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Action against trafficking in human beings: promoting the Council of Europe convention

Report | Doc. 12096 | 21 December 2009

Committee
(Former) Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men
Rapporteur :
Ms Gisela WURM, Austria, SOC
Thesaurus

Summary

The Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, being firmly committed to combating trafficking, intends to keep up the pressure on Council of Europe member states and beyond in order to ensure that action against trafficking becomes a political priority, and is accompanied by effective implementation on the ground.

The committee notes the primacy and added value of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197), an effective instrument in the fields of prevention of trafficking, prosecution of traffickers and protection of victims. It consequently asks the member states of the Council of Europe which have not yet done so to sign and/or ratify the convention, and encourages the European Union to accede to it.

To underline the effectiveness of one of the pillars of the monitoring mechanism of this convention – the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) – the Parliamentary Assembly should call on Council of Europe member states to provide GRETA with the financial and human resources which it needs for its activities, with a view both to guaranteeing its independence and to ensuring effective monitoring work. It should request that the national parliaments budget for such resources.

The Assembly should recommend that the Committee of Ministers step up its co-operation with the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations, while taking care to uphold in this field the primacy of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

A Draft resolution

1 Trafficking in human beings is a genuine evil in our societies. It is a modern form of slavery and one of the worst forms of violation of human rights, dignity and integrity.
2 The Parliamentary Assembly, firmly committed to combating trafficking, intends to maintain the pressure on Council of Europe member states and beyond in order to ensure that action against trafficking becomes a political priority, accompanied by effective implementation on the ground.
3 The Assembly notes the primacy and relevance of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197), an effective instrument in the fields of prevention of trafficking, prosecuting the traffickers and protection of the victims. It intends to promote this convention and its monitoring mechanism, run by the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA).
4 It is pleased to note that action against trafficking is one of the main priorities of other international organisations, such as the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co‑operation in Europe and the United Nations. It advocates co-operation among these organisations in order to ensure effective and co-ordinated action against trafficking, centring on a “human rights” approach to combating this scourge.
5 Consequently, the Assembly urges:
5.1 Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and Russia to sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings;
5.2 Andorra, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine to ratify the convention;
5.3 the observer states of the Council of Europe to sign and ratify the convention.
6 The Assembly asks the national parliamentarians of member states which have not yet signed and/or ratified the convention to call on the minister responsible and on the parliament to speed up the process of signing and/or ratifying the convention.
7 It asks the national parliamentarians of member states which have ratified the convention to monitor its implementation in their domestic law.
8 It strongly encourages the European Union to accede to the convention as soon as possible.
9 It asks Council of Europe member states to provide GRETA with the financial and human resources which it needs for its activity, with a view both to guaranteeing its independence and to ensuring effective monitoring work, and requests that the national parliaments budget for such resources.
10 The Assembly proposes to organise a conference in 2010 on action against trafficking in human beings with all the partners involved in such action, with an eye to reinforcing co‑operation among them, including consideration of modalities for interaction with GRETA, subject to the availability of funds.
11 Recalling its Resolution 1494 (2006) “Stopping trafficking in women before the FIFA World Cup”, the Assembly invites the Council of Europe member states which have not yet signed and/or ratified the convention, pending its signature and/or ratification:
11.1 to apply the main provisions of the convention without delay, such as the victim identification process and the thirty-day recovery and reflection period for victims, paying particular attention to presumed victims who are undergoing identification;
11.2 to assist victims, for instance by setting up multilingual information, reception and assistance units and ensuring that the police treat female victims of trafficking as victims and not as illegal immigrants.

B Draft recommendation

1 The Parliamentary Assembly refers to its Resolution … (2010) on action against trafficking in human beings: promoting the Council of Europe convention, noting the primacy and relevance of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197), an effective instrument in the field of preventing trafficking, prosecuting the traffickers and protecting the victims. It stresses the effectiveness of the monitoring mechanisms laid down in the convention, particularly the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA).
2 The Assembly asks the Committee of Ministers to:
2.1 step up its co-operation with the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations, while taking care to uphold the primacy of the Council of Europe convention in this field;
2.2 ensure that the Council of Europe’s standards in terms of combating trafficking in human beings are uniformly applied throughout Europe and used as a reference for all international instruments currently being developed in the field of action against trafficking in human beings;
2.3 ensure that there is effective co-operation between these organisations in the field of action against trafficking:
2.3.1 by enhancing dialogue between them;
2.3.2 by taking care to avoid all risk of duplication between the different monitoring mechanisms, taking due account of the primacy and effectiveness of GRETA;
2.3.3 by co-operating effectively with GRETA.
3 It invites the Committee of Ministers to:
3.1 promote the widest possible signature and ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, including by the European Union, and explicitly to ask the member states of the Council of Europe which have not yet done so to sign and/or ratify it;
3.2 hold regular exchanges of views with the Committee of Parties to the convention and GRETA;
3.3 provide GRETA with the requisite resources to ensure its functioning;
3.4 encourage member states to sign and ratify the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, if they have not yet done so.

C Explanatory memorandum by Ms Wurm, rapporteur

1 Introduction

1 Trafficking in human beings, a modern form of slavery, constitutes a violation of human rights and an affront to the dignity and integrity of the human being.
2 The actions of various national and international organisations and NGOs are beginning to bear fruit in so far as there is less ignorance of this phenomenon than formerly. But can we claim that there is sufficient citizen awareness for it to be decried throughout the world? We have certainly not yet reached that point, and that is where action must be taken. The fight against this evil must continue at all levels, by means of awareness-raising campaigns and intensified co-operation at national and international level as well as effective legislation. Likewise, does the kind of fate in store for victims of this crime occur to anyone today? For example, are the victims who are forced into prostitution perceived as prostitutes or as victims of trafficking? The answer is often interspersed with misunderstandings or misreadings of the phenomenon. Even today, the authorities seldom see these human beings as victims of trafficking, whereas in fact very many of them are. Trafficking for the purposes of sex slavery does not seem to be on the wane. On the contrary, the criminals, whether acting individually or in rings, are increasingly well informed of the possible obstacles to their highly lucrative trade in human beings, and the impact of the current economic and financial crisis on women is making them ever more vulnerable.
3 Trafficking in human beings is one of the criminal phenomena that have developed most in recent decades, chiefly owing to its high profitability. According to the United States Government, each year 800 000 persons are victims of trafficking outside national boundariesNote (not counting domestic trafficking).
4 Nothing can justify trafficking in human beings. Action by parliamentarians is necessary, even vital, in our democratic societies in order to condemn and prevent all types of crime. The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197) is a tool at their disposal to promote this cause. The rapporteur is convinced that its implementation will make it possible to strengthen prevention and stem the demand.

2 Added value of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings

5 The rapporteur recalls that the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 3 May 2005 and opened for signature in Warsaw on 16 May 2005 on the occasion of the 3rd Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe. It entered into force on 1 February 2008. So far, it has been ratified by 26 member states, and a further 15 have signed it.

2.1 General presentation of the convention

6 The convention against trafficking is a comprehensive treaty concentrating essentially on protection of victims of trafficking and defence of their rights. It also concerns prevention and prosecution of traffickers.
7 It applies to all forms of trafficking, whether national or transnational and whether or not linked with organised crime. It applies irrespective of the victims, be they women, men or children, and whatever the form of exploitation, whether sexual or involving forced labour or services.
8 It provides for the establishment of independent monitoring machinery guaranteeing the parties’ compliance with its provisions.

2.2 The added value of the convention

9 The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings seems to be the most advanced among the international instruments. In particular, it goes further than the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, Supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 15 November 2000, and which is the principal relevant international instrument on prevention of trafficking. The Council of Europe convention lays down more binding provisions on the protection of victims and witnesses and provides for an independent monitoring mechanism guaranteeing its implementation.
10 In order to inform her colleagues as fully as possible, the rapporteur wishes to itemise the main differences between the United Nations protocol and the Council of Europe convention.
a As the Assembly wished, the convention adopts an approach founded on human rights which creates a positive obligation for states to prevent trafficking and protect victims, and this goes beyond the individual criminal responsibility provided for in the United Nations protocol.
b The convention is broader in scope, since it applies to trafficking both at national and at international level, whether or not linked with organised crime.
c The convention contains a definition of the victim of trafficking, tending towards harmonisation of measures of protection and assistance throughout Europe.
d The measures to protect the victim’s rights are mandatory under the convention. Victims must be identified so as not to be confused with illegal immigrants or criminals. They are afforded material and psychological assistance and measures to help their rehabilitation in society. Other measures such as medical attention, counselling and housing are prescribed. Victims can also apply for compensation.
e The convention envisages the possibility of not penalising victims who are compelled to commit offences because of their situation.
f The convention contains provisions specific to children in respect of their identification, the provision of measures to assist them, and the granting of a residence permit.
g Thanks especially to the Assembly’s requests,Note the convention allows a minimum of thirty days to enable victims to recover, reflect and take a decision on whether or not to co-operate with the judicial authorities.
h The convention provides for the penalisation of clients using the services of victims of trafficking. The objective is to stem the traffic by curbing demand.
i As will be seen below (paragraph III – ii), the convention provides for setting up a monitoring mechanism – GRETA – which is definitely one of the most notable improvements on the United Nations protocol.
11 These examples prompt the rapporteur to advocate the signature and ratification of the Council of Europe convention without delay, in order to eradicate this phenomenon, while taking into consideration the victims’ state of distress and while helping them become rehabilitated. In order to achieve maximum impact, the convention’s geographical coverage should embrace Europe as a whole, but also be as wide as possible.Note

3 Parliamentarians’ role

12 Parliamentarians must act, and speedily. The fight against trafficking in human beings must become a political priority for the European democracies.

3.1 Parliamentarians’ role in promoting acceptance of the convention in all Council of Europe member states and beyond

13 For many years the Assembly has unremittingly combated trafficking in human beings. It has long condemned this crime and repeatedly called on states to fight it. Specifically in 1997,Note but also in 2002,Note it called for the preparation of a Council of Europe convention and fought to ensure that the convention would set the highest standards for the protection of victims. It was involved in the Council of Europe campaign against trafficking in human beings which culminated in the entry into force of the convention on 1 February 2008 following its 10th ratification. The convention’s effectiveness depends on its widest possible application throughout Europe, in the countries of origin, transit and destination of victims of trafficking. It is therefore more necessary than ever to promote the widest possible ratification of the convention.
14 National parliamentarians should do their utmost to ensure that their governments and national parliaments sign and ratify the convention.
15 The rapporteur further considers that, as in the case of the United Nations protocol, the international community should take the utmost interest in the convention. She firstly envisages asking the Assembly’s observer states to do so, as well as all third states. Indeed, the Assembly, which maintains good relations with the OSCE and also the United Nations,Note presses for the ratification of the United Nations protocol and the convention, which are complementary instruments at the international level.
16 Moreover, the rapporteur stresses that, unfortunately, at the present time, the victims of trafficking are still sometimes not being treated as such by the authorities,Note which constitutes an additional violation of their fundamental rights. At the very least, pending ratification, parliamentarians should ensure that the most important provisions of the convention are implemented at national level in order to ensure that victims of trafficking receive treatment compatible with their fundamental rights.

3.2 Parliamentarians’ role in actuating GRETA

17 The rapporteur is banking on the importance of the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) in implementing the convention. An effective, independent monitoring mechanism will firmly guarantee that the convention is implemented both at national and at international level. The monitoring system is indubitably one of the convention’s strengths.

3.2.1 The monitoring mechanism set up by the convention

18 This rests on two pillars: GRETA and the Committee of the Parties.
19 The first pillar, GRETA, is a technical body made up of independent experts highly qualified in the spheres of human rights, assisting and protecting victims, and fighting trafficking in human beings. It is mandated to adopt a report and conclusions on the implementation of the convention by each party. Thirteen independent experts were elected by the Committee of the Parties, at its meeting on 5 and 8 December 2008, as the first members of GRETA. Members are elected for a term of office of four years, beginning on 1 January 2009.

President: Hanne Sophie Greve (Norwegian)

  • 1st Vice President: Nicolas Le Coz (French)
  • 2nd Vice President: Gulnara Shahinian (Armenian)

The other members:

  • Vessela Banova (Bulgarian)
  • Louise Calleja (Maltese)
  • Josie Christodoulou (Cypriot)
  • Davor Derencinovic (Croatian)
  • Vladimir Gilca (Moldovan)
  • Alexandra Malangone (Slovak)
  • Nell Rasmussen (Danish)
  • Leonor Maria Da Conceição Cruz Rodrigues (Portuguese)
  • Robert Stratoberdha (Albanian)
  • Diana-Florentina Tudorache (Romanian).Note

20 GRETA met four times in 2009, has put its structures in place and has begun preparing a questionnaire for an initial evaluation. It is planning to work in four-year cycles. The questionnaire is due to be adopted by the end of 2009 and GRETA hopes to receive the first replies in January 2010. Members would then travel to the countries concerned to check the information, with five country visits in 2010.
21 The second pillar, the Committee of the Parties, is a more political body composed of the representatives in the Committee of Ministers of the parties to the convention and representatives of the parties non-members of the Council of Europe. It may make recommendations to a party on the basis of the GRETA report and conclusions. It has also met three times so far. At its forthcoming meetings, the Committee of the Parties is planning to hold debates on specific topics with the relevant NGOs, starting with the question of prevention.
22 On 22 June 2009, the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men held an exchange of views on the mechanisms of the convention with the outgoing chairperson of the Committee of the Parties, Ambassador Pēteris Kārlis Elferts, and the President of GRETA, Ms Hanne Sophie Greve, and another on the latest developments with the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Ms Maud de Boer-Buquicchio.Note On 28 September 2009, the Sub-Committee on trafficking in human beings held an exchange of views in camera with Ms Greve and Mr Zurab Chiaberashvili, the new chair of the Committee of the Parties, on the proposed Framework Decision of the Council of the European Union on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, and protecting victims. During this exchange of views, concerns were expressed about possible duplication of various instruments with GRETA. It is hoped that the situation will be such as to enable all parties to exercise their responsibilities within a framework of harmony and co-operation in order to prevent duplication. The exchanges of views were very constructive and should be repeated at regular intervals until the monitoring mechanisms have become firmly established.

3.2.2 What parliamentarians can do for an independent and effective GRETA

23 In order for the monitoring system to be strong and effective, GRETA must, in particular, be independent and above suspicion as regards its expertise, since it is the body primarily responsible for watching over the convention’s implementation by the parties. The convention stresses the need to ensure gender and geographical balance and multidisciplinary expertise in nominating GRETA members. GRETA consists of a minimum of 10 members and a maximum of 15 members (it currently has 13).
24 Parliamentarians can raise the question of financing GRETA in their parliaments in order to ensure that it functions effectively. They will accordingly satisfy themselves that GRETA has adequate, settled and predictable human and financial resources at its disposal.

3.3 The parliamentarians’ role in ensuring fruitful co-operation with other international organisations

25 The Council of Europe has a special responsibility due to its pioneering role in drafting a binding European legal instrument with a strong and independent monitoring mechanism. This is why the rapporteur is somewhat concerned about two new European Union proposals which may threaten the acquis of the Council of Europe in the area. At its meeting in Luxembourg on 4 June 2009, the Council of the European Union decided to establish an informal European Union network of “national rapporteurs or equivalent mechanisms” on trafficking in human beings. At the same time, the European Commission put forward a proposal for a Council Framework Decision on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, and protecting victims, in March 2009. The European Parliament has yet to give its opinion on the latter proposal. The proposal was examined and revised on 23 October 2009. Article 15 of the revised proposed framework decision stipulates that each member state must appoint a national rapporteur or equivalent mechanism who is mandated to gauge the effects of anti-trafficking measures and to report on them.Note
26 Such an informal European Union Network of national rapporteurs or equivalent mechanisms could, in fact, turn out to be a positive development, provided that the network and its constituting mechanisms do not interfere with the work of GRETA, but, on the contrary, co-operate with GRETA and provide information (for example, data and statistics) to it.Note Unfortunately, the Council of Europe and the European Union do not yet apply the same standards to trafficking in human beings (with the Council of Europe and its convention taking a much more victim-oriented, human rights approach).Note
27 Similarly, some of the provisions of the proposed Council Framework Decision on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings, and protecting victims seem to establish supervision mechanisms which overlap with those of the convention. In particular, the rapporteur does not exclude the possibility that Article 15 of the proposed framework decision may ultimately duplicate Council of Europe monitoring already in place. The wording of this provision is sufficiently vague so as not to exclude this possibility: it does not stipulate to whom the national rapporteur or equivalent mechanism is supposed to report. The important thing is for the European Union and the Council of Europe, which are both involved in combating trafficking in human beings, to find a means of harmonising their action in order to combat this scourge and protect the victims effectively.
28 The ideal solution would be for the European Union (in whatever legal form, depending on the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty) to accede without delay to the Council of Europe convention and submit to its monitoring mechanisms in so far as the convention’s “disconnection clause” allows.
29 Both national parliamentarians and European parliamentarians can play a decisive role here. For example, they could put questions to their government and parliament and to the European institutions on the possible risk of duplication of monitoring instruments in the field of trafficking. I would therefore suggest that the competent committees of the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament take joint action before the end of this year.

4 Conclusions and recommendations

4.1 A firm appeal to sign and/or ratify the convention

30 The convention must have the widest possible cover, and in order to secure its optimum effectiveness, the rapporteur proposes specifically inviting the Council of Europe member states which have neither signed nor ratified the convention to do so.Note The same applies to the countries which have signed but not yet ratified it.Note
31 The rapporteur invokes the individual responsibility of parliamentarians whose member states have not yet signed and/or ratified the convention. They can place the issue on the national political agenda. They can put questions to the government, and schedule the question of ratification for parliamentary debate. They can initiate activities to raise awareness among their colleagues and also the public. In that respect, the Sub-Committee on trafficking in human beings can contribute its expertise in order to counter any obstacles by organising seminars for the pooling of good practices.
32 Furthermore, the Assembly should invite its observer parliaments to accede to the convention.Note
33 As the convention is open to non-member states, it is also clear that a wider appeal should be made to the international community to ratify not only the United Nations protocol but also the Council of Europe convention.
34 Lastly, the Assembly should reiterate its appeal to the European Union for an early accession to the convention.

4.2 Guaranteeing GRETA’s independence and effectiveness

35 The Assembly should ensure the independence of the GRETA experts, based on gender and geographical balance. The Assembly should request that the financial and human resources needed for GRETA to function properly are made available to it. The urgent need for this emerged at the meeting of the Sub-Committee on trafficking in human beings on 28 September 2009, when Ms Greve reported on the current lack of resources in GRETA and the need to provide it with adequate staffing and financial resources.

4.3 Updating of the Handbook for parliamentarians on the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human BeingsNote

36 In order to help parliamentarians and all persons interested in promoting the convention, the committee prepared a handbook, a practical guide to the convention, in December 2006. The rapporteur welcomes that it has been updated in December 2009 to take account of the consequences of the convention’s entry into force on 1 February 2008, and of the good practices which have enabled the parliamentarians to promote the convention effectively with their governments and parliaments.

4.4 Strengthening relations with the partners

37 The rapporteur welcomes the relations of the committee and the Sub-Committee on trafficking in human beings with its OSCE, European Parliament and UNODC partners. She strongly encourages the pursuit and enhancement of these relations in order to co-operate effectively towards a single goal, that of stamping out trafficking. She proposes that the Assembly organise a major conference, to be held in 2010, on prevention of trafficking in human beings and the Council of Europe convention, to which all partners involved in this struggle should be invited, but that the competent committees of the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament take joint action before the end of this year.
38 Lastly, the Assembly should recommend that the Committee of Ministers become fully involved in promoting the signature and ratification of the convention.
39 In conclusion, therefore, the rapporteur submits the appended draft resolution and recommendation for adoption. She proposes examining them during the Assembly’s first part‑session in 2010 (25 to 29 January).

***

Reporting committee: Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men

Reference to committee: Doc.11401, Reference 3401 of 21 January 2008

Draft resolution and recommendation unanimously adopted by the committee on 30 November 2009

Members of the committee: Ms Pernille Frahm (Chairperson), Mr José Mendes Bota (First Vice-Chairperson), Ms Ingrīda Circene (Second Vice-Chairperson), Ms Anna Čurdová (Third Vice-Chairperson), Ms Sonja Ablinger, M. Francis Agius, Mr Florin Serghei Anghel, Ms Magdalina Anikashvili, Mr John Austin, Mr Lokman Ayva, Ms Marieluise Beck, Ms Déborah Bergamini, Ms Oksana Bilozir (alternate: Ms Olha Herasym’yuk), Ms Rosa Delia Blanco Terán (alternate: Ms Luz Elena Sanín Naranjo), Ms Olena Bondarenko, Mr Han Ten Broeke, Ms Anna Maria Carloni, Mr James Clappison, Ms Diana Çuli, Mr Kirtcho Dimitrov, Ms Lydie Err, Ms Catherine Fautrier, Ms Mirjana Ferić-Vac, Ms Sónia Fertuzinhos, Ms Doris Frommelt, Ms Alena Gajdůšková, Mr Giuseppe Galati, Ms Gisèle Gautier, Mr Neven Gosović, Ms Claude Greff, Mr Attila Gruber, Ms Carina Hägg, Mr Håkon Haugli, Ms Francine John-Calame, Ms Nataša Jovanoviċ, Ms Charoula Kefalidou, Ms Birgen Keleş, Ms Krista Kiuru, Ms Elvira Kovács, Mr Terry Leyden, Ms Mirjana Malić, Ms Assunta Meloni, Ms Nursuna Memecan, Ms Danguté Mikutiené, Mr Burkhardt Müller-Sönksen, Ms Hermine Naghdalyan, Ms Yuliya Novikova (alternate: Mr Ivan Popescu), Mr Mark Oaten, Mr Kent Olsson, Ms Steinunn Valdis Óskarsdóttir, Ms Antigoni Papadopoulos, Ms Mª del Carmen Quintanilla Barba, Mr Stanislaw Rakoczy, Mr Frédéric Reiss, Ms Mailis Reps, Ms Maria Pilar Riba Font, Ms Andreja Rihter, Mr Nicolae Robu, Ms Marlene Rupprecht, Ms Klára Sándor, Ms Albertina Soliani, Ms Tineke Strik, Mr Michał Stuligrosz, Ms Doris Stump, Ms Elke Tindemans, Mr Mihal Tudose, Mr Miltiadis Varvitsiotis, Ms Tatiana Volozhinskaya, Mr Paul Wille, Ms Betty Williams, Mr Gert Winkelmeier, Ms Gisela Wurm, Mr Andrej Zernovski, Mr Vladimir Zhidkikh

NB: the names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in bold

Secretariat of the committee: Ms Kleinsorge, Ms Affholder, Ms Devaux

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