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24 June 2019 morning

2019 - Third part-session Print sitting

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Sitting No 19

Statement by the President

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:30:07

The meeting is open. I declare open the third part of the 2019 ordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Secretary General, Ladies and gentlemen, Colleagues,

The part-session which we are starting today is taking place in extraordinary circumstances. Our Organisation is going through a crisis which has serious implications for the European human rights protection system and for the stability and sustainability of our own institutions.

In January, at the opening of the 2019 plenary session, I called for us to assume our political and institutional responsibilities and seek solutions to the crisis we were going through. Since then, we have made several important steps and taken various decisions. We now have a duty to finish the work we have started.

I should like now briefly to go over the main steps we have taken since January.

Firstly, we have stepped up dialogue with the Committee of Ministers and held several meetings between the Presidential Committee and the Bureau of the Ministers’ Deputies. In this connection, I should like to thank the two respective chairmanships – of Finland and France – for their outstanding and constructive collaboration.Secondly, we have completed our process of reflection on the role and mission of the Assembly, the challenges facing us and the means of tackling them. In this connection, we took a number of key decisions during our April part-session. In particular, we reiterated clearly that membership of the Council of Europe entailed an obligation on all member states to participate in both statutory organs and that all member states were required to honour fully their statutory and financial obligations. We also called on the Russian Federation to appoint a delegation to the Assembly and resume the obligatory payment of its contribution to the organisation’s budget. Lastly – and from my point of view, most importantly – we proposed to the Committee of Ministers that we work together on setting up, alongside the existing procedures, a joint mechanism for responding to situations in which member states fail to honour their obligations or respect the values championed by our Organisation.

The President replies to M. John HOWELL.

Thirdly, the Committee of Ministers, in turn, took our proposals on board at the 129th ministerial session in Helsinki. In particular, it affirmed that all member states should be allowed to participate on an equal footing in both statutory organs of the Council of Europe, while stressing the need for everyone to meet their financial obligations. The Committee of Ministers also underlined the importance of the national delegations of all member states taking part in the work of the Assembly. Lastly, the Committee of Ministers accepted our proposal to work together on a joint response mechanism as described by the Assembly to supplement the existing procedures.

We must now find the means of implementing these respective decisions, which were approved by large majorities of the members of the Assembly and of the Committee of Ministers. We have therefore asked our Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs to make proposals. The Committee has prepared a report and a draft resolution which we are going to consider this afternoon.

What do these proposals involve?Firstly, the committee is proposing that we allow, on an exceptional and ad hoc basis, the parliaments not currently represented in the Assembly – those of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Russia – to submit the credentials of their delegations during this June part-session It is important to underline that the Committee does not call into question the possibility, duly provided for by our Rules of Procedure of challenging the credentials of a delegation

Secondly, the committee is proposing that we clarify the list of the rights of participation and representation of members in activities of the Assembly and its bodies which may be suspended or withdrawn by the Assembly when it votes on challenges to or reconsideration of delegations’ credentials.

I do not want to – and cannot – influence the debate. Individual members will be guided by their consciences. I hope – and I will do my utmost to achieve this – that the debate will take place in the best conditions of mutual listening and respect.

In taking our decisions today, we must all remember the origins of the crisis we are experiencing because there are incontrovertible facts which the Assembly can neither ignore nor accept. We are therefore going to continue to defend with conviction and determination our positions and the principles of international law that are so important to us.

At the same time, we must also shoulder our institutional and political responsibilities.

In this year when the Council of Europe is celebrating its 70th anniversary, it is our duty to do all we can to ensure that our Organisation can continue to promote “a closer union” between the nations and peoples of Europe and the values on which it is founded: peace, dignity and human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

We must therefore find a way to move forward. We all have the same objective: to defend the common interests of 830 million Europeans who expect to be able to enjoy – without any exclusion whatsoever – the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights. Let us always keep this in mind.Ladies and Gentlemen,Our work on the report of the Committee on Rules of Procedure must not divert our attention from the other topics on the agenda of this part-session which relate to fundamental human rights issues: gender equality, combating violence against women and the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, ending violence against children as part of our contribution to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, the investigation into the murder of the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, the post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria and the investigation into the murder of the prominent Russian opposition figure, Boris Nemtsov. I count on your active participation in these debates.

Another highlight of this Session is the election, on Wednesday, of the future Secretary General of our Organisation. I count on you to take an active part in this election so that the future Secretary General can be assured of the strong support of our Assembly.

In this context, I would like to pay tribute to the current Secretary General, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, for whom this part-session will be the last in his current position.

Secretary General, dear Thorbjørn,On behalf of the Parliamentary Assembly, I would like to thank you for your commitment and your contribution to our Organisation. During your two successive terms of office, you have initiated and carried out reforms that have enabled our Organisation to be more visible, more responsive and more present on the ground, and indeed more relevant in the European architecture. As a convinced European and “constitutionalist” as you describe yourself, you have always placed emphasis on strict compliance with the standards promoted by our organisation, as a common, uniform legal reference framework for the fundamental rights and freedoms of all those on our continent.

Your statements to the Assembly have always elicited a great deal of interest from Assembly members. In addition to your annual communication, you have spoken in several debates, in particular on the human rights aspects of the massive influx of refugees into Europe and on the reform of the system of the European Convention on Human Rights. You were the first Secretary-General – during each of our part-sessions – to hold spontaneous question and answer sessions, a practice that we hope to be able to continue with your successor.

I wish you, already, a new stage of life as rich and exciting as the one you have just lived for 10 years, but perhaps a little quieter and compatible with a social life and hobbies, not to mention the time needed to write, since I was told that this was your project!

Secretary General,This is the last part-session you are attending in this capacity, but – in the months to come – we will doubtless still have the opportunity to continue our collaboration, not least as we reflect together on the joint response mechanism to which I referred just now. I would therefore like to assure you of our continued full support until the end of your term.

And now, dear colleagues, before we begin our work, I would like to give the floor to the Secretary General, Mr Jagland.

 

Thorbjørn Jagland

Secretary General of the Council of Europe

11:44:01

President, thank you very much for your kind words. I have served under many past presidents. I would like to say to you, Lilian, you are a particular one for me because of your personality. You are a person you can always trust. You have a line which you pursue. And when some take the low ground, you always take the high ground. So thank you very much to you. Thank you to Wojciech Sawicki, who has been alone during all these ten years, and his secretariat. But first of all thank you to all of you, deputies. Not all of you were here when I was elected for the first time or for the second time, but all of you have given me the possibility to serve this precious organisation.

As you said, Madam President, when I came here the Secretary General appeared only once a year to make a speech. I thought it was a bit strange. So I said "why shouldn't the Secretary General come here every time we have a session, not to make a speech, but to answer questions?". We started with that practice. I enjoyed it. There was a lot of good dialogue, some confrontation, and I would say some fun. I really enjoyed some of the stories from many of your parliaments, particularly those from the House of Commons and the House of Lords. I remember when Mr John GREENWAY told the following story. There were two Lords that met, and one of the Lords said to the other: "I dreamt I was speaking in the House of Commons. I woke up, and I was". So there have been many things which I've enjoyed in this Assembly. I have only one wish, namely, that you keep up your innovative force.

Many good things have come from this Assembly. I could go through a long list, but I can name one. Namely the Istanbul convention actually started here. Remember how Mr José MENDES BOTA –I think he is present here today– started to work on it. It became the Istanbul Convention and now it is called the golden standard at a global level. The Council of Europe needs a Parliamentary Assembly that has this innovative force and can push new things forward. We need you to keep up a pan-European platform. President Macron said it the other day. We cannot have only confrontation there has to be a dialogue also somewhere.

For the time being, I think the Council of Europe is somewhere. My last word would be for my wife. She is here today. In today's world nobody can give for granted that your wife will give up her job, lose 10 years of income and 10 years of pension rights, go along with you, take care of your residence, renovate your residency, make it a pleasant place to come to, with pleasant surroundings. It has meant a lot for me  and I think it was very important for many in and around the Council of Europe. You are welcome to us for the last time on Wednesday, so if you want to applaud, applaud now. Please extend it to my wife. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:48:47

Thank you very much. The next item is the examination of the credentials of members of the Assembly which have been submitted to the Presidency in accordance with Rule 6 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of the representatives of the substitutes in question are given in document 14913. If there is no challenge, these credentials may be ratified. That seems to be the case... I beg your pardon. Mr. Gale, you have the floor.

Examination of credentials

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC

11:49:17

President, sadly, I find it necessary to challenge the still-unratified credentials of the Spanish delegation on procedural grounds. We believe that there is a violation of rule 7.1b. The Spanish delegation, as presented, includes only the big parties in the Spanish Parliament. The smaller parties have not even been invited to present their candidates and we know that, from at least one source, one Spanish party - not one that I would personally support but that is immaterial - has, is not present here today because we were not told the truth, so I invite colleagues to stand and support me in objecting to the credentials of the Spanish delegation.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:50:04

Wait, wait, wait, wait!

Let me just announce the procedure.

Sit down, and yu will get up when I tell you to.

Mr Gale contests the credentials of the Spanish delegation on formal grounds. I remind you that, according to Rule 7 of our Rules of Procedure, credentials must be contested by at least ten members of the Assembly present in the Chamber and belonging to at least five national delegations. Those who support this challenge can stand up now.

I note that the number of ten representatives and substitutes belonging to five national delegations has been reached. The credentials of the Spanish delegation are contested on formal grounds. Credentials contested on formal grounds shall be referred without debate to the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, which shall report to the Assembly, if possible within 24 hours. May I remind the Assembly that, under the provisions of Rule 10 of the Rules of Procedure, members whose credentials are contested shall sit provisionally with the same rights as other representatives, substitutes and substitutes until the Assembly has taken a decision. However, these members shall not participate in any vote related to the verification of credentials concerning them.

The other credentials contained in document 14913 are ratified.

I welcome all our new colleagues.

Proposals for changes in the composition of committees have been published in Commission 2019-06 and Addendum 1 and there is no opposition to these changes: they are therefore adopted.

Before considering the agenda, the Assembly must decide on two requests for debate under urgent procedure. A request for an urgent debate presented by the European Conservative Group on: Putting an end to Russian blackmail: request to the Committee of Ministers to hold the Russian Federation accountable for non-payment of membership fees. A request for an urgent debate presented by the Group of the European People's Party on: Obligation of all Member States to ensure that the persons who shot down flight MH17 on 17 July 2014 are brought to justice.

The Assembly must first decide on the first request for an urgent debate: Putting an end to Russian blackmail: request to the Committee of Ministers to hold the Russian Federation accountable for non-payment of membership fees. At its meeting this morning, the Bureau issued an unfavourable opinion on this request and opposes the inclusion of this debate in this part-session. Does the Assembly agree with the Bureau's proposal not to hold an urgent debate on this subject?

This seems to be the case.

Ah, sorry, I beg you pardon, Mr. Liddell-Grainger, you have the floor.

Changes in the membership of committees

Requests for current affairs debate or debate under urgent procedure

Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER

United Kingdom, EC

11:53:46

Thank you Madam President, I just wish to bring colleagues aware of this. On behalf of the European Conservatives, we requested the Assembly to hold a debate under the urgent procedure about the Russian non-payment of its legal obligation contributions to the Council of Europe for the years 2017 and 2018. In those years, the Russian Federation violated Article 38 of the Statute by paying its contributions only partly, and putting the Council of Europe, in great financial difficulty. The two-year bi-annual created in 1994 to facilitate new democracies and financial obligations never intended to be abuse and should not allow the Russians to get away with this. We therefore ask the Assembly to put the request for an urgent debate back on the agenda.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:54:33

Thank you. There was therefore an opposition to the Bureau's proposal. We will therefore have to proceed to a vote. In the debate on urgency, you have heard the motivation for the proposal on urgency. Does anyone wish to speak against the urgent debate?

Mr. Kox, you have the floor.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

11:54:57

I think Madam President that the Bureau took a wise decision that this is not a proper moment to discuss that. We will discuss Russia in and out throughout this session week, so I ask colleagues to follow the advice of the Bureau not for this urgent debate this week. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:55:16

Thank you, Mr Kox.

In your intervention, you actually defended the position of this morning's Bureau, which, I would remind you, issued an unfavourable opinion. We will therefore vote on the urgent procedure, which requires a two-thirds majority of the votes cast to be accepted. Those who wish for an emergency debate to be held will vote yes, those who agree with the Bureau's proposal not to hold an emergency debate will vote no.

The ballot is open.

The vote is closed.

The request for an urgent debate is rejected.

We will proceed to the vote on the second request for an urgent debate, which, I remind you, concerns the Obligation of all States to make sure that the people who downed flight MH17 on 17 July 2014 are brought to justice. At its meeting this morning, the Bureau issued an unfavourable opinion on this request and opposes the inclusion of this debate during the current part-session. Does the Assembly agree with this proposal by the Bureau?

I'm sorry, yes, you have the floor.

 

Sir Edward LEIGH

United Kingdom, EC

11:56:56

We are supposed to be the Council of Europe. Here we have innocent people, over 200 people knocked out of the sky by an act of war. People have been summoned towards the international tribunal, I doubt that they will ever appear and yet the Council of Europe, apparently, is prepared not to debate this issue. This is a fundamental issue of the rights of our European friends, innocent people killed in an act of war. It is ridiculous that we are not having this debate. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:57:29

Thank you, does anyone wish to speak against the urgent debate?

Mr. Daems.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE

11:57:38

Not only Dutch people but also Belgian people were killed in this tragedy, and I oppose the opinion of my colleagues saying that the Council of Europe is not ready to debate on it. On the contrary, the point is whether we think that it is efficient only to have an urgent debate rather to have a real report on it and really looking into the fact what the Council of Europe can do to help bring justice indeed into place. So, it is not that we do not want to have a debate on it, my dear colleague, on the contrary, this deserves more, and this is why the group's leaders are preparing the motion to have a real debate in the near future.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:58:15

Thank you, Mr Daems, you also explained the Bureau's position this morning. We will now vote on the urgency, again, which requires a 2/3 majority of the votes cast to be accepted.

Those who wish to hold an urgent debate vote yes; those who agree with the Bureau's proposal not to hold an urgent debate vote no. The ballot is open.

The vote is closed. The request for an urgent debate has also been rejected.

We now come to the adoption of the agenda for this part-session. The draft agenda was prepared by the Bureau at the meetings this morning. I would like to point out, however, that since we do not have an urgent debate scheduled for Thursday morning, the Bureau proposes that the joint debate Ending violence against children and A Council of Europe contribution to sustainable development objectives and Ending violence against and exploitation of migrant children be postponed from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday morning. This debate will be followed in the early afternoon of Thursday by the report on the challenge of the credentials of the Spanish delegation. With these two changes....

Yes, Mrs Goguadze, you have the floor.

Ms Nino GOGUADZE

Georgia, EC

12:00:01

Madam President, actually, it's highly unusual to have the progress report not on Monday and to have to deal with the report of the rules committed in the prime time. And, actually, everyone in this hemicycle is aware that Georgia is being challenged. There is unrest in Moldova, Ukraine, human rights are being violated in Russia, and I think that, for sure, this Assembly has other priorities instead of altering its rules of procedures. Therefore, we request to stick to the original draft agenda and have the progress report on Monday and the rules report on Tuesday.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:00:46

Mrs Goguadze, in fact it is a change of our proposed agenda that you are proposing to us here, and it is not a return to a previous agenda. So, it is indeed a new proposal that you are making, if I have understood you correctly, you are proposing to change our agenda and to deal this afternoon with the Bureau's activity report before or instead of the report of the Committee on Rules of Procedure.

I can put this proposal to the vote, but first I will ask if anyone is against it.

Yes, Mr. Kox, you have the floor.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

12:01:27

I think it is a wise decision that we have the agenda as it is. It is prepared by all our colleagues as it is, so to change it at the very last moment with no arguments at all because the progress reports could be presented on Monday, could be presented on Tuesday, could be presented all day, but also be presented on Friday partly, so I advise the colleagues to follow the Bureau and to adopt the agenda as it is.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:01:54

Thank you.

I would like to ask the Chairman of the Committee on Rules of Procedure what her opinion is on the proposed change of agenda. Is she in the assembly? I don't see her. We therefore have no opinion from the President, but we have had the opinion of the Bureau, since this item was not contested at all in the preparation of the draft agenda.

I will therefore put Mrs Goguadze's proposal to the vote. Those who support this proposal vote yes; those who oppose it and want to keep the draft as presented by the Bureau vote no. The ballot is open.

The vote is closed. The proposal was rejected. The draft agenda was thus adopted.

Mr. Kandelaki, can I ask you why you're getting up?

Adoption of the agenda

Mr Giorgi KANDELAKI

Georgia, EPP/CD

12:03:20

Thank you. I would like to speak about a particular item on the agenda which is the report on the murder of Boris Nemtsov.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:03:28

However, Mr KANDELAKI, we have just adopted the agenda for the part-session.

(Interruption by Mr KANDELAKI)

So tell me again what you want to change on the Assembly's agenda.

Mr Giorgi KANDELAKI

Georgia, EPP/CD

12:03:51

Thank you. My point regards the item of the Boris Nemtsov murder. I knew Boris Nemtsov, many of you did too. He was the best chance Russia had. He was a serious politician who could win. For five years, he was murdered, he ended up with a bullet in his head at the Kremlin Wall. For five years, this assembly didn't find time to discuss this. I regret that some leaders of this organisation and I also regret, which includes the Secretary General, have delayed this as they could. Doesn't Boris Nemtsov not deserve to be discussed in some other slot, rather than Thursday evening when most people are gone? For example, on Wednesday? For example, the item on children, which is less contentious and we would all support it, can be swapped with the Nemtsov report. It's... I'm speechless that we cannot find time earlier than Thursday evening to discuss the murder of Boris Nemtsov. Boris Nemtsov did not deserve this. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:05:10

Thank you, Mr Kandelaki, as I said earlier, the debate on violence against children is already scheduled for Thursday morning and not Wednesday afternoon in the proposal I made. So, if you wish, we can completely switch the debate on the murder of Boris Nemtsov with the debate on violence against children. But that means, not on Wednesday afternoon, but on Thursday morning, and then in the late afternoon, the one on violence against children. Would this proposal be appropriate for you?

Mr Giorgi KANDELAKI

Georgia, EPP/CD

12:05:56

It was just an example. We have another item, such as the mental health... 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:06:00

Excuse me. Excuse me. I need more than an example. I need a proposal, which I will submit to the vote.

Mr Giorgi KANDELAKI

Georgia, EPP/CD

12:06:07

Okay then, the proposal is to swap it with the mental health item, which is also a very serious item, on Wednesday. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:06:15

On Wednesday morning.

Okay, so we have a proposal from Mr. Kandelaki to swap the Boris Nemtsov report with the report on mental health.

Does anyone wish to speak against this proposal?

Mr. Kox?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

12:06:41

Here again, the Bureau decided that this placement of reports would suit the Assembly best, and I do not favour last-minute changes in the agenda. The agenda is prepared as it was there, so I would stick to the original agenda and not call the one item less important than the other item. It is correct, all items on our agenda are all very important. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:07:08

Thank you,

I ask the opinion of the Chairman of the Social Affairs Committee, Mr Schennach.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC

12:07:19

I'm really against this change because this report is a very important report, and I cannot deal - one report is much more important than the other one. And we have, for this report, our Commissioner of Human Rights as guest and it was dealt. Dunja Mijatović is coming and the work is done unanimously in the Committee and please respect this. And I think we should not change. I'm against. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:07:50

Thank you.

We will therefore proceed to the vote.

Mr. Kandelaki, are you changing your point of view? Are you giving up on your proposal?

Mr Giorgi KANDELAKI

Georgia, EPP/CD

12:07:58

While there was - there was a slight miscommunication. Thursday morning, I think, would be acceptable to me and most Members, and that could be a workable compromise. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:08:14

That is the proposal you made but you have put forward another proposal.

Mr. Kox.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

12:08:22

I do not like points of order, but there was a proposal. Someone spoke in favour, someone spoke against, we vote on that proposal and if Mr Kandelaki prepares his proposals better in the future, then this will not happen. He cannot modify his proposal after it has been discussed.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:08:40

Thank you. We will therefore proceed to the vote.

Those who wish to follow Mr. Kandelaki's proposal vote yes; those who oppose it vote no.

The ballot is open.

The vote is closed.

The proposal is rejected.

Mr. Kiral, you have the floor.

Mr Serhii KIRAL

Ukraine, EC

12:09:15

Just in line with what Mr Giorgi KANDELAKI... You said that we have quite a packed agenda. But I've noticed that we also have the debate on the credentials on Tuesday afternoon. We just had an examination of credentials, so I wonder why we have to have another examination of credentials Tuesday afternoon. So I would like to propose to take this item out of the agenda.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:09:39

I think there has been a misunderstanding, Mr. Kiral. The report on the credentials I have just proposed will take place on Thursday afternoon, for the challenge of the credentials of the Spanish delegation. There are no further debates on the agenda at the moment on a challenge to another power, but, of course, if we receive –as it is possible– credentials from new delegations tomorrow morning, it will then be possible for them to be challenged and, at that time, we will have to find a moment to deal with them within the framework of this week, knowing that, as with Spain, the question is to ask the Commission to deal with the issue as soon as possible. So, if there is a new delegation, if the credentials of these new delegations are challenged tomorrow morning, we will make you another proposal with an amendment to the agenda that we cannot do now, since we do not know what will happen.

Mr. Ariev.

Mr Volodymyr ARIEV

Ukraine, EPP/CD

12:10:48

Thank you, Madam Chair. I'm a bit surprised having seen that on Tuesday, paragraphs number 5 and 9 are identical and examination of credentials on Tuesday are scheduled for morning sitting and afternoon sitting as well. That's the first time we have such a situation here. Usually it was going to be on Monday. This may be a special situation on Tuesday, but why twice? I think we should keep the only examination of credentials on Tuesday morning and to exclude it from the point 9 on Tuesday afternoon, thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:11:37

Mr Ariev, you do not have the correct version of the document in your hands, since the version of 24 June, i. e. today, does not provide for the verification of credentials twice for the same date. Therefore, please refer to the latest version of the Assembly's agenda.

And that being said, I hope I can...Mr. Kiral...

Mr Serhii KIRAL

Ukraine, EC

12:12:05

I'm sorry for this point of order, but I guess it's because the Assembly is rushing to appease the Russians so much that the agenda is being formed in a rush. But we have also noticed that the vote for the Secretary General was supposed to end at 5 pm now it's been extended until 7 pm and there is no reason for that. If Russians most likely will present their credentials tomorrow they will have the same rights to vote and to sit together with us. But we also know that they announced publicly that they will not come here until their credentials debate is completed. So why do we have this discriminatory approach towards the Russian delegation? They should be like us and vote together with us.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:12:45

Mr Kiral,

Since you are raising a point of order, you know that the Rules of Procedure provide at this stage for you to make a proposal to us. If you do not agree with the proposal made by the Bureau, you make us a proposal. If you propose to shorten the deadline for the election of the Secretary General, we will vote on this proposal, but we are not debating the agenda, you put forward a proposal, please.

With the microphone, it will be easier for the interpreters.

Mr Serhii KIRAL

Ukraine, EC

12:13:17

My proposal it to complete the voting for the Secretary General by five o'clock, not seven o'clock.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:13:23

Thank you, I have taken note of that. Does anyone wish to speak against Mr. Kiral's proposal?

Mr. Kox.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

12:13:32

I think that we all took a wise decision to allow all our members –all our members– to participate as broadly as possible in the election of the most important, –let's say a very important– person of our organisation on Wednesday and we should not limit these rights. We are living in extraordinary circumstances and I'm wondering why the agenda –to draft the agenda– takes so many oppositions today. Would there be something behind it?

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:14:00

Thank you, we will proceed to the vote.

Those who support Mr Kiral's proposal say yes; those who oppose it vote no,

The ballot is open.

The vote is closed.

Mr Kiral's proposal was rejected.

Mr. Kiral.

Mr Serhii KIRAL

Ukraine, EC

12:14:38

I have one more point of order, and this is strictly a logistic item. There were some items on the agenda that were put at the last moment. The vote for the Secretary General was moved from Wednesday... From Tuesday to Wednesday. I would like to propose that the vote is moved back to Tuesday. Thank you.

 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:14:59

Thank you.

This is not a point of order; it is a proposal to amend the agenda.

Does anyone wish to object to this proposal?

Mr. Kox.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

12:15:14

I think that we have organised the agenda in such a way that we could have decent debates and decent votes here. And that vote for the Secretary General will be on Wednesday. It's completely normal and in line with our rules, and I do not understand why some Members are now coming up with proposal after proposal. I'm wondering how long it will last, but I think that the Assembly will be wise enough to follow the proposal of the Bureau and have the vote on Wednesday.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:15:44

Thank you.

We will proceed to the vote. Those who support Mr. Kiral's proposal vote yes. Those who oppose it vote no.

The ballot is open.

The vote is closed. The proposal was rejected.

We have another proposal patently, unless there is a problem with the Rules... Mr. Leigh?

Sir Edward LEIGH

United Kingdom, EC

12:16:24

My point of order is that we have a very important debate this afternoon to strengthen the decision-making process of the Parliamentary Assembly, and I know that there is a huge number of people who put their name in to speak. If we end the debate at 8 o'clock, there's a very large chance that numerous people will not get into the debate. What is your proposal? Can we extend the debate to 10 o'clock? And, if necessary, can we go on debating tomorrow, so that everybody has their say on this vital proposal? That is my suggestion, that we are prepared to extend the debate beyond 8 o'clock, and if that is not possible because of translation problems, we come back to the debate tomorrow morning.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:17:02

I can reassure you: we will continue our work as long as necessary and, a priori, finish even if it is during the night.

You had another proposal to make.

Sir Edward LEIGH

United Kingdom, EC

12:17:17

I would like to propose that Item 5, which on my agenda is for tomorrow morning, "[Possibly] Examination of credentials" be removed from the agenda because as I understand it, under Rule 6.4, credentials presented at a later date must be transmitted to the President of the assembly not less than one week before the first sitting of a part session, so if these credentials have already been submitted then we should have dealt with them this morning. If they haven't yet been submitted, then it would be too early to deal with them tomorrow.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:17:59

Excuse me, sir, I can't accept your proposal to delete it. Why? Because these agenda items 5, 6 and 7 are marked as a "Possibly" and would, if necessary, be the consequence of the debates that will take place this afternoon, this evening and this night on the report of the Committee on Rules of Procedure. So from that point of view, it is not possible to follow up on your proposal.

So I can consider...

Interruption by Sir Christopher CHOPE (Royaume-Uni, CE)

Listen, Mr Chope, either it is a point of order – and, at that moment, it is really because you think the Rules of Procedure are not being respected – or it is a proposal. But you can't just get up like that every three minutes calling a point of order.

I would remind you in relation to the Rules of Procedure that an abuse of a point of order may also result in the deprivation of the right to speak or even leaving the Chamber, so I would ask you not to abuse this instrument, which must be used for the well-being and benefit of the Assembly.

We are not in the British Parliament.

Sir Christopher CHOPE

United Kingdom, EC

12:19:29

...it is the first point of order that I have made this morning. And my point of order is, why are we approving an agenda which anticipates possible decisions this afternoon? Surely it is in order now to remove items 5, 6 and 7 from the agenda for tomorrow, and then they can be reintroduced again should the Assembly so determine later on today. But at the moment, to put possible items on the agenda which involve the transmission of lists of potential Members of this Assembly which have not yet been shared with Members of this Assembly, and which under the rules have to be submitted at least one week in advance of the start of a part-session, surely that is not in order. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:20:31

I am therefore going to put this proposal to the vote, although I think it is more pleasant for all Members to know, on Monday morning, what the agenda for Tuesday morning will be, rather than on Monday night. I will put it to the vote, but I would like to ask if anyone wishes to speak against the proposal that has just been made.

Mr. Schwabe has asked for the floor.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC

12:20:54

Thank you, Madam President. So what I really would prefer - you have the allowance to do what you want - but what I would like to prefer is to really see where is the majority in this assembly. So we have a debate about something, we have different opinions about it, but please don't try to use this moment, this mechanism not to come to this decision. We just prepare for a possible decision. If the decision is another one, it's another democratic majority here, not to give the opportunity to have the credentials presented by whoever tomorrow, then there's a majority, but we just prepared. So I'm against this proposal. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:21:34

I will therefore put the proposal to the vote. Those who support Mr. Chope's proposal vote yes. Those who oppose it, vote no.

Sir Christopher CHOPE

United Kingdom, EC

12:23:57

Point of order! Point of order!

Madam President, we have just approved the agenda for this week's part-session. Item 2 on that agenda is the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Council of Europe. If you wish to amend the agenda and withdraw that item, you had the opportunity so to do from the Chair. You did not, therefore that item remains on the agenda. And I certainly think that we should have another vote if you wish to put forward... suspend standing orders and have another vote in order to change the agenda which you have already agreed, then put that to the vote. But don't be high-handed and dictate to us in the way that you seem to be wanting to do.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:24:51

You are absolutely right. It is an agenda that was adopted with the celebration of the 70th anniversary, and that is why –when it came time to do so– I asked you what you thought of the fact that we were giving up this celebration for this part-session. But, of course, if you object to the deletion of the celebration, I will, as usual, put this proposal to the vote. That was not the case until a few minutes ago, until your intervention. Now I know that you have made this proposal –which is opposed to mine– and I will therefore put to the vote my proposal not to hold the 70th anniversary celebration today.

Those who support this proposal not to hold it will vote yes, and those who want to have this celebration will vote no.

The ballot is open.

The vote is closed.

You followed my suggestion not to hold a celebration.

The meeting is suspended for a few minutes, while Madame de Montchalin joins us.

Approval of the minutes of the Standing Committee

Address: Communication from the Committee of Ministers

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:31:36

My dear colleagues,

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:31:41

Mr. ARIEV, I will anticipate your point of order. You are right: the proposed amendment to the agenda should have been accepted with two thirds of the votes. That was not the case. You are right, you are right. That is what you want to raise as a point of order. You are right, you are right.

I did not look at the fact that there should be two thirds of the votes. Considering that we did not have a debate before us, but considering that we had a ceremony, and that for a ceremony, it took the necessary time.

That being said, I give you the floor to raise your point of order.

Mr Volodymyr ARIEV

Ukraine, EPP/CD

12:32:34

Sorry, excuse me. Excuse me.

You have the floor.

If we are going to follow the rules, we are going to follow the rules. If it was on the agenda, the point of agenda for the celebration, it was well-prepared. Or I can't understand what is going on. I'm sorry, but it is a grave violation of the rules. If we had voted for that it should be two-thirds of the vote. Because, before that, you, Madam Chair, proclaimed the agenda as adopted. So any changes required two thirds of the vote of the assembly, that was not fulfilled on the last voting. So the postponing of the celebration ceremony is illegal now, and it creates a very dangerous precedent. Please, do not forget what Mr Agramunt did here. And don't follow that. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:33:32

Thank you, Mr Ariev. I have taken note of your statement. I told you: you are right, but I also told you, this is a particular point. This is not a debate in which we are to make decisions. No one is deprived of the right to speak, but it is the ceremony that is postponed to a future part-session. But you're right about the point of order.

The agenda takes us to the communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Assembly, which will be presented by Mrs Amélie de Montchalin, Secretary of State to the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, –I am finishing my sentence, Mr Chope, I will end my sentence– Responsible for European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

(Interruption by M. CHOPE)

Thank you. If you will allow me, yes, I will give you the floor, but I will tell you something: Rule 36 of the Rules of Procedure states that the floor is given –by priority– to those who request it on a point of order. The point of order only concerns the procedure, and only gives rise to a reply from the President. In the event of a point of order being misused –and this time I am addressing you– the President may take the floor away from the offending representative for the rest of the current debate. I'm not doing it yet, but I warn you that if I'm called upon to intervene again, I will.

You have the floor.

Sir Christopher CHOPE

United Kingdom, EC

12:35:23

I'm very grateful Madam President. I hope you will agree with me that this is a point of order. Under Rule 27.5, adoption of a motion to alter the draft agenda shall require a majority of the votes cast. Adoption of any subsequent motions to alter the agenda, which is the one that we had just now, shall require a two thirds majority. In my submission there was not a two thirds majority to alter the agenda to remove item 4.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:36:08

Thank you.

The point of order has already been raised by Mr Ariev. I have already taken note of this reminder.

After the communication, Mrs Amélie de Montchalin will answer questions from the members of our Assembly.

Madam Secretary of State, it is a great pleasure to welcome you to this Chamber as part of the French Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. We already had the opportunity to have a first exchange of views with you in Paris last month, on the occasion of the meeting of the Standing Committee of our Assembly. This discussion allowed us to better understand the priorities set for the French Presidency, as well as to debate the future and the strengthening of the role of our Organisation.

In the context of the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe, we are all looking forward to continuing this reflection, and it is with pleasure that I give you the floor.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers

12:37:14

Madam President of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Mr. Secretary General,

Honourable members of the Parliamentary Assembly, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a real honour for me to address this Assembly for the first time today.

As we celebrate this year the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe, we can all here measure the progress made since 1949, but also the fact that this Organisation is more essential than ever to promote our common values and principles, those of democracy and human rights, and to foster economic and social progress on our continent.

The Council of Europe is celebrating its 70th anniversary and can be proud of its history, but it is now being put to the test.

Our "common European home" is going through difficulties and it is one of the main challenges of this plenary session of the Assembly to enable it to return to normal and peaceful functioning.

To be able to devote itself fully to the heart of its mission: to protect the citizens of our entire continent.

From the very beginning of the Council of Europe, an important place has been given to the Assembly, which has since grown stronger. The Assembly is the guarantor of the democratic link. Until a few months ago, I was a Member of the French Assembly, and I know how essential this role as an elected representative is to the proper functioning of our institutions. This House helps to give it the legitimacy it needs to defend the rights and values of Europeans in the 47 Member States.

That is why I believe that by working together, the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, we will enable the Council of Europe to continue to live up to the hope of progress born in 1949. I am therefore delighted with the close dialogue between our two bodies, which is particularly important in these last few moments.

You are aware of the important efforts that have been made in recent months to overcome the current crisis, both in this Assembly and in the Committee of Ministers.

In this regard, allow me to congratulate the outgoing Finnish President on the work accomplished and the results achieved. His determined and resolute action deserves the gratitude of all of us. I would also like to acknowledge the work of Mr. Kox and Ms. De Sutter in recent months.

This work has borne fruit, as in Helsinki on 17 May this year, the foreign ministers of the 47 member states reiterated their commitment to the principles and values of the Council of Europe and called for a strengthening of the dialogue with your Assembly. They also reiterated their unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. These borders are sovereign; they must be fully respected. This is what President Emmanuel Macron reminded us very firmly, very solemnly, during President Zelensky's visit to Paris on 17 June. This was also the message conveyed to him by the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who came to Kiev with Heiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister, at the end of May, and it is also the message I personally conveyed to the new President Zelensky on 20 May, on his inauguration day.

A window of opportunity is now open and we must seize it, collectively, to preserve the European dimension of the Council of Europe and the human rights protection system at the service of the 800 million Europeans who live around us. The draft resolution before you today makes it possible to consolidate the efforts made in recent months and to overcome the crisis, while respecting the Organization's rules, values and principles.

Solving this crisis will neither win nor lose. The only winners are the European citizens, all of whom will return to a Council of Europe fully focused on its protection mission and who will thus be able to bring their case before the European Court of Human Rights again in the months and years to come.

Beyond that, I believe it is essential that we should be able to work to make operational the new joint, reaction or sanction procedure - as you wish - which will make it possible to react in an effective, clear and coordinated way - and I would like to say this, I hope quickly - when a Member State fails to fulfil its statutory obligations. The first exchanges we had in Paris on this issue are encouraging - Madam President of the Parliamentary Assembly was present - and will continue this week with the new meeting of the Joint Committee and then in September.

I would like to tell you that I am particularly attentive to the rapid and effective progress of this work.

I am counting on you all to be equally mobilized. Our primary objective must be to ensure the practical protection of the fundamental rights of the 800 million Europeans who observe and surround us. This is the raison d'être of the Council of Europe and I believe that other considerations should never make us lose sight of this objective.

These challenges must not, of course, make us forget the work and progress that is continuing in many areas. I would like to present to you here some of the decisions taken by the Committee of Ministers in Helsinki, which we consider to be of particular importance. In Helsinki, Ministers expressed their deep concern at the shrinking civil society space in Europe. In particular, they agreed to strengthen the Organization's mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders. I believe that today, together, we can all salute their action and welcome with relief the release of Oyub Titiev, the fierce human rights activist whom your Assembly rightly and legitimately awarded in 2018 with the Vaclav Havel Prize. He is now free and his action must be able to continue. I believe that this is an important moment in our collective action towards human rights defenders.

Ministers also decided to intensify work on issues such as artificial intelligence, the fight against discrimination, the fight against trafficking in human beings, freedom of expression, social rights and the fight against violence against women and domestic violence. These themes are for the most part at the heart of the priorities of the French Presidency, which I will have the opportunity to present to you in a moment.

Before doing so, allow me to draw your attention to other developments in the Committee of Ministers since your last session.

The Committee continues to monitor developments in the conflict in Georgia very closely. In Helsinki, the Committee of Ministers took note of the Secretary General's latest synthesis report on this conflict. The Ministers' Deputies reiterated their unequivocal support by Member States for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.

In the case of Georgia, as in other conflict areas in Europe, it is extremely important, if not essential, that the Council of Europe and its members have access to all the so-called "grey areas" to ensure that human rights are respected in these areas too.

With regard to Azerbaijan, on 29 May last, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment (under Article 46(4) of the Convention) in the case of Ilgar Mammadov, applying for the first time this infringement procedure, which had been created in 2010. It found that Azerbaijan had failed to comply with its obligation to comply with the judgment of 22 March 2014 and recalled the obligation of the Azerbaijani authorities to unconditionally release Mr. Mammadov and to erase the consequences of the abusive criminal proceedings against him. At the beginning of June, the Committee of Ministers held a first exchange on this issue, which will continue in September. I believe that we must remain fully vigilant so that the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights can be fully applied. I met President Sicilianos last week here in Strasbourg, and this is a major issue for the credibility of our institution and for our work to be followed up.

With regard to the death penalty, the Committee of Ministers has on numerous occasions, as it has done in your Assembly, affirmed its absolute opposition to this outdated practice. In a declaration adopted on 19 June, the Committee of Ministers deeply regretted the recent execution in Belarus and reiterated its call on the Belarusian authorities to establish an official moratorium on executions as a first step towards the abolition of the death penalty

With regard to the Republic of Moldova, the Ministers' Deputies welcomed the peaceful resolution of the political and constitutional crisis in recent days and encouraged all political forces to engage in a constructive dialogue. I believe that the opinion delivered by the Venice Commission on 21 June last made it possible to clarify the legality of the decisions taken by the Moldovan Constitutional Court. I believe that the Council of Europe can play a real role in promoting this peaceful transition of power and protecting the rule of law in Moldova at this crucial time. I would like to make a small aside here in respect of my role as Minister for European Affairs within the European Union institutions; the European Council noted on Friday evening that it would take all the necessary steps to support and accompany this transition in addition to the actions taken by the Council of Europe. This is a good example, I believe, of the complementarity of the joint work that the Council of Europe and the European Union can carry out.

Let us now turn to what our French Presidency wanted to put on the agenda for the next five months; France has chosen three priorities. First, to preserve and consolidate the human rights protection system in Europe, second, to promote equality and live together, and finally, to respond to new challenges in the field of human rights and the rule of law. As you know, these priorities only become real, effective and concrete if they are supported by your support and work here in the Parliamentary Assembly.

The first priority is therefore to defend the Council of Europe's achievements in the field of human rights. We know - and we see it - that the system of the European Convention on Human Rights is an asset without equal in the world. During our Presidency, we want to focus on strengthening the dialogue of judges by organising a meeting of the presidents of the Supreme Courts across the European continent in September in Paris.

We also want the European system for the protection of social rights to be more highly valued, this is an important achievement of the Council of Europe and we are seeking to promote the European Social Charter. In particular, we would like to encourage more States to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol providing for a system of collective complaints that will strengthen the social rights of our citizens.

Our second priority is the promotion of equality and living together. We are using our presidency to promote the Istanbul Convention, the most advanced instrument to date to combat violence against women and domestic violence. The first major conference of our Presidency was held here in Strasbourg on 24 May, with the participation of Mrs Schiappa, Secretary of State for Equality between Women and Men and the Fight against Discrimination.

On 29 May, the Committee of Ministers adopted a decision establishing a financial mechanism that paves the way for the universalization of the Istanbul Convention.

In the field of the fight against racism and intolerance, the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in Paris in September will provide an opportunity to take stock of the progress made and the new challenges ahead, particularly in terms of inclusion and the taking into account of new technologies.

We also have a project that is particularly close to my heart, that of an observatory for history teaching. If our children only learn the history of wars and conflicts, they will wage war and feed conflicts. If our children learn the story of progress, of reconciliation, of what has made it possible for us to sit together in this House as members from 47 different countries, then they will make reconciliation and nurture progress. We must strengthen Europeans' sense of common belonging and foster a history that brings people together rather than divides them. The primary purpose of this observatory would be to provide a concrete, regular overview of history teaching in the various Member States. It would build on what already exists, in particular the network of academies in European countries, and I am delighted that your Assembly has already been consulted on this issue and that a committee has decided to work on it.

Two events will help to move this project forward: a conference on history teaching that will bring together the Council of Europe's network of academies at the Institut de France in Paris and a meeting of ministers of education at the end of November.

We will also highlight the Council of Europe's action in the field of culture and heritage. For example, we will have the opportunity to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Eurimages, the Council of Europe's Cultural Fund, chaired by Catherine Trautmann, to whom I pay tribute here, which is a key support for European film production without which great films could not have been made.

Beyond the framework of the Council of Europe alone, the tragic fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris made us aware of the need to set up a European network for sharing heritage expertise and to better coordinate all partners - UNESCO, the European Union, associations, networks of experts and workers, and more broadly all citizens seeking to protect the heritage.

I would like to thank your Deputy Secretary General, Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, for coming to Paris on May 3, during the European event we organized around the Notre-Dame fire with the Minister of Culture, Franck Riester.

Finally, our third priority aims to respond to the contemporary challenges facing European citizens. Celebrating anniversaries is essential, looking to the future is just as important. What new challenge are European citizens facing today? What do we have to innovate, to invent?

Like the Secretary-General and other Member States, including Finland, France is committed to advancing the project of a normative framework on artificial intelligence and human rights. This project will be discussed in particular at the Conference of Ministers of Justice that we will organise in October. We know that, sometimes, artificial intelligence gives rise to discrimination, to inequalities, that we, as protectors of human rights, the rights of women and the rights of children, must look very carefully.

Another essential issue in the digital field is the protection of users. The Presidency intends to promote and encourage the Council's crucial work on the protection of citizens' data with Convention 108, which was the subject of an international conference in mid-June, but also the fight against cybercrime.

So, in conclusion, we know that democracy and information are pillars of our continent and values. The World Forum for Democracy, which will be held from 6 to 8 November, here in Strasbourg, and will provide an opportunity to discuss the challenges of reliable and high-quality information, as well as the protection of journalists and the defence of freedom of expression and the press. It seems to me essential that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe be fully involved.

Finally, the French Presidency attaches particular importance to the fight against corruption. I believe that there are mobilized citizens all over our continent, who sometimes even march to fight against this rampant corruption. Minister of Justice Belloubet participated in the conference dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Group of States against Corruption, GRECO, on 17 June. In particular, we will seek to promote cooperation between national authorities responsible for the transparency of public life.

The French Presidency also recently co-organised with the Council of Europe, on 4 June, a very successful conference on bioethics. You know, in France, we are currently having debates on bioethical issues and we were able, at this conference, to recall how important it was to involve public debates - before the time of legislation - citizens in the decisions that will be taken.

To conclude my intervention, I turn to you, Mr. Secretary General. I would like to thank you warmly for all the work you have done during your two terms at the head of our Organization. On my own behalf and, I believe, on behalf of the Members who are standing here, but above all on behalf of the French authorities, I would also like to thank you for the excellent relations you have maintained with France and, I believe, with very many countries during this period. I also wish the next Secretary General, whom you will elect on Wednesday, every success.

Thank you and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:56:06

Thank you very much, Madam Secretary of State, for this very comprehensive overview of both past and future activities, for this reminder also of what unites us and what motivates our action.

We will therefore discuss the questions. Dear colleagues, I would remind you that the questions must not exceed 30 seconds and that you must ask a question and not make a speech.

The first speaker is Mr Essl, on behalf of the EPP Group.

Mr Franz Leonhard ESSL

Austria, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

12:56:39

Mrs. Secretary of State,

You mentioned the conflicts in Eastern Europe. In addition, there are also increasing tensions between the USA and Russia, but also between the USA and Iran. All this has an impact not only on the economy, but also on human rights.

France is now a strong country within the European Union, and that is why I put the question to you:

What strategy does France have to meet these challenges and what objectives and priorities will you put at the top of the agenda, President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe?

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:57:22

Madam Secretary of State.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers

12:57:27

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your question.

Indeed, the world in which we live is sometimes a messy world. We see situations of tension, pressure, and sometimes we feel on the edge of the abyss, close to the accident. The French strategy –which is not necessarily here to be debated because I do not believe that the primary mandate of the Council of Europe is to deal with questions of geopolitical balance or diplomacy, but I would like to answer you in substance– shared with a very large number of countries on the European continent and the European institutions, is first of all to believe that de-escalation is possible. That in the face of conflicts, which you have pointed, we have always, unceasingly and relentlessly to prioritize dialogue, mutual understanding, regional balance, and to advance the world's march towards peace and the defence of citizens. These are not concepts; behind the word peace there are lives, millions of citizens, millions of businesses, the daily lives of all of us here depend on it.

As you know, the Committee of Ministers is closely monitoring developments on the European continent. I have mentioned a number of them and we are extremely vigilant. We believe that protecting Human rights, particularly in areas affected by conflict is essential. That is why I mentioned in particular the access of all members of the Council of Europe, its institutions, its bodies, particularly monitoring bodies to grey areas, as they are called, because there are no grey areas for Human rights, and that is in any case the initial premise of all our Council of Europe's work.

There is also a need to contribute to the creation of the necessary conditions for a peaceful settlement of conflicts, and I believe that protecting journalists, protecting associations and non-governmental organisations contributes to this. Peace is not a concept. I like to quote Jean Monnet: "Faced with the march of the world, we must not be optimistic or pessimistic, we must be determined."

Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

12:59:37

Thank you.

The floor is yours, Mr Cilevičs, for the Socialist Group.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

12:59:43

Thank you, Madam. Madam Secretary, I heard allegations that even if all Member states pay their due contributions, substantial budgetary cuts are planned anyway, including in the Assembly's budget, not as a contingency plan but as a reform plan. Could you please either confirm or refute these allegations? Thank you.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers

13:00:09

Mr. Speaker,

I think you know the budgetary situation of the organization today, and I think you know that any organization must constantly think about its priorities, its resources and the best organization to achieve its objectives. I believe I know –but I am sure that the next Secretary General will be able to present his or her orientations in detail– that we are talking about new priorities when we talk about artificial intelligence, when we talk –as I have just done– about an Observatory for the teaching of history, when we talk about the new challenges linked in particular to the universalization of the Istanbul Convention.

Making reforms is not in itself dangerous, does not call the institution into question, and we are very clear that, if there are reforms, the pillars of the functioning of the Parliamentary Assembly, the functioning of the major bodies such as the Venice Commission, Greco, ECRI and of course the European Court of Human Rights, are priorities that do not have to be severely cut. Reform is essential. Move forward, too. And to have the means to achieve its ambitions, too.

There is a contingency plan, which you mentioned, that is linked, in part, to the situation we are in today, but I believe that for the future our common objective must be to continue to move forward and continue to reform the organization. It seems to me that 70 years after its creation, being able to adapt our resources to our objectives is not in itself a danger, but rather an opportunity.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

13:01:41

Thank you.

The next question is from Mr Howell, on behalf of the European Conservative Group.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC, Spokesperson for the group

13:01:55

In this 70th anniversary year of the Council of Europe, I'm keen to ensure that it is fit for the next 70 years. So I wonder whether the Minister would tell us how she thinks the common values of this place which she spoke of in her first words are compatible with what the Council of Ministers has discussed in relation to Russia.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers

13:02:27

Mr. Speaker,

I do not think we are dealing with geopolitics here. The values we defend here are the values of the rights of men, women and children.

Internally, I am absolutely certain that we would be doing no one any service if, through decisions we would have to take or through non-decisions you would make, we did not guarantee access to all the institutions to the 800 million European citizens who live on our continent.

The values we defend are universal values, they are values of absolute defence of the essential: freedom of the press, freedom of minorities, protection of those who defend Human rights, protection of men and women on an equal footing. So I believe that our values are to be able to distinguish where geopolitical conflicts are resolved, where diplomatic efforts must be made, where –you mentioned the case of Russia– Russia must perhaps face its responsibilities, regarding the respect of borders. This is what France is constantly doing. This is what France will repeat today to Mr Medvedev, who is in Le Havre with our Prime Minister. Not to give him gifts, not to raise red carpets, but to continue to have a strong bilateral relationship that talks about the real issues in the right place.

I believe that this institution has been honoured over the past seventy years to show that we can have a frontal dialogue, sometimes difficult, sometimes demanding, with those who challenge rights. I think it would be dangerous if, because of certain geopolitical issues, which are essential on the pretext of geopolitical issues –and I have pointed out that Ukraine's borders are not negotiable– that are being dealt with elsewhere and that are being dealt with with great determination by our government, –but also by our German neighbours, the European Union and many other countries, including more widely throughout the world– that we are led to deprive millions of citizens of access to bodies that we value, that we cherish, that are those that protect their rights, their access to fair justice, the protection of minorities, freedom of the press and the protection of what makes us all Europeans, given that we live on a continent, always have, as a last resort, a protection body.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

13:04:45

Thank you.

I call Mr Waserman, on behalf of the ALDE Group.

Mr Sylvain WASERMAN

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

13:04:54

Thank you, Madam President, thank you very much, Minister, for your intervention.

On behalf of the ALDE group. After thanking you for being here today, I wanted to ask you about the ECHR.

President Emmanuel Macron, in October 2017, was the first French President to address the ECHR, thereby demonstrating a very strong attachment of France and many of us to the ECHR.

My question is simple: at a time when the decisions we take could have a major impact on citizens, who would then no longer benefit from the protection of the ECHR, what concrete actions do you intend to take during the French Presidency to strengthen and support the action of the ECHR?

Thank you, Madam minister.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers

13:05:35

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

You are indeed asking me about the effectiveness and sovereignty, in essence, of this European Court of Human Rights which, as we know, is a pillar of the Council of Europe. We believe that there is, with the dialogue of judges, between the European Court of Human Rights and the Superior Courts, the Supreme Courts of the Member States of the Council of Europe, something to pursue that can give much more strength to this European Court of Human Rights. We believe, indeed, that if we manage to improve the application of the European Convention on Human Rights at national level, we will be able to protect citizens much more broadly, even at national level, so that recourse at European level is reduced –not because Human rights are less protected, but because national courts are more active on a number of principles. I believe that this is the principle of subsidiarity –which we know so well about the European institutions– which would be put in the right place.

The entry into force of Protocol 16, which allows the Superior Court to request the European Court of Human Rights to give its opinion on the application or interpretation of the Convention, is precisely a valuable tool to move in this direction and to improve judicial dialogue. I am pleased, moreover, that the first request for an opinion in the case of this protocol was made by the French Court de Cassation. I think that this is an interesting signal of the mobilisation we are making, well before our presidency, on the interest of this procedure.

The ratification of this protocol by as many States that are members of this convention as possible should in my opinion be encouraged, and I believe that this is potentially a key area of work for you as parliamentarians to ensure that this dialogue between judges is carried out successfully. The network of higher and supreme courts must also be supported and developed, so that the sharing of good practices and the sharing of understanding can also be continued. As we attach great value to this dialogue of judges, this protocol and what could be positive for citizens, if strengthened, the three French superior courts have invited all the heads of the supreme courts to meet in Paris on the next 12 and 13 September. This is an event that is rare, but which I believe is valuable, if the European Court of Human Rights is to take its rightful place in judgments, not only on its own scale, but also in national judgments.

I was able to discuss this subject with President Sicilianos, both in Helsinki, where he brought together a number of States that promote and monitor in particular the proper execution of this work, and also last week, during my visit here in Strasbourg.

Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

13:08:22

Thank you.

The next question, on behalf of the political groups, is from Mr Hunko, on behalf of the UEL.

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

13:08:31

Thank you, Madam State Secretary.

My group, the Confederal Group of the European United Left, warmly welcomes the agreement reached by the Committee of Ministers in Helsinki, which was by a large majority, on a future mechanism to replace the impasse we have found ourselves in until now.

Could you perhaps reiterate what exactly the role of this Parliamentary Assembly will be in a possible future sanctions mechanism?

Thank you very much, sir.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers

13:09:12

Thank you, Mr. Deputy.

First of all, I believe that this question is very important, because in the face of a deadlock, we must always find a way out. I believe that you have worked in this Assembly, together with the Finnish Presidency, the Secretary General and the Committee of Ministers, to ensure that we can adopt, on the basis of the recommendations of the Kox Report, which was entitled Role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly: main challenges for the future, our own decision to guarantee respect for rights and obligations, norms and values, which I believe must be seen as a constructive response to the situation we find ourselves in today and which recognizes that we must work together to develop a joint reaction or sanction procedure –we will call it as we wish–  between us two organizations to ensure that these decisions have full legitimacy and can be known as absolutely solid and not to be challenged.

So, you mention it, what form will it take, precisely? In Paris, at the meeting between the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Bureau of the Committee of Ministers, we discussed the procedure that would enable us to put something concrete on the table as soon as possible. So that we quickly have a procedure that is efficient, readable, applicable and can above all be responsive. That we are not in a procedure where when we go, we do not know very well when we will get out.

Together with the President of the Parliamentary Assembly, we noted that a joint committee, a joint dialogue between the Assembly and the Ministerial Committee, would be held from this week and that we would continue our work together in September. I do not want to prejudge by myself what the outcome of the deliberations will be. I think it is extremely important that this procedure is really built in an honest way between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. We must understand who can take the initiative. Is it shared? How can things be organized?

But I believe that for me the key words are a procedure that is readable, that is predictable in the sense that we know how it works, that is effective and that can be responsive. I believe that this is the only way out, to find law, precise written terms, and that the situation we are in today is not repeated. Once this procedure exists, you will again have the opportunity to be able to base your joint decisions on the law and, as a result, on a process that will be truly solid.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

13:11:59

Thank you, Madam Secretary of State.

We come to the list of speakers, and I propose that we group three successive interventions before giving you the floor again.

The next question is from Mr. Omtzigt.

Mr Pieter OMTZIGT

Netherlands, EPP/CD

13:12:18

Thank you, Madam Chair and Madam Minister. As you've probably known, this Assembly has been hit by corruption over the last few years. There has been a thorough investigation and 13 members have been suspended, most of them for life. There still is the issue that the corruption might actually come from a number of Member states. Will you take any action within the Committee of Ministers to make sure there is an investigation as thorough as we had in this Assembly during your presidency?

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

13:12:56

Thank you.

Madame Trisse has the floor.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, NR

13:13:00

Thank you, Madam President.

Madam Minister,

Although the Council of Europe was created before the European Union, it suffers in France, as in other Member States, from a lack of public image. I regret this, especially since we are in Strasbourg and this organisation has, of course, contributed to the status of European capital.

In your opinion, I would like to know how you intend to make the Council of Europe's contributions better known to the public and what initiatives the Committee of Ministers could take in this direction.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

13:13:40

Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr. Goncharenko.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC

13:13:45

Madam Secretary of State,

In this House there is a general agreement that Russia must make a significant contribution to resolving the crisis. However, to date, only the Council of Europe has made such a contribution.

Does the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers demand concrete action from Russia, in particular the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners in Russia, as well as Ukrainian military sailors who are prisoners of war, for example Mr Soroka, and if so, what is Russia's reaction?

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

13:14:28

Thank you.

Madam Secretary of State, you have the floor.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers

13:14:35

Thank you Madam President,

With regard to the first question on corruption issues, I think we all know here how committed we are to ensuring that if we make useful Council of Europe recommendations on corruption, everything that happens within the organisation is very seriously condemned and pursued.

In 2017, you know that the Committee of Ministers adopted a whole series of decisions asking for the allegations to be fully clarified and in a fair manner. I believe that the very fact that your Assembly is setting up an independent external investigation group to examine these allegations has been very positive and we now have a word to say that, now that your Assembly has taken action on this report, our request is that all Council of Europe Member States, the entirety of the Member States of the Committee of Ministers, should take action in their national capacity. We now have some things to look at on the national level. The citizens who are here, who are also from the Council of Europe, must also comply with the laws of our various countries. So what the Committee of Ministers will continue to do is to exert pressure –I mean benevolent but strong pressure– so that all Member States cooperate and take all the necessary national measures to ensure that prosecutions are real and are carried out in an effective and visible manner, and above all can lead to the conviction of those who have been well associated in such acts.

Dear Mrs Trisse, you are asking me how we could make our organisation better known, also in all its diversity of action. While the European Court of Human Rights –I believe– is a form of publicity –at least it is known to many of our fellow citizens– many of the Council of Europe's other actions remain quite unknown. First of all, I think that the 70th anniversary is a good time to also take stock. What could this organisation have produced in concrete terms that was positive? I went to the European Court of Human Rights. I have seen exhibitions that relate how, for example, in the context of the various judges and judgments under the chairmanship, for example, of French judges, each country is made aware of the provisions –in particular those of the European Court of Human Rights– in recent years. It's a first step.

I also believe that we are an institution that brings multilateralism to life in a concrete way. We meet here because we are citizens of a continent, we all have a passport, but we also meet because we believe in common values. Here, I also believe something important: we are an institution that focuses on people, on their dignity and on their rights. The issues we are discussing here are issues of daily life. We see everywhere a growing, dangerous and worrying challenge to Human rights with the rise of populism, and I believe that more than ever we have to remember that the Council of Europe is a body of last resort, a body to issue warnings, a body of such political weight that can ensure that these essential rights are preserved.

So, during our presidency you will organise conferences, seminars, events, also cultural events. Talking about Human rights requires talking about it in ways other than speeches or long readings. Sometimes, through human exchanges, through the sharing of experiences, there is much to do.

We will also highlight the importance of the diversity of the Council of Europe's activities to protect and improve the lives of citizens and therefore, as I said, the immense work of the European Court of Human Rights. We also plan to cover new areas, talk about artificial intelligence, talk about new technologies, talk about crimes, and medicines. Also, addressing issues such as violence against women and children, social rights or corruption are all issues that citizens clearly see as relevant and necessary today.

So we will commemorate the very first meeting of the Committee of Ministers at the City Hall in this city of Strasbourg. Strasbourg, in particular, knows the value, but we have to continue –and here I fully agree with you, Madam Member– on the importance of making people aware, perhaps by trying to link our work to issues in everyday life, to show that our work is not theoretical, but very concrete.

Mr. Speaker, you are asking me about the balance of actions. This Parliamentary Assembly has made a gesture. It adopted the Kox Report. The Committee of Ministers has made a gesture. He also proposed that we have a joint reaction procedure in the coming months and we have already discussed this. We think it is important that Russia, as the bearer of its delegation, should indeed be able to make gestures. Some bonds are not negotiable. Paying your financial contribution is an obligation. It is essential for us to accept unconditionally, without long delay, that the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights can visit all parts of the continent, on her terms. We are pleased that this dialogue, which is certainly complicated, has been able to begin, and that in the coming days or weeks we will have the capacity for the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights to go where she wants and to go on her own terms. We have also observed that journalists unduly detained in Russia have been released. We observed that Oyoub Titiev had been released. It was a court decision that was fully implemented.

So you are asking me about the fate of the sailors who are currently being held following the incidents in the Kersch Strait. This is a point on which, very vigorously, France and its partners, particularly Germany, have mobilised at the highest level, as President Emmanuel Macron has officially and quite strongly reiterated, both in his own speeches to President Putin and also publicly during President Zelenski's visit. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs visited the families of seafarers when he was in Ukraine on May 30. This is an issue that we are following very closely. There was also a decision in Hamburg, related to the law of the sea. We believe that on all these issues we must not relax our efforts. I believe there are instances where we will continue our work. I believe that your decision here must be made in good conscience in the interest of Russian citizens who must not be taken hostage by these situations.

For me, the worst thing would be for Human rights defenders, journalists, minorities, all those who, in Russia or elsewhere, are basically living our European values, to be taken hostage by a geopolitical situation that we are resolutely seeking with great force to resolve in the appropriate bodies.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

13:22:01

Thank you.

The next question is from Mr. Anderson.

Lord Donald ANDERSON

United Kingdom, SOC

13:22:09

Madam the Secretary of State,

I heard your report with great respect, but there is a question of dignity and respect for the Council. No personal criticism. You have spoken well, with our thanks, our congratulations, but it is normal, even frequent, for the Minister of Foreign Affairs or his deputy to appear before the Council.

What is the problem this time?

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

13:22:46

Thank you.

I don't see Mrs. Hayrapetyan in the room... you have the floor.

Ms Tatevik HAYRAPETYAN

Armenia, NR

13:22:57

Dear Madam Secretary, one of the priorities of the French Presidency and the Committee of Ministers is the setting up of an Observatory for history teaching. We appreciate the idea and believe that the education system throughout the Council of Europe area could benefit from it. As a nation who has survived genocide, we are convinced that past crimes against humanity should be part of the school curricula of the European states, which will contribute to the genocide prevention agenda. Can you please inform us of the steps taken towards establishing the observatory and the envisaged areas of interest? Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

13:23:36

Thank you.

Ms Adri is not in her seat.

Ms Ævarsdóttir has the floor.

Ms Thorhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC

13:23:45

Thank you Madam Chair. Madam Secretary, you and I share the reality of being women in politics. This body has debated quite a lot on this issue and most recently we approved a report that recognises the fact that many women in politics are discriminated against and face sexism and harassment. The Committee of Ministers has also committed itself to combat sexism. I wonder what are the priorities of the French leadership on this aspect and how do you see that we together –the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly– can best combat this problem?

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

13:24:29

Madam Secretary of State, you have the floor.

Ms Amélie de MONTCHALIN

Secretary of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, in charge of European Affairs, representing the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers

13:24:34

Mr. Speaker,

I understand your commitment to protocol. It so happens that I myself received from Timo Soini, in Helsinki, the key to the Committee of Ministers, and I found –we found within the Government– that it was surely appropriate that, in a spirit of continuity, the fact that I was Chair of the Committee of Ministers for six months, since I received the key, brings me before you today. I reassure you, Jean-Yves Le Drian, will also be here at the end of November, so you will have the opportunity to meet him. I believe that our exchanges –I can assure you– fully and completely reflect the thinking of my country, his own –since I have had the opportunity to discuss it with him–, as well as those of the President of the Republic, who is following the work being carried out here by the Council of Europe very closely. I can assure you that, just this Friday, we will be discussing the priorities we are pursuing and the issues at stake today, at this meeting.

Madame Deputy, you ask me about the project –which is ours– to create an Observatory for history teaching. I understand –seeing your nationality– that you come from a region in Europe where perhaps more than anywhere else this work is absolutely necessary for the pursuit of a harmonious and peaceful life between neighbouring countries that have relations, at least historical ones, which have been more than complex, if I can speak with a little euphemism. The History teaching observatory project is based on something that is already being done here at the Council of Europe. Every six months, the people in charge of history education programs meet and exchange ideas. But we noted that these exchanges were still a little vague, or at least not necessarily followed by many consequences. Therefore, we propose to create a form of observatory that can allow us to make a continuous inventory of practices. We have observed, for example, that there are countries where history teaching is no longer compulsory at the secondary level. In some countries, history is learned when you are in primary school, in others in middle school. Sometimes, not in high school. Sometimes we learn history only until 1945. Sometimes we only learn about the more contemporary time. It seems essential to us to be concerned about this, because it is the next generations of European citizens that we are educating today. And if in areas where there have been conflicts, our children learn only about the history of war, well, they will wage war. And if they learn the history of Europe and reconciliation, then they will want –because they have been taught from a very early age– to move this project forward. We believe that this Observatory should be created with those who wish to do so, and we are therefore ready to propose that it be done through an intergovernmental agreement, as soon as we can, before the largest number of countries join us. I believe your support is extremely important. We would like to fully involve the Parliamentary Assembly in this project and I would be delighted to be able to discuss this project with you and your colleagues, because, as you can feel, it is particularly close to my heart.

Madam President, being a woman in politics is not always easy. I repeat this sentence, it is the title of a book that was written by Valérie Pécresse, who was a minister in France, and who is now president of the Île-de-France Region, and it is also an allusion to a well-known song in France. What you are saying is the campaign that Madam President is running on the fact that she can fight sexism, derogatory remarks, inappropriate behaviour and harassment everywhere. It is, of course, essential. The Not in my parliament campaign in this respect, I believe, is interesting, because it shows all the citizens of Europe that there is no place where these actions could continue. Even where there have been few women, historically, too often this small number of women finally complied with this situation by telling themselves that they were already lucky enough to be there and that they had to remain silent. France is taking a very voluntary action on the fight for equality between women and men. In France, the party to which I belong, the President's party, has effectively created an obligation of parity in the National Assembly. The En Marche group of which I was a member was 50% male and 50% female. We did the same for the lists in the European elections. We have a feminist diplomacy. In other words, with the G7, with the Council of Europe, with the UN, we are trying to advance practices so that what is going well in some countries can also be applied in other countries. We have proposed that at European level we have a Simone Veil Pact, i.e. that we take the best measures available and that the other European countries also apply them on a voluntary basis. It can concern equal pay, it can concern good practices, particularly on the protection against violence, whether domestic or in the public sphere, it can also concern access to senior positions. Do we need quotas? Should we organize ourselves with financial sanctions?

In short, equality between women and men, as you know, is a constant struggle. I think we are making progress. The fact that you and I can talk to each other is already in itself –I believe, after years, decades, or even centuries, where this would not have been imaginabl– a positive point, but beyond equal rights, equality must become real, and what we write in our speeches and in our laws must be fully applicable in everyday life. I believe that, in this respect, what this House is doing in this sense is very positive and I would like to pay a special tribute to it.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly

13:30:48

Ladies and gentlemen, we must now conclude the questions to Mrs de Montchalin, whom I would like to thank very warmly for her willingness to answer the questions that have been asked.

Ladies and gentlemen, with regard to this afternoon's sitting, as we have a very large number of registered speakers and a very large number of amendments, as I said earlier in response to a question put to me, the sitting should be extended until midnight. I therefore wanted to point this out to you. If there is no opposition, it is so decided in accordance with this afternoon's decision.

We resume our business at 4 pm. Enjoy your meal!

The sitting was closed at 13:30