaranteed in Kosovo. As a result, the Pristina authorities are responsible for Kosovo’s failure to obtain membership of UNESCO. That matter was also of great importance for the Council of Europe.

      Our concern is that in 2016 the region might become characterised by an erosion of the State’s authority, and its inability to satisfy the needs of its population, with widespread corruption in the central administration. That can be overcome only with vision and the political will of politicians in the Pristina Government. We therefore recommend continuing and developing a contribution with Council of Europe bodies such as the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, and other international institutions.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Korodi. I call Ms Gosselin-Fleury to speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.

      Ms GOSSELIN-FLEURY (France)* – I had a chance to visit Kosovo in April 2015, and I saw that this country, which has been independent since 2008, has made enormous progress in seven years, notwithstanding the difficulties. Above all, I heard the message of Kosovars regarding Europe. As the rapporteur rightly stressed, Kosovo and Serbia have understood the importance of dialogue in order to normalise their relations, which is one of the conditions required to allow them to make future requests to join the European Union. Joining the Council of Europe is a priority for Kosovo. The fact that Kosovo is the only country yet to be accepted by this Organisation alongside Belarus, although we know that the situation regarding human rights and the rule of law in those two countries is not remotely comparable, is viewed as a problem, and Kosovars feel that it is an injustice.

      The rapporteur rightly stressed the problems, and such problems do exist, as in any young democracy. Some member States are not immune to the same failings and shortcomings, as will be demonstrated by the debate that we are due to have on the defence of human rights. None the less, Kosovo has occasionally heeded and followed the requests of our Assembly. On 3 August 2015, the constitutional revision that established a specialised chamber for judging crimes committed during the war – the headquarters of which will be in the Netherlands – was a major political gesture in support of intercommunity reconciliation, and an act of courage on the part of the political authorities. That decision, which, I repeat, is no mean event, should be viewed by this Assembly as a token of the Kosovo authority’s resolve to co-operate with our Organisation, even on issues that encroach on the painful and tragic history of that area – in 2010 our colleague, Dick Marty, defended a report about those crimes in this Chamber.

      Another example is the participation of Kosovo in the fight against terrorism. The Muslim authorities in the country have decided to send back home an imam sent by Turkey who was found guilty of extremism, and some Kosovars involved in foreign conflicts and found guilty of jihadism have been brought to book.

      I say to our Serbian colleagues that I listened closely to your prime minister in this Chamber last October, and especially his message in support of stability, dialogue and normality with Kosovo. I hope that the early legislative elections will not call that equally courageous course into question. We all know that the history between Serbia and Kosovo remains an open wound. France’s history with the Germans was also tragic, but none the less we have managed to overcome it. That, too, is what Europe and its values are about.

      The Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union demands reforms in areas such as governance, the rule of law and human rights. Once again, it would make no sense for the Council of Europe, that historic human rights institution, to stay out of that process and delay further Kosovo’s entrance to our common home.

      The PRESIDENT – The rapporteur will reply at the end of the debate. I call Ms Djurović.

      Ms DJUROVIĆ (Serbia) – I commend the work of the rapporteur, Mr Conde, who unfortunately could not be here to present his impartial and objective report. Allow me to recall that three years ago, the Serbian delegation voted in support of the report on the situation in Kosovo prepared by the then rapporteur, Mr von Sydow because then – as now – we truly wanted Council of Europe standards to be implemented in the territory of Kosovo and Metohija. We will reaffirm our commitment to the normalisation of relations, and vote for this report. However, we will continue to insist on neutrality, and that was the approach that Mr Conde applied when preparing this report, which focuses mostly on respect for human rights. That is what we must all insist on.

      When speaking about human rights, it is very important not to lower standards and thresholds where Kosovo is concerned. The most difficult and challenging issues for Belgrade are the strengthening of the rights of Serbs, the Agreement on the Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities, the protection of cultural heritage, the status of the Serbian Orthodox Church, the return of displaced persons, and property issues.

      We are concerned about many issues, such as the fact that in parallel with the adoption of the law on the special war crimes tribunal, the law on financing defence for former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which was indicted by a special court, was adopted. It shows that the Albanians are still not ready to face the crimes committed by their fellow countrymen, and that we are still witnessing the suppression of information and cover-ups. We will keep on insisting that those responsible for war crimes should be punished, because that is an essential part of every reconciliation process and a moral obligation to victims.

      We expect Pristina to understand that what has been agreed and signed in Brussels must be implemented. The Agreement on the Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities is imperative for the development of normal relations, and Serbia will not accept any revision or changes to what has been agreed and signed by the two prime ministers. It is therefore important that that resolution underlines the necessity of implementing the Brussels agreements, and particularly the establishment of the Agreement on the Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities.

      Lately, instead of progress we have witnessed the weakening of institutions and an increase in ethnically motivated attacks. MPs are not even safe in their parliament, because other MPs are throwing tear gas and blocking the work of that parliament. I cannot but wonder and ask how members of minorities can feel safe in that so-called State? What really concerns us is the strengthening of Islamic fundamentalism in Kosovo, and the graffiti of the “Islamic State” written on the facilities of the Serbian Orthodox Church, which instils fear in citizens. Furthermore, we have witnessed numerous attacks against Orthodox believers when celebrating their religious holidays. The desecration of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Pristina, in the presence of Kosovar police and during Christmas holidays this year, was further tragic proof that Serbia was right when it argued against Kosovo’s membership of UNESCO. In order to keep the balanced tone of the report, the Serbian delegation has not submitted any amendments and will support this report. I call on members of the Assembly to vote against Amendments 8, 9 and 10.

      Mr OBRADOVIĆ (Serbia) – First, I commend the work Mr Conde did in preparing the report and the resolution. This high-quality document addresses the Council of Europe standards in the field of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and assesses whether and to what extent those standards are being implemented in Kosovo. The resolution notes a number of negative developments and events, to which Serbia has been drawing attention for the past 17 years without yet receiving any answer.

After 17 years of an international military and civilian presence in Kosovo, through different United Nations structures, the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX ) and interim institutions, we are still witnessing the following: ethnically motivated crimes against Serbs and non-Albanians, including against returnees, children and schoolchildren, with 79 new incidents having been reported only last year; the destruction and desecration of the cultural and religious heritage of the Serbian people, with 10 attacks on Serbian churches in 2015; the impossibility of securing the return of about 250 000 Serbs and other non-Albanians who were forced to leave in 1999 – according to the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, only 4 000 of all those displaced permanently returned, and that was because of reasons of security and an inability for them to lead a normal life; the absence of prosecutions of cases of war crimes committed against Serbs, and cases of inhuman treatment and the illegal trafficking of human organs, as was acknowledged in Dick Marty’s report, which was adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly five years ago; and more than 1 000 Serbs and non-Albanians having been killed since 1999 without a single final court decision having been declared. In addition, there are no decisions on claims concerning the property rights of Serbs and claims for the restitution of the land that was forcefully taken from them.

      The verdict in the Oliver Ivanović case pronounced by the EULEX court last week, whereby he was sentenced to nine years in prison for an unproven and unconfirmed “crime” committed in 1999, clearly illustrated how the judiciary in Kosovo is really functioning; Serbs and non-Albanians are blamed for everything that happened in the past and for everything happening now, whereas Albanians are not responsible for anything. When we also consider other things happening in Kosovo, including corruption, drugs and arms trafficking, money laundering and migrant smuggling, we get the full picture of the current situation in Kosovo.

      Serbia is committed to peace, dialogue, democracy and the rule of law. In the interests of our future, and with a wish to improve the situation in Kosovo, and the position of Serbs and other non-Albanians, Belgrade has signed the agreement with Pristina in Brussels. Unfortunately, the vital elements of this agreement – agreement on the establishment of an association/community of Serb majority municipalities in Kosovo – have not been implemented yet. We will vote for the proposed resolution, as it represents a starting point that we hope will give us the answers to previously posed questions. For the past 17 years, we have been witnessing violence and crimes against Serbs in Kosovo. The law is not respected and there is no justice. The resolution is an attempt to make things different. Enough has been said – we need actions.

(Sir Roger Gale, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Agramunt.)

      Mr MANNINGER (Hungary) – First, I must emphasise that this is a very balanced report, and that was the opinion of Serbian politicians and the representatives of Kosovo, too. Kosovo is a unique European State: just 58% of people of working age are economically active; and the unemployment rate is 35%, with the youth unemployment rate being 61%. That is why we face irregular immigration from Kosovo to European Union countries, as was particularly the case at the end of 2014.

      The report concentrates on a few crucial issues: the economy; democracy; the rule of law; human rights; the European perspective; and tackling organised crime, terrorism and corruption. The European Union has played an important and sufficient role, through the signature of the Brussels agreement and the normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Pristina. We have to understand the point of view of the Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vučić, who took a constructive attitude during this process, wishing to protect the interests of the Serbian community in Kosovo. We urge the partners to implement the Brussels agreement. We must also support Kosovo’s application to international organisations. I believe that the adoption of this report is a further step forward and serves the stability of the Western Balkans.

      Mr DOKLE (Albania) – First, I thank the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy and the rapporteur for the kind consideration that they have shown towards recent developments in Kosovo, the youngest country in Europe, which, nine years after the proclamation of its independence, has now been recognised by 34 member States of the Council of Europe and more than 100 countries around the world. Excellent news for Kosovo came from the European Parliament last week with the ratification of the stabilisation and association agreement, which paves the way for Kosovo to become integrated within the family of European democracy. It is with pleasure that we note that the Parliamentary Assembly acknowledges the progress achieved in Kosovo in the area of democracy, with the smooth and transparent organisation of legislative elections in 2014, which for the first time were held throughout Kosovo and had the participation of Kosovo’s Serbs.

      We appreciate inter-State dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, and note with pleasure that throughout the Balkans ordinary people and politicians understand that the period of greater Serbia, greater Albania, greater Bulgaria or greater Greece is now, once and for all, firmly behind us. Today, we talk about a time of the greater democratic Europe, of which Kosovo is soon to become an integral part. It is therefore important to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Assembly to two matters that remain unresolved to date. First, it is a known fact that before and after the war in Kosovo, Milošević’s phalange and the Serb army and police raped more than 20 000 women, yet the perpetrators – those responsible for this inhumane massacre, devoid of morality and spirituality – remain unpunished. Secondly, the end of the war in Kosovo led to the disappearance of some 3 500 people – this leaves aside the number of people who died as a result of it – of whom only 1 100 have either been found alive or are known to have died in Serb prisons. It follows therefore that some 2 400 people are still reported missing.

In my capacity as a member of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, I would like to express my opinion on paragraph 7.5.4, which talks about “ensuring the protection of all culture heritage, with special regard to the cultural heritage of non-majority communities irrespective of the rejection of Kosovo’s membership application to…UNESCO.” First, I point out that the word “rejection” does not seem appropriate, because most countries – 93 – voted in favour of Kosovo’s accession, but the two thirds majority required for it to become effective were not reached, for want of three votes. I believe that those who voted against gave precedence to short-term political interests over the need to protect our cultural heritage. We know that this heritage will be better protected once Kosovo is a member of that illustrious organisation. However, it is a positive fact that NATO, on the basis of the improved performance of the Kosovo police forces, entrusted the Kosovar police with the protection of more than 95% of the objects belonging to the Serb Orthodox Church. That was also underlined positively in the conclusions of the General Affairs Council, which is responsible for enlargement of the European Union.

      Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania) – The report reflects the complex situation in Kosovo. The country’s arrival on the world stage and in Europe is still not finished. The situation is complicated because there has been no final agreement on Kosovo among the countries of the world or even among the countries of the Council of Europe and the European Union. It is no secret that numerous European countries still do not recognise Kosovo, which prevents it from fully participating in international organisations such as the Council of Europe. Kosovo cannot fully express itself as a country and is still an unfinished product, which is reflected in the report.

      When we discussed Kosovo’s appearance and recognition a few years ago, we were more optimistic than we are now. We were expecting the country to develop quickly and to take advantage of freedom, human rights and so on. We are a little bit disappointed. Looking at Kosovo’s international status, corruption is high and the possibilities of arranging business and of innovation and new technology are limited. I asked representatives of the Council of Europe countries that do not recognise Kosovo why that was and their arguments were serious. Kosovo is not a miracle and, again, the report reflects that. I suggest to the Kosovar authorities that they read it carefully and try to understand it, but nothing is simple and nothing comes for free. The report is not like an exam that can be passed or failed. It is a list of things that Kosovo has to do and it should be taken seriously. I thank the rapporteur and hope that the Kosovar authorities will listen carefully to our discussions.

      Ms GÜNAY (Turkey)* – In the report prepared by Mr Conde, Kosovo’s relations with the Council of Europe are covered from the standpoint of improving human rights and the quality of life of Kosovo’s citizens and I thank him for his efforts. Peace and lasting stability in the Balkans can be secured only if peace, stability and sustainable development exist in Kosovo, and that requires international co-operation. It is therefore important to strengthen co-operation mechanisms through multi-party platforms, on which the report can have a positive impact.

      At the same time, the report does not express any encouragement of the Pristina Government’s efforts. Indeed, some of the terms used are disheartening. The international community should be constructive in its attitude to Kosovo regardless of the country’s difficulties. The Government’s efforts should be supported and encouraged. It is only with such an attitude that we can genuinely contribute to the country’s democratic and institutional development. The draft resolution contains references to issues that have arisen in the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina and in the agreement signed with Montenegro, and reference is also made to the protests. The report also highlights the shortcomings of political players and refers to the “inability of political forces to develop constructive dialogue”. Those words are discouraging and cast a shadow across the efforts made thus far, so I hope that the Assembly will support our proposed amendment.

      Ms LESKAJ (Albania) – I congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Conde, on his serious commitment to preparing a balanced and fair report and draft resolution. They provide us with a clearer picture of the current situation while also offering a positive and optimistic perspective. The report reinforces our belief that the building and consolidation of Kosovo’s democratic institutions is already a sustainable and irreversible process. The 2014 elections were successfully organised in conformity with democratic standards. The continuation of the important dialogue with Belgrade and the continuing implementation of all the agreements between Pristina and Belgrade prove that there is not only political maturity, but the responsibility for building democratic institutions. The recent creation of a special court, implementing a resolution of the Council of Europe, is one of the facts has led to the hope – even among sceptics – that Kosovo has a future. Much of that is a result of serious co-operation with the Council of Europe in the fields of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

      The signing and recent ratification of the stabilisation association agreement with the European Union is a sign of Kosovo’s achievements, because it is based on merit, not preference. We need to consider the process of Kosovo joining UNESCO, which was unsuccessful only by three votes, as mentioned by my colleague Mr Dokle, as a step that would have a positive effect on the protection of cultural heritage, including that of minority communities.

      Relations between the Council of Europe and Kosovo have improved considerably in a short time and common goals have been achieved. Kosovo became a full member of the Council of Europe Development Bank and the Venice Commission. Approval of the co-operation document between Kosovo and Council of Europe, which defines the main areas of co-operation, has enabled Kosovo to benefit from the implementation of Council of Europe standards. The Council of Europe now has an even more important role to play in Kosovo in the interests of not only its people, but the stability of the whole region. I strongly support the draft resolution’s conclusion, which paves the way for qualitative progress and a stepping up of the Assembly of Kosovo’s participation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, which would encourage and assist Kosovo’s integration into Europe and would represent a sustainable step on the road to stability in the Balkans and improving its perception in Europe. It is crucial to say that Kosovo is working hard to establish and consolidate international standards of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, which are the core values of the Council of Europe.

      Mr NIKOLOSKI (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – I support the report, and I am sorry that Mr Conde is not able to participate in the debate today. This is an important report on perhaps the youngest State in Europe. In the Balkans, history has always been part of politics. Different positions and views have shadowed the politics. We have to be careful about that but at the same time we should not forget the future.

      Kosovo is facing a lot of new challenges, which any new country would face. I have in mind the specific problem of founding a new country while at the same time maintaining standards. The State of Kosovo came out of Serbia, which came out of the former Yugoslavia. Dialogue with Belgrade is a must for the new State. That must be respected because it is only through dialogue and common understanding between Kosovo and Serbia, Pristina and Belgrade, that longer-term stability can be achieved. All nationalities have to be respected – Albanians, Serbs and Roma. The Gorani minority is a small minority in Kosovo. They are mainly Macedonians with Muslim origins. They have to be respected, too, to protect their language, culture and style of living.

      One question is overshadowing relations between Macedonia and Kosovo. As you know, Macedonia has recognised Kosovo as an independent State, but for many years about 24 people suspected of committing crimes in Macedonia, including terrorism, have not been sent to Macedonia to be charged and to go to court. That is not acceptable. I urge the Kosovo authorities to change that as soon as possible.

      I remind you that there are people in Macedonia who left Kosovo after the war in 1999 and cannot go back. They are mainly of Roma origin. In 1999, 300 000 refugees came to Macedonia. That was 15% of our population; we are a country of only 2 million. We did our best to take a humanitarian approach and to help those who needed help. We should not forget that in our discussions on the Balkans. Perhaps the borders in the Balkans cannot be justified. You have Macedonians living in Greece, Albania and Bulgaria. You have Albanians living in Greece, Macedonia and Kosovo. You have Serbs living in Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro. That is why we should all co-operate hand in hand on these issues.

      Mr VASILI (Albania) – As a member of the Albanian delegation, I support the report because it is balanced. It is not easy to prepare a report on this complex issue. It is important to underline with objectivity Kosovo’s positive progress and, in line with the Assembly’s philosophy, to encourage the elected authorities there – the government, parliament, the president and others. Through that encouragement, we can have stronger governance in Kosovo. It will be motivation to build a good future for the country.

      There have been some important events in relation to Kosovo. The Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union has been signed. That demonstrates the progress in Kosovo. The European Union’s evaluation was not given for free – it was deserved.

      One other issue concerns the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. Let us consider the matter rationally. Kosovo is an independent State and that dialogue is a priority for it, but it is important to have good relations with all other Balkan countries, including Macedonia, Montenegro, Greece and others. Belgrade is the main focus but it should not be the only focus.

      For me, it is not normal artificially to emphasise every single event. That cannot help dialogue between Kosovo and Belgrade. It would be more productive to have a more open-minded dialogue – without an excess of nationalism – in line with the Assembly’s philosophy.

      I invite others to look at the position in a positive light, and not to criticise the progress in Kosovo, because it is a new country and it faces a complicated problem. Even old countries that consolidated their status a long time ago have problems. I hope that as soon as possible Kosovo will become a member of our Assembly, which would be a great step. That would be useful not only for Kosovo but for the future of dialogue in the region. It would demonstrate the boundless capacity of the Assembly to be open to new countries, which is part of our philosophy. I support Mr Conde’s report. Its conclusion is important and we support it.

      Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – The draft resolution on Kosovo and the role of the Council of Europe is important for the progress of democracy, human rights and rule of law in Kosovo. In general, the draft resolution serves those goals very well. I commend the rapporteur, Mr Conde, who unfortunately is not able to be with us today, for his work and his balanced and objective report.

      The Kosovo Republic is an independent State. That is a fact. Kosovo’s independence is now recognised by 111 countries around the world, and the number will grow. The signing of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the European Union is another great step towards the consolidation of that new State in Europe. Growing and consolidating democracy is as important as the recognition of independence. That is this Assembly’s task: to promote progress in that direction. That is what Kosovo is doing and this report is proof of the progress that Kosovo has made on the path to statehood and democracy and the rule of law. Clearly there are problems, and the report highlights them well, but the days when hundreds of thousands of people were chased out of Kosovo – genocide was happening there in 1998-99 – are light years away.

      The independence of Kosovo has brought more stability to the region, but more democracy in Kosovo would bring even more stability to it. The resolution initially drafted by the rapporteur was objective and balanced. However, amendments were introduced in December in the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy and, although they have served some partial interests, they have shifted the balance and will not improve the situation. I refer specifically to amendments to paragraphs 7.4, 7.5.4 and 8. For that reason, a number of further amendments will be discussed later.

      I would like to dwell on paragraph 8. The call on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to increase its co-operation with Interpol and Europol is not realistic. UNMIK has reduced its capacities gradually due to Kosovo’s progress in law enforcement and other areas. It is not the only body fully involved; on law enforcement, we all know the extensive role of the European Union Rule of Law Mission to Kosovo. As you will see in paragraph 8, UNMIK deals only with requests from Interpol and not with those from Europol, which are in the competence of EULEX. If that paragraph stayed as agreed so far, it would create conflict and lack of clarity on law enforcement. We will therefore encourage the Assembly to have an open mind to an amendment to allow all competent authorities in Kosovo to increase their co-operation with Interpol and Europol. That would allow better co-ordination and efficiency in fighting crime.

      Referring only to UNMIK would lead to confusion and controversy, which is not the aim of the resolution or of this Assembly. I call on the Assembly to look carefully into the amendments and approve them, because that will improve the situation in Kosovo.

      Mr LE BORGN’ (France)* – I pay tribute to the work of Mr Conde, the rapporteur, and wish him all the best as he leaves our Assembly. As a member of parliament representing French citizens in the Balkans, and familiar in that capacity with the multifaceted reality of Kosovo, I pay tribute to his laudable efforts in striking a balance in his work.

      Not all member States of the Council of Europe have recognised Kosovo as a sovereign independent State, so the Council of Europe abides by the principle of status neutrality. Notwithstanding that, important work of advocacy and assistance is done by the Organisation, particularly in democracy, freedom and human rights. Progress has been made; I am thinking especially of the organisation of parliamentary elections in spring 2014 in which Kosovar Serbs participated, the improved security, and the constitutional reform that has paved the way for the establishment of specialist chambers, one task of which might be to investigate allegations of inhuman treatment of individuals and illicit organ trafficking – something that we have discussed recently.

      Mr Conde’s report also identifies the many obstacles that remain: the immaturity of an all-too-divided political class, which stands in the way of the emergence of a lasting and stable majority that is able to govern; high levels of ethnically motivated hate speech or action motivated by hatred; and endemic corruption, which undermines confidence in public life and has a negative impact on economic development in a country in dire need of it, as are its young people. Kosovo’s challenge is to establish a productive sector that can develop the country’s natural resources, reducing unemployment as well as its dependence on external aid and the remittances of its diaspora.

      There are other difficulties, such as the lack of freedom of movement in some parts of the country, particularly the north. I stress the need to investigate rights violations in whatever area they occur, and regret that Kosovo’s bid to join UNESCO fell at the last hurdle because it would have put in place elements required to secure and protect Kosovo’s rich religious heritage in all its diversity.

      Kosovo needs the Council of Europe in all areas where our Organisation has recognised expertise. It is clear that the longer-term perspective of Kosovo’s membership of the Council of Europe must be envisaged as of now, if only because as a result Kosovars would have access to the European Court of Human Rights. The Council of Europe must be ready, particularly via the Venice Commission, to provide all required assistance in the constitutional field, but perhaps even more so in the electoral area. For its part, Kosovo needs to implement the recommendations addressed to it by the Committee against Torture, the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. It is here that Kosovo and the Council of Europe need to work together so that this fine country can find emancipation through the rule of law, economic growth and, perhaps more than anything else, reconciliation.

      Mr ÖNAL (Turkey)* – Kosovo is recognised by most member States of the Council of Europe, but very few people actually know that country. I have been to Pristina and another city twice over the last six months, so I was able to find out exactly what the developments described in the report had been. The normalisation process with Serbia is under way and the efforts made by Kosovo towards democracy are major ones. The security situation has also improved and the elections have been held in a transparent and fair way. The independence of the judiciary and the fight against corruption have led to improvements in legislation, which we can all applaud.

      It would be important for Kosovo to be integrated into the Council of Europe. That would contribute to its stability, and to that of the whole Balkans, so I support the dialogue with the Kosovo Parliament. I congratulate Mr Conde on his comprehensive and positive report. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe must be in contact and co-operate with the parliaments and governments of the whole region, to bring about progress in its democracies and to contribute to stability. When it comes to putting forward proposals about the countries in the region, it is important to avoid making statements that could alienate their governments or populations. Our Parliamentary Assembly needs to pursue its constructive dialogue with Kosovo, in order to encourage it to become a fully fledged member of the European family. We need to help it make progress, which is important for the stability of the region. In conclusion, I very much support the report.

      Mr ROUQUET (France)* – The Council of Europe and our Assembly have always been keen to encourage Kosovo to develop and to reach the European standards of the rule of law, democracy and human rights. Mr Conde’s thorough report, on which I congratulate him, sets out all that remains to be achieved.

      Much has already been done and I pay tribute to the positive action taken by Serbia. Our rapporteur has stressed that, since 2013, the political dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade has improved considerably. That has had a positive impact in the field and on Kosovo’s prospects of joining the European Union.

      At this stage, I fully go along with the rapporteur’s proposal to intensify the dialogue between our Parliamentary Assembly and the Assembly of Kosovo, but perhaps we should take matters even further. Could we not opt for special guest status for Kosovo? It was devised precisely to prepare for the accession of new member States to the Council of Europe. The procedure has been used successfully in the past. It provides a positive perspective while encouraging the beneficiary State to make major efforts gradually to respond to the expectations of the Council of Europe.

      Today, only two States on our continent are not members of our Organisation, namely Kosovo and Belarus. Belarus, which has been granted special guest status in the past, seems to be distancing itself from it more and more, but Kosovo is an ideal candidate for the status. It would reinforce the stability of the whole region.

A positive attitude vis-ŕ-vis Kosovo can only encourage it to make the progress necessary to guarantee the democratic security for which our rapporteur calls. Priority must be given to the fight against corruption, an independent judiciary and mutual respect between the various communities. It is self-evident that constructive dialogue is needed between the majority and the opposition. The situation is not true of all member States of the Council of Europe. The opposition’s boycott of parliament is regrettable and the practice should be ruled out. Even worse, it is disastrous that the new majority has systematically instituted legal proceedings against former government members.

Such constructive dialogue is difficult. Democracy cannot amount to doing what is not prohibited. Respect for others cannot be totally codified. It is, first and foremost, a matter of political practice and culture, and I think that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe can play a positive role in bringing about improvements to that practice and culture.

I say again to colleagues on the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy that we should seriously consider giving special guest status to Kosovo.

Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – I thank the rapporteur and the committee for their report. It is important that Kosovo is not forgotten when we discuss human rights on our continent. It is a part of Europe that has been torn apart by recent wars and conflicts. We are also debating the country’s status. As politicians and members of this Assembly, we cannot let the issue of status deflect us from our core responsibility, which is to be advocates and champions for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Kosovo has a very young population and it is located in a region of Europe where war and conflict have been all too common. If we want to fulfil our main responsibilities, we need to engage and be constructive. We also need to play our part in giving the people of Kosovo hope of a better, brighter and more prosperous future. That is not a small task, but it is a task that we share as parliamentarians. It is related to areas of the continent that are not yet represented in this Assembly.

Of course, the internal matters of Kosovo are problematic and in need of good political and democratic solutions. The Council of Europe and its legal instruments can serve as good tools in that respect. We need to facilitate a process whereby the people of Kosovo and its government and assembly can achieve those solutions. That would benefit all parties, especially the Kosovars, whose human rights, like those of other Europeans, need legal protection.

We shall not forget developments in Kosovo since the war. They have been positive in many ways, but there are still many problems. One of the main gains has been the establishment of functioning authorities and the transfer of powers from them and from the United Nations mission to EULEX. That process is immensely important if we really want to help the Kosovars establish a firm and stable situation where it is they, rather than the international community, who uphold the rule of law.

I will end by saying that I hope that my dear colleagues will support the report presented by Mr Conde and the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, and that they will also support Amendments 3, 8, 9, 4, 10, 5, 6, 7 and 2, tabled by me and others. The amendments will improve what is already an important and balanced report.

Ms JONICA (Montenegro) – I congratulate Mr Conde on this very good report. I am one of a majority of citizens in Montenegro who disagree with our government’s decision to recognise Kosovo as an independent State. Other States also made a bad decision in recognising Kosovo, and this report provides the best evidence in support of my opinion.

The report shows that Kosovo now has increased levels of organised crime and corruption, political influence on the judiciary, economic crime and so on. I have also heard a lot about problems with the protection of cultural heritage, particularly that of non-majority communities, especially Serbian communities. There are also many examples of attacks on, and lack of respect and protection for, the property of the Orthodox Church in Kosovo.

There are many refugees from Kosovo in Montenegro, but there are no conditions for their return to Kosovo. Serbia is not the problem for Kosovo-Metohija citizens in getting democracy. Obviously, it is because of the actions of the so-called Kosovo Government that those citizens do not have democratic conditions.

In conclusion, I want to emphasise the importance of the implementation of the agreement on the establishment of the Association/Community of Serb majority municipalities, which Mr Conde mentions in his report.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Jonica. I cannot see Ms Mehmeti Devaja in the Chamber, so we have reached the end of the speakers list.

      Mr Jenson, you have eight minutes to respond to the debate.

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – I thank the Assembly for all that has been said. There have been many constructive comments on Mr Conde’s report. He is not present, but he earned the great respect given to him by many members for his work on this good and comprehensive report. As many Assembly members have mentioned, it has the necessary balance, which is important for how we discuss and point out the solutions to the situation in Kosovo. In the report, Mr Conde puts a finger on not only the developments but the challenges that we have to deal with in Kosovo.

      As many Assembly members said, the situation in Kosovo has improved in a number of areas, even if progress remains limited and requires further consolidation. Enhancing the respect of the rule of law and its effective enforcement seems to me to be the most pressing priority and one that would have beneficial effects on the everyday lives of people in Kosovo, irrespective of their community.

      As many speakers said, the political climate in Kosovo has become increasingly tense. Some elected representatives have proved to be unable or unwilling to conduct negotiations in a constructive spirit and with respect for the rules of parliamentary democracy. This deterioration in how politics is conducted, especially the resort to violence, is a source of serious concern, as many Assembly members have said, and should be closely watched by the Council of Europe in the coming months. Building trust should be the authorities’ imperative. That applies not only to inter-community relations, but to people’s trust in credible institutions that deliver democracy and justice and protect human rights according to European standards.

Since 2013, when the Assembly last addressed the situation in Kosovo, there have been important improvements, especially in the form of the political dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade. There has been a very positive impact on the ground and progress towards European Union integration for both sides. That is a crucial development that contributes to further stabilisation for the entire western Balkans.

I am sure that the report will contribute to improving Kosovo’s capacity to experience and promote democratic security. I call on all colleagues in the Assembly to support the report and the resolution.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you. The debate is closed.

The Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy has presented a draft resolution in Document 13939 to which 10 amendments have been tabled.

      I understand that the chairperson of the committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 3, 2 and 7 to the draft resolution, which were unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

      Is that so, Mr Jensen?

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – Yes.

      The PRESIDENT – Does anyone object? That is not the case.

      As there is no objection, I declare that Amendments 3, 2 and 7 to the draft resolution have been adopted.

      I understand that Mr Dişli does not want to press Amendment 1 to a vote.

      Mr DIŞLI (Turkey) – That is correct.

      The PRESIDENT – We come to Amendment 8. I call Mr Gunnarsson to support the amendment.

      Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – My colleagues and I believe that it is completely unnecessary for the Assembly to distinguish between the different agreements made between Belgrade and Pristina. It should be for those two parties to decide on that, not the Assembly.

      The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Ms Djurović.

      Ms DJUROVIĆ (Serbia) – The Brussels Agreement was signed three years ago. One part that still has not been implemented is in relation to Serb majority municipalities. I remind the Assembly that opposition members of parliament are throwing tear gas in the Assembly of Kosovo to prevent the ratification of that part of the agreement, which would provide elementary rights for the Serbian minority. It is fully supported by the European Union, so I urge the Assembly to reject the amendment.

      The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – The committee is against the amendment.

      The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 8 is rejected.

      We come to Amendment 9. I call Mr Gunnarsson to support the amendment.

      Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – My colleagues and I think the word “rejection” is too harsh, as we all know that the motion for Kosovo to be a member of UNESCO was almost passed. It had what would be considered by normal standards a huge majority behind it, but did not reach the two-thirds threshold, so we would like to use the word “result” instead.

      The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Ms Djurović.

      Ms DJUROVIĆ (Serbia) – Before the UNESCO vote, the report contained the word “result”, but afterwards the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy changed it because the result was rejection. Of course there will be those who are happy with the result and those who are not, but that is the reality of it. We are here to present in the report the reality and the facts, so I urge the Assembly to vote against the amendment.

The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – The committee is against the amendment.

      The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 9 is rejected.

      The PRESIDENT – We come to Amendment 4, which is, in the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 7.7,to insert the following words: ", and ratify and implement the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence".

      I call Mr Mogens Jensen to support the amendment.

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – This is only a technical amendment. Kosovo cannot ratify Council of Europe conventions, so the sub-amendment respects the objective of the amendment while making it correct from a legal point of view. I urge members to support it, as it has been agreed by the committee.

      The PRESIDENT – We now come to the sub-amendment, which is, in Amendment 4, to replace the words "ratify and implement" with the following words: "endorse and implement the principles of".

      I call Mr Mogens Jensen to support the sub-amendment.

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – I have done so already.

      The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? That is not the case.

      Clearly, the mover of the amendment is in favour.

      The committee is obviously in favour.

      The vote is open.

      The sub-amendment is adopted.

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

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – The committee is in favour.

      The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 4, as amended, is adopted.

      We come to Amendment 10, which is, in the draft resolution, to replace paragraph 8 with the following paragraph: "The Assembly encourages the Kosovo authorities to strengthen their co-operation with INTERPOL and EUROPOL."

      I call Mr Gunnarsson to support the amendment.

      Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – This could be regarded as a factual amendment. Many authorities have been moved from the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo to other authorities in Kosovo. For example, there are European authorities such as the European Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo but also Kosovar authorities. The text as it stands would reverse the good progress so far.

      The PRESIDENT – We now come to the sub-amendment, which is, in Amendment 10, to replace the words "Kosovo authorities" with the following words: "authorities in Kosovo".

      I call Mr Bylykbashi to support the sub-amendment.

      Mr BYLYKBASHI (Albania) – Our intention is to make the wording all-inclusive, so that all competent authorities in Kosovo can co-ordinate with Interpol and Europol.

      The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? I call Ms Djurović.

      Ms DJUROVIĆ (Serbia) – The sub-amendment merely changes the word order to confuse you, dear colleagues. This morning, in the meeting of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, a majority voted against Amendment 10, and the sub-amendment does not make any difference. We are absolutely against both the amendment and the sub-amendment.

      THE PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of Mr Gunnarsson?

      Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – I am in favour.

      The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – The committee did not take a position.

      The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      The sub-amendment is adopted.

      Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment, as amended? I call Ms Djurović.

      Ms DJUROVIĆ (Serbia) – I remind members that United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 is still in force. Kosovo cannot co-operate directly with Interpol, because it is not a member of Interpol. The resolution is clearly right to encourage the authorities in Pristina to use the available mechanisms that are already in place. They should do that, rather than using mechanisms that they are not allowed to use. I urge you to vote against it.

      The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – The committee is against.

      The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 10, as amended, is rejected.

      We come to Amendment 5, which is, in the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 9.3, to insert the following words: ", including with organisations representing women".

      I call Mr Gunnarsson to support the amendment.

      Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – This would give women in Kosovo a stronger voice, as that has been a problem in the past.

      The PRESIDENT – We now come to the sub-amendment, which is, in Amendment 5, to replace the words "including with" with the following word: "particularly".

      I call Mr Mogen Jensen to support the sub-amendment.

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – The sub-amendment aims to emphasise the importance of the voice of women. It is supported by the committee.

      The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of Mr Gunnarsson?

      Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – I am in favour.

      The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      The sub-amendment is adopted.

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

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – The committee is in favour.

      The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      Amendment 5, as amended, is adopted.

We come to Amendment 6, which is, in the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 9.5, to insert the following words: ", starting with the appointment of women to decision-making positions and the examination of Kosovo’s budget from a gender perspective".

      I call Mr Gunnarsson to support the amendment.

      Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – The amendment is in line with Amendment 5, and gives more powers and influence to women in Kosovar democracy.

      The PRESIDENT – We now come to the sub-amendment, which is, in Amendment 6, replace the words "starting with" with the following word: "enhancing".

      I call Ms Leskaj to support the sub-amendment.

      Ms LESKAJ (Albania) – I want to use the word enhancing, as in Kosovo women are often in such roles. The president is a woman and we have women in the government, in the judiciary and in decision-making positions. Of course, there is always room for improvement, but more than 30% of members of parliament in Kosovo are women.

      The PRESIDENT – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of Mr Gunnarsson?

      Mr GUNNARSSON (Sweden) – I am in favour.

      The PRESIDENT – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – The committee is in favour.

      The PRESIDENT – The vote is open.

      The sub-amendment is adopted.

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

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr Mogens JENSEN (Denmark) – The committee is in favour

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

      The vote is open.

      Amendment 6, as amended, is adopted.

      The PRESIDENT – We will now proceed to a vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13939, as amended. A simple majority is required.

      The vote is open.

      The draft resolution in Document 13939, as amended, is adopted, with 110 votes for, 0 against and 2 abstentions.

3. Joint debate: Strengthening the protection and role of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States, and How to prevent inappropriate restrictions on NGO activities in Europe?

      The PRESIDENT – We now come to the joint debate on the reports from the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. The first is entitled “Strengthening the protection and role of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States”, Document 13943, and is presented by Ms Mailis Reps. The second is entitled “How to prevent inappropriate restrictions on NGO activities in Europe?”, Document 13940, and is presented by Mr Yves Cruchten.

      I remind you that in order to finish this item of business by 8 p.m., we shall interrupt the list of speakers at about 7.25 p.m. to allow time for the reply and votes.

      I remind colleagues that the speaking time in this debate has been limited to four minutes.

      I call Ms Reps to present the first report. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.

      Ms REPS (Estonia) – Our committee has been following the situation of human rights defenders for a few years. The previous rapporteur on this subject, Mr Holger Haibach, prepared a report in 2009. I prepared one in May 2012, on the basis of which the Assembly adopted Resolution 1891. My previous report identified a number of types of reprisals against human rights defenders and impediments to their work: attacks on their physical and psychological integrity; arbitrary arrest and detention; unfair trials, including criminal prosecutions on trumped-up charges; administrative obstacles; public defamation; restrictions on freedom of movement and on access to funds; and illicit pressure on the legal representatives of applicants to the European Court of Human Rights. Activists working on sensitive issues, such as those fighting impunity for serious crimes committed by State officials, exposing corruption, or defending the rights of LGBT persons, migrants and members of national or ethnic minorities, are often targeted. Unfortunately, all those problems still persist.

      In recent years, the situation of human rights defenders has become very precarious in certain Council of Europe member States. Many Azerbaijani activists have been arbitrarily arrested, and some have been convicted. Most of our partners from Azerbaijan – including people I met many times in Strasbourg and elsewhere, such as Mr Rasul Jafarov, Mr Intigam Aliyev and Ms Khadija Ismayilova – are behind bars. At the end of December, journalist Rauf Mirgadirov was sentenced to six years in prison. Ms Leyla Yunus spent one and a half years in arbitrary detention. She was conditionally released on humanitarian grounds on 9 December 2015 – a day after our committee adopted these two reports – but she is still on probation, and the criminal charges against her, which include treason, have not been dropped. The same is true of her husband, Arif Yunus, who was also released last November. Both are now in very poor health and urgently require appropriate medical treatment. Many of us met Emin Huseynov here in Strasbourg. He spent 10 months in the Swiss embassy in Baku. He now lives in exile in Switzerland and has been deprived of his Azerbaijani citizenship.

      In Russia, many non-governmental organisations face impediments to their work due to the implementation of legislation pertaining to foreign agents and undesirable organisations. Their problems are described in detail in Mr Cruchten’s report. I am also concerned about the developments in Turkey, where many human rights lawyers and activists have been arrested on charges relating to alleged terrorist activities, solely because of their work on human rights or Kurdish issues. On 30 November, Tahir Elçi, a prominent human rights lawyer and head of the Bar Association in the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir, was shot dead in a gun battle between police and unidentified men. A few days ago, 19 academics who criticised the military operations in the south-east were arrested.

      Activists from other countries – particularly those who work on sensitive issues – are often subject to judicial or administrative harassment and smear campaigns in the media. Human rights defenders working on conflict zones, such as eastern Ukraine or Transnistria, complain that they cannot access those territories. For example, members of the Moldovan human rights association Promo-LEX cannot enter Transnistria because they face serious criminal accusations that could lead to 15 years in prison.

      Too many human rights defenders pay a high price for their work. Cases in which such people have died need to be promptly and properly investigated. The Council of Europe’s institutions and member States should pay closer attention to their fate. The Council of Europe should do more. For example, it could establish mechanisms for protecting people against reprisals. Other international organisations have ways of supporting the work of human rights defenders.

      For example, the European Union provides considerable financial assistance, including under a new scheme aimed at assisting defenders who are at high risk. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights invites human rights defenders to its annual human dimension implementation meetings, and the United Nations has a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and a system of annual reporting on cases of reprisals. In that context, it is regrettable that the Council of Europe has no mechanism to follow individual cases of reprisals against human rights defenders. I pay tribute to the work of the Commissioner for Human Rights, who has a general mandate to examine this subject matter, but unfortunately they cannot monitor individual cases. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights is now examining the idea of having a general rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. That idea has been warmly welcomed by prominent NGOs, and I hope that the committee will come to the conclusion that such an institution is needed.

      I therefore propose that in the draft resolution the Assembly call on member States to refrain from any acts of intimidation or reprisals against human rights defenders, and to ensure an enabling working environment for them. The draft recommendation could propose that the Committee of Ministers take a number of measures to enhance the protection of human rights defenders, such as establishing a platform similar to that created for journalists, and it should publicly and regularly report to the Assembly on individual cases of repression. Moreover, we as parliamentarians should do our best to grant human rights defenders adequate protection. The Assembly has been using its parliamentary diplomacy to raise cases of the intimidation of human rights defenders, but it could do much more.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Ms Reps, you have five minutes remaining. I call Mr Cruchten to present the second report. You have 13 minutes, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.

      Mr CRUCHTEN (Luxembourg) – Today we are examining two reports concerning the precarious situation of civil society in certain Council of Europe member States. While the report of our colleague, Ms Reps, focuses more on individual cases of intimidation of human rights defenders, my report sheds light on inappropriate restrictions against NGO activities, in particular those coming from recent legislative changes in Azerbaijan and Russia. Those changes are worrying in the perspective of a free civil society.

      We all know and agree that in order to have a good functioning democracy we need, among other things, a free press as well as a dynamic civil society. From time to time, and especially in these upsetting times, it is good to remind ourselves of some of our principles. By joining the Council of Europe, all member States have agreed to ensure respect for freedom of assembly and association, as well as the freedom of expression, as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council of Europe has elaborated precise standards in that area, such as the Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation on the Legal Status of Non-Governmental Organisations in Europe, and the joint guidelines on freedom of association adopted by the Venice Commission and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. That recommendation from the Committee of Ministers defines NGOs as “voluntary self-governing bodies or organisations established to pursue the essentially non-profit making objectives of their founders or members”. It also contains a number of minimum standards that member States should take into consideration when drafting their legislation on NGOs.

      It is therefore very disturbing to observe that more and more restrictions are being placed on the activities of NGOs in some Council of Europe member States. We identified problems with the legislation governing NGO status, registration, reporting obligations, and access to foreign funding. In Azerbaijan, the restrictive legislation on NGOs, which has been criticised by the Venice Commission, has led to the criminalisation of the activities of human rights activists. As a consequence, some of them have been accused of “fraud”, “tax evasion” or “illegal business”, and they are now serving long-term prison sentences.

      Let me recall some names that are very familiar to us: Anar Mammadli, the winner of the 2014 Assembly’s Václav Havel Human Rights Prize; the lawyer Intigam Aliyev; and NGO activist Rasul Jafarov. Many well-known human rights organisations have been closed due to administrative harassment or the freezing of their assets, and unfortunately further restrictions have been imposed recently on the operation of NGOs in Azerbaijan. At the end of December 2015, a new law was adopted to require the additional registration of foreign grants to the Ministry of Finance. In this context, I warmly welcome the special inquiry that was recently initiated by the Council of Europe Secretary General, Mr Jagland, on the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights in Azerbaijan. That unprecedented procedure underlines the seriousness of the situation.

      In the Russian Federation, following the implementation of the so-called “foreign agent law”, which has also been criticised by the Venice Commission, almost 100 NGOs in receipt of foreign grants have been put on the list of foreign agents. Most of them, including the Committee against Torture, which won the Assembly’s human rights prize, as well as the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”, have been included in that register thanks to a unilateral decision by the Minister of Justice. As a result, some of those organisations decided to close down. Regrettably, a draft law recently prepared by the Minister of Justice even aims at enlarging the scope of application of that law, by redefining the notion of “political activity” which will now also include certain activities related to human rights advocacy.

      In May 2015, the Russian Duma adopted the law “on undesirable organisations” which targets international and foreign NGOs operating in Russia. Four NGOs are now on that list, including the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Open Society Foundations. The law is now being scrutinised by the Venice Commission, and it was criticised by the Expert Council on NGO Law in the international non-governmental organisations conference.

      My report also examines the situation in Turkey and Hungary. In Turkey, although most NGOs operate freely, many human rights organisations have been arbitrarily targeted on the basis of anti-terrorist legislation. The situation now risks getting worse, following events in the south-east of the country. Following my visit to Budapest, I do not consider that the situation of civil society in Hungary is critical, but I am concerned about the general lack of trust between NGOs and the government, and about certain statements in which the authorities harshly and publicly criticise certain organisations. In my report, I also brought up the case of the European Economic Area funds, which were distributed to several Hungarian NGOs, and the criminal proceedings initiated against those organisations.

      We should bear it in mind that many NGOs around Europe and beyond depend on foreign funding to function at all. Out of all those considerations, I propose that in the preliminary draft resolution the Assembly call on Council of Europe member States to implement fully the well-established standards on freedom of association, by repealing restrictive legislation, or refraining from adopting laws that impose inappropriate restrictions on civil society. We should also remain vigilant about the critical situation of NGOs in Azerbaijan and Russia, and we should strictly condemn the deterioration of working conditions for NGOs and human rights activists in those countries, following changes to the legislation on NGOs and reprisals against their leaders. As regards the preliminary draft recommendation, the Committee of Ministers should strengthen its co-operation with civil society and find ways to respond to these new threats against the functioning of independent civil societies.

      Let me conclude by recalling the importance of non-governmental organisations to assure the functioning of democracy. While we parliamentarians debate principles, or the codes and procedures for strengthening human rights and the rule of law, it is the NGOs and the activists on site who help us to implement and survey them. They therefore deserve our deep gratitude and our full support. Thank you.

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

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, rapporteur. In the general debate, I first call Ms Usta to speak on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.

      Ms USTA (Turkey)* – This speech is especially meaningful for me, as someone decided against by the European Court of Human Rights. Freedom of expression should be for everybody, and it is sacred for us. Of course, we are not referring to an unlimited liberty, as that can be detrimental to other individuals and goes beyond international norms. If someone threatens security and integrity for the sake of freedom and acts accordingly, they are acting to the detriment of other freedoms and we end up with hate crime. Certain national threats are being faced, and we see that, for the sake of security, there is a regression on freedoms. Only through the safeguarding efforts of States can we ensure liberties, so there should not be any dominance or oppression, but instead human rights and democracy. There should be no conflicts, but instead dialogue. There should be no double standards, but instead justice. That is what we suggest.

      This type of international platform brings together human rights activists and decision makers, and will reinforce efforts. Human rights activists should come together under the auspices of the Council of Europe and the European human rights accord. Unfair practices cannot be maintained forever. Forty-seven countries came together under the umbrella of the Council of Europe, and human rights activists are all working together to defend human rights, so I am very hopeful. That is why I believe that every parliamentarian represented here should deny double standards and become a voluntary human rights activist. I call on all parliamentarian colleagues to commemorate the human rights activist Mr Tahir Elçi, who a short while ago died when making a declaration against terrorism.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Usta. The next speaker is Mr Kürkçü, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

      Mr KÜRKÇÜ (Turkey) – On behalf of my group, I wish to express our thanks to Ms Reps, the rapporteur, for her extensive work in preparing this excellent report. We endorse the draft resolution, which empowers the Assembly with further influence and authority in safeguarding rights defenders against their own States, as well as against every Council of Europe member State where human rights defenders are or will be working in solidarity with local defenders. By endorsing the resolution, the Assembly will be strongly underlining that defending human rights is not a national issue, but a universal, international issue of defending the rights of any individual against any State, including their own.

The report focuses on Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, and they are appropriately selected. Ironically, the situations of human rights and their defenders in Turkey and Azerbaijan are in inverse proportion to those countries’ influence and position in the Council of Europe. Human rights defenders in Azerbaijan deeply regret that the country’s human rights situation has worsened during and after the country’s presidency of the Council of Europe in 2014. Ironically, all the cases of violations against human rights defenders in Turkey mentioned in the report were committed during Mr Çavuşoğlu’s presidency of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe between 2010 and 2012.

In all three countries, the worsening of human rights is closely related to ongoing internal wars and conflicts with neighbours. In Azerbaijan, we are talking about the Nagorno-Karabakh war and the conflict with Armenia. In Turkey, we are talking about the war against the Kurds and conflict with Syria and Armenia. In Russia, we are talking about the Chechnyan and Ukrainian wars, and conflict with Europe. All those stimulate human rights violations and the stigmatisation of human rights defenders as spies. Therefore, we urge that the Council of Europe, alongside endorsing this draft resolution, must prompt its peace-building capacity in order to encourage those countries to have better domestic relations and better relations with their neighbours.

      In closing, we must pay respects to human rights defenders who lost their lives at the hands of State-sponsored murderers: Rasim Aliyev in Azerbaijan; Natalisa Estemirova in Russia; and Tahir Elçi in Turkey. We also urge the immediate release of all human rights defenders jailed everywhere in the world.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Kürkçü. Our next speaker will be Mr Stroe, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

      Mr STROE (Romania) – On behalf of my group, l will speak in support of the report, and I congratulate Ms Reps on the good work that she has done. In many parts of the world, human rights defenders risk their safety and their very lives to monitor and challenge abuses. Despite hardships and obstacles that stand in their way, human rights defenders persevere in seeking positive change, but because of their activities they can become a target of abuse. The protection of human rights represents one of the main obligations of the member States of the Council of Europe. People’s fundamental rights are fragile assets of democratic societies that cannot survive without the aid of the public authorities. Of course, the international organisations, especially those created at the level of the Council of Europe, have an important role to play in the protection and promotion of human rights. Nevertheless, the States play a crucial role in the protection of human rights, having both negative and positive obligations. They should avoid interfering with people’s fundamental rights: they should not take any measure that could affect the exercise of fundamental rights without fully respecting the relevant clauses of the international instruments concerning human rights, especially the European Convention on Human Rights. This negative obligation includes not interfering with the activity of national and international NGOs and other actors campaigning for human rights. States also have positive obligations to protect and promote human rights. In that respect, they should help to protect the organisations I mentioned previously against attacks from non-State actors.

      In recent years, certain member States of the Council of Europe have failed in the duties I described previously, as the rapporteur clearly identified. Due to the central role of the State in the protection and promotion of human rights and due to the Council of Europe’s origin as an organisation built for the promotion of human rights, I fully back the rapporteur’s proposition.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now give the floor to Mr Schwabe, on behalf of the Socialist Group.

      Mr SCHWABE (Germany)* – I thank Mailis Reps and Yves Cruchten for two courageous and outstanding reports. They are courageous because they name the people who are active on the ground in Europe and who stand up to defend the Council of Europe’s values. We are debating here in the Chamber, but these people risk their lives and are subject to all kinds of pressure in the defence of our values. Human rights activists and NGOs are out in the vanguard doing our work for us, so it is important that we acknowledge them. Activists are sometimes a little too provocative for some governments’ tastes, and even we do not necessarily always agree with them 100%, but they are examples for us. Governments often want to portray a rosy picture of the situation in their country, so thank goodness we have the activists to flag up shortcomings.

      Human rights activists and NGOs exist not only in Europe, but in China, India, Latin America and elsewhere. Such countries have not necessarily signed the European Convention on Human Rights, but the countries we are discussing today have, which is why they have special duties. It is unfortunate that some countries are in flagrant breach of our rules. Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan – I am sorry to say – and Hungary are certainly not complying with them. They are also making life difficult for NGOs. Some so-called or alleged NGOs have been formed to spread misinformation, and we will have to discuss them at some point. The Commissioner for Human Rights and the Assembly have listed the rights that NGOs should enjoy, but their basic rights are those enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, as defended by the European Court of Human Rights, and it is those that we must defend first. It is unfortunate that Russia and the United Kingdom are challenging the powers of the Court, but the most flagrant breach of the Court’s rulings comes from Azerbaijan, which has failed to execute the judgment in the Mammadov case. It is vital that the Secretary General takes action and sends a delegation to Azerbaijan.

      NGO activities were previously particularly restricted by 28 countries, but that number has now risen to 50. They dream up all kinds of schemes, such as creating tax problems, and some have even gone so far as to shut down NGO offices. Russia has branded some NGOs as foreign agents, which is another serious breach. In Azerbaijan, critical NGOs have had their business made impossible. There is a pervasive climate of fear in the country. Khadija Ismayilova, an activist who visited us here in Strasbourg, is now languishing in jail. We must reject the amendments that say that we should not name individual cases. The plight of human rights defenders and NGOs is one of the central responsibilities of the Parliamentary Assembly.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Zelienková, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

      Ms ZELIENKOVÁ (Czech Republic) – The European Union is currently facing many problems. Some might call it a crisis, but if we manage to get out of it in a positive way, it can make us even stronger. Our countries must think of the basic values and principles that form the foundation of democracy. NGOs and human rights defenders are part of the structure that helps us to create a democratic system. Ruling political parties and governments change, but NGOs stay the same for a long time while doing their work. Politicians are under political pressure: NGOs are not – or at least should not be. In these difficult times, NGOs can make faster decisions than politicians and we see that every day in the migration crisis, which volunteers and NGOs are helping to solve faster than politicians. NGOs are helping and they are part of our society. We must protect them and human rights defenders. We must allow them to be independent and to build democracy in our countries.

      Mr DİŞLİ (Turkey) – Thank you, President. I will be using my own language. As we pay for it, I should use it.

(The speaker continued in Turkish.)

      I thank the rapporteurs. As members of this Assembly, we know that human rights defenders are an integral part of a democratic society. They play a vital role in ensuring the rule of law and the full implementation of human rights. They must be protected and their work should be supported in all Council of Europe countries.

      In the report, the rapporteurs have mainly focused on three countries in the region, which is very selective. However, there is no holistic approach to the issues that various countries face, which prompts certain questions. Our aim is to increase the rule of law and democracy in Turkey. We also want the full implementation of fundamental rights and freedoms. In fact, in Turkey, we have started a comprehensive reform process. We have taken into account the expectations and demands of our people. Professor Davutoğlu is leading our new government, which has established a new reform monitoring committee, the task of which is to ensure that reforms are implemented. The person in charge of it is a Deputy Prime Minister. It takes into account the observations and reports written by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and other international organisations. It also regularly considers the recommendations of national and international NGOs.

      In recent years, Turkey has had a major breakthrough in terms of co-operating with international NGOs and undertaking a number of legal and administrative reforms. We have also ensured a greater role for the media and NGOs. We have changed the law on associations, which has facilitated the establishment of associations, given them new room for manoeuvre, and reduced bureaucracy in the establishment and the running of such associations.

      As members of the Council of Europe, we need to support all the NGOs and not interfere in any of their activities. However, we also need to ensure that the same NGOs adhere to existing laws and work in line with existing laws and regulations. In a democracy it is only natural that NGOs abide by the rules we all have to abide by. We need to be sure that the fine line between rights and responsibilities is maintained.

      Mr REISS (France)* – The two reports that we are examining pose in different ways questions about our credibility as a beacon organisation to protect human rights. Protecting associations that protect human rights strikes at the Council of Europe’s founding values. I say to the rapporteur that what is happening to Moldovan NGOs in Transnistria is unacceptable. You are right to stress that. In a democratic State, NGOs and human rights organisations should play their role and have the means to do that. Apart from the fundamental rights of freedom of association and expression, restrictions on the financial means available to NGOs are a genuine problem. Transparency of financing ensures the independence of NGOs, but they need funds to carry out their activities. They need to be independent.

      Legitimate control of NGO accounts should not be used as a way for the authorities to deprive NGOs of all means of action – transparency yes, repression no. The level of human resources, the time that people put into the work and the efforts that need to be made to garner the funds are already a restrictive factor. In the European Union, the funding provided by supranational authorities is secured competitively. To carry out their activities, NGOs need complementary funding. However, that needs to be done in a way that does not compromise their financial autonomy and their independence.

      It is interesting to note that in France there are NGOs that specialise in international solidarity and that funds received from international funders amount to about 15% of their resources. You can compare that with the Russian law on NGOs that are considered to be foreign agents, which is very restrictive because any funding from outside the country in excess of about 200 000 Roubles is subject to control. Not respecting those rules can result in heavy fines and even imprisonment. Several Russian human rights associations have been categorised as foreign agents. Let us not forget that in the Stalinist period that was used to label organisations enemies of the people, as it was in the Brezhnev period for dissidents who had any contact with the West. Memorial, the NGO founded by Andrei Sakharov, is a case in point. In November it was accused of high treason simply because it had received money from the National Endowment for Democracy, an American NGO. It publicly denounced the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and that was no doubt the reason it was charged with high treason. The report accuses other countries of behaviour that in some cases is even worse than that. That is not acceptable because civil society must have its voice, including in the Council of Europe.

      Freedom of association, freedom of expression and promotion of human rights are precious rights and values that we must protect, so I shall vote in favour of both reports.

Ms BESELIA (Georgia) – I thank the rapporteurs for preparing such important documents. These are good reports and I support the recommendations in general.

      Protecting human rights is most important. It is required to support all those human rights defenders who protect the rights of others at their own risk. This is an important issue personally for me. I have been a lawyer and human rights defender for 14 years. I personally know what it means to be a human rights defender in an unfair regime and under the system in my country during Saakashvili’s presidency in Georgia. We, the human rights defenders, were attacked at that time, family members were detained, and up to 200 lawyers were detained and convicted unjustly. After the government changed in October 2012 in Georgia, human rights defenders were released under the amnesty in 2013. We have increased their rights through new legislation and stopped unfair prosecutions against them.

      It is necessary to maintain high standards for human rights defenders in all countries. Institutional strengthening of human rights defenders is important as well as the efforts to ensure they can act safely and independently.

      I ask you not to support Amendment 2, adopted today by the committee, which refers to Georgia, because the rapporteur has not identified even a single concrete case of violation of human rights defenders’ rights in the country. Moreover, the rapporteur evaluates the situation in that regard as improved significantly compared with previous periods. That is why we have submitted a sub-amendment. Thank you for your attention.

      Ms KOBAKHIDZE (Georgia) – As someone who worked for a human rights NGO for a decade, it is certainly a high priority that all NGOs and human rights defenders have the freedom to pursue their activities and are not restricted by the law. My colleagues and I remember the horrible period in our recent history, when more than 150 lawyers were arrested and prosecuted by the previous government. Today, I am proud of the fact that Georgia has all the necessary conditions for supporting the smooth functioning of NGOs. In that regard it is ranked as one of the leading countries not only in the South Caucasus, but throughout Europe. That was reaffirmed many times by relevant international organisations and domestic institutions, including the Public Defender in Georgia.

      Today, up to 20 000 NGOs are registered in Georgia, and the number is growing year by year. The statistics are enough to demonstrate how simple the procedures for the establishment of NGOs are under Georgian legislation. The same is true for the regulations governing their access to financial resources, as well as their freedom to perform different activities.

Therefore, NGOs act as efficient watchdogs monitoring the government. They also represent partners of the parliament in the law-making process, as they are given the opportunity to express their opinions on draft law in the course of committee hearings and thus render tangible assistance to law-makers. It should be noted that a new, more intensive phase of co-operation between the parliament and NGOs began in December 2013, when a memorandum was signed between the legislative body and about 150 public organisations. Thus NGOs participate in important processes such as judicial reforms, prevention of domestic violence, promotion of women’s rights and gender equality, and protection of the rights of internally displaced people and those with disabilities. Given all that, support for the development of the NGO sector is a high priority in Georgia.

      Ms MATEU (Andorra)* – Civil society is one of the cornerstones of the democratic system. It is through the participation of citizens that our societies can ensure that their freedoms and values, and those of others, are respected. In the name of transparency, States sometimes want to control exactly what our societies do. Let us not forget that civil society is the fulcrum of our society; it must be respected. If we do not have it, we cannot have a democratic society. There has to be a proper dynamic, with people who are fully committed to flagging up controversial issues and further advancing the cause of complying with values. Values are all about respecting others; we cannot do whatever we want. I noted something that was said earlier by René Rouquet, who is our President: that democracy cannot simply involve doing what is not forbidden. That captures what we are talking about. In the name of transparency, States should not thwart all activities that NGOs want to carry out. They must not do that to human rights defenders either, of course.

      Human rights defenders are militant activists. In some countries, they do everything in their power to protect and highlight what is done by people who speak up. Society can advance only if there is proper political activity and activities furthered by NGOs, civil society and institutions. Some NGOs cannot carry out political activities. Why? Look at what has happened in Greece or Spain – at Podemos, for instance. This is all about society slowly taking a more active role that gains substance in political ideas and groups.

      Both reports are excellent and flag up a number of painful issues. In all member States of the Council of Europe, we find that governments want to control what happens. They prefer to hear what is going well and do not want us to point out what is going badly. They do not always want to hear if we do not agree with what is going on. We need to fight to ensure that we can keep saying that. I thank Mr Cruchten and Ms Reps for their reports. Mailis Reps is fully aware that I do not agree with one point in her report, which is the idea of creating a general rapporteur for human rights defenders. That position may well exist in the European Union, but I do not necessarily think that we in the Council of Europe need it. We have our Commissioner for Human Rights here and can refer individual cases to him. We also have the Sub-Committee on Human Rights of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which can help to address the issue. I encourage both rapporteurs to ensure that the reports are as successful as possible.

      Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – I strongly support the two reports that are the basis of this debate on the role and protection of human right defenders and NGOs in Council of Europe member States. On the other hand, just as strongly, I regret the need to have the reports at all. Our Secretary General gave a strong warning in his speech on Tuesday. After underlining the importance of the European Convention on Human Rights as the best legal guide to the conflicts that we face in Europe, he demonstrated how it is under threat in many countries. He gave a lot of examples, including founding countries such as the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway. Especially relevant for today’s debate is his reference to the case of Ilgar Mammadov from Azerbaijan, who remains behind bars despite the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights demanding his release.

      NGOs are especially important in countries that do not respect democracy. Unfortunately, we have too many such countries as member States of the Council of Europe, such as Azerbaijan, Russia, Turkey and Hungary. Human rights defenders and NGO activists in those countries deserve our full attention and support. All members of the Monitoring Committee know for sure that, without the information submitted to us by human right defenders and NGOs, we would never be able to do our job as rapporteurs in such countries. The selfless work of those brave people goes straight to the core of our values. Despite that, they are subjected to serious persecution in many of our member States.

      Fortunately, in other member countries, the authorities value the work and even co-operate with activists, NGOs and member-based voluntary organisations to enhance the quality of political decisions. They are obvious consultative bodies when new legislation is conducted, due to their skills. Many of them are also partners in producing important welfare services in, for instance, health care, care for elderly people and the promotion of public health through physical activities in kindergartens and schools.

      If human right activists and NGOs are repressed, it is done by leaders who have something to hide. Eventually, non-democratic leaders who build their power on fear rather than support will fall. In the meantime, they cause a great deal of harm to their people.

      Both reports make recommendations for the Committee of Minister to be made accountable for enhanced dialogue with civil society and the protection of human rights defenders. I thank both rapporteurs for their proactive approach.

      Mr MULLEN (Ireland) – I congratulate those who prepared the reports, which are worthy of our support. I hope they will have an impact, particularly in those countries whose activities led to them being prepared in the first place.

      I want to focus on the need for consistency when we send out a message in support of NGO activities. In particular, I want to refer to an amendment tabled by me and others. The amendment was not accepted by the committee, but without it the report will lack the necessary moral force. The failure of the Council of Europe to show that it is a model of best practice in relation to NGOs will surely be cited by those countries that wish to disregard the content of the excellent report on the rights of NGOs to conduct their activities.

      I am aware of a particular case involving the Alliance Defending Freedom. It is a pro-family organisation, but it does not really matter whether we agree with its political perspective. The question is whether we believe in a vision of fairness whereby the Council of Europe welcomes all NGOs to the forum. ADF International’s application for participatory status as an international non-governmental organisation at the Council of Europe was rejected. A reason cited for the rejection was the organisation’s strong emphasis on a particular interpretation of marriage and family – in other words, a traditional view of marriage and family.

      It does not matter whether we agree with the organisation’s view or not. The question is: how do we feel about an Organisation that rejects the participation of an NGO because it has views that some – perhaps most people – do not agree with? ADF International sent an extended response. In his former capacity as head of the Group of the European People’s Party, Mr Agramunt, who is now the President of the Parliamentary Assembly, conducted a consultation and found that his members and parliamentarians whom he consulted felt that there was a lack of transparency in the process of applying for participatory status.

      I was very disappointed that Mr Cruchten, on behalf of the committee, rejected my amendment this morning. It simply recommends that the Council of Europe has an open, transparent and fair system of considering applications for participatory status and that, in particular, there should be an appellate procedure. Mr Cruchten’s only response was that the Secretary General has said that he intends to revisit the procedure.

      If there is a structural problem, there is no value in offering a kind of ad hoc solution and saying that the matter will be looked at in the future, particularly if, by doing nothing now, we weaken the moral force of the report we are trying to use to promote tolerance towards NGOs. The Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly are shooting themselves in the foot. The countries that we hope will heed the report will point to the Organisation’s own lack of fairness. I therefore urge colleagues to revisit the issue at the plenary vote.

      If we devalue freedom of expression, in particular that of groups that represent many people throughout our member States, we should not be surprised if the very countries we want encourage to adopt better practice point to the Organisation’s hypocrisy. I ask members throughout the Chamber to pay attention to our fair and reasonably worded amendment, and on this occasion to not accept the advice of the committee, but to vote for the amendment and thereby strengthen the report. Go raibh míle maith agat.

      Ms ZOHRABYAN (Armenia)* – The reports submitted by Ms Reps and Mr Cruchten deal with serious problems in certain member States of the Council of Europe concerning the defence of human rights and the activities of NGOs. There are problems with human rights violations in a number of member States, including my own, and we are prepared to discuss them openly and in public. However, one State in our Organisation is truly exceptional in its manifest cynicism when it comes to human rights.

      In Azerbaijan, to speak of human rights and of the right of freedom of expression is akin to an absurdist, surrealist text by Daniil Kharms, the Soviet satirist. Social activism in defence of human rights in Azerbaijan leads to being condemned to death. The restrictions imposed on NGOs as part of the registration process are like a trip through Golgotha or Calvary – in other words, they are a painful ordeal.

In order to register, NGOs have to demonstrate that they respect the national moral values of Azerbaijan. However, respect for the national moral values of Azerbaijan is a rather equivocal concept. For example, when the Azerbaijani officer and murderer, Ramil Safarov, killed the Armenian officer Gourguen Markarian with an axe, the human rights commissioner of Azerbaijan, Elmira Süleymanova, stated in public that it was a very good example to young people of patriotism. That is the value system in Azerbaijan.

In Azerbaijan, human rights defenders, representatives of civil society and journalists are condemned and imprisoned simply because they do not want to become enslaved to the regime. They include Leyla and Arif Yunus, Khadija Ismayilova and Ilgar Mammadov, the latter of whom has been condemned to a slow death in an Azerbaijani prison. There are, of course, about 10 other political prisoners.

Ms Reps is absolutely right. Azerbaijani human rights defenders are confronted with trumped-up charges, violent acts of repression, acts of torture and even homicide, and all of that is being done under the guise of Azerbaijani moral values. No NGO, human rights defender or civil activist can act within the framework of that so-called morality. In fact, they are condemned right from the outset as enemies of the Aliyev regime. What happens to enemies of the Aliyev regime? Ask Ilgar Mammadov. He is still alive, for now.

Ms KERESTECÍOĢLU DEMIR (Turkey)* – I thank Ms Reps for drawing the attention of the Council of Europe to the deplorable situation of many human rights defenders. Human rights defenders in all countries often pay a heavy price with their struggles. That is why I strongly support the measures suggested by the report. The Assembly should do more to strengthen human rights defenders in their struggle, extend the number of contacts who can exchange views, and regularly report on the information gathered from those contacts.

Unfortunately, I have personally witnessed those cases mentioned in the report’s section concerning Turkey. I personally know those people who had unfair trials, who faced unfounded charges and who were even assassinated, including Tahir Elçi, president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association. They are all my friends. Talking about them, particularly Tahir Elçi, who was murdered recently, is both valuable and painful for me.

Lawyers in Turkey who defended Abdullah Öcalan were imprisoned for years, solely for carrying out their duties. Muharrem Erbey has been working as a human rights defender for years and has been put on trial for his work. Pinar Selek, a sociologist who carried out research on homeless children and trans people, has been on trial for years – an endless trial. These people have one more common characteristic: they are either Kurds or activists who have fought to defend the rights of the Kurdish people.

Of course, what is happening in Turkey is not limited to the contents of the report. Just before we arrived in Strasbourg, criminal investigations were opened against more than 1 200 academics because they asked for weapons to be put down and expressed their wish for peace. Curfews in Turkey deprive people of their most basic needs. Civilian lives are at risk. It is the human rights defenders who can monitor, report and prevent human rights violations. They must be supported and their lives must be protected, so I invite the Assembly to devote its attention to setting up a commission to investigate the situation in the towns that are under curfews.

Three Turkish members of parliament have started a hunger strike in the Ministry of Interior’s building in Ankara to convince the State to allow an ambulance in to take away the people wounded in Cizre yesterday. One of those Members of Parliament, Osman Baydemir, expressed his wish for the violence to stop, and I will repeat his words: “Edi bes e, Edi bes e”, which means, “Enough is enough” in Kurdish. I thank both rapporteurs again for their excellent effort.

Ms KARAPETYAN (Armenia) – I thank the rapporteur, Ms Reps, for her excellent work.

The protection and promotion of human rights is a core task for the Council of Europe, particularly this Assembly. During its existence, the Assembly has done lot of work and spared no effort to implement that task. There has been huge progress, but, unfortunately, today human rights defenders themselves need to be defended. Many factors have brought us to this sad reality.

As is mentioned in the report, it is first and foremost the responsibility of a State to protect human rights defenders. But what if a State not only continuously violates human rights and harasses, intimidates and arrests human rights defenders, but even hinders the work of defenders of human rights activists? That is not a hypothetical question. A Council of Europe member State, namely Azerbaijan, can compete with and outdo medieval autocracies with its deplorable human rights situation. I shall draw attention to one recent example of Azerbaijani paranoia concerning the defence of human rights defenders.

Weeks ago, British human rights lawyer Amal Clooney sparked outrage in Azerbaijan by taking on the case of jailed investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who we all know is an outspoken critic of the government and is currently in prison on politically motivated charges. Clooney has expressed a desire to challenge Ismayilova’s detention in the European Court of Human Rights. The Azerbaijani media, which acts as a mouthpiece for the government, responded to the news by accusing Clooney of all kind of sins, and even came to the conclusion that Amal Clooney is an Armenian lobbyist. What nonsense!

Time and again, Azerbaijan tries to divert the Assembly’s attention by introducing provocative conflict-related initiatives in an attempt to conceal the appalling human rights situation in the country, or even to justify it. The Assembly should stay vigilant to prevent such miserable tricks, as we did two days ago, and stay focused on our main task. Moreover, the Assembly should reinforce its actions to protect human rights and their defenders in Azerbaijan by taking proper measures against it, including sanctions such as annulling the credentials of the Azerbaijani delegation. Counting on the political will of Azerbaijan to discharge its responsibility to protect human rights activists is naďve and could have dangerous consequences for human rights activists.

Mr HARANGOZÓ (Hungary) – First, I thank both rapporteurs for their excellent reports. I thank Mr Cruchten especially, as he visited Hungary with me for a fact-finding visit.

It is no surprise that I shall focus on Hungary, where the legal framework is really nice but, in spite of satisfactory legislation, there are serious political problems with its implementation. The free functioning of civil society organisations is effectively limited by criminal actions, stigmatisation and biased financing mechanisms. The police start criminal proceedings against opinion leaders because they criticise local and national politicians, and more often against everyday people as well – for sharing those critical opinions on Facebook. The procedure starts with taking their fingerprints, after which they are registered as real criminals. Assembly members can imagine how frightening that is.

There was also a specially designed intimidation action against the whole civic sector when the police carried out demonstrably illegal inspections on certain organisations that distributed the European Economic Area funds and confiscated their files and computer servers. The government propaganda declared them guilty before the investigation had even begun. Even Prime Minister Orbán and other ministers stigmatised them as NGOs serving a foreign interest.

Stigmatising NGOs as foreign agents is a recurring part of the State propaganda. Last autumn, Fidesz targeted NGOs funded by the Soros Foundation, which has been accused of the acceleration of the refugee crisis and attacking the “Europe of nations”. While there is high pressure on the critical NGOs, the governing party very methodically builds its own circle of civil society. For example, it is not Fidesz that organises smear campaigns against opposition politicians, but CÖKA, a non-governmental so called “public benefit organisation” operating as a puppet. Bearing in mind the fact that NGOs are dependent on public funding, it should be acknowledged that the leader of CÖKA is the president of the National Co-operation Fund, which finances the NGOs. The few independent parts of the press announced several times that State funds are flowing mainly to “civilians” belonging to the Fidesz influence.

We can understand why Fidesz wanted to suspend the EEA civil programmes: they provide funding that is independent from the Hungarian State. Although the legal instruments are the most important starting points, the Hungarian case shows us that, if we want to prevent the inappropriate restriction of NGOs, we must look beyond the legal framework.

      Mr HOLLIK (Hungary) – I want to comment on Mr Cruchten’s report, focusing on Hungary, of course. Before I start, there are many things I do not understand about Mr Harangozó’s political opinion, but I do not want to bring our domestic debates to the Council of Europe. That is why I will not comment on my colleague’s words.

      I thank the rapporteur, Mr Cruchten, for closely examining the situation for civil society in Europe. Creating a strong and independent civil society is crucial for the functioning of our democracies. The report precisely describes problems in some countries and proposes what we should do to solve them. I thank Mr Cruchten for considering the situation in Hungary. He conducted a fact-finding visit in November and I am truly delighted that his findings are reflected in the report.

      The report recognises that Hungary is a constitutional democracy with the rule of law. From the report, it is obvious that the legal and constitutional environment for NGOs in Hungary is satisfactory and that no objections can be made about it. Moreover, the funding of NGOs gets more generous each year. Hungary cherishes its civil society, which has all the legal and political conditions it needs to flourish. Even so, Hungary is ready to work with any institutions, whether they are European or national, non-governmental or governmental, that aim to improve the situation of the European people in any way whatsoever. Hungary is a free country with a democratic legal and political framework and a blossoming culture and society. I am glad that that is fully reflected in Mr Cruchten’s report.

      Ms HEINRICH (Germany)* – How can it be necessary to be discussing a report on strengthening the protection of human rights activists in the member States of the Council of Europe? Those countries have signed up to the relevant conventions, so why should human rights continue to have to be defended? Why should people who defend human rights be confronted with acts of repression from governments? The report is very important, because it shows us that the reality is very different from how we might feel.

      I thank Mailis Reps for her excellent report, which clearly underlines the fact that there are crackdowns on human rights defenders not only on other continents but on our continent. The part of her report that states that States should ensure that acts of repression carried out by non-State bodies on human rights activists should be put to a stop is important, because often human rights defenders are targeted by groups that are happy to pay no heed to laws or rights. Feminists, LGBT activists and refugee aid workers are often targeted. In those cases, the rule of law is in jeopardy, and this is a challenge for many members of the Council of Europe.

      Civil society has an important role to play, and, of course, intimidation in civil society is also very important. Mailis Reps addresses the problems for what they are. We need to name the countries when we are 100% sure that human rights activists are indeed subject to crackdowns and violence. It is always our task to mention what is happening, and it is shameful when there are attempts to play down certain facts or even to deny them. That applies to both this report and the one that describes the increase in the number of crackdowns on NGOs.

      I wholeheartedly endorse the demands made by Ms Reps’ report. They apply not only to individual countries. All member States of the Council of Europe are called on to check whether they are doing enough for human rights defenders and people working in civil society. As parliamentarians representing the member States of the Council of Europe, we are called on to implement these demands. Can we create a safer environment for human rights activists in these member States? In the Netherlands, they have the concept of the so-called shelter cities in which human rights defenders can work in a safe environment. Such measures could be taken in other countries in Europe. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation for human rights defenders, Michel Forst, expressed regret that a number of States do not let him set foot in their countries. We can call on our embassies to do the groundwork so that he can be given an invitation to visit those countries. With these activities, we will show that we are taking very seriously the fact that we want to protect people who put their lives on the line to defend human rights.

      Mr R. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – The protection of human rights has been among the major priorities of the Council of Europe’s activities since the foundation of the Organisation. That delicate mission is still going on today and the debate on human rights defenders should be considered as one of the components of that significant problem. Increasing the prevalence of that institution in such countries and allowing human rights defenders to penetrate more actively into the life of society is necessary for the consolidation and improvement of the new democracies.

      The report on human rights defenders reflects a number of points that should be reviewed to ensure objectiveness. The rights of the facts should be protected in the report, as well as human rights. It is difficult to agree with the assumptions reflected in the report that relate to Azerbaijan, and they should all be reconsidered. There are points that contradict the truth. It is an obvious truth that the life of countries in contemporary times cannot be imagined without NGOs. Certainly, all conditions for their free and effective functioning should be ensured. According to official data, there are more than 4 000 NGOs in Azerbaijan. It should also be noted that a large number of such organisations are fairly active in the country as well. Therefore, one can hardly agree with the criticism of Azerbaijan expressed in the report.

      I resolutely reject the hate speech, full of slander, of our Armenian colleagues. It is another example of Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has a separate State body to deal with the organisation of the work of NGOs and State care and support for NGOs are sufficient. Nevertheless, the emergence of problems relating to separate NGOs is also undeniable. Such cases are noted in other countries, too. I guess that we should approach this issue more thoroughly as investigations suggest that in certain cases external special secret services benefit from NGOs in various countries to implement their definite purposes and secret plans. Certainly, they do that not to all of them but to those with which they are close and those that they can easily control.

      The facts about transmitting large amounts of dirty money to NGOs to create multi-coloured revolutions and unrest are also known. We stand side-by-side with any kind of transparency, so if the use of financial resources by NGOs is made public under serious controls, one cannot see anything negative in doing so. None the less, if such an objective approach makes some forces anxious that means that they have certain dirty purposes that they want to hide. In my view, an NGO that has managed to organise its activities in line with the legislation of the country of its residence should not face any complicated problems and, if that happens, we should spare no efforts in solving them. Any value suggested and required by democratic society, including the institution of NGOs, is necessary for States, but the most supreme value for any country, nation or State is its independence. Our major desire is that everything, including the activities of NGOs, should contribute to the stronger consolidation of our States and nations but not to opposite developments.

      Ms PALIHOVICI (Republic of Moldova) – I thank the rapporteurs for their work and for the comprehensive analysis in their reports. Protecting human rights is the cornerstone of building a genuinely democratic society. Human right defenders have an important role to play in creating, maintaining and, where necessary, improving supportive environments for democracy.

      It is no exaggeration to say that the past two decades have been among the most turbulent in our continent’s recent history. Europe is still undergoing profound geopolitical transformations – in particular, there has been instability on borders and outbreaks of violent conflict. My country continues to be concerned about the human rights situation in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova. Due to that unresolved conflict, the region is not monitored by national and international human rights organisations, and it remains untouched by international standards and human rights.

      Human rights defenders have been stigmatised and criminal procedures have been taken against them. Promo-LEX is one of the most important human right defenders in the Transnistrian region; its human rights activities are well known. The issues it works on include the right to education, security, freedom of movement, the right to property, the right to life, the prohibition of torture and other cruel treatment, the right to a fair trial, the fight against domestic violence, and freedom of association. For promoting and defending human rights in the Transnistrian region, Promo-LEX has been given awards by national and international institutions. Authorities in the Republic of Moldova have taken action to defend Promo-LEX activists against the so-called Transnistrian authorities, but it is not always sufficient.

      Requests have been sent out to our international partners who were involved in negotiating the Transnistrian settlement to get an objective perspective on the difficult situation of human rights NGOs in the region and the challenges they face when providing counselling to inhabitants from the left bank of the Nistru river. We also aim to secure foreign support to improve the situation. The Republic of Moldova will continue to support civil society representatives and promote organisations that protect human rights in the Transnistrian region. Although it is difficult to protect human rights defenders, we must remember that they promote change and make a difference on the ground, despite the obstacles they face.

      Mr FARMANYAN (Armenia) – I thank the rapporteurs, Ms Reps and Mr Cruchten, for their work on the reports, which demonstrate that the Assembly is consistent in ensuring that its core values are safeguarded sustainably across the Council of Europe countries. It is clear that a dynamic civil society is crucial to a democratic State, and respect for fundamental rights – particularity the freedom of expression, the freedom of assembly and the freedom of association – is vital to the proper functioning of civil society. Therefore, the growing tendency in a couple of States to limit NGOs’ activities and attack, prosecute or jail human rights defenders for political purposes is concerning. Azerbaijan is increasingly becoming a black spot on the human rights map of the Council of Europe.

      Both reports illustrate where Azerbaijan stands, in terms of democracy. It has heavily increased the legal and administrative restrictions on NGOs. It cracks down on civil society, carries out dozens of politically motivated prosecutions, and jails all those who are critical of the Azerbaijani Government and the Aliyev family. This House of democracy might be surprised to hear about the legal restrictions imposed on civil society organisations in Azerbaijan. To establish a local branch, international human rights NGOs are legally required to sign an agreement with the Ministry of Justice stating that they will respect “national moral values” and will not get involved in political propaganda. It is obvious – the rapporteurs confirm this – that it is impossible to define those terms clearly. In reality, they are a pretext for the criminal prosecution of all those who criticise Aliyev’s regime.

      The international NGOs that have done so much to consolidate democracy in all the post-Soviet countries, including Armenia – Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Transparency International and others – have been accused by the Azerbaijani Government and our Azerbaijani colleagues in this Assembly of using double standards towards Azerbaijan and making false claims in their reports. In that way, they try to justify the harsh restrictions on the activities of those organisations in Azerbaijan. Civil society organisations are deliberately denied access to foreign funding exceeding €180, and the applications of NGOs that are critical of Aliyev’s autocratic regime are turned down.

      In the context of our region, one may say that the reports are not only about the inappropriate restrictions on the activities of NGOs and the persecution of human rights defenders, but about the possibility of peace. Democracy means more in our region. Azerbaijan’s Goebbels-style State propaganda system, which declares Armenians the enemies of Azerbaijan and calls Ramil Safarov a national hero, is an example to the younger generation. Anyone who speaks about peace and the need for a diplomatic solution to the Karabakh problem is labelled a betrayer of Azerbaijan. We should send a clear message to President Aliyev that he must end the systematic repression of human rights defenders, the media and groups that are critical of the Aliyev family.

      Mr KIRAL (Ukraine) – I thank Ms Reps and Mr Cruchten for their reports, which address the essential part of our life – civil society, which I call the informal ruling party. I thank them for mentioning Crimea in Ukraine, which is illegally annexed by Russia, and where human rights and civil society NGOs that promote the rights of the Crimean Tatars and organisations that promote the Ukrainian language have been prosecuted.

      It is a pity that a fact-finding mission has not visited Russia, because it would allow Russia to show its true face. After stigmatising NGOs and labelling them “foreign agents”, the Russian authorities sent their oligarchs to pay NGOs in Europe to promote a Russian agenda and meddle with the European one. Should Europe act in response and label such NGOs “Russian agents”? I think not. We live in a democratic society.

      On Monday in this building I met the leader of one European NGO who told me that they had been approached by a Russian oligarch who offered them millions of dollars to promote the Russian agenda in Europe, and to criticise European politics and politicians. Such cases must be thoroughly investigated, if not by European investigators then by the American State treasury or the FBI. As far as I understand it, the British press was writing about that, and the issue is already being raised.

      Ukraine today, after the Revolution of Dignity, is another matter – the fact that it is not specifically targeted in the report is proof of that. However, the lessons that we are learning by building, or rather rebuilding, our civil society are important to complement the draft resolution with real-life examples. That may contribute to the thematic debate on the role and functioning of NGOs in the Council of Europe, which is to be continued by the Committee of Ministers as specified in the draft recommendation.

      Authorities must team up with civil society to access grassroots expertise and advocate better legislation. Such teamwork is not easy, particularly in post-Soviet kleptocratic societies, but civil societies should take an active role and fight for their place, because the governments – naturally – are not interested in teaming up. Secondly, broader responsibilities and new procedures for civic participation in decision making must be introduced. In Ukraine, NGOs prepared and advocated new legislation to introduce e-petitions at a local and national level.

      Thirdly, restrictions on volunteer work must be lifted. As a result, a new law on volunteer activity has been passed in Ukraine. Tax incentives must be simplified, and we must not hinder the work of NGOs. It would not be possible to consider the important matter of anti-corruption measures without the heavy involvement of civil society and human rights defenders – that is true for any society, not only Ukraine. NGOs should be free to access any kind of assistance, whether domestic or foreign funding, and they should be held accountable for that by civil society. By restricting their work, we basically jeopardise our future as we would like it to be.

      Ms LE DAIN (France)* – NGOs have grown in power and they have therefore become important, and usually beneficial, stakeholders in our countries. Nobody would deny that NGOs are an integral part of our civil societies. Nobody disputes or challenges that, which is why it is time that we thought a little about the status of NGOs from the perspective of this Organisation. We must ask ourselves what exactly NGOs are, given that they are an integral part of our civil societies. We must also look at their rights and duties, because many of them have different ambitions and scopes.

      Some NGOs make impartiality and neutrality a cardinal virtue, and they make all kinds of strategic choices on that basis. They take seriously their responsibility to protect the values of democracy and of each individual human being. NGOs also reflect the vitality of civil society and the fundamental democratic principles of defending human rights. Often, their attitudes are uncomfortable, and they force politics and politicians to question their own behaviour and actions. Sometimes NGOs are a little irksome and bothersome, and they raise delicate issues. We are elected representatives, however, and NGOs do not always act in an excessive fashion or interfere, so we must consider the interplay between the two things.

      The Council of Europe is, of course, an eminently political body, and our countries have to endorse the vitality of NGOs. They are important and they act as a bellwether for our societies. That is why we must point the finger at the Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Turkey and other countries that have introduced such a hard-hitting concept as a “foreign agent” in order to undermine NGOs. That is a seriously worrying state of affairs. Those countries should instead view NGOs as autonomous bodies that pursue activities on a not-for-profit basis on behalf of their members.

      In our text, in the Council of Europe NGOs “must” enjoy freedom of expression and all the other rights and freedoms that are universally guaranteed. It is not that they “should” do that, but rather that they “must” – it should be mandatory. Freedom of expression must be respected, which is why our rapporteur rightly calls for us to review our text. We often have a vague definition of the activities of NGOs, and that paves the way for all kinds of restrictive practices on the part of some member States that have not hesitated to capitalise on that lack of clarity in our texts.

      The text on the recognition of the legal personality of NGOs was adopted in 1986, but it has been ratified by only 11 members of the Council of Europe, including France. That shows that this legal uncertainty has a direct impact on the activities of NGOs, and by extension on the people of our societies. How can we be fearful of NGOs that represent civil society? How can authorities accept that when they hold elections? All the restrictions that Mr Cruchten reported are intolerable and pose a threat to democracy and to our values, as well as to freedom and to our future.

      Ms DE SUTTER (Belgium) – Dear colleagues, I do not have to remind you that the European Convention on Human Rights is very clear about freedom of opinion. Article 10 provides the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas, with some restrictions pertaining to public order and security. I also do not have to remind you that as parliamentarians of the Council of Europe we set great store by respect for human rights through conventions and resolutions, but also through the implementation of national legislation and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.

      I do not have to remind you that that same European Court of Human Rights has condemned reprisals against human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States in the past, and it will undoubtedly continue to condemn every ongoing or future violation. Finally, I do not have to remind you that even our Assembly’s former President, Ms Brasseur, among many other international instances, has recently expressed serious concerns about human rights organisations and defenders, and about all those activists who were given long prison sentences – for example in Azerbaijan in 2015, as both Ms Reps and Mr Cruchten justly mention in their reports.

      I do, however, want to remind you that all of us, as human beings and as parliamentarians, should be deeply offended by the recent escalation of harsh repression, in whatever country it is occurring. Moreover and specifically, inadequate health conditions in prison have also been widely been reported, which is unacceptable. I regret and condemn the fact that in some States there seems to be an increasingly negative trend to follow a very hard line. Budgetary and legal restrictions against independent NGOs in 2014 are a clear sign of the violation of the freedom of opinion. In particular, human rights defenders, activists who fight for women’s rights, defenders of LGBTI rights, environmental activists, and NGOs, must be allowed to do their work in democratic societies. They are the conscience of nations, and it is very unwise and unhealthy not to listen to one’s conscience. They must not be set aside as “undesirable organisations” or “foreign agents”; they should be considered valuable partners of civil society.

      I therefore fully support the reports and encourage you all to do the same, because human rights defenders desperately need a platform to improve human rights in all Council of Europe member States, not only in Azerbaijan, Turkey, Hungary and the Russian Federation, but in other less suspicious States in certain areas. I truly hope that all of you see the necessity of reporting every individual repression, in order to protect human rights activists. The trend to muzzle NGOs and human rights defenders leads to the erosion of democratic values and to totalitarianism. States that are guilty of this should be reprimanded by this Council of Europe, irrespective of geopolitical or economic interests, if this institution still wants to stand for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

      Mr NISSINEN (Sweden) – First, I congratulate our two rapporteurs, Mr Cruchten and Ms Reps, on their excellent reports. His report deals with the situation of NGOs in the Council of Europe, especially those active in the human rights fields and in countries where they face the greatest difficulties. Her report focuses more on individual human rights defenders, be they working for NGOs or independently. In the short time available, let me dwell mainly on Ms Reps’ report, which makes for very moving reading. We get to know the sacrifices and sufferings of a long series of human rights defenders – they are named. We learn of their unjustified arrests and disproportionate condemnations, and the health complications they often endure while in prison or under duress. It is good that the rapporteur mentions these people, even though she regrets that she was unable to include everyone, as it allows us at least to keep track of them and to try to ensure they are soon freed and can resume their work.

      Three countries were singled out as being perhaps the most problematic cases: Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey. I am particularly saddened by the worsening situation in Turkey, a country that only a short time ago showed such promise in the way it treated its human rights defenders. That was at a time when a peaceful settlement of the Kurdish issue seemed within reach, but now, alas, we are taking note of new arrests and condemnations of human rights defenders, especially those working on behalf of the interest of the Kurdish minority.

      I fully support the draft resolution and the recommendations in the two reports. We owe it to ourselves and the world to return frequently to these related subjects in the future. All our member States must know that they are being monitored. The obligations they have vowed to respect must be upheld, and human rights defenders everywhere must know that they have friends in us, as members of this Assembly and of this Council of Europe, which is and must remain the main defender of human rights and democracy in Europe.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – I particularly thank our two rapporteurs, as it has been extremely important for the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights to work on these reports and to hear at first hand information from the people affected by the reprisals they describe. It is important to note that there is concern about the situation in many Council of Europe member States, particularly those under monitoring.

      I come from Georgia, where the situation is not as bad as in some other member States. We do not have a law on “foreign agents”, but, unfortunately, the situation has been deteriorating a great deal recently and we have seen some alarming signs. We see that in the approach of some government officials, especially the Prime Minister and a former Prime Minister. He is the current ruler of the country and he accused the NGOs, especially those working on human rights issues, of being the extensions of the opposition political party. They have been accused of shaking the image of the country and undermining the State. Unfortunately, those statements remind us of rhetoric from the Russian authorities. Our former Prime Minister even went beyond that, in one press conference threatening the heads of Transparency International Georgia and of a body working for free and fair elections in Georgia with publishing all the compromising materials against them. What kind of compromising materials are these? How can a former Prime Minister have such information, if not in alliance with the mass surveillance in the country? The civil society organisations’ campaign “This Affects You Too” is working on dealing with the illegal practice in Georgia of mass surveillance. Unfortunately, instead of addressing human rights issues, the government is targeting and accusing the NGOs. This situation goes beyond this, because these are not just statements; we have also had grave threats of physical annihilation of some NGO leaders, especially those who defend the rights of the most vulnerable people – in Georgia, these are the members of the minorities, especially the LGBT communities.

      Another problem we are witnessing in Georgia is the physical attacks on, and pressure by the criminal investigation services against, lawyers – those who defend human rights, but especially those working on the politically sensitive issues. The European Bar Association, which comprises all the European national Bar associations, sent three different letters, to the Georgian President, Prime Minister and Speaker of the parliament, raising the cases of dozens of lawyers who were subject to aggression and threatened, and against whom criminal investigations have been started because of their professional work. The Georgian Bar Association, Georgian national NGOs and the public defenders have voiced this concern. The situation is alarming because 52 Georgian NGOs have gathered to raise these concerns and they have said “These statements leave us with the impression that a dedicated campaign is being carried out against civil organisations.” Not only does this attitude harm democratic values and ideas, but it empowers groups that openly attack those values. This tendency is a matter of the utmost concern and it deters the democratic development of the Georgian State. That is why I call on you to support our amendment and to vote against the amendment advocated by the ruling party, which of course will defend the position of its own government.

      Mr ZOURABIAN (Armenia) – In this excellent report, Mailis Reps once again demonstrates that she is one of the most knowledgeable, principled and experienced members of this Assembly, devoted to the basic values of this house of democracy and human rights. On Armenia, I agree in general with her opinion that compared with a very grave situation in Azerbaijan, Armenian and Georgian “activists enjoyed considerable freedom to carry out their activities.” The situation in Azerbaijan is a nightmare, however, and I do not want the state of affairs in Armenia to be judged by comparison with Azerbaijan.

      Against the background of the Council of Europe’s general standards, Armenia is not doing well. Armenia’s ombudsman, Andreasyan, resigned from his position on 12 January without any explanation after having been harshly criticised by a representative of the ruling party in our parliament and afterwards by a Minister who is also a deputy of the incumbent President of the country in the ruling party. The ombudsman was increasingly active in publicly criticising the actions of the Armenian police for brutally attacking opposition activists, injustice and corruption in the judiciary, as well as in revealing election fraud during the 6 December constitutional referendum, and was about to publish a special report on the violations. It turns out that in Armenia it is the State human rights defender who needs to be defended first.

      Armenia still holds eight political prisoners according to the criteria defined by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Resolution 1900 (2012). I call on the rapporteurs on Armenia, Sir Alan Meale and Giuseppe Galati, the Monitoring Committee and Commissioner Muižnieks to undertake necessary steps for the release of Gevorg Safaryan and Shant Harutyunyan and others in his group.

      Electoral fraud remains the greatest evil of Armenia’s corrupt political system. The 6 December referendum was completely falsified. The people of Armenia predominantly voted no to the constitutional amendments initiated to open the door for the incumbent President Sargsyan to continue his hold on power. Fraud and intimidation were widespread. More than half a million votes were rigged to change the real outcome of the poll. We need joint efforts by Armenian political forces, NGOs and the international community to ensure that the will of the Armenian people is respected in the May 2017 parliamentary elections.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call the rapporteurs to reply, starting with Ms Reps.

      Ms REPS (Estonia) – First, I thank all of you for listening so patiently to each other during almost two hours of debate. I particularly thank all those who have spoken. All of you, whether speaking for or against the reports, have been deeply concerned about the situation of NGOs and human rights defenders.

      We have had an important discussion today about what we can see in our member States and what we can recall from the previous reports. Some of you have pointed out that we have been pointing a finger at only a few countries, but I again remind you that this is not the first report on human rights defenders. In a way, it is a follow-up report, looking into those from 2009 and the 2012. In the previous reports, we looked at the general practice in most member States, such as whether organisations are dealing with sensitive matters that border on security concerns, whether countries have particularly sensitive neighbours, and how States deal with immigrants, LGBT communities, or ethnic minorities.

      Today, many organisations are under surveillance because of security and terrorist threats. The first speaker pointed that out very well. A balance must be struck between human rights and security, but the Assembly must be concerned if the threat of terrorism and security concerns become an excuse to undermine civil society and human rights work. This Organisation clearly has to do more. I remind you that some of the amendments are aimed at giving the Commissioner for Human Rights the possibility to consider individual cases for the first time, which is a much-needed tool that we could give the Commissioner’s office.

      We must be seized on the issue. If the people from countries such as Azerbaijan or Russia who give us objective information are harassed, threatened, arrested or even lose their lives for doing so, we have to continue to consider the matter in the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and in our individual parliaments. People are putting their lives at risk to give us good information, so we cannot risk undermining our Organisation because of a country’s monitoring or its general overview.

      Let me remind you again that there is an increasing trend of threats to lawyers who are helping citizens who want to come to the European Court of Human Rights. Lawyers who are willing and able to help people get their cases to the Court either are disbarred or threatened, or risk losing their lives. This is undermining the whole system of human rights and we must consider the matter carefully.

      Last but not least, we must follow up one particular issue and I hope we do it soon. I refer to territories in conflict or so-called grey zones, such as Transnistria, which I briefly looked at, Crimea, eastern Ukraine, Ossetia or Abkhazia. Human rights and human rights organisations are in a particularly grave situation in such areas, and we need to consider that further.

      I thank everybody again, especially the secretariat for putting together such a comprehensive report.

      Mr CRUCHTEN (Luxembourg) – Thank you, President. There is a lot to say. I want first to focus on two interventions. Mr Dişli asked why my report focused only on certain countries, so I think I need to give him an answer. We sent a questionnaire to all member States of the Council of Europe, but we received only 31 replies. Turkey was unfortunately not among those that responded. Our decision was also based on the NGOs that we have been in close contact with pointing out the cases that we have been discussing for over one and a half hours, namely Azerbaijan, Russia, Hungary and Turkey.

      I turn now to Mr Huseynov. He seems like such a nice person, but I still need to respond to what he said. He questioned the cases that we highlighted, but we focused on only a few because, during the preparation of the report, I came across a list of more than 100 human rights activists who were imprisoned in Azerbaijan. I just cannot believe that all those people are now terrorists. Our reports and the work that we do is based on reliable sources. Nobody expects Azerbaijan to turn into a model of democracy overnight. We should not ask that of any country. However, Azerbaijan has now been a member of the Council of Europe for 15 years and it is about time that improvements were made. While preparing the report, I actually had the feeling that the opposite is happening and that there has been a crackdown on civil society. However, we are willing to help Azerbaijan and will not leave it alone. Let us help you: implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and let the Venice Commission help you to draft legislation that meets our common standards.

      I thank all those who spoke in favour of the report. We are dealing with an important matter, and I am pleased to hear that that view is shared by many in this Assembly. In my country, it is a tradition – it is a good one – to thank all those who worked with the rapporteur. First in line are the members of the committee’s secretariat, but I want to include the people from the different NGOs and the INGO conference and colleagues from the Assembly or from official bodies whom I met during my preparations.

      Finally, I thank, on behalf of all of us here, everyone involved in NGOs in defending human rights, whether in Strasbourg or anywhere else in the world. They are essential not only for local populations but for us. We parliamentarians see NGOs as indispensable partners in striving for a better society, a more just, democratic and free society. Thank you for that and keep up the good work.

      The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I now give the floor to the vice-chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. You have two minutes.

      Mr SCHWABE (Germany) – On behalf of the committee, I thank the two rapporteurs. There was a harmonious discussion – there was unity, I would say – in the committee. It is important to adopt a clear position today. It is even more important to discuss these issues afterwards.

      The committee discussed what further we can do. There was no agreement on that, but the discussions have started in the committee. The question is how to protect those who protect others. We need ideas and proposals from not only members of the committee but from other members of the Assembly. You are invited to so do so, in order that we may have that discussion. We should have a positive decision on the reports today.

      The PRESIDENT* – That brings the general debate to an end.

      The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft resolution “Strengthening the protection and role of human rights defenders in Council of Europe Member States”, Document 13943, to which three amendments have been tabled. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has also presented a draft recommendation, to which two amendments have been tabled.

We will take the amendments to the draft resolution first.

       I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendment 1 to the draft resolution, which was unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly. Is that so, Mr Schwabe?

      Mr SCHWABE (Germany) – Yes.

      The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone object? That is not the case.

      Amendment 1 is adopted.

      The other amendments will be taken in the order in which they apply to the text as published in the revised Compendium.

      I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.

      We come to Amendment 2, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 4, after the first sentence, insert the following words:

“However, there have been alarming signs of deterioration in certain member States, including in Georgia, namely public attacks, threats to release material allegedly compromising to prominent human rights defenders, and physical attacks, pressure and intimidation against lawyers, including lawyers working on politically-sensitive cases."

      I call Ms Taktakishvili to support Amendment 2.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – The amendment seeks to note the concerns that have been raised by 52 Georgian human rights defender organisations, who have said that unfortunately we have problems of public attacks and human rights defenders being threatened with the release of some materials compromising to them. We should also mention the situation of the lawyers who are attacked because they defend human rights and the victims who are involved in some politically sensitive cases.

      The PRESIDENT* – The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wishes to propose Sub-Amendment 1. I call Ms Reps to support it.

      Ms REPS (Estonia) – The proposal is, in Amendment 2, replace the words “after the first sentence” with the words: “after the second sentence”, delete the word “however”; and after the words “there have”, insert the word “also”.

      The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? I call Ms Kobakhidze.

      Ms KOBAKHIDZE (Georgia) – The majority of the Georgian delegation wish to support Sub-Amendment 2 to Amendment 2 and to reject Amendment 2. We must support Sub-Amendment 2 to Amendment 2. If you give me the floor –

      The PRESIDENT* – That is the next one. We are on Sub-Amendment 1.

      What is the opinion of Ms Taktakishvili?

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – I am in favour.

      The PRESIDENT* – The committee is obviously in favour.

      The vote is open.

Sub-Amendment 1 is adopted.

      We come to Sub-Amendment 2, which is, “In Amendment 2, delete the words “including in Georgia”.

      I call Ms Kobakhidze to support Sub-Amendment 2.

      Ms KOBAKHIDZE (Georgia) – In the draft report, the honourable rapporteur, Ms Reps, has not identified even a single case – not even one concrete fact – of violation of the rights of human rights defenders. Moreover, the report evaluates the situation in Georgia regarding the protection of human rights as significantly improved compared with the previous period. That is why the majority of the Georgian delegation ask you to support Sub-Amendment 2.

      Does anyone wish to speak against Sub-Amendment 2?

      I call Ms Taktakishvili.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – It is a pity that representatives of the Georgian Government voice here the position of their Prime Minister, which is every day to attack the NGOs and threaten them with the release of compromising materials. I need your support to support 52 Georgian NGOs. I regret that I have to raise the issue, but you need to know that the committee supported the amendment in its original version.

      The PRESIDENT* – The mover of the amendment is obviously against.

      What is the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on Sub-Amendment 2?

      Mr SCHWABE (Germany) – No position was taken.

      The PRESIDENT* – I shall now put the sub-amendment to the vote.

      Sub-Amendment 2 is rejected.

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

      What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr SCHWABE (Germany) – It was agreed unanimously.

      The PRESIDENT* – I shall now put the amendment, as amended, to the vote.

      Amendment 2, as amended, is agreed to.

      We come to Amendment 3.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – As we have amended Amendment 2, I will not press Amendment 3.

      The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish nevertheless to consider it? That is not the case.

      We will now proceed to a vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13943, as amended. A simple majority is required.

      The vote is open.

      The draft resolution in Document 13943, as amended, is adopted, with 67 votes for, 18 against and 3 abstentions.

      I understand that the chairperson of the committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 4 and 5 to the draft recommendation, which were unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

      Is that so, Mr Schwabe?

      Mr SCHWABE (Germany) – Yes.

The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone object? That is not the case.

      Amendments 4 and 5 are adopted.

      We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 13943, as amended. A simple majority is required.

      The vote is open.

      The draft recommendation in Document 13943, as amended, is adopted, with 68 votes for, 10 against and 7 abstentions.

      We now come to the second report. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft resolution on “How to prevent inappropriate restrictions on NGO activities in Europe”, to which five amendments have been tabled.

      The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has also presented a draft recommendation on “How to prevent inappropriate restrictions on NGO activities in Europe”, to which one amendment has been tabled.

      We shall take the amendments tabled to the draft resolution first.

      Mr MULLEN (Ireland) – On a point of order, Mr President. I am sorry that this did not occur to me or to anybody else on the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights this morning. Nonetheless, in the first paragraph of the resolution, the intention might have been to pay tribute to those NGOs whose work had strengthened human rights, democracy and the rule of law in their States. However, because there is a comma after “(NGOs)”, we are paying tribute to every NGO no matter what they stand for. I do not think that was the intention. Could I propose an oral amendment at this point? I am really sorry that I spotted it only at this late hour, but I think the committee will want to support it.

      The PRESIDENT* – Very well, so this is an editorial correction – a drafting amendment.

      I understand that the chairperson of the committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendment 2 to the draft resolution, which was unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

      Is that so, Mr Schwabe?

      Mr SCHWABE (Germany) – Yes.

      The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone object? That is not the case.

      Amendment 2 is adopted.

      The PRESIDENT* – Mr Rochebloine, who was supposed to move Amendments 3 and 4, is not in the Chamber. Does anyone wish to move the amendments?

      That is not the case.

      We come to Amendment 5. I call Mr Farmanyan to support the amendment.

      Mr FARMANYAN (Armenia) – This amendment was adopted by the committee. It calls on member States to put matters relating to human rights and democracy at the top of the agenda when dealing with Azerbaijan on a bilateral level. That is especially important given that President Aliyev, as we all know very well, sometimes plays pan-European organisations, such as this one and the European Parliament. It is important to have these issues on the agenda at bilateral level.

      The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Mr Vusal Huseynov.

Mr V. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – I would like to speak against it because it is not in line with the logic of paragraph 5. The amendment should be rejected because it reduces the scope of the resolution and makes it one-sided. We therefore call on colleagues to reject it.

      The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr SCHWABE (Germany) – The committee was in favour.

      The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      Amendment 5 is adopted.

      Mr Rochebloine is not in the Chamber; does anyone else wish to move Amendment 6?

      That is not the case.

      We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13940, as amended. A simple majority is required.

      The vote is open.

      The draft resolution in Document 13940, as amended, is adopted, with 70 votes for, 16 against and 1 abstention.

      We now move on to the draft recommendation in Document 13940, to which one amendment was tabled. I call Mr Mullen to support Amendment 1. You have 30 seconds.

      Mr MULLEN (Ireland) – Go raibh maith agat, Mr President. As I said earlier, the amendment simply seeks to commit the Council of Europe to having an open, clear and transparent application procedure for INGOs. The fact that the Secretary General has conceded that he needs to revisit the issue expresses a tacit understanding that things are not as they should be. It strengthens the report if, in our recommendation, we commit the Council of Europe to having a fair procedure, including an appellate procedure. That protects us against charges of hypocrisy.

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

      Mr CRUCHTEN (Luxembourg) – In the amendment, we are speaking about one case, and not, as was suggested earlier, a structural problem.

      Mr MULLEN (Ireland) – That is not correct.

       Mr CRUCHTEN (Luxembourg) – Mr Mullen, the rules on participatory status for NGOs are being reviewed at this very moment by none other than our Secretary General, Mr Jagland, so I am against the amendment.

      The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr SCHWABE (Germany) – The committee is against.

      The PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      Amendment 1 is rejected.

      We will now proceed to vote on the draft recommendation contained in Document 13940. A two-thirds majority is required.

      The vote is open.

      The draft recommendation in Document 13940 is adopted with 66 votes for, 16 against, and 1 abstention.

      My congratulations to Ms Reps and Mr Cruchten.

4. 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 on Monday morning.

      The sitting is closed.

      (The sitting was closed at 7.50 p.m.)


1. Change in speaking limit

2. The situation in Kosovo and the role of the Council of Europe

Presentation by Mr Mogens Jensen of the report of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, Document 13939

Speakers: Ms Mateu, Mr Pritchard, Mr Hanžek, Mr Korodi, Ms Gosselin-Fleury, Ms Djurović, Mr Obradović, Mr Manninger, Mr Dokle, Mr Vareikis, Ms Günay, Ms Leskaj, Mr Nikoloski, Mr Vasili, Mr Bylybashi, Mr Le Borgn', Mr Önal, Mr Rouquet, Mr Gunnarsson, Ms Jonica.

Amendments 3, 2 and 7, and 4, 5, and 6, as amended, adopted

Draft resolution in Document 13939, as amended, adopted

3. Strengthening the protection and role of human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States and how to prevent inappropriate restictions on NGO activities in Europe?

Presentation by Ms Reps of the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Document 13943

Presentation by Mr Cruchten of the report of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Document 13940

Speakers: Ms Usta, Mr Kürkçü, Mr Stroe, Mr Schwabe, Ms Zelienková, Mr Dişli, Mr Reiss, Ms Beselia, Ms Kobakhidze, Ms Mateu, Ms Christoffersen, Mr Mullen, Ms Zohrabyan, Ms Kerestecioğlu Demir, Ms Karapetyan, Mr Harangozó, Mr Hollik, Ms Heinrich, Mr R. Huseynov, Ms Palihovici, Mr Farmanyan, Mr Kiral, Ms Le Dain, Ms Sutter, Mr Nissinen, Ms Taktakishvili, Mr Zourabian

Amendments 1 and 2, as amended, adopted

Draft resolution in Document 13943 as amended, adopted

Amendments 4 and 5 adopted

Draft recommendation in Document 139434, as amended, adopted

Amendments 2 and 5 adopted

Draft resolution in Document 13940, as amended, adopted

Draft recommendation in Document 13940 adopted

4. Next public business

Appendix I

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



Brigitte ALLAIN/Anne-Yvonne Le Dain

Jean-Charles ALLAVENA*

Werner AMON*


Lord Donald ANDERSON*

Paride ANDREOLI/Augusto Michelotti

Sirkka-Liisa ANTTILA*


Iwona ARENT*

Khadija ARIB*

Volodymyr ARIEV

Anna ASCANI/Tamara Blazina



David BAKRADZE/Chiora Taktakishvili

Gérard BAPT/Genevičve Gosselin-Fleury


José Manuel BARREIRO*


Guto BEBB*

Marieluise BECK*




Sali BERISHA/Oerd Bylykbashi

Włodzimierz BERNACKI*

Anna Maria BERNINI/ Claudio Fazzone

Maria Teresa BERTUZZI*




Oleksandr BILOVOL/Serhii Kiral

Ľuboš BLAHA/Darina Gabániová


Maryvonne BLONDIN/Catherine Quéré

Tilde BORK*

Mladen BOSIĆ*



Margareta BUDNER*




Irakli CHIKOVANI/Eka Beselia

Vannino CHITI*






Zsolt CSENGER-ZALÁN/Jenő Manninger

Katalin CSÖBÖR*

Geraint DAVIES*






Sergio DIVINA*

Aleksandra DJUROVIĆ




Daphné DUMERY/Andries Gryffroy

Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE*


Josette DURRIEU/Jean-Claude Frécon



Lady Diana ECCLES*


Franz Leonhard EẞL*




Cătălin Daniel FENECHIU

Doris FIALA/Manuel Tornare

Daniela FILIPIOVÁ/Ivana Dobešová





Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Martin FRONC


Sir Roger GALE/Paul Scully



Iryna GERASHCHENKO/Sergiy Vlasenko

Tina GHASEMI/Boriana Ĺberg


Francesco Maria GIRO

Pavol GOGA

Carlos Alberto GONÇALVES

Oleksii GONCHARENKO/Vladyslav Golub

Rainer GOPP

Alina Ștefania GORGHIU*




Gergely GULYÁS/István Hollik

Emine Nur GÜNAY






Andrzej HALICKI*

Alfred HEER/Roland Rino Büchel



Martin HENRIKSEN/Rasmus Nordqvist




Johannes HÜBNER*

Andrej HUNKO*


Ekmeleddin Mehmet İHSANOĞLU*


Denis JACQUAT/André Schneider



Tedo JAPARIDZE/Guguli Magradze


Michael Aastrup JENSEN*



Florina-Ruxandra JIPA/Viorel Riceard Badea

Ögmundur JÓNASSON*

Aleksandar JOVIČIĆ/Dejan Kovačević





Niklas KARLSSON/Azadeh Rojhan Gustafsson







Bogdan KLICH*


Haluk KOÇ/Metin Lütfi Baydar

Željko KOMŠIĆ/Saša Magazinović


Ksenija KORENJAK KRAMAR/Anže Logar



Rom KOSTŘICA/Gabriela Pecková


Tiny KOX

Borjana KRIŠTO*


Julia KRONLID/Johan Nissinen

Eerik-Niiles KROSS*


Ertuğrul KÜRKÇÜ



Pierre-Yves LE BORGN’

Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT*


Valentina LESKAJ


Inese LĪBIŅA-EGNERE/Boriss Cilevičs




François LONCLE*



Philippe MAHOUX/Petra De Sutter


Thierry MARIANI*

Soňa MARKOVÁ/Pavel Holík



Alberto MARTINS*

Meritxell MATEU


Michael McNAMARA*

Sir Alan MEALE/Virendra Sharma



Ana Catarina MENDES*

Attila MESTERHÁZY/Gábor Harangozó

Jean-Claude MIGNON/Frédéric Reiss

Marianne MIKKO


Arkadiusz MULARCZYK*

Thomas MÜLLER/Jean-Pierre Grin


Hermine NAGHDALYAN/Naira Karapetyan

Marian NEACȘU*



Miroslav NENUTIL


Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI




Judith OEHRI




Joseph O’REILLY/Rónán Mullen

Kate OSAMOR/Liam Byrne

Tom PACKALÉN/Anne Louhelainen



Ganira PASHAYEVA/Elshan Musayev

Florin Costin PÂSLARU*


Agnieszka POMASKA*

Cezar Florin PREDA

John PRESCOTT/Phil Wilson


Gabino PUCHE




Christina REES

Mailis REPS*

Andrea RIGONI*



Helena ROSETA*



Vincenzo SANTANGELO/Maria Edera Spadoni






Ingjerd SCHOU




Predrag SEKULIĆ*

Aleksandar SENIĆ*







Arturas SKARDŽIUS/Egidijus Vareikis

Jan ŠKOBERNE/Matjaž Hanžek



Lorella STEFANELLI/Gerardo Giovagnoli



Ionuț-Marian STROE





Goran TUPONJA/Snežana Jonica

İbrahim Mustafa TURHAN/Burhanettin Uysal

Konstantinos TZAVARAS*

Leyla Şahin USTA


Snorre Serigstad VALEN/Tore Hagebakken




Birutė VĖSAITĖ/Dalia Kuodytė


Vladimir VORONIN*

Viktor VOVK



Karl-Georg WELLMANN*

Katrin WERNER*

Jacek WILK

Andrzej WOJTYŁA*

Morten WOLD/Ingebjřrg Godskesen

Bas van ‘t WOUT*

Gisela WURM*



Tobias ZECH



Emanuelis ZINGERIS*



Vacant Seat, Croatia*

Vacant Seat, Croatia*

Vacant Seat, Croatia*

Vacant Seat, Croatia*

Vacant Seat, Cyprus*

Vacant Seat, Spain/Pedro Azpiazu

Vacant Seat, Spain/José María Chiquillo

Vacant Seat, Spain*

Vacant Seat, Spain*

Vacant Seat, Spain*

Vacant Seat, Spain*

Vacant Seat, Republic of Moldova*


Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote

Sílvia Eloďsa BONET



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