AS (2017) CR 11



(Second part)


Eleventh sitting

Monday 24 April 2017 at 3.00 p.m.

In this report:

1.       Speeches in English are reported in full.

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

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

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

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

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

(Sir Roger Gale, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 3.05 p.m.)

      The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open. Before I welcome our guest, I ask the Secretary General of the Assembly to explain where and when the hearing of the President will take place.

      Mr SAWICKI (Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) – The hearing of the President that the Assembly has asked for will take place tomorrow from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in Room 1 on the second floor. The hearing will be open to members of the Assembly exclusively. Interpretation will be provided in the six official and working languages of the Assembly, and in Spanish. This information will now be sent to all delegations and political groups in such a way that it will reach all members of the Assembly in time. Thank you, President.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you. I trust that is clear. This is an important event, and I am willing to take questions, very briefly, if anybody has any, but I assume that that information is adequate for our purposes.

1. Communication from the Committee of Ministers

      The PRESIDENT – The first item of business this afternoon is the communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Assembly, presented by Mr Ioannis Kasoulides, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus and Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers. This will be followed by questions to Mr Kasoulides. Sir, the floor is yours.

      Mr KASOULIDES (Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers) – Mr President, Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, members of the Parliamentary Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, the 127th session of the Committee of Ministers, to be held in Nicosia on 19 May, will mark the end of the Cyprus chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. It will provide an opportunity for an initial review of the results of our chairmanship, and for gauging our success in attaining the objectives that we set ourselves.

      Rather than getting ahead of myself as regards that discussion, I wish to consider with you today a number of issues of concern to the Committee of Ministers, which are all challenges that we must tackle together. The first is still, sadly, the threat of terrorism, which continues to claim many victims on European soil and elsewhere. In recent weeks, we have seen terrible attacks in London, St Petersburg and Stockholm. On behalf of the Committee of Ministers, I firmly condemned those attacks and sent condolences to the families of the victims. I today want to convey the same message of sympathy to the French people after the attack in Paris last week.

      We must relentlessly pursue the combat into which we have been drawn by the terrorist groups behind these cowardly and criminal attacks. We must carry on the fight, making the best possible use of the instruments at our member States’ disposal, including those provided by the Council of Europe. In this connection, I am pleased to see that the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism, which makes being recruited or training for terrorism, or financing it, a criminal offence, will enter into force on 1 July, following the sixth ratification required. I ask you to use your influence in your respective national parliaments to ensure that this protocol, already signed by 28 member States and the European Union, quickly garners more signatures and ratifications. I had the privilege of signing the protocol on behalf of Cyprus just this morning.

      The fate of victims of terrorism, who are all too often forgotten, is also a source of grave concern. In this respect too we are about to take a major step forward at the level of the Council of Europe, as the revised guidelines on the protection of victims of terrorist acts should be submitted to the Committee of Ministers for adoption on 19 May in Nicosia. This text is not only an official recognition of the suffering endured by the victims of terrorist acts and their families, but a means of improving assistance for them by responding more aptly to their specific needs.

      In addition to attacks against people, terrorists also target our common history and heritage. Last January, I told you that a Convention on offences relating to cultural property was being prepared. I am delighted that work has progressed so quickly, and I want to thank you for agreeing to give an opinion on the draft Convention at this week’s session. The Committee of Ministers awaits that opinion with interest and with a view, I hope, to adopting the Convention and opening it for signature at the Ministerial Session in Nicosia. The adoption of that convention will be an important step in our efforts to combat the financing of terrorism at a time when terrorist groups are increasingly resorting to trafficking in cultural property to fund their criminal activities.

      We must not overlook the fact that the fight against terrorism also calls for long-term measures aimed at preventing its causes, including by promoting education to prevent violent extremism and radicalisation. Last month, as part of the Cyprus chairmanship’s programme, a ministerial conference on "Securing democracy through education" brought together representatives from 39 member States in Nicosia and, in particular, enabled the ministers present to discuss implementation of the reference framework devised in the Council of Europe for competences for democratic culture. That reference framework is currently being tested in no fewer than 16 countries. I welcome the keen interest taken by member States, as well as by the successive chairmanships of the Committee of Ministers, in a project that was launched by the Andorran chairmanship in 2013 and then included in the Action Plan against terrorism adopted under the Belgian chairmanship in 2015.

      The migration crisis is another major challenge for Europe today. Those most directly affected by the crisis are obviously the migrants and refugees themselves. They are entitled to the protection afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights in the same way as anyone else within the jurisdiction of member States. As a guardian of democratic values and a pillar of human rights protection in Europe, the Council of Europe has a duty to remain vigilant over the protection of migrants’ and refugees’ rights. I am pleased to see that the issue is particularly close to the Assembly’s heart, as demonstrated by the holding of two debates directly linked to this issue this week: on funding of emergency refugee situations and on gender-based violence, of which women refugees are potential victims. The Committee of Ministers continues to monitor closely the situation of migrants and refugees. The Ministers’ Deputies hold regular exchanges of views with Ambassador Tomáš Boček, the Secretary General’s Special Representative on migration and refugees, who last month presented to them a thematic report on migrant and refugee children, which forms the basis of the draft action plan now being examined by the Deputies. That draft action plan is intended to give child refugees and migrants, unaccompanied minors in particular, access to procedures tailored for them to ensure that they benefit from better protection and to improve their integration in host societies. I hope that the action plan can be adopted by the 47 ministers for foreign affairs in Cyprus next month.

      Unfortunately, there are some outspoken individuals in Europe who do not hesitate to exploit the challenges posed to our democratic societies by terrorism and the migration crisis. We increasingly hear viewpoints that are none too compatible with, or even hostile to, our values, exploiting the growing fragility and creeping fears in our societies. We must all take a stand against the rise of racism and intolerance that threatens the cohesion of our societies. We are all concerned and duty bound to mobilise our efforts – parliamentarians, members of governments, local politicians, representatives of civil society, and members of the public alike. On 21 March, the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination, I made a statement in my capacity as Chair of the Committee of Ministers reiterating our collective duty to stand against racism and all forms of discrimination.

      Promoting inclusive societies, where all members enjoy equal rights without racial distinction or discrimination of any kind, is one of the priorities of our chairmanship, and we are therefore particularly pleased that the Council of Europe’s new strategy for the 80 million people with disabilities living in Europe was officially launched in Nicosia in March.

      An inclusive society means that all its members should benefit from a minimum level of material well-being as guaranteed by the European Social Charter. It was to promote this treaty that we organised a conference last month with the main theme of national and international courts furthering social rights in Europe. Your debate this week on fighting income inequality as a means of fostering social cohesion and economic development will be very much in line with and build on the discussions we held in Nicosia.

      Besides the topics I have just mentioned, there are a number of political questions that continue to be of concern to the Committee.

      I would first like to mention the aftermath of the conflict in Georgia in August 2008. This question remains a topic of concern for the Committee of Ministers, which had a new report submitted to it by the Secretary General last week. The Ministers’ Deputies will shortly have the task of deciding on follow-up to that report.

      The situation in Ukraine continues to be another focal point, three years after the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. Although tensions remain high on the international and European scene, it is important to move forward through dialogue, while maintaining a firm stance on compliance with the principles of international law, so that the rights of individuals are fully respected, in line with the European Convention on Human Rights. My thoughts go out first and foremost to the very large number of refugees and displaced persons and also those living in parts of eastern Ukraine where clashes again took place only recently. Finally, I think of the members of all the minority groups: ethnic, religious, linguistic and others. I commend the efforts made by the Secretary General and also the Commissioner for Human Rights to keep the fate of those people in the spotlight and ensure that their rights are safeguarded.

      Finally, the situation in Turkey is a further consideration. The exchange of views between the Ministers’ Deputies and the Turkish Minister of Justice in March was an opportunity to take stock of the situation following the measures taken by the Turkish authorities after last year’s coup attempt, and the importance of acting in conformity with the European Convention on Human Rights was once again reiterated in this context. The referendum of 16 April generated a lot of reaction both inside and outside Turkey. The Ministers’ Deputies held a discussion on this issue at their meeting last week. The Secretary General has invited the Turkish authorities to proceed cautiously following the referendum. I can only subscribe to this call. I would also like to reiterate the importance of ensuring respect for the Council of Europe’s principles and standards, in particular regarding respect for human rights, including the prohibition of the death penalty, and the independence of the judiciary. The Council of Europe stands ready to continue to assist Turkey in this respect.

      Outside the geographical area of the Council of Europe, the situation in Belarus calls for some comments. First, another death sentence was unfortunately handed down last month, which I deplore. It is crucial that the Belarusian authorities demonstrate their desire to draw closer to the Council of Europe by taking firm steps towards the introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty. The arrests made in connection with the protests held last month are another cause for concern with respect to our Organisation’s values, particularly the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

      I would not wish to end my statement without mentioning the Council of Europe’s policy regarding neighbouring regions, whose representatives I am pleased to see in attendance today. As you know, our chairmanship sets great store by this, and that is why we have invited representatives from southern Mediterranean countries to participate in several of the events we have organised. The last of these was the workshop we ran at the beginning of April with the Venice Commission in Nicosia on the theme of “Interaction between Constitutional Courts and similar jurisdictions and ordinary courts”, to which we had the pleasure of welcoming judges from courts and constitutional courts, as well as ordinary courts, in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian National Authority and Tunisia.

      Those were the topics I wished to bring up today. Several of them will be on the agenda of the Ministerial Session in Nicosia next month. I look forward to receiving the President there. But it is clear that, beyond the Ministerial Session, these questions will remain on the agenda of the Council of Europe over the coming months. Accordingly, it is important that the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, as well as the Secretary General, continue to concert their efforts to face up to the numerous challenges confronting Europe today.

      You may rest assured that my country will continue to contribute to those efforts when its chairmanship is over. In this connection I express my full support and best wishes for the future Czech chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. I also express my deep gratitude to your Assembly and to the Secretary General, for the excellent co-operation maintained since the beginning of our chairmanship. Thank you for your attention. I am willing to take questions.

      The PRESIDENT – Thank you, Mr Kasoulides. We will now proceed to questions. I remind colleagues that questions must be limited to 30 seconds. It is, of course, unnecessary for me to remind colleagues that they should ask questions, not make statements.

      I call Mr Zingeris, but he is not here, so I call Mr Rouquet.

      Mr ROUQUET (France, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – I wish to thank you, Minister, for the message that you have sent out, especially with regard to the attack in Paris last week. A growing number of States are refusing to implement the judgments of the European Convention on Human Rights, either blatantly like the United Kingdom and Russia, or de facto such as in Azerbaijan. Questions are even being raised in Denmark. The day will come when the other States wonder why they are making a big effort to implement the judgments of the European Court, and our whole system of human rights will be ruined. What can we do about this?

      Mr KASOULIDES – I thank the representative for his question, which is very pertinent, about maintaining the authority of the European Court of Human Rights. There has been a discussion in the Committee of Ministers about the worrying trend in a number of member States questioning the binding nature of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, which forms the very basis of the system for the protection of human rights in Europe. The member States of the Council of Europe have all agreed to be bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, including Article, 46 which requires States to comply with the Court’s judgments. Abiding by the Convention is a fundamental commitment linked to membership of the Organisation. The Convention system has played a major role in improving human rights protection in our continent in countless ways. There are many examples of the positive effects of the Convention in member States. As politicians, we should emphasise that. We must also underline and explain the important role that the Convention system has played and continues to play in protecting human rights, the rule of law and democratic values.

      Mr HOWELL (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – Minister, how is corruption within this Assembly seen by the Committee of Ministers? Is the committee happy with how it is being dealt with? Is it correct that you are not happy with it and that you are planning a meeting shortly to consider cutbacks in the budget of this Assembly?

      Mr KASOULIDES – I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. First of all, I would like to say that the Council of Europe has a leading role in fighting corruption as corruption poses a major threat to its core values – particularly the rule of law. The allegations of corruption concerning members of the Parliamentary Assembly are a very serious matter, which strikes at the heart of the Council of Europe and its values. The credibility of the whole Organisation is at stake. I trust that your Assembly will initiate an independent external investigation and, if need be, take the action that the situation requires.

      On the second part of the honourable gentleman’s question, let me first say that the Committee of Ministers has not envisaged and is not at present, as far as I know, planning to envisage taking any actions regarding the budget of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. On the budget itself, making the Organisation more relevant and more flexible and ensuring greater value for money is a clear priority of the Committee of Ministers. Significant progress has been made in this respect through the reform process initiated by the Secretary General in 2009. At a time when Europe is facing major challenges such as terrorism, the ongoing refugee crisis and other threats to democratic security, we must provide the Organisation with the necessary means to address them effectively. The preparation of the next Programme and Budget (2018-2019) has started. No decision has yet been taken on the overall budgetary envelope. A first discussion among member States will take place in early May. I count on your support in national parliaments to ensure that the Organisation receives the financial resources it needs in these challenging times.

      Ms LUNDGREN (Sweden, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – I thank the Minister for his communication from the Committee of Ministers on a lot of important topics that we are dealing with. As you mentioned, today we face a lot of challenges and we hope to sort several of them out. Corruption was mentioned in a previous question – corruption concerning not only this Assembly but member States. I would like to hear a little more about where the Committee of Ministers is ready to take action on this issue in respect of the Parliamentary Assembly or member States.

      Mr KASOULIDES – Taking action in respect of the Parliamentary Assembly would not comply with the need for each organ in this Organisation to have its own independence and for one not to interfere in the affairs of the other. My strong belief is that honourable members of the Parliamentary Assembly are well able to take decisions that will be questioned by nobody in resolving this matter.

      On the issue of member States, there are previous instruments covering a number of issues such as money laundering and other issues pertaining to corruption, so the Council of Europe is in a position to have a look and to take up the matter if the need arises.

      Ms KAVVADIA (Greece, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – Dear Minister, we live in a historic time when virtually all the major post-war European achievements that we took for granted – the values and principles that we call European – are under threat. We even see the prospect of the reinstatement of the death penalty being raised under the guise of the will of the people. As Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, how have you experienced the return of the spectre of the death penalty and how would you suggest that the Council of Europe confronts it? Are there any specific actions that could prevent such a possibility?

      Mr KASOULIDES – I thank the honourable lady for her question. As you know, the Council of Europe has played a central role in the establishment of a death penalty-free zone in Europe. The Organisation can be very proud of that achievement. I hope that Belarus, the last country in Europe where, unfortunately, the death penalty is still applied, will join us by deciding on a moratorium and abandoning the death penalty. I can only reiterate the appeal to the Belarusian authorities to establish the moratorium as a first step towards the abolition of the death penalty.

      As far as the situation in Turkey is concerned, I would like to inform you that no later than last week the Committee adopted a decision reaffirming its unequivocal opposition to the death penalty, including any reintroduction of it.

      The PRESIDENT – I am going to make an exception. Ordinarily, group spokesmen should be here at the start of the proceedings, but I do not wish to exclude people. I give the floor to Mr Zingeris.

      Mr ZINGERIS (Lithuania, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – Thank you, dear friends; I am sorry for not having been on time.

      My question relates to the fact that last week we received horrible news about the extermination, abduction, secret detention and torture of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Chechnya. This is a new challenge to the Council of Europe. This State-orchestrated mass persecution is clear and evident. The groups are holding hearings today about this issue. Minister, will you say a few encouraging words about how the Committee of Ministers will react, especially given that ambassadors are having a meeting tomorrow about these events?

      Mr KASOULIDES – I thank the honourable gentleman. The Committee of Ministers has discussed the alarming reports that gay men have been detained, tortured and – in two cases – killed in the Republic of Chechnya. All individuals, regardless of sexuality, are entitled to the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights. I trust that the preliminary investigations initiated by the Russian authorities will be rapidly completed in order fully to investigate those reports and that, if any are found to be true, those authorities will bring to justice those responsible. Urgent steps should also be taken to protect LGBTI people in Chechnya. The Committee of Ministers will continue to monitor the situation

      The PRESIDENT – I will now take questions from the Floor. To expedite matters, I will group them in threes.

      Ms BLONDIN (France)* – Eastern Ukraine is a difficult area to access. We have just found out that an OSCE observer has died there. What is the Council of Europe doing to help the parties to implement the Minsk agreements? Is there synergy between the Council of Europe and the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe)?

      Mr BILLSTRÖM (Sweden) – I thank you, Minister, for being with us today and for the hospitality shown by the Government of Cyprus during my visit there recently as Deputy Speaker of the Swedish Parliament. I know that you are here first and foremost as the Chair of the Committee of Ministers, but the outcome of the referendum in Turkey casts a long shadow over the peace process aimed at reunifying Cyprus. Could you elaborate on that issue and on how you think things stand now?

      Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – The United States has declared that it intends to use nuclear weapons against North Korea. Owing to the large distances involved, the complications of that nuclear confrontation will not reach Europe. However, in the meantime, Armenia is spreading the news that it will explode, through rocket attacks, Azerbaijan’s energy reserve centres and its oil and gas transmission pipelines to Europe, and that it will use nuclear weapons against Azerbaijan. What steps can the Committee of Ministers take to prevent those aggressive intentions of Armenia, for the salvation of millions of Europeans?

      Mr KASOULIDES – On Ukraine, I thank the honourable member for his question. I was very sad to learn of the death of an OSCE monitor in the Luhansk region yesterday. I express my condolences to the family of that person. I pay tribute to the work done by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine under very difficult circumstances. It is essential that the mission can carry out its task without any hindrance and in full security.

      As you know, the Council of Europe is not involved in security issues. However, as the Committee of Ministers has stressed on a number of occasions, all parties concerned must strictly respect the Minsk agreements and take all necessary steps for their swift and full implementation. It is also essential that the Council of Europe monitoring bodies have full and unhindered access to eastern Ukraine, so that they can carry out their activities unimpeded and in accordance with their mandate urgently to address the situation regarding human rights and fundamental freedoms.

      The honourable member from Sweden, whom I had the pleasure of receiving in my office in Nicosia, is right in the sense that, now that the Turkish referendum is over, there is no further excuse for not advancing to resolve the remaining parts of each and every chapter in the negotiations. I will not hide from the Assembly the fact that those negotiations are not advancing as the momentum previously achieved suggested they would. Let us hope that that is due to the recent referendum and that momentum will return.

      On North Korea and Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Committee of Ministers has not discussed and is not dealing with the political issues. We support the action plans for Armenia and Azerbaijan and we are ready to help with confidence-building measures for both sides. That being so, I reiterate the appeal made several times to both parties to refrain from any declaration or action that may increase tensions. Dialogue in the search for a peaceful solution is the only way forward.

      Mr CROWE (Ireland) – I come from Ireland, a small country that is partitioned. We are concerned about the impact that Brexit is going to have, but, on the main stumbling blocks in your own discussions on reunification, how do you see the breakthrough being made in those talks? Is there anything that this Assembly and individual members and individual countries can do to help those talks on the reunification of Cyprus to move on?

      Mr NOVYNSKYI (Ukraine)* – As we know, 48 people tragically died in Odessa on 2 May 2014; people were burned alive in a public building. There must be an independent inquiry. What is the Committee of Ministers doing to promote that inquiry and to get to the bottom of the matter?

      Ms CSÖBÖR (Hungary)* – We particularly welcome the fact that you have dedicated yourself to the protection of our cultural heritage and that you are trying to conclude a new convention on offences relating to cultural property. What other measures could we take to increase awareness of that issue and to follow up the pioneering work of this Organisation in that regard?

      Mr KASOULIDES – I thank the honourable member from Ireland for mentioning the fact that partition is never a solution to problems, particularly in the case of Cyprus. Every effort has to be made to ensure that the two parties and the other stakeholders, particularly Turkey, do their utmost to find a solution for the reunification of the island. I share his concerns regarding Brexit. Countries such as Ireland and Cyprus will be the most affected by that. However, we will do our best, through the negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom, to find answers to all the problems.

      I thank the Parliamentary Assembly for the role it has played over the years regarding Cyprus, and for dealing with specific consequences of the problem such as displaced and missing persons, cultural heritage and so forth.

      Another question was about Ukraine and the International Advisory Panel. In November 2015 the panel published its report on the Odessa investigations, which the president of the panel, Sir Nicolas Bratza, presented to the Ministers’ Deputies. In its decisions on Ukraine in April last year, the Committee of Ministers called upon the Ukrainian authorities to address fully the operational and structural deficiencies of the investigative proceedings revealed by the panel’s report and to take all appropriate action to follow up its considerations. I can only reiterate that appeal.

      The honourable member from Hungary raised the issue of cultural heritage. The protection and promotion of European cultural heritage constitutes an important part of the work of the Council of Europe. It is also a priority for the Cypriot chairmanship. We welcome and actively support the creation of the Council of Europe’s new convention on offences relating to cultural property, which will be the first international treaty on such criminality and the sanctions against unlawful activities in the field of cultural heritage. As indicated, our objective is to have the new convention ready for the Committee of Ministers meeting in Nicosia on 19 May. I thank your Assembly for having agreed to give an opinion on the draft convention at this sitting. We look forward to receiving that opinion.

      In addition, earlier this month the Council of Europe’s European cultural heritage strategy for the 21st century was launched in Limassol. As our chairmanship comes to an end, we will continue to support the work of the Organisation in this field.

      Mr ŠIRCELJ (Slovenia) – Europe is facing new challenges. In your speech, Minister, you mentioned terrorism and the fight against it, the refugee crisis and the situation in Turkey. In connection with the refugee issue, what is the position of ministers on the security of Europe, taking into consideration the stability of the agreement between the European Union and Turkey?

      The PRESIDENT – As Mr Troy is not here, that is the last question.

      Mr KASOULIDES – The treatment of refugees and asylum seekers must be in full compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and other relevant international instruments. Assurances have been given that every asylum application will be treated individually, with no blanket returns or refoulements. Any decisions to return asylum seekers or irregular migrants must comply with the relevant international instruments, as must the conditions in the reception facilities where they are accommodated, whether open or closed. It is crucial for those principles to be respected without exception.

      Turkey’s constitutional referendum of 16 April being over, I repeat that the Council of Europe’s standards and values must remain guiding principles. There are agreements between the European Union and Turkey and, in my personal opinion – this is not a collective position of the Committee of Ministers – all agreements have to be respected.

      The PRESIDENT – That brings to an end the questions to Mr Kasoulides. On behalf of the Assembly, I thank you for your answers this afternoon. We are indebted to you. Thank you very much indeed.

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

2. Free debate

      The PRESIDENT – We now come to the free debate. I remind members that this debate is for topics not already on the agenda agreed this morning. Speaking time is limited to three minutes. The free debate will finish at 5 p.m.

      Mr LE BORGN’ (France, Spokesperson for the Socialist Group)* – This afternoon I am seizing the opportunity to draw the attention of our Assembly, the Committee of Ministers and our members to the situation of Alexey Pichugin, who has been behind bars in Russia since 2003. The circumstances are known to the European Court of Human Rights and, in fact, the Court has found against those circumstances. I refer you to its ruling. It is important for us in the Parliamentary Assembly to give some thought to his situation.

      Mr Pichugin was the first person arrested in what came to be known as the Yukos case, which the Russian regime used to expropriate a company and to expel its directors who were considered to be political opponents. Mr Pichugin was responsible for security matters in Yukos and, 14 years down the road, he is still being deprived of his freedom. His prison sentence was for 20 years, subsequently being made a life sentence for murder and attempted murder. He has always contested the accusation, and no evidence has ever been produced to prove the charges.

      The European Court of Human Rights required that Mr Pichugin should be given a fair trial, but that has not happened. Mr Pichugin has never been able to defend himself in any acceptable way. He has been interrogated without the presence of his lawyers and his close family have been threatened with arrest if he refuses to collaborate with the authorities against the former directors of Yukos.

      Mr Pichugin is imprisoned in Siberia, where the conditions are sordid, degrading and threatening to his health. I wish to speak out against that fundamental violation of the European Convention on Human Rights by the Russian Federation, against the lack of respect for the judgment handed down by the Court, and against methods that are tantamount to moral torture. We are talking about political persecution and a break with the rule of law and the values of the Council of Europe. As a member of parliament, it is my duty to speak out against those things. There can be no place for such inhumanity in our community of law.

      In 2005, our then colleague Ms Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger drew our attention to the situation of Alexey Pichugin. Since then, 12 years have gone by and nothing has changed. In fact, the situation is even worse. The European Court of Human Rights is apparently causing the Russian authorities headaches, and in fact a law adopted last year means that the Russian courts can depart from its case law. The abuse of power and political persecution continue, and that is why I wanted to speak today. I cannot remain silent when the human rights of an individual, Alexey Pichugin, are being negated, ignored and violated.

      The Earl of DUNDEE (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – My remarks today are on the case for a strengthened role for the Council of Europe – why it is desirable, how it should be structured and how, as a result, our 47 States can benefit.

      To protect democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe, we rely upon this institution. Yet we have done so in any case since 1949, so why should we do so to any greater extent now? The answer may be paradoxical. The European Union has a different agenda. So if that affiliation to the European Union happens to have become weaker, this in itself should not threaten our core principles and values at all. Nevertheless, it does so all the same, because confidence in all shared arrangements in Europe has reduced. As a result – if paradoxically – confidence has also reduced in Europe’s shared standards of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, even though their protection did not fall to the European Union in the first place. That is why it is now the duty of the Council of Europe to become much more active and assertive in safeguarding those values.

      In structuring a stronger and more effective role for the Council of Europe, a key player will be the Committee of Ministers. It is for that committee to adopt and promote planned guidelines on civil participation in political decision making. The drafting of guidelines appears to be under way in the relevant intergovernmental committee, and it is essential that the work be completed as soon as practicable. The adoption and publication of the guidelines ought certainly to be aimed for well before the end of this year.

      These guidelines must be practical, setting out recommended measures that, if applied in member States at all levels – national, regional and local – can ensure compliance with best practice so that our shared standards on participation become a reality everywhere. The participation of citizens is at the very heart of the idea of democracy; and effective civil participation is of course a necessary component of our representative democracies – it is what enables them to work at all. The guidelines thus need to highlight key elements such as openness, transparency, accountability and the importance of mutual respect between all actors, as well as setting out important fundamentals including the provision of information, consultation and dialogue.

      The United Kingdom may claim to have made some degree of progress. One example is our current neighbourhood planning policy, through which more than 2 000 groups representing nearly 10 million people have already started the process of neighbourhood planning, introduced in a parliamentary bill in 2012. That is a small example, but the benefits of a stronger Council of Europe to all our States will be pervasive and affect all parts of national life, thus enabling us to bring back to Europe its confidence, purpose and morale.

      Ms LUNDGREN (Sweden, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – I assure the Assembly that the ALDE group condemns and strongly deplores the visit of three high-ranking members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to Syria. We had some debate about that this morning. The situation in Syria is well known to most of us, because it is now in its seventh year, and we have all seen the ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity. The challenge to all of us is to find a way forward towards a solution to those crimes. The regime has used gas against its own people, and small children have been grasping on to life having been heavily bombed. We have seen that before, but now we see how Russia, one of our member States, is putting out fake news about what has happened to try to make us doubt what we have seen and what so many others have verified.

      Coming from Sweden, I have noticed that some Swedish doctors have become loyal fools of the Russian authorities, as other people have before. They have said that no gas was used. However, no one has heard of these doctors or seen anything of them before, so they are useful only to the Russian authorities in bringing forward their message. We must make it clear that we in the Assembly will not be used as fools in a way that makes it possible for crimes against humanity and war crimes to continue. I urge colleagues to be firm in demanding human rights for all people, even those in Syria.

      Mr ÖZSOY (Turkey, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – As many members of the Assembly know, we had a referendum in Turkey on 16 April. I will not talk about the content of the referendum, because there will be a lot of debates about that in the near future and there is a whole debate on Turkey coming up tomorrow. I am sure that many members will talk about the referendum in that debate.

      There was a highly uneven playing field for the yes and no campaigners. The government had almost full control over the media and used public resources – meaning people’s tax money – for political purposes. There was emergency rule country-wide, and there were thousands of documented irregularities.

      The PRESIDENT – Mr Özsoy, this issue has been scheduled for debate tomorrow. We cannot speak now about issues that are going to be discussed tomorrow. If you want to make comments, please do so, but you have to confine yourself to issues that are not scheduled for debate. If you want to talk about the referendum in Turkey, that will be covered tomorrow.

      Mr ÖZSOY (Turkey) – Mr President, if you will let me speak for one second, I will point out that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe sent a delegation to observe the referendum in Turkey, and that is what I want to talk about today.

      Members of the Assembly went to Turkey on the formal invitation of the Turkish Government, and then they released the preliminary findings of their mission. The government was not happy with those findings, because the delegation said that the referendum had been unfair and questioned the legitimacy of the result. But then what happened? The President and the Minister of foreign affairs, who was the chair of this Assembly at one point, criminalised Parliamentary Assembly members who were there at Turkey’s invitation. They were even accused of being supporters of terrorism, simply because the Government did not agree with the findings of their report on the referendum.

      It is crucial that this Assembly send a clear message to the Turkish Government about international observers who are there at the Government’s invitation, because when members of this Assembly go to other countries to observe an election, their personal safety is this Assembly’s responsibility as well. I say this because some members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe delegation were still in Turkey when their photos were on major TV channels, so people knew their faces before they left the country. We therefore urge the Assembly to send a clear message to Turkey that when it invites international observers, they should be treated in an appropriate and polite way, even when they disagree with the findings.

      Mr FEIST (Germany, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party)* – Basic human rights include freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and the ability to hold differing philosophical views, and it is the latter that I would like to refer to in talking about religious freedom and the protection of human rights.

      I am talking about a group who are not necessarily in our sights: persecuted Christians. It is important that we here state clearly that we are against violence against Christians. We saw the bloody assault on a church in Egypt against Christian Copts, and there have been similar assaults. Where Christians are in a minority, they are subject to the worst forms of persecution. There are countries where persecution is systematic, converting to Christianity is sanctioned and Christians are persecuted on the basis of their belief.

      I draw your attention to Christians in the Orient. It is our duty and responsibility to say that violations of the freedom of religion are always violations of human rights wherever they occur. A major Christian community, the Armenian community, was the subject of assassinations and persecutions some 102 years ago. Let me also draw your attention to a contemporary example. A few days ago, the highest court in the land in the Russian Federation banned Jehovah’s Witnesses. There may be very differing positions on the subject of Jehovah’s Witnesses. You do not necessarily have to be a fan, and I would not have thought that there were that many Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Russian Federation anyway. However, I do not know of any members of Jehovah’s Witnesses communities who are guilty of terrorist attacks or impinging on the rights of others. That is why it is important that we remind Russia that it has signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, which includes freedom of religion. Brushing everything under the carpet or using the pretext of extremist or terrorist activity is something I cannot accept, as a German national. Like few others, Jehovah’s Witnesses, alongside the Jews, were subject to systematic eradication and persecution. So, if the protection of human rights is important to us – if it is the most important responsibility incumbent on us – we should not forget the fundamental rights of Christians in the Orient.

      The PRESIDENT – We have now completed the list of speakers on behalf of political groups.

      I call Mr Ghiletchi, who is not here, so I call Mr Vusal Huseynov.

      Mr Vusal HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – Since our last session, the Azerbaijani people have commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Khojaly genocide, the international crime against humanity which took place in the occupied territory of Azerbaijan. I would like to draw your attention to this tragic event and to pay tribute to the victims of this genocide. More than 600 civilians were killed, including women, children and the elderly. However, the victims were not just those killed and their families, but each of us, and that will remain the case until those who are liable for this crime are punished and brought to justice.

      Armenian colleagues here are familiar with this tragedy, as those representing the leadership of their country today are directly involved in this crime. I would like to quote the President of Armenia, whose words can be easily found on the Internet. He said in an interview: “Before Khojaly, the Azerbaijani thought that they can joke with us; they thought that the Armenians were people who could not raise their hand against the civilian population. We were able to break that stereotype. And that’s what happened.” Those are the words of the President of a country that is a member of the Council of Europe.

      It is very important that we make our voices heard and we prevent such tragic events in future. The current occupation of Azerbaijani territories and the presence of Armenian troops there is the biggest threat to stability and peace in the region. We see the attitude of Armenia towards peace.

      I want to give an example of a civil society peace initiative recently launched by Armenian and Azerbaijani civil society activists: the Armenia-Azerbaijan Peace Platform. They joined together to establish this platform in order to contribute to the peace process. What was the reaction from the Armenian authorities? Civil society activists in Armenia were detained and taken to the police stations. They were called traitors in the media, and they received death threats. In this situation, how can we talk about peace? These are very important issues, and we should make our voices heard in order to help bring to justice those liable for these crimes.

      I finish by again paying tribute to all the victims of this genocide.

      Ms CROZON (France)* – The day after the first round of the presidential election in France, and just a few weeks before I leave office, I want to take advantage of this opportunity to express my concern about the future of democracy on our continent. Throughout Europe, populism is on the march. The electorate no longer vote with their hopes but their fears; they no longer vote to improve their status or to say what world they wish to build for their future, but rather, to express economic, social or cultural insecurity; they refuse the idea of others gaining access to the same rights they have, and stigmatise population groups who become their scapegoats, such as elected officials, the media, refugees, Muslims and homosexuals, among others.

      Throughout Europe, there is a feeling of resignation – that authority is being gradually taken from the hands of the politicians and is becoming the sole preserve of financial powers; that a change of power does not change anything in their lives. As we saw last week in Turkey, people are close to rejecting the freedoms they achieved, in the name of what they think will be greater security. But we know that when we turn our backs on freedom, it is never given back to us unless we wage a brutal struggle for it.

      The Council of Europe is a special forum. We place freedom of opinion above all else. We believe that all opinions expressed democratically are equally legitimate, but we also believe that there are sacred, inalienable rights and freedoms that belong to each woman, man and child, not because States have granted them, but because they are inseparable from the human condition. There can be no rule of law or democratic society if those rights and freedoms are not guaranteed.

      This shared heritage of human rights is our best defence against nationalism, because nationalism, as François Mitterrand said, is tantamount to war. Each and every one of us was politically created from the traumas of the 20th century, which are still with us, from the Second World War and the Shoah to colonial wars and the Cold War, and from the certainty that the European project held out the promise of peace. It is young people, more often than not, who fear for their future and are becoming the promoters of introspection. We must unceasingly teach them our history.

      I will therefore conclude by emphasising how vital education is for the future of our democracies. We need education to keep alive our democratic culture, our tolerance and our faith in internationalism, but also to ensure that each and every one of us has the same opportunities, so that progress is not confined to a few and is not dependent on where we were born, where we live or what our beliefs are, because it is frustration about inequality that is allowing populism to prosper today.

      Ms DURRIEU (France)* – Two French women have been called to speak, one after the other. I, too, would like to say a few words about the French election. But before that I want to comment on the statement made by our Turkish colleague. He made a number of observations on our role as referendum observers. I was there, along with 14 other colleagues. What our Turkish colleague said was not neutral. He rejected our criticisms, deeming them to be inappropriate and inaccurate. We have been dubbed “dangerous” observers, and “accomplices.” Members of the Turkish delegation, I expect some response from you tomorrow.

      Yesterday saw the first round of voting in the French presidential election. Madame Le Pen’s Front National did not obtain the result it had hoped for, and that we had feared. There will of course be a second round, but that is already the first bit of good news. First, the vote makes it clear that we do not want past presidents, past prime ministers or even past political parties. Secondly, the extremes did not benefit – neither the far right, nor the far left – and, contrary to what President Agramunt said this morning, populism is not winning everywhere. Let us hope that it is not going to win in France. Thirdly, traditional parties, such as the Republicans on the right and the Socialists on the left, have lost in France. Right and left have been deconstructed. Indeed, they have imploded. We cannot even use the terms “right” and “left” any more; we talk instead about the “progressive” forces in society, the “reformers” and the “conservatives.”

      I would like to make two observations. First, I think that democracy will progress. Democracy in France might undergo a period of profound change. There is a clear call for a renewal among the political classes, and an aspiration for different political objectives. I think that there is certainly work for all of us to do as we look to the future. Secondly, I think that Europe has won. Those who wanted to leave Europe and the euro have lost out as a result of yesterday’s vote. I am refuelled with hope as a result of the election. As we prepare for the second round in two weeks’ time, the challenges ahead of us are indeed considerable. Colleagues, we will certainly need your support. I think that we have much to do together, to redefine democracy and redefine Europe.

      Mr GONCHARENKO (Ukraine) – Dear colleagues, I am holding in my hands a respirator. Why? It is because millions of people in Syria are going to bed each night with a respirator in their hands, and it is the first thing they give their children when they go outside. That is because the Syrian regime is killing its own people with gas. Who is the main ally of Bashar al-Assad’s regime? It is the Russian regime of Mr Vladimir Putin. They are now trying to indulge in their war crimes using our institution, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

      How else are we to understand the visit by Mr Agramunt and other colleagues? It was an attempt to use our institution to indulge the Syrian regime. Any other conclusion is incorrect. We have heard some absolutely childish answers from our President. He said, “I went there to see what is happening in Aleppo.” But then he said, “I didn’t go to Aleppo; I just went there and met Bashar al-Assad.” He says he was there because he was invited by the Syrian Parliament. I am sorry, but he used a Russian military jet, from the Russian Ministry of Defence, to get to Damascus. It is completely unacceptable.

      I have here a photograph of the meeting between Bashar al-Assad with a delegation from the Russian Parliament, and who is sitting on the left of Bashar al-Assad? It is our President, Mr Agramunt. He is not even sitting on the Russian side; he is sitting right beside Bashar al-Assad. Then there are two other members of our Assembly. It is absolutely unacceptable.

      The reputation and authority of our Organisation is today in grave danger. A shadow has been cast over the whole institution, and over all of us. What will we say to the people in our own countries? They will ask, “Why was the person who chairs your meetings sitting next to Bashar al-Assad? What was he doing there?” Did Mr Agramunt ask somebody before deciding to go to Damascus? No, he asked nobody. I am sure that he should leave the position of President of the Parliamentary Assembly. He should resign voluntarily. It is the best way out of this situation.

      I have one quick thing to say to the Bureau. Mr Sawicki said that tomorrow’s meeting with Mr Agramunt will be open only to members of the Assembly. That is not transparent, because the meeting will be closed to journalists. That is not in accordance with the values of our Organisation. It should be open to absolutely everybody who is interested, including journalists and TV channels. I ask the Bureau to change its decision and make tomorrow’s meeting with Mr Agramunt open to everybody.

      Mr R. HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – In two weeks, Azerbaijan will host an international event of big social and political significance. It is a sporting event, and I do not focus on its social and political aspects casually. The 4th Islamic Solidarity Games, which will be attended by more than 5 000 sportsmen from more than 50 countries, as well as more than 15 000 tourists, cannot be perceived merely as a sporting event, because of its scope and essence. It is an important global event with an ongoing positive effect for now and the future, which is full of indispensable challenges.

      I note that two years ago Azerbaijan hosted a similar, magnificent international sporting event – in 2015, Baku hosted the 1st European Games. Azerbaijan has proved its openness to the world as a regulating bridge between religions, cultures and nations through the Eurovision Song Contest, international forums on inter-religious and intercultural dialogue, the Formula 1 Grand Prix and annual global humanitarian forums that have been organised in Baku. Along with demonstrating the role of Azerbaijan, a country belonging to both Europe and Asia, as a significant transmitter between East and West, all of those indicate that, having made tolerance and multiculturalism a mode of its life, Azerbaijan serves as the most proper arena for events that have the mission of uniting. It is necessary to underline that on the eve of such global events, we have witnessed the jealous approaches of certain forces at different levels, including those in the Council of Europe. However, history has obviously proved Baku’s eligibility for such events. In the absence of social and political stability, a healthy democratic atmosphere and an ideal tolerant space, one cannot gain such success.

      It is noteworthy that numerous non-Islamic sportsmen from Islamic countries participate in the Islamic Solidarity Games. A talisman of the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games is the Karabakh horse – a national treasure of Azerbaijan that serves as a symbol of courage and elegance. I like to believe that the Islamiad and other such goodwill international events will also contribute to shortening the way to the untying of the knot of Nagorno-Karabakh and the liberation of the occupied Azerbaijani territories.

      Mr Geraint DAVIES (United Kingdom) – Across Europe we see a fight between progressives and right-wing nationalists. We see it in France and we see it now in Britain with a snap general election, where the right-wing nationalists are, of course, the Conservative Party. Theresa May said that she would not have a snap general election. Now she is losing two months of the two years that Britain has to negotiate its departure from the European Union for party reasons, instead of for the country. We see her change her manifesto. The Conservatives said they wanted to be part of the single market; now they are saying they would leave. The Conservatives said they would not increase tax, VAT and national insurance; now they say they will. This election is about not just those values but Britain’s public finances. We will see fewer jobs because we will have less trade. We will have less income, which will mean higher income tax and other taxes. We will see cuts in public services. That is what a hard Brexit will mean for the British people. She thinks, because of the polls, that she can just sweep in and provide a near dictatorship that will cost jobs, tax and public services and undermine our environment and rights at work, which are currently underpinned. The Labour Party will, of course, negotiate on that.

      The United States sees now that the United Kingdom is easy prey for a trade deal. The Prime Minister has already said that she will negotiate to allow private insurance companies into the NHS. We will be abandoning REACH – the control on chemical safety – so that instead of companies having to prove that a chemical is safe, the Environmental Protection Agency, as it is in the United States, will have to prove that it is hazardous. That is why asbestos is allowed in the United States, and why hormone-impregnated foods and meats are eaten by children who end up having puberty prematurely. We have all that to look forward to in Britain, if it becomes a free-market tax haven without protections, lowering the costs of trade and exposing our citizens. Trump will be arguing hard so that he gets the best terms in such a deal. In Britain we are going to swap access for immigration control with Europe, but will obviously end up having to swap market access for more immigration from emerging markets, whether India, China or South America.

      We have a fight on our hands on the progressive side in Britain. The Labour Party is standing up for trade and jobs. The real risk is that a massive majority for the Conservative Party will mean a much harder Brexit. That will mean an attack on the fundamental values that we stand for in this place, because it will not be a balanced democracy, rights at work and human rights will be under attack, living standards will be under attack and our environment will be under attack too. From this place, I give my pledge to the British people: re-elect the Labour members who are there at the moment at least to have some balance and to blunt the teeth of the Tory wolf that would attack the very values we stand for here.

      Mr DİŞLİ (Turkey) – The countries of the Council of Europe are facing terrorist attacks, which are constantly on the increase and have been so since our last meeting – London, Stockholm, St Petersburg and Egypt. In Turkey we have suffered attacks such those of the PKK in Diyarbakır; there was a PKK terrorist attack recently that cost the lives of three civilians. I pay tribute to the memory of all those who have died in terrorist attacks and express my condolences to their loved ones.

      Is it possible to defend our values without making any discrimination in terms of terrorist organisations? Are we really sincere in our fight against terrorism and terrorists? Turkey has been successful in fighting against terrorist organisations and is an example in that respect. However, there are certain ideas in vogue about the PKK. The European Union considers it a terrorist organisation and yet the PKK continues its activities unimpeded in Europe. Those activities are listed in Europol’s reports, but some countries turn a blind eye to the PKK’s activities. Turkey has attempted to explain that the PKK funds its activities through drug trafficking, human trafficking and money laundering, but unfortunately all that falls on deaf ears. The PKK has garnered some €30 million in donations in Europe and has obtained some $2 billion from drug trafficking throughout Europe. In the last 10 years, Turkey has called for the extradition of some 485 terrorists under European Union treaties, but only 12 have been extradited. Recently, we have seen that some countries in Europe are openly coming out in support of this terrorist organisation and enabling the PKK to hold meetings, for example, and to use flags or photos of PKK leaders in some squares in Europe. It is difficult to comprehend and believe that in some police cars there are even terrorist flags being unfurled.

      Alongside the most respectable institutions in Europe we see propaganda being conducted – sometimes even within those institutions there is terrorist propaganda – and no one says anything about it. Unfortunately, the attitudes adopted by some European friends vis-ŕ-vis the PKK might boomerang and hit us in the face. Let us hope that our friends in Europe take a more principled stand on the subject in the future.

      The PRESIDENT – Ms Rodríguez Ramos is not here, so the next speaker is Ms Fataliyeva.

      Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan) – The World Wars, which used to threaten and horrify everyone around the world regardless of ethnicity and religion, are unfortunately becoming part of our lexicon and our lives. Gradually, we get used to such notions as intolerance, cruelty, hatred and so on. Thousands of children in Syria, Ukraine, Nagorno-Karabakh and many other places come under attack and have their lives turned upside down.

      In my country, Azerbaijan, children living on the frontline are shot by snipers, blown up by explosive devices, lose their families, and become orphans and refugees. Each and every child is scarred for life, with horrific consequences for their future health and well-being. The constant bullets prevent children from enjoying their childhood.

      The news coming from conflict zones has become a part of our routine and does not shock us any more, but the recent tragedy in Idlib, Syria, woke us all up. We all saw those terrible pictures of deadly chemical attacks that killed and poisoned young children and babies. Children died in the streets before help could arrive. Syria has been a living nightmare for children and families, who have been tormented for six years of war. That shows how critical the situation is, and how desperately help is needed. We must act now, before a generation of children in conflicts suffer wounds that may never heal, because every child deserves a future. It is not too late to help those children in conflict zones, and to save their lives. We have to ask ourselves whether we do enough to protect children, even if this Parliamentary Assembly sometimes cannot influence the peace processes and solve conflicts. We have to ask ourselves: should we not stop just talking and making statements, and start acting, and protecting children from the consequences of war, by making certain political decisions and mechanisms?

      Ms SOTNYK (Ukraine) – This morning, we were just two votes short of having in our agenda discussions about the visit to Syria by Pedro Agramunt and our colleagues from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Mr Jordi Xuclŕ and Alain Destexhe, but this is the only opportunity for us to speak about the consequences of the visit for the reputation of our Organisation.

      For many years, the Council of Europe’s main power lay in our reputation and morality, and now, because just a few people did not follow our principles, that morality is threatened. That is why our prompt reaction is very important. This one visit to Syria brings into question our decisions, not just in Europe but throughout the world, and our credibility. From that visit to Syria, we see how detrimental to the Organisation’s credibility the actions of individual members, especially the President, can be. A range of Russian and other media sources made it seem like an official visit of President Agramunt’s. Moreover, it was a direct statement that a member of the Parliamentary Assembly was following how successful the peacekeeping operations of Syrians and Russians were in the area. Unprecedentedly, one week after that statement on peacekeeping, many children and civilians were poisoned by these “peacekeepers”.

      Finally, I remind you that we have two resolutions on Syria. All of us, including the President and Mr Xuclŕ, voted in favour of them. According to those resolutions, we recognise the facts of the humanitarian crisis, and the crimes against humanity committed by the Syrian authorities. The recent mass murder of civilians by Assad through the use of chemical weapons made him a dictator and a war criminal in the eyes of the European and world community – and our President was shaking his hand. Colleagues, I call for an appropriate response. We should decide to change our rules and procedures, so that we do not have to ask our President how we should react to this situation, but can react by ourselves.

      Mr SOBOLEV (Ukraine) – I want to continue the speech of my colleague from Ukraine from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. We all need to take responsibility for the visit to Syria by three members of the Council of Europe, who were appointed to high positions, thanks to our votes. Today, there was a vote that did not get through by only two votes on what we could do if somebody appointed to a high position in the Council of Europe had to be dismissed because of their non-humanitarian or corrupt actions. This is too important for us not to have real changes to our rules and procedures. How can we react if somebody decides to visit occupied Crimea and other occupied territories, and decides to visit Syria just before a chemical attack? Maybe somebody will have an invitation to visit Syria, and then an invitation from North Korea’s leaders to see how a nuclear weapon will be used against human beings. I think that goes too far.

      Tomorrow, during our discussion, here in the Chamber, we need to discuss the principle of how we can change the situation regarding those who are immoral and incorrect and compromise our position. The problem is not some populists in Europe; it is parties that are corrupted and do not want to change their attitude. For me, the position of the Group of the European People’s Party, announced by our leader, is very important: he said that we are against this visit, and against the Russian Federation’s manipulation of the authorities, and of all of us. It is important to note that we heard the same points made by a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, two members of which were on the same Russian Federation military plane. It is important to change not only names, but rules. Only if we change our rules will everyone be respected for acting in accordance with their high level in the Council of Europe.

      Mr KVATCHANTIRADZE (Georgia) – I express my gratitude to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the honourable Thorbjřrn Jagland, for his 15th consolidated report on the conflict in Georgia. Importantly, the report takes stock of the situation in Georgia, updates us on major developments in Georgia’s occupied regions, and informs the international community about the human rights situation in the areas affected by the conflict in Georgia. A further expression of gratitude should be extended to the Council of Europe’s member States for once again generously supporting Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders.

      Notwithstanding that, to a certain degree, there is a positive dynamic in some spheres of co-operation, and the continued process of normalisation of Georgia-Russia bilateral relations, unfortunately Georgia faces Russia’s destructive policies; a full disregard of the norms and principles of international law; the implementation of a so-called agreement signed by Russia and the domestic regimes; and so-called elections and referendums held in the occupied territories of Georgia. However, let me assure you that the Georgian side seeks to achieve resolution of the conflict only through peaceful means, and I want to emphasise that there is no alternative to that.

      In conclusion, I cannot avoid talking about the main issue that was discussed this morning, and I understand that I will not violate any of the Assembly’s rules because the issue is not in the agenda. I join the majority of my colleagues on this issue of the visit to Syria by members of our Assembly, including President Agramunt. I feel no moral responsibility, because one and a half years ago I was the only member of the Georgian delegation to harshly criticise Mr Agramunt’s election to his position. As a result of his behaviour as President, I am obliged to lend my voice to those of my colleagues. With all due respect to Mr Agramunt, who is a senator in Spain – a country and a people I adore – I call for him to resign immediately.

      Mr VAREIKIS (Lithuania) – I might not be the very last speaker, but I am one of them, and I do not want to finish the debate on a pessimistic note, but it looks like I will. We are the Council of Europe, an Organisation which was created to express happiness about the victory of democracy. It is a club where democratic countries can come together to make democracy better. Some 25 years ago, we came to the Council of Europe as a victorious power. We were winning. We were expecting more elections like our victory and new countries to join, enlarging our democratic work. In 2017, however, it looks like we are becoming the losing side. We have a great fear of elections. There was fear about the Dutch election, the French election and the American election – fear that something might go wrong. It looks like we do not trust our democratic processes.

      Over the few decades that I have been here, we have lost almost everything. Democratic Georgia was punished by non-democratic Russia, and now democratic Ukraine is being punished by non-democratic Russia. We have not solved any problems in Moldova, Romania, or Azerbaijan. Are we the winning side today? If not, what is wrong with our system and with our democracy? As a politician, I can say sincerely that I feel that people hate politicians. People hate our system. They hate our governments. We need to do something quickly about the future of democracy. In my country, I am a specialist in the area of future studies. We are planning for life in the next 20, 30 or 50 years, not tomorrow, and political writers are not predicting a bright future for democracy. They are talking about a post-democratic or post-information society. I propose that we establish here in the Council of Europe a think-tank or a small group of clever people to think about the future of our system – not just the next problem, but what will come tomorrow and after tomorrow.

      Lord ANDERSON (United Kingdom) – We are not a university debating society. When we pass resolutions, we hope that they will be followed up by our colleagues in our 47 countries. That is why I want to raise today the issue of Sergei Magnitsky and this Assembly’s response. Colleagues may recall that Sergei Magnitsky was a lawyer who stood up against high-level corruption and money laundering in Russia. He was arrested, tortured over a prolonged period while in custody, and then beaten to death. After a long campaign, the United States Congress passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, which relates to human rights abuses, money laundering, and preventing those responsible, particularly those in the Russian tax authorities, from obtaining visas. Mainly, however, it is about freezing assets.

      What was the Assembly’s role? The Assembly agreed an excellent report by Andy Gross entitled “Refusing impunity for the killers of Sergei Magnitsky” in January 2014. In that resolution, the Assembly resolved to follow the issue closely and that if the competent authorities in Russia failed to make any response, or an inadequate response, we should recommend as a last resort that member States follow the example of the United States and put targeted sanctions in place. The Assembly has concerns about the extent of the follow-up to our recommendations. I am not aware of any progress that has been made by the Russian authorities or of any follow-up by our own members, save that of Lithuania and the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom, the good news is that the Criminal Finances Bill will be passed on Thursday with full Opposition support. Visa bans are covered by other legislation, but our Act is broader than that of the United States, enabling civil recovery of property obtained through the conduct of a public official that constitutes gross human rights abuse in the United Kingdom or elsewhere. It covers whistleblowers and defines the nature of gross human rights abuses and torture. Returning to our resolution of January 2014, surely now is the time to revisit the issue to see what, if anything, has changed. I have tabled such a motion, and I encourage all colleagues to look at it carefully and to sign it.

      Mr WOLD (Norway) – As a man, I should not admit to being scared, but I am. I presume that goes for many others in this Assembly. It is for a reason that the French people voted in large numbers for Marine Le Pen to be their next President. I am a libertarian. I want people to have as much freedom of choice as possible, as long as their choices do not interfere in other people’s lives. We are all responsible for our own actions, and we should not hide behind the name of a group, an organisation or a religion.

      Terror and crime, carried out by ISIS in the name of Allah, is cruel. As a result, we fear terror and crime in our own cities and neighbourhoods. Luckily, in Norway we have not been the victim of terrorist acts perpetrated by radical Islamists. The terrorist attack on 22 July 2011 was carried out by Norwegian Christian white nationalists. Even so, it seems to me that radical Islam is what people in my country fear the most.

      I am frightened by what is happening in the mosques. Imams are promoting Sharia law, the suppression of women, genital mutilation and Islamic heroism. I see parallel communities in Sweden and England. I see young Muslims not hesitating to admit that they support Sharia. That is a shame in Europe in 2017.

      I am concerned about the future. I therefore ask all people who move to and settle in a new country to integrate into your new country; learn the language, the culture and the traditions; give liberty to women; respect freedom of speech; and encourage your family to become citizens of a modern and civilised world.

      My dream is a Europe and a world where modern people can co-exist, respect each other, be tolerant and let everyone have the freedoms they are entitled to. It is our responsibility as Council of Europe parliamentarians to influence our home communities by focusing on integration, controlling the mosques, allowing women to work and providing children with places in kindergartens. Only by standing together on common national values and a strong wish to live and co-exist peacefully can the Europe we have known until recently have a future based on freedom, democracy and the freedom of speech. That is a challenge for which we are all responsible.

      The PRESIDENT – I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers list who were present during the debate but were not able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the official report. I remind colleagues that the texts are to be submitted in typescript, electronically if possible, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.

      The debate is closed.

3. Next public business

      The PRESIDENT – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow at 10 a.m. with the agenda that was approved this morning.

      The sitting is closed.

      (The sitting was closed at 5 p.m.)


1. Communication from the Committee of Ministers

Questions: Mr Rouquet, Mr Howell, Ms Lundgren, Ms Kavvadia, Mr Zingeris, Ms Blondin, Mr Billström, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Crowe, Mr Novynskyi, Ms Csöbör, Mr Šircelj.

2. Free debate

Speakers: Mr Le Borgn’, Earl of Dundee, Ms Lundgren, Mr Özsoy, Mr Feist, Mr V. Huseynov, Ms Crozon, Ms Durrieu, Mr Goncharenko, Mr Rafael Huseynov, Mr Davies, Mr Dişli, Ms Fataliyeva, Ms Sotnyk, Mr Sobolev, Mr Kvatchantiradze, Mr Vareikis, Lord Anderson, Mr Wold.

3. Next public business

Appendix / Annexe

Representatives or Substitutes who signed the register of attendance in accordance with Rule 12.2 of the Rules of Procedure.The names of members substituted follow (in brackets) the names of participating members.

Liste des représentants ou suppléants ayant signé le registre de présence, conformément ŕ l’article 12.2 du Rčglement.Le nom des personnes remplacées suit celui des Membres remplaçant, entre parenthčses.

ĹBERG, Boriana [Ms]

ANDERSON, Donald [Lord]

ARENT, Iwona [Ms]

ARIEV, Volodymyr [Mr]

ÁRNASON, Vilhjálmur [Mr]

BAKRADZE, David [Mr]

BALFE, Richard [Lord] (GILLAN, Cheryl [Ms])

BALIĆ, Marijana [Ms]

BARTOS, Mónika [Ms] (CSENGER-ZALÁN, Zsolt [Mr])

BAYKAL, Deniz [Mr]

BEREZA, Boryslav [Mr]

BERNACKI, Włodzimierz [Mr]


BİLGEHAN, Gülsün [Mme]

BILLSTRÖM, Tobias [Mr]

BÎZGAN-GAYRAL, Oana-Mioara [Ms] (TUȘA, Adriana Diana [Ms])

BLAZINA, Tamara [Ms] (ASCANI, Anna [Ms])

BLONDIN, Maryvonne [Mme]

BRASSEUR, Anne [Mme]

BUDNER, Margareta [Ms]

BUTKEVIČIUS, Algirdas [Mr]

CEPEDA, José [Mr]


CILEVIČS, Boriss [Mr] (LĪBIŅA-EGNERE, Inese [Ms])


CORSINI, Paolo [Mr]

CROWE, Seán [Mr]

CROZON, Pascale [Mme] (ALLAIN, Brigitte [Mme])



CSÖBÖR, Katalin [Mme]

DAVIES, Geraint [Mr]

DESTEXHE, Alain [M.]

DİŞLİ, Şaban [Mr]

DIVINA, Sergio [Mr]

DOKLE, Namik [M.]


DUNDEE, Alexander [The Earl of] [ ]

DURANTON, Nicole [Mme]

DURRIEU, Josette [Mme]

EBERLE-STRUB, Susanne [Ms]

ESTRELA, Edite [Mme] (ROSETA, Helena [Mme])

EVANS, Nigel [Mr]

FATALIYEVA, Sevinj [Ms] (HAJIYEV, Sabir [Mr])

FEIST, Thomas [Mr] (OBERMEIER, Julia [Ms])

FIALA, Doris [Mme]


FIRAT, Salih [Mr] (BABAOĞLU, Mehmet [Mr])

FRESKO-ROLFO, Béatrice [Mme]

GAFAROVA, Sahiba [Ms]

GALE, Roger [Sir]


GATTI, Marco [M.]


GHILETCHI, Valeriu [Mr]

GOGA, Pavol [M.] (MADEJ, Róbert [Mr])


GRIN, Jean-Pierre [M.] (MÜLLER, Thomas [Mr])

GÜNAY, Emine Nur [Ms]

HARANGOZÓ, Gábor [Mr] (MESTERHÁZY, Attila [Mr])

HEER, Alfred [Mr]

HOWELL, John [Mr]

HUOVINEN, Susanna [Ms] (GUZENINA, Maria [Ms])

HUSEYNOV, Rafael [Mr]

HUSEYNOV, Vusal [Mr] (PASHAYEVA, Ganira [Ms])

JANSSON, Eva-Lena [Ms] (OHLSSON, Carina [Ms])

JENSSEN, Frank J. [Mr]

JORDANA, Carles [M.]


KALMARI, Anne [Ms]

KARAPETYAN, Naira [Ms] (ZOHRABYAN, Naira [Mme])

KAVVADIA, Ioanneta [Ms]


KESİCİ, İlhan [Mr]

KLEINBERGA, Nellija [Ms] (LAIZĀNE, Inese [Ms])

KOÇ, Haluk [M.]

KÖCK, Eduard [Mr] (AMON, Werner [Mr])

KOX, Tiny [Mr]

KÜÇÜKCAN, Talip [Mr]

KÜRKÇÜ, Ertuğrul [Mr]



LANGBALLE, Christian [Mr] (HENRIKSEN, Martin [Mr])

LE BORGN’, Pierre-Yves [M.]


LOGVYNSKYI, Georgii [Mr]

LOPUSHANSKYI, Andrii [Mr] (DZHEMILIEV, Mustafa [Mr])

LOUCAIDES, George [Mr]

LUNDGREN, Kerstin [Ms] (KARLSSON, Niklas [Mr])

MAHOUX, Philippe [M.]

MARAS, Gordan [Mr] (FRANKOVIĆ, Mato [Mr])

MAROSZ, Ján [Mr]

MARQUES, Duarte [Mr]

MASIULIS, Kęstutis [Mr] (ŠAKALIENĖ, Dovilė [Ms])

MASSEY, Doreen [Baroness] (CRAUSBY, David [Mr])


MAVROTAS, Georgios [Mr] (ANAGNOSTOPOULOU, Athanasia [Ms])

MEALE, Alan [Sir]

MEIMARAKIS, Evangelos [Mr]

MULARCZYK, Arkadiusz [Mr]

MULLEN, Rónán [Mr] (HOPKINS, Maura [Ms])

MUNYAMA, Killion [Mr] (HALICKI, Andrzej [Mr])

NEGUTA, Andrei [M.]

NICOLETTI, Michele [Mr]

NOVIKOV, Andrei [Mr]

NOVYNSKYI, Vadym [Mr] (L OVOCHKINA, Yuliya [Ms])

OBRADOVIĆ, Marija [Ms]


ÖNAL, Suat [Mr]

O’REILLY, Joseph [Mr]



PALIHOVICI, Liliana [Ms] (BULIGA, Valentina [Mme])

PALLARÉS, Judith [Ms]

PANTIĆ PILJA, Biljana [Ms]

PARVIAINEN, Olli-Poika [Mr] (ANTTILA, Sirkka-Liisa [Ms])

PAŠKA, Jaroslav [M.]

POCIEJ, Aleksander [M.] (KLICH, Bogdan [Mr])

POLIAČIK, Martin [Mr] (KAŠČÁKOVÁ, Renáta [Ms])

POMASKA, Agnieszka [Ms]

POSTOICO, Maria [Mme] (VORONIN, Vladimir [M.])

POZZO DI BORGO, Yves [M.] (GOY-CHAVENT, Sylvie [Mme])

PREDA, Cezar Florin [M.]

PRUNĂ, Cristina-Mădălina [Ms]

PUPPATO, Laura [Ms] (BERTUZZI, Maria Teresa [Ms])

RIGONI, Andrea [Mr]

ROCA, Jordi [Mr] (BARREIRO, José Manuel [Mr])



ROUQUET, René [M.]

RUSTAMYAN, Armen [M.] (ZOURABIAN, Levon [Mr])

SCHENNACH, Stefan [Mr]

SCHNEIDER, André [M.] (ROCHEBLOINE, François [M.])

SCHNEIDER-SCHNEITER, Elisabeth [Mme] (LOMBARDI, Filippo [M.])

SCHOU, Ingjerd [Ms]


SCHWABE, Frank [Mr]

SILVA, Adăo [M.]

ŠIRCELJ, Andrej [Mr]

SOBOLEV, Serhiy [Mr]

SOTNYK, Olena [Ms]

SPADONI, Maria Edera [Ms] (CATALFO, Nunzia [Ms])

STRENZ, Karin [Ms]

SUTTER, Petra De [Ms] (VERCAMER, Stefaan [M.])

THIÉRY, Damien [M.]

TOPCU, Zühal [Ms]

TROY, Robert [Mr] (COWEN, Barry [Mr])

TRUSKOLASKI, Krzysztof [Mr]

UYSAL, Burhanettin [Mr] (USTA, Leyla Şahin [Ms])


VALEN, Snorre Serigstad [Mr]

VAREIKIS, Egidijus [Mr]

VEJKEY, Imre [Mr]

VEN, Mart van de [Mr]

VIROLAINEN, Anne-Mari [Ms]

VOVK, Viktor [Mr] (LIASHKO, Oleh [Mr])

WENAWESER, Christoph [Mr]

WOJTYŁA, Andrzej [Mr]

WOLD, Morten [Mr]

WURM, Gisela [Ms]

XUCLŔ, Jordi [Mr] (BILDARRATZ, Jokin [Mr])

YAŞAR, Serap [Mme]

ZINGERIS, Emanuelis [Mr]

Also signed the register / Ont également signé le registre

Representatives or Substitutes not authorised to vote / Représentants ou suppléants non autorisés ŕ voter



CORREIA, Telmo [M.]

HIGGINS, Alice-Mary [Ms]

LEŚNIAK, Józef [M.]

MULDER, Anne [Mr]


ÖZSOY, Hişyar [Mr]

RIBERAYGUA, Patrícia [Mme]

SEGER, Daniel [Mr]

VENIZELOS, Evangelos [M.]

VOGT, Günter [Mr]

Observers / Observateurs

DAVIES, Don [Mr]

DOWNE, Percy [Mr]

MALTAIS, Ghislain [M.]

O’CONNELL, Jennifer [Ms]

OLIVER, John [Mr]

ROMO MEDINA, Miguel [Mr]

TILSON, David [Mr]

Partners for democracy / Partenaires pour la démocratie


KHADER, Qais [Mr]

SABELLA, Bernard [Mr]