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The progress of the Assembly's monitoring procedure (January-December 2017) and the periodic review of the honouring of obligations by Estonia, Greece, Hungary and Ireland

Resolution 2203 (2018)

Author(s):
Parliamentary Assembly
Origin
Assembly debate on 25 January 2018 (8th Sitting) (see Doc. 14450 Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5, report of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee), rapporteur: Mr Cezar Florin Preda). Text adopted by the Assembly on 25 January 2018 (8th Sitting).
1 The Parliamentary Assembly acknowledges the work carried out by the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee) in fulfilling its mandate as defined in Resolution 1115 (1997) on the setting up of an Assembly committee on the honouring of obligations and commitments by member states of the Council of Europe (monitoring committee) (as modified by Resolution 1431 (2005), Resolution 1515 (2006), Resolution 1698 (2009), Resolution 1710 (2010), Resolution 1936 (2013) and Resolution 2018 (2014)). It commends the committee on its work in accompanying the 10 countries under a monitoring procedure sensu stricto (Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine), and the three countries engaged in a post-monitoring dialogue (Bulgaria, Montenegro and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) in their efforts to fully comply with the obligations and commitments they entered into upon accession to the Council of Europe, as well as the monitoring of the membership obligations of all other member States through its periodic review process.
2 The Assembly deplores that in 2017 the co-rapporteurs for the monitoring procedure were once again unable to visit the Russian Federation due to the boycott by the Russian delegation of the work of the Assembly. It recalls in this context that co-operation with the monitoring procedure is an explicit accession commitment of the country.
3 The Assembly recalls that, in the light of the ongoing developments in Turkey, and the concerns expressed in that regard, it decided to re-open the monitoring procedure sensu stricto in respect of Turkey so as to strengthen its co-operation with the Turkish authorities and all stakeholders in the country.
4 The Assembly commends the Sub-Committee on Conflicts between Council of Europe Member States for the work it has undertaken.
5 The Assembly welcomes the positive developments and the progress made during the reporting period in a number of countries under a monitoring procedure or engaged in a post-monitoring dialogue. In particular in:
5.1 Albania: the holding of parliamentary elections in line with European standards following the agreement between the main political forces; as well as the continuing efforts to reform the justice system and to ensure the integrity of all persons appointed or elected to public functions;
5.2 Armenia: the improved political climate and far-reaching reforms, including in the judiciary, to implement the new constitution;
5.3 Azerbaijan: the recent release of some “political prisoners” or “prisoners of conscience”; and the ongoing dialogue with the country’s authorities in the framework of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure;
5.4 Georgia: the close co-operation with the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) during the drafting of the constitutional amendments, which are an overall improvement of the country’s constitutional order;
5.5 Serbia: the commitment of the new government to addressing the Assembly’s concerns with regard to the reform of the judiciary and the media environment;
5.6 Ukraine: the ambitious reform programme put in place after the “Revolution of dignity” despite the challenging environment as a result of the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea;
5.7 Bulgaria: the amendments introduced to the electoral framework which resulted in an improved electoral climate for the 2017 parliamentary elections, and the many positive changes to the country’s judicial system introduced by the amendments to the Judicial System Act;
5.8 Montenegro: the efforts to reform the judiciary and the justice system in line with recommendations of, inter alia, the Assembly;
5.9 “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”: the end of the political crisis that has dominated the political agenda of the country since April 2014;
5.10 Turkey: the establishment of the Inquiry Commission on State of Emergency Measures, which the Assembly expects to provide effective remedies for dismissed civil servants, as well as for associations and media outlets that were closed on the basis of the emergency decrees.
6 At the same time, the Assembly expresses its concern about developments and remaining shortcomings in a number of countries under a monitoring procedure or engaged in a post-monitoring dialogue. These shortcomings undermine the democratic consolidation in those countries and are at odds with their obligations and accession commitments:
6.1 Albania: the continuing polarisation between the main political parties as well as the parliamentary boycott by the main opposition party, which have affected the reform programme and have resulted in considerable delays in the implementation of important reforms, including with regard to the judiciary;
6.2 Armenia: allegations of widespread vote buying and reports of abuse of administrative resources during the 2017 parliamentary elections; recurrent reports of disproportionate and excessive use of force by the police, especially in the context of protests and demonstrations, accompanied by a sense of impunity for such actions;
6.3 Azerbaijan: the lack of independence and impartiality of, and interference by the executive in, the justice system; the repressive actions against independent media; the lack of an independent, impartial and effective system to investigate allegations of ill-treatment by law-enforcement officials;
6.4 Bosnia and Herzegovina: the failure of the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its parliamentary delegation to provide comments on the preliminary draft report on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Bosnia and Herzegovina, in violation of the country’s obligation to co-operate with the Monitoring Committee; the continued failure since 2009 to implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights related to ethnic- and residency-based limitations to the right to stand for elected offices; the continued failure to address the issue of segregation along ethnic and religious lines in education;
6.5 Georgia: the postponement of the introduction of a fully proportional election system in the country until after the next parliamentary elections, which undermined the possibility for a broad political consensus on the constitutional amendments;
6.6 Russian Federation: the ongoing military aggression against Ukraine in Donbas and the illegal occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol; the decision by the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation not to allow compensation of Yukos shareholders as ordered by the European Court of Human Rights, in violation of the obligation incumbent on all Council of Europe members States to unconditionally honour the judgments of the Court; the designation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist organisation by the Russian Supreme Court, underscoring the use of legislation to fight extremism to curtail freedom of expression and assembly, as well as freedom of worship, in the Russian Federation; the reports of abductions, unlawful detentions, torture and killings of men in the Chechen Republic based on their sexual orientation and gender identity; and the continuing human rights violations in occupied Crimea;
6.7 Serbia: the insufficient implementation of existing media legislation, undermining balanced media coverage, especially in the framework of elections;
6.8 Turkey: the undermining of the separation of powers and independence of the judiciary, as well as a diminishing system of checks and balances, as a result of the adoption of constitutional amendments that are not in line with European standards and under conditions that raise questions about the democratic nature of the process; the lifting of immunity and pretrial detention of members of parliament; the disproportionate effect of the emergency decree laws – including the massive dismissals of civil servants, judges, prosecutors and academics and the closing down of media and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – as well as limited access to judicial remedies; the repeated violations of freedom of expression and freedom of the media and the situation of local administrations in south-east Turkey, leading to a serious deterioration of the functioning of democratic institutions;
6.9 Ukraine: the hardening of political discourse following the Euromaidan events and the Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine, and the polarisation of the media environment, leading to unacceptable attacks on journalists and media outlets; the insufficient balance between the official language and the languages of national minorities in the new law on education in Ukraine, leading to a reduction in rights in comparison to previous legislation; the pervasive corruption that undermines public trust in the political and judicial system as a whole; the lack of balanced composition of the Central Election Committee according to the recommendations of the Council of Europe, by proportional representation of all parliamentary political factions;
6.10 Bulgaria: the weak structure for accountability of the prosecutor general and the frequent use of racist and xenophobic language during the election campaign, as well as allegations of vote buying and organised voting, especially among vulnerable groups in Bulgarian society, during the 2017 parliamentary elections;
6.11 Montenegro: the continuing boycott of the parliament by the opposition, which is hindering reforms; the concerns about the state of freedom of expression and freedom of the media in the country;
6.12 “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”: the storming of the parliament by protesters and the continuing ethnic divisions in the country.
7 Consequently, the Assembly urges all the countries that are under a monitoring procedure or engaged in a post-monitoring dialogue to step up their efforts to fully honour all membership obligations and accession commitments to the Council of Europe. In particular, it calls on:
7.1 the Albanian authorities and all political forces in the country to overcome the political polarisation and to ensure the full implementation of the vetting process of judges and the implementation of the decriminalisation law;
7.2 all Armenian political forces to continue improving the political environment in the country through dialogue and co-operation; the Armenian authorities to fully investigate all reports of disproportional and excessive use of force by the police and to establish a genuinely independent police complaints mechanism as recommended, inter alia, by the Assembly; and to adopt legislation to effectively combat vote buying and the abuse of administrative resources during elections;
7.3 the Azerbaijani authorities to liberate the remaining “political prisoners” or “prisoners of conscience” and to amend the legal framework governing NGOs with a view to bringing it into line with European standards and to promptly ensure the full implementation of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, including with regard to Ilgar Mammadov, taking note of the decision of the Committee of Ministers to refer to the Court, in accordance with Article 46.4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5, “the Convention”), the question whether the Republic of Azerbaijan has failed to fulfil its obligation under Article 46.1;
7.4 the Georgian authorities to consider implementing the change of electoral system before the next parliamentary elections and to fully implement the Venice Commission recommendations contained in the opinion on the constitutional amendments;
7.5 the Moldovan authorities to fully implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission contained in their upcoming opinion on the legal framework governing the funding of political parties and campaigns, as well as the recent amendments to the electoral legislation in the Republic of Moldova;
7.6 the authorities of the Russian Federation to implement all the Assembly's resolutions related to the military aggression against Ukraine; to halt the use of legislation to fight extremism to curtail freedom of expression and assembly in the Russian Federation; to fully recognise the supremacy of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and to unconditionally execute the judgments of the Court; to fully investigate unlawful detentions, torture and killings of men in the Chechen Republic based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, to hold any perpetrators of such heinous acts accountable and to take effective measures to protect the life, liberty and security of gay and bisexual people throughout the Russian Federation;
7.7 the Serbian authorities to fully implement the remaining recommendations of the Assembly with regard to the media environment; to revise the constitutional provisions pertaining to the judiciary and to implement the necessary reforms to depoliticise judicial institutions, strengthen the rule of law and increase trust in State institutions;
7.8 the Turkish authorities to fully address concerns and implement recommendations contained in the Venice Commission opinions on the emergency decree laws; to end the pressure on journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians;
7.9 the Ukrainian authorities to fully implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission in its opinion on the new Law on Education; to increase the pace of the reforms to fight the pervasive corruption in the country and to ensure that these reforms lead to tangible and concrete results;
7.10 the Bulgarian authorities to implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission in its opinions on the Judicial System Act, as well as on the Electoral Code and to strengthen the accountability of the prosecutor general;
7.11 the Montenegrin authorities to fully implement the legislation aimed at guaranteeing the genuine independence and professionalism of the judiciary and to provide the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption with the necessary means to carry out its mandate efficiently; to strengthen the Special Prosecutor’s Office and its special police unit in order to allow them to deal with the high number of cases before them; the opposition to end its boycott of the parliament and to engage in the reform process, including in relation to the electoral framework ahead of the 2018 presidential elections;
7.12 the authorities of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and all political forces to address the ongoing polarisation and ethnic tensions in the country, to depoliticise the State institutions and regulatory bodies and to ensure an efficient, impartial and independent judiciary.
8 With regard to the preparation of the report on the functioning of democratic institutions in Poland, the Assembly takes note of the visit of the co-rapporteurs to Warsaw. In this context, the Assembly calls on the Polish authorities to ensure that the ongoing reforms, and in particular that of the justice system, are fully in line with European standards. To this end, the Assembly calls on the Polish authorities to continue requesting Venice Commission opinions on such reforms and to address the recommendations and concerns contained therein.
9 The Assembly reaffirms the importance of the parliamentary monitoring procedure, and the work of the Monitoring Committee in the democratisation and institution-building processes in all Council of Europe member States. In that respect, it especially welcomes the periodic reviews on the honouring of the membership obligations to the Council of Europe by countries that are not subject to a monitoring procedure sensu stricto or engaged in a post-monitoring dialogue with the Assembly.
10 The Assembly takes note of the periodic review reports on the honouring of their membership obligations to the Council of Europe in respect of Estonia, Greece, Hungary and Ireland, which are presented as part of the report on the progress of the Assembly’s monitoring procedure (January-December 2017). It endorses the findings and conclusions in these periodic review reports and encourages the respective authorities to implement its recommendations. In particular, the Assembly:
10.1 with respect to Estonia:
10.1.1 commends Estonia’s extraordinary e-governance policy and the considerable achievements regarding transparency and accessibility of government and its cyberdefence expertise;
10.1.2 welcomes Estonia’s adherence to the principles of the rule of law and congratulates the country on its score in the Corruption Perception Index, which reflects a low perception of corruption by the population. To further strengthen this public perception, the Assembly encourages the authorities to promptly implement the outstanding recommendations of the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO);
10.1.3 while taking note of Estonia’s specific historical context, and while welcoming the significant steps taken by the Estonian authorities concerning the situation of stateless persons/“persons with undetermined citizenship”, the Assembly recommends further steps to reduce their number by increasing access to citizenship for long-term residents;
10.1.4 encourages the authorities to continue promoting the use of minority languages and calls on Estonia to sign and ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ETS No. 148);
10.1.5 while commending the efforts made by the authorities to integrate the Russian minority, recommends that further measures be taken to reduce unemployment and social exclusion among ethnic minorities in the country;
10.1.6 calls on the Estonian Parliament to ratify Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 177) and encourages the authorities to implement the outstanding recommendations of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) regarding racist speech and discrimination against Roma;
10.2 with respect to Greece:
10.2.1 takes note of the adverse impact of the recession and austerity policies on social rights, especially those of the most disadvantaged groups of the population;
10.2.2 warmly welcomes in this context the ratification of the European Social Charter (revised) (ETS No. 163) in 2016 and encourages the authorities to make a declaration enabling national NGOs to submit collective complaints;
10.2.3 stresses that corruption represents one of the root causes that contributed to the economic and sovereign debt crisis in the country. The Assembly therefore commends the Greek authorities for the measures they have taken to ensure transparency of party funding and to fight corruption and calls on them to fully implement the recommendations of GRECO;
10.2.4 underlines that Greece has faced a major migration crisis in recent years, for which it has had to assume a large share of the financial burden, for which it should be lauded. It calls, however, on the Greek authorities to end the practice of detention of immigrant children and to intensify efforts to improve living conditions and the integration of refugees and migrants in line with Assembly Resolution 2174 (2017) on the human rights implications of the European response to transit migration across the Mediterranean and with the recommendations issued by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT);
10.2.5 notes with regret that the combination of the economic crisis and the migration crisis has provided fertile ground for extremist ideas to flourish in Greece. The Assembly therefore urges the Greek authorities to take resolute action to combat racism and intolerance, ensure the effective implementation of anti-hate-crime legislation and implement the recommendations of ECRI and the Commissioner for Human Rights. It calls on the Greek Parliament to ratify Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights without further delay;
10.2.6 with respect to the rights of minorities, reiterates its call on Greece to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (ETS No. 157) and fully implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights to enhance the rights of minorities;
10.2.7 calls on the Greek authorities to enhance the transparency and accountability of the judicial system as requested by GRECO;
10.2.8 remains concerned by the persistent problem of ill-treatment by police as highlighted by the CPT and the Commissioner for Human Rights and urges the authorities to take determined action and to reinforce preventive measures to tackle this systemic problem, including the establishment of an effective and fully independent police complaints body;
10.2.9 encourages the authorities to further enhance the independence of the media and urges them to continue to refrain from undue political interference in the media environment;
10.2.10 calls on the Greek Parliament to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (CETS No. 210) signed in 2011, in order to combat violence against women, which remains a serious and widespread problem in Greek society;
10.2.11 applauds the introduction into force of Law 4511/2018, which abolishes the obligatory application of sharia law in all civil and inheritance matters of the Muslim minority of Thrace and stipulates that Greek civil law shall apply and that Greek civil courts shall have jurisdiction, unless all parties concerned explicitly agree otherwise;
10.3 with respect to Hungary:
10.3.1 while welcoming the repeated expressions by the Hungarian authorities of unquestionable commitment to Europe and its community of values, expresses its concern about reforms that have raised questions with regard to attempts to establish political control of most key institutions while in parallel weakening the system of checks and balances;
10.3.2 reiterates its concern about the recent developments showing an increasing stigmatisation of NGOs, in particular following the recently adopted law on the transparency of organisations receiving foreign funding, which causes disproportionate and unnecessary interference with freedom of expression and association, and calls for amendments to the law in order to bring it into line with European standards;
10.3.3 urges the Hungarian authorities to reverse the country’s decline in ratings regarding media freedom and to cease the strong political intervention in the Hungarian media market. In this context, the Assembly calls on the Hungarian authorities to decriminalise defamation and to take appropriate measures to increase transparency and accountability regarding the right to access to information;
10.3.4 with regard to the judiciary, takes note of the positive steps taken to enhance the role of the national judicial council as a supervisory body; encourages the authorities to continue these reforms, including by adopting measures to minimise the risk of discretionary decisions by the president of the national judicial office and to increase the independence of the prosecution service;
10.3.5 calls on the authorities to address the issue of prison overcrowding in line with judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and CPT recommendations, and, in this context, urges the authorities to step up their efforts to promote alternative non-custodial measures and to minimise recourse to pretrial detention;
10.3.6 welcomes the authorities’ efforts regarding the minority language policy and the improvement of non-discrimination legislation;
10.3.7 while welcoming the progress in legislation and practice to combat hate crime and hate speech, expresses its concern about hate speech and xenophobic rhetoric in political discourse, which is not sufficiently condemned in public. The Assembly urges the authorities to address this issue, including by implementing the relevant recommendations of the Commissioner for Human Rights, ECRI and the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities;
10.3.8 calls on the Hungarian Parliament to ratify the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems (ETS No. 189);
10.3.9 reiterates its concerns about the amendments to the Act on National Tertiary Education which could force the Central European University to close down or move out of Hungary, and calls for the review of the legislation in compliance with Venice Commission recommendations;
10.3.10 while acknowledging the unprecedented challenge for the country deriving from migration, expresses its concern regarding the non-compliance of asylum legislation and practice with European and international standards. The Assembly urges the authorities to establish a fully human rights-compliant asylum system and to ensure that any allegation of excessive use of force by border guards is promptly investigated in an independent and impartial manner;
10.4 with respect to Ireland:
10.4.1 applauds Ireland for the innovative and participatory process started in 2012 to revise the constitution by involving the parliament, civil society and Irish citizens, and notes that this has resulted in the organisation of several referendums on constitutional amendments;
10.4.2 welcomes, in this respect, the improvement of the legal framework and rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, including same-sex marriages, legal recognition of transgender people and the expected extension of adoption rights to same-sex as well as cohabiting couples;
10.4.3 welcomes the progress made over the past decade in acknowledging responsibility for institutional abuses perpetrated against children and women, notably in the “Magdalene laundries” and the “mother and baby homes”. The Assembly encourages the Irish authorities to continue to confront and investigate past human rights abuses and to ensure that redress mechanisms are accessible to all victims, in line with the recommendations issued by the Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Committee against Torture;
10.4.4 calls on the Irish authorities to further implement the O’Keeffe v. Ireland judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, in which the Court found that Ireland had failed to fulfil its obligation under Article 3 of the Convention to protect children from abuse, and to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS No. 201), which Ireland signed in 2007;
10.4.5 in the field of gender equality, welcomes the positive efforts undertaken to promote gender mainstreaming and greater participation of women in politics. In this context, the Assembly encourages the Irish authorities to take a firm stance to promote, de jure and de facto, gender equality and expects the constitutional referendums scheduled in 2018 to result in:
10.4.5.1 the removal or revision of Article 41.2.1 regarding a woman’s life within the home, which engraves in the Constitution gender stereotypes that have no place in a modern democratic society;
10.4.5.2 the revision of the 8th constitutional amendment, so as to make termination of pregnancy with gestational limits lawful in Ireland, enhance women’s rights to reproductive health and facilitate access to legal and safe abortion, in line with Assembly Resolution 1607 (2008) on access to safe and legal abortion in Europe;
10.4.6 calls on Ireland to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence and to promptly align its legislation;
10.4.7 encourages the Irish authorities to ensure an inclusive education of all pupils, irrespective of their religion or belief, notably by adopting the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill so as to ensure fairer and more transparent enrolment policies for all primary and secondary schools;
10.4.8 commends Ireland’s efforts to fight corruption and encourages the Irish authorities to implement GRECO’s recommendations, and adopt and enact the 2015 Public Sector Standards Bill and the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Bill which will strengthen the anti-corruption legal framework;
10.4.9 also expects the swift adoption of the Judicial Council Bill to ensure, inter alia, the setting up of an independent statutory council for the judiciary and the adoption of a code of conduct for judges;
10.4.10 welcoming the recent recognition of Travellers as an ethnic group by the Irish Government, encourages the authorities to further combat discrimination against Roma and Travellers;
10.4.11 calls on the authorities to ratify Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, which it signed in 2000.
11 The Assembly welcomes the Monitoring Committee’s continuous efforts to reflect on ways in which the periodic review process can be strengthened and reinforced.
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