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Opening of sitting No 20

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:03:41

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The meeting is now in session.

The next item of business this afternoon is the presentation of and debate on the report by Ms Petra De SUTTER on behalf of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs entitled Strengthening the decision-making process of the Parliamentary Assembly on credentials and voting.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will give the floor to the Committee rapporteur, but I would remind you that we will have to finish examining this text – including the vote – at midnight. We will therefore have to interrupt the list of speakers at around 6.15 p.m. in order to be able to hear the Committee's reply and carry out the necessary vote.

Rapporteur, you have a total speaking time of 13 minutes, which you can divide at you see fit between presenting your report and replying to speakers.

You have the floor.

Debate: Strengthening the decision-making process of the Parliamentary Assembly concerning credentials and voting

Ms Petra De SUTTER

Belgium, SOC 

16:04:50

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Dear Colleagues,

The report I have the honour to present today to the Assembly concludes a long reflection that the Rules Committee began exactly one year ago as part of a long process that the Assembly started more than three years ago. This has not been an easy process and I would like to thank the members of the Rules Committee for the confidence they have placed in me and for their support.

A whole train of thought has been going on now for three years. It started in the framework of a report by the Political Affairs Committee in Resolution 2186 adopted in October 2017, the Assembly expressed its concerns about the challenges threatening the European continent and its unity and it concluded on the need to preserve and further strengthen the pan-European project. In this respect, the Assembly considered that the overall situation in the organisation was counterproductive as it adversely affected its overall impact as a guardian of Human rights and democracy. It underlined the need for the two statutory organs of the Council of Europe while fully preserving their autonomy to engage in a procedure aimed at harmonising jointly their rules governing participation and representation of Member States. This resolution led to the setting up of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Bureau on the Role and mission of the Assembly because in 2017 already, after the crisis the Assembly had faced, all of us present today were convinced that we should reaffirm the role of the Parliamentary Assembly in its relationship with the Committee of Ministers.

So the Bureau put in place this Ad Hoc committee in December 2017 and showed that all delegations and political groups were deeply committed to the Council of Europe's fundamental values and principles, their promotion, their protection and to the monitoring of the Members States' respect for them. There was a clear need to strengthen our position and our decision-making process. So the Ad Hoc Committee gathered during an entire year and it completed its work in June 2018 followed by the first report presented by the Rules Committee in October 2018 on strengthening the decision making process of the Assembly concerning credentials and voting.

And lastly, the report of the Political Affairs Committee on the role and mission of the Assembly, prepared by our colleague Mr Tiny Kox. Now the first report of the Committee on strengthening the decision making process concerning the credentials and the voting was presented to this Assembly in October 2018. It included proposals aiming to enhance the consistency of the procedures for challenging national delegations' credentials on substantive grounds, reinforcing the legitimacy of the Assembly and the authority of its decisions in cases where it decides on a challenge of the credentials of a delegation whether on formal or sustantive grounds, restricting the scope of sanctions incurred by members of delegations whose credentials have been ratified but have had the exercise of certain rights participation or representation in the activities of the Assembly suspended.

However, although it was virtually unanimously approved at the Committee's level, this report was not supported by the Assembly. Following an intense, emotional and lively debate, the Assembly decided to refer it back to the Committee at my request. Given the divisions in the chamber and the absence of a calm atmosphere in which to debate the Committee's proposals. So the report came back to the Committee and it stayed there for a while. But then it was revived and in the Committee, we worked on a new version, respecting the Committee's position that the same report should not be submitted again, we've tried to identify some useful and relevant proposals dealing with problems of common interest to all Member states and national delegations of the Assembly and seek to ensure greater consistency in the action of the Assembly. The scope of the report presented today has therefore been substantially reduced to those points which could be supported by the Assembly, namely the limitation of the scope of the sanctions to be imposed on members of delegations whose credentials have been challenged.

Meanwhile, the report by Mr Tiny Kox on the role and mission of the Assembly, discussed April 2019, and Resolution 2277 and Recommendation 2153, made the Assembly's position quite clear on the stepping up of political dialogue with the Committee of Ministers including through the introduction and addition of the existing procedures of coordinated action when a Member State violates its statutory obligations or does not respect the fundamental principles and values of the Council of Europe. In Resolution 2277, the Assembly stressed that Council of Europe membership implies an obligation of all Member States to participate in both statutory organs and at the same time called on the Russian Federation in accordance with its statutory obligations to appoint a delegation to the Assembly and to resume obligatory payment of its contribution to the budget of the organisation.

At the 129th Ministerial Session in Helsinki last 17th May, the Committee of Ministers took into consideration this recommendation of the Assembly and it welcomed the call for an enhanced political dialogue as well as the proposal to set up a joint reaction procedure. Moreover, the Committee of Ministers recalled that all Member States shall be entitled to participate on an equal basis in the two statutory organs of the Council of Europe as long as Articles 7, 8 or 9 of the Statute have not been applied. Furthermore, the Committee of Ministers said that it would welcome that delegations of all Member States take part in next June part-session of the Assembly –this session– having regard to the importance of the elections of the Secretary General and the judges to the court. In doing so, the Committee of Ministers gives its assent to a derogation from the application of Article 25 of the Statute of the Council of Europe. Article 25 expressed wording requires a Member State to transmit credentials of its delegation at the opening of the Ordinary Session. Failing to comply with this requirement, a state would be in violation of the Statute. It seemed to the Rules Committee important to underline this fact in the text of the draft resolution. In order to take into consideration the Committee of Ministers' decision, as well as the exceptional context which led to it, the Assembly is asked to consider whether inviting the parliaments of Council of Europe member states, which are not represented in the Assembly to present credentials of their delegations at the June 2019 –this– part-session of the Assembly.

Taking into account the provisions of the Statute and its own Rules of Procedure which stipulate that the credentials of delegations must be transmitted before the opening of the Ordinary Session for ratification, the Assembly now must decide to derogate from the application of certain rules. In the past the Assembly has already taken such decisions ad hoc, which parted from the Rules of Procedure in exceptional circumstances, for instance, the reintegration of Greece in the Council of Europe in November '74 or the reintegration of Turkey in '84 and also during the enlargement period when the Assembly, on all these occasions, derogated from these conditions for the presentation of credentials at the opening of the Ordinary Session.

Now, the report presented today is about simply taking measures following up decisions that have been taken in a fully democratic manner, both at the Assembly and at the Committee of Ministers level. It does not aim to revise the rules of procedure concerning credentials of national delegations. It's certainly not the intention of the Rules Committee to present a report that would at last weaken the procedure for challenging credentials. We didn't touch this in this report which could be launched for the violation by a given Member State or of its statutory obligations and commitments towards the organisation. There is a need for strengthening the coherence, legitimacy and effectiveness of the mechanisms of the Assembly in order to guarantee and defend the principles and values on which the organisation has been built. This report, the present report, as well as the report in April from Tiny Kox, could prove useful and constructive to both the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers and be an opportunity to build strong and lasting bridges.

The Assembly couldn't be more appreciative of Committee of Ministers' recognition in Helsinki of the urgent need to develop these synergies and provide for coordinated action in order to strengthen the ability of the organisation to react more effectively if a Member State violates the Statutory Obligations or does not respect standards, principles and values of the Council of Europe. So in doing so, the Committee of Ministers explicitly recognised the mandate and the special assignment of the Assembly and acknowledged the value of our existing procedures. So we should be pleased with the positive assessment by the Committee of Ministers of our longstanding procedures with regard to strengthening the respect by Member States of their obligations and commitments.

In addition, the Rules Committee found that the change of approach was further required because of the need to enhance the consistency of rules applying to the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly regarding the representation and participation of Member States in both statutory organs. The Rules Committee suggests keeping the current rules governing the challenge or reconsideration of credentials of the delegations whilst at the same time elaborating on the rights of representation and participation of national delegations that may be suspended or withdrawn by the Assembly in this context. The Assembly's rule of procedure lay down no list of participation and presentation rights that may be deprived or suspended in the context of a challenge of credentials. This is important. Rule 10.1 of the Rules of Procedure sets out a description of the sanctions which may be imposed on the Members in general terms only. It is up to the Assembly to determine the extent of the sanction when it is called upon to decide by resolution on the challenge to credentials. The only basis for the Assembly's decision when determining restrictive measures against the delegation could be found in an opinion that the Rules Committee approved in 2014, which drew up a list of rights of participation and representation in the activities of the Assembly and its bodies that might be suspended or deprived in the context of a challenge to credentials.

I will try to finish here because the draft resolution submitted today proposes a way to reflect the Committee of Ministers decision in the Assembly's Rule of Procedure. It intends to clarify the list of rights of participation and representation of Members that may be suspended or withdrawn by the Assembly when deciding on a challenge of delegations' credentials and propose to remove the right to vote, the right to speak and the right of representation in the Assembly and in its bodies of PACE members from the catalogue of sanctions.

So I understand, there will be a lively debate also today, but I hope that this report, which is a very small part of a puzzle in a long story that is already here for a couple of years trying to solve a situation which cannot really last and I hope that the Assembly will understand that this report is really something to move forward and to solve the problems that we have today. So I hope for your support in voting for the report in the end. Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:17:18

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Thank you, Mrs. DE SUTTER.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs Olena SOTNYK has referred a preliminary motion to the Presidency under Rule 37(1)(a) of the Rules of Procedure. The purpose of this motion contained in document 14917 is to postpone the debate on the report by Mrs Petra De SUTTER, "until an appropriate committee assesses democratic progress in the Russian Federation in order to ascertain the exceptional nature of the circumstances that may justify a derogation from Rules 6.1 and 6.3 of the Rules of Procedure". If this motion is adopted, it will have the effect of postponing the debate until the conditions it sets out are met. In the absence of other items on the agenda, the meeting would then be adjourned. In the case of a procedural motion, only the mover of the motion, a person against and the rapporteur or the chairperson of the committee concerned may be heard.

I give the floor to Ms. SOTNYK to present her motion.

Ms Olena SOTNYK

Ukraine, ALDE 

16:18:33

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Merci, Madam President. Yes, in the draft resolution, there is - in the seventh paragraph - you proposed derogation from Rule 6.1 and 6.3, and such derogation puts forward the exceptional context by referring to a number of cases which took place in the past. Those cases concerned either exceptional political circumstances marked in the return of Turkey and Greece to democracy, or admission in the Assembly of national delegations of new Member States. Russia is not a new Member State and, therefore, the assessment of the democratic developments has to be done in order for the derogation to be in compliance with standard practices of the Assembly. Therefore, I ask the report - I ask you to refer the report to the Monitoring Committee in order to give analysis if there is any democratic progress for Russia in order to have an opportunity to derogate from the rules and procedures. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:19:37

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Does anyone wish to speak against this motion?

Mr. KOX, I'm sorry, I didn't see you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL 

16:19:52

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Thank you very much, Madam President. This report is the end of a long series of reports, decisions that we took, in accordance with also the Committee of Ministers. We now have come to the final moment, to take decisions so that this organisation and this Assembly again can function as it should function, as a human rights watchdog to oversee developments in Europe. So I urge the colleagues not to accept this proposal but to follow up on the decisions already taken by the Rules Committee. The report was adopted by the Rules Committee and we will have ample time to discuss it, so please keep the report on the agenda. It doesn't make sense.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:20:35

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What is Ms De Sutter's opinion on behalf of the Commission?

Ms Petra De SUTTER

Belgium, SOC 

16:20:38

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I am against. It would be the second time that report goes back, so I would really want to continue the debate today for the reasons Mr Kox has said.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:20:49

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Thank you.

The Assembly will now decide by a simple majority on the preliminary motion. Those who wish to adopt the motion vote yes, those who wish to reject it vote no.

The ballot is open.

The vote is closed.

The preliminary motion is rejected. We are therefore continuing to examine the report.

We will move on to the list of speakers, starting, as it should be, with the spokespersons for the groups, and I therefore give the floor to Mr POCIEJ on behalf of the EPP/CD group.

Mr Aleksander POCIEJ

Poland, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group 

16:21:53

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Madame President. Dear colleagues. The so-called Ms Petra De SUTTER report divided our assembly and I will not hide that in EPP Group we have also different opinions presented. Any decision for "yes" or "no" has some advantages and weaknesses. From one side, it is obvious that for the citizens of any country, even not - or maybe mostly not - democratic ones, it is a great chance to have the possibility to be covered by Council of Europe's institutions. Having access to the Commissioner of Human Rights to the monitoring of elections, monitoring of democracy, to the Court of Human Rights is priceless. Recognition of our institution by any new country, or coming back to our family, makes us, of course, stronger. On the other hand, there is no doubt that this is a very particular case, mainly because of the time pressure. Many among us feel like jumping into the pool without knowing if there is some water in it. We are changing our rules - just temporary - for one particular case. We have many doubts whether we, instead of strengthening position, if we are not doing the contrary. If we are not sacrificing our position when we don't know whether the other side, the Committee of Ministers, will follow. We have nothing but promises. How dangerous is to change the procedure from one moment to another during the session we saw today. Our anniversary is under the shadow of this quarrel. This could be organised differently and in a much better way. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:24:17

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Thank you.

I call Mr SCHWABE, on behalf of the SOC Group.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Spokesperson for the group 

16:24:25

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Thank you very much, Madam President,

I would like to thank all those who have really played a very constructive part in this debate. I would, of course, particularly like to thank Petra De SUTTER, who is the next member of the European Parliament, and who, so to speak, fled a little from these tasks, which she did, however, manage excellently, and helped us on this issue. Thank you Petra De Sutter, thank you very much for that.

I would like to thank the Committee of Ministers, because we have really worked very constructively under the Finnish Presidency, but now also under the French Presidency. To really deal with this question and at any rate to make attempts at a solution in the end also drives to come to a solution. I would like to thank the President Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER, who at the end, on behalf of this Assembly and the majority of this Assembly at any rate, acted accordingly and tried to enter into dialogue with the Committee of Ministers, but also with certain states.

I hope we can have a constructive discussion today. We have had a constructive discussion in our group, with different positions, in full respect, with a clear majority for the De Sutter Report, but quite different positions. We have managed to discuss the content, to deal with the content and in the end not to cover these questions with procedural questions and to cloud them.

I would very much like us to be able to do the same here, to talk about the substance. At the end of the day, to decide on the substance, and not in the end on 220 –or however many– amendments, and at the end the people who want to speak here no longer have a say.

We have a great challenge in this 70th year of existence of this organization. We need new answers to what we do when countries do not abide by the rules. We need to resolve the financial issues. We must ensure that we can prevent corruption in the long term. What we are discussing with Russia or about Russia is actually not about Russia at all, but about the whole organisation using Russia as an example. It may also be the case that other countries are very quickly affected by such questions and that we do not have the right answers. That's why we need to develop them now.

It is not a credit for any violations of Human rights in Russia, it is the chance to confront Russia again with what they are doing and what the worst violations of Human rights are in Russia. The situation is partly devastating and therefore we have to be able to fulfill our task; to monitor the situation there.

What we cannot do, even if we wanted to, is ultimately to decide about war or peace. If the UN Security Council fails so far because of this, then we will not be able to do it. We must concentrate on what we can do. These are Human rights issues, these are the red lines. The judgments of the Human Rights Court must be implemented and we want full monitoring with full access to the Russian Federation. If, then, we manage to develop new, functioning rules for the whole organisation and, at the same time, achieve full cooperation with Russia in the interests of the 140 million people and more in Russia and the so-called grey zones, then I believe we will have done a great deal. I would wish that the Petra De Sutter report would receive a great deal of approval and that all the amendments I have known so far would be rejected.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:27:35

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Thank you.

I call Mr GALE, on behalf of the EC Group.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, Spokesperson for the group 

16:27:44

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Thank you Madam president. I congratulate my friend Ms Petra de Sutter on her report, which I'm now going to have to oppose and that saddens me, but I wish her well in her future with the European Parliament.

This morning, we narrowly avoided a premature celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe. This organization was founded in 1949 by Winston Churchill and others, as an antidote to Nazism and communism and as guarantor of Human Rights. Sir Winston would, Madam President, I feel be horrified by the act of appeasement that we're being asked to support today.

In a blatant attempt to secure the finances of this organization under the guise of inclusion and democracy, we're being asked to change our Rules to accommodate the demands of one country that is in flagrant breach of the Convention on Human rights, has annexed the territory of other Member states, notably Georgia and Ukraine, has intervened militarily in the Donbass and continues to do so and has been, as we've had confirmed definitively this week, implicit in the murder of the 287 men, women and children on board flight MH17, shot down over Ukraine, that has committed murder and attempted murder on British soil, and that rides roughshod over the rights of minorities and journalists domestically. In return for 70 million euros of silver, in unpaid debts that is legally due to the Council of Europe, the Russian Federation is demanding to have its delegations credentials approved without sanctions and have the Assembly rules changed so that member states can be in breach of the convention with impunity.

That this assembly is even contemplating abject surrender to this crude attempt at blackmail, is a source of shame. That the Secretary General and the President are complicit in promoting this cause is a disgrace. If the Council of Europe and this Assembly endorses the proposals that this report put forward, then we shall be selling short not just the principles of our own but the endeavors of those who have given their lives in the cause of freedoms that we enjoy today, and the lives today of those who have relied upon us for protection.

Let us be clear Madam President, we want the Russians to take their seats in this Assembly, but not at any price. Before readmission, Ukrainian sailors imprisoned in Russia have to be released, the annexed land must be vacated, Human rights respected and, of course, debts paid in full. Then, and only then, will our Russian colleagues be welcome back. I hope that colleagues will support the substantive amendments today and if they are not carried, they will reject this report in its entirety.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:31:01

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Mr DAEMS has the floor for the ALDE group.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group 

16:31:08

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The existence of this report, as far as we are concerned, is basically to try to find an effective way of going after a country which does not comply with the rules or regulations, with the principles of this assembly. Some of us think that, until now, whatever we have done is not effective enough. This is why we had a discussion with the Committee of Ministers, indeed, on the initiative of the Finnish Presidency and taking over by the French one, of finding a joint way of taking action against such a country - Russia but not only Russia.

We came up, I think, with something which is potentially important because the procedure that is put on the table can be initiated by this assembly alone. So, basically, it gives this assembly more power than it has today, because this assembly alone, solely, can trigger a procedure which forces the Committee of Ministers, at the end of the day, to take a position, to take a decision, against such a country. As far as this is concerned, this is only positive because it does give more power to our assembly and it re-balances, if you wish, the relationship between the assembly and the Committee of Ministers.

However, there is a price to pay. It is some kind of a deal where, on the other side, is asked of this assembly to set aside the fact that, within the challenging of credentials, we can no longer touch the voting rights and other ones. So this is basically the deal that is on the table. Let's be clear on it. Our group doesn't like the deal. Our group does not like the deal in the sense that some of our group - part of our group - thinks that this price is too high to pay and another part of the group thinks that, although they don't like it, it is a justified price to pay in order to get this new procedure giving power to this assembly.

This is why our group will be voting in two parts: in conscience, one part who thinks that the price to pay is too high, is principally not done, they will vote against it; the other part who thinks that, although they do not like the report, they do not like the trade-off, but think it is, to some extent, justified to get the new procedure giving more power to this assembly, they will vote in favor. In the middle, we will have some amendments being tabled and, we hope, that we can find a few amendments that we've tabled some of them ourselves in order to still ameliorate this report. It's not minor things - it's some of them are very important - but we will get to it once we get to the amendments.

As far as I'm concerned as a group's leader, respecting the fact that we have two portions in our group - one who thinks that the price is justified, the other one who does not think - I, as a group leader, out of respect for my group, at the end will abstain. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:34:05

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Thank you.

I call Mr Kox, on behalf of the UEL Group.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, Spokesperson for the group 

16:34:11

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Thank you Madam President. Last April this Assembly adopted by a three quarters majority the resolution or recommendation on Role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly: main challenges for the future. Many of the adopted proposals are now already being implemented. The rest are waiting to be dealt with. We are on the right track colleagues.

One of the adopted proposals was to inform national parliaments of Member states that they all have the obligation, on the basis of the statute of our organisation, to participate in both statutory organs of the Council of Europe, Committee of Ministers and this Assembly. In order to end the situation that some parliaments do not fulfill their obligations in this respect, the resolution which is now on the agenda opens the possibility for those delegations to present their credentials as soon as possible during this week.

The proposal in the resolution of Madame De Sutter, supported by the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, is therefore fully in line with the decisions we took earlier in April. And the resolution we discussed today is another proposal regarding the need expressed by the Ministerial Conference in Helsinki last May to assure participation on equal basis of all delegations in this Assembly. As this is a formal decision, the Assembly has to answer and the resolution exactly does so. It stipulates that to ensure an equal basis, the Assembly will not allow itself to strip any delegation from the right to sit, to speak, to vote and to be represented in the Assembly and its bodies.

This brings us, dear colleagues, in line with the decision of the Committee of Ministers as well as with almost all national parliaments and probably all inter-parliamentary organisations. Nothing more. And, dear colleagues, most importantly, as it is stated in the Resolution to this Assembly, for the first time ever we will gain the right, as Mr Daems said, to participate in a new and robust reaction procedure, together with the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General, in the case a Member state violates its obligations under the Statute or under the Convention. This new joint reaction procedure strengthens in a very substantial way the power of this Assembly to act in the case of blatant wrongdoings by a Member state. It is already in the phase of development, as the French presidency told us here this morning, and I hope and expect it to be operational as soon as possible.

I think, dear colleagues, that we are talking about an offer you can't refuse if we really want to have serious and effective means which would help us to act when needed, instead of only having unilateral means of reaction which do not deliver. We have seen that in the past five years. Therefore Madam President, I wholeheartedly recommend this resolution to the Assembly and I thank the Rapporteur and the Rules committee for the excellent work done, and I hope, dear colleagues, some wisdom will come to those who proposed over 200 amendments to this resolution, to think whether that is the best way to serve democracy in this Assembly or wether there should be some more respect for those who think that this Resolution is the best thing that could be done today.

Thank you very much Madam President.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:37:21

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Thank you.

I call Mr ŠEŠELJ, on behalf of the FDG Group.

Mr Aleksandar ŠEŠELJ

Serbia, FDG, Spokesperson for the group 

16:37:27

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(Microphone off : interruption by Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO, Ukraine)

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:39:42

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I don't think I gave you the floor. I don't think I gave you the floor. Please, Mr GONCHARENKO, you have the floor later, since you are on the list of speakers and I find it particularly inappropriate to interrupt the speaker in this way while understanding very well that you do not agree with what he is saying.

Let him speak, please.

Mr Aleksandar ŠEŠELJ

Serbia, FDG 

16:40:21

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You will be able to speak when your turn comes. So, the Crimeans did not want to be repressed by their compatriots in Odessa. That is why they wanted to return to their homeland. Europe must stop being russophobic and being engulfed by anti-Russian hysteria. The enemy of Europe and the world is fascism. Russia has already saved us once around from fascism.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:40:48

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Ms De SUTTER, you have the opportunity to respond immediately to the spokespersons of the groups or to do so only at the end of the general debate.

At the end of the general debate?

Thank you...

We will therefore take the list of speakers, which begins with Mr OMTZIGT.

Mr Pieter OMTZIGT

Netherlands, EPP/CD 

16:41:14

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Thank you. And thanks to Madam De SUTTER for all the work she's been putting in a report which, as a number of speakers have told us, brings us to a very difficult position as an assembly. This report is indeed about Russia. And we are a rule-based institution that is different from other international institutions.

Rule one: do not occupy part of another Member State.

Rule two: make sure you implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. So don't approve any laws which allow you to go above it.

Rule three: cooperate with other countries. So if the UN Security Council says, in Resolution 2166, that you have to cooperate with the investigations into MH17, you cooperate. And you don't hide the radar data of that flight in which 298 people died.

So that's why I'm here with a heavy heart. Because yes, we like that there is a better system of Human Rights in Russia. But, is this going to help? I have my doubts. And I shall explain my doubts. The Committee of Ministers has not been very powerful, for they have the internal rule that if they are going to go against one country, they only vote by unanimity. If you ever try to read their written answers to our written questions, you see what it means. There's never any content in it. If they were to decide by the two-thirds majority, which you have to, they might take decisions which sometimes hurt a country. Not too often, but sometimes. That's why I have my doubts and that's why I wanted to ask the chairperson of the Committee of Ministers whether this is going to work. And I think that we should not take away all of the instruments we have. I think some points are well taken. I understand that, even if your credentials are challenged, you should have the right to vote for a judge or for the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. But I think we should be able to take away other rights. That's why, together with quite a few colleagues from the Group of the European People's Party, I tabled Amendment 44 that says: no, we can't do everything we did in the past, but we can still take away some rights. But you have the inalienable right to keep on voting for Judges, High Commissioner and Secretary General. And I hope that will form some kind of compromise in this difficult situation. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:44:09

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Thank you.

I call Ms CHRISTOPHERSON.

Ms Lise CHRISTOFFERSEN

Norway, SOC 

16:44:13

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Madam President, first of all I want to thank the Rapporteur for her thorough and good work on this Report. Undoubtedly this has not been an easy task. On the contrary, weighing against each other numerous considerations almost impossible to combine. Firstly, to secure the aim of this organisation, which is to protect human rights, democracy and the Rule of law all over Europe. Secondly, to find a way to harmonise and coordinate the functioning of the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. Thirdly, how should we sanction Member countries who do not respect their obligations towards Human rights, as a fact, voluntarily accepted by all Member countries as we became Members of the Council of Europe.

These issues sit at the top of our agenda because of the Russian aggression against both Georgia and Ukraine, but also by the present situation in Turkey and the numerous breaches of Human rights in Azerbaijan. We have a strange situation concerning Russia. They were excluded from voting rights and do not participate in the Parliamentary Assembly. Therefore, Russia holds back its membership fee. Still, they take part in the Committee of Ministers. That does not make sense. Either you are in or out.

In my opinion the core question is what will serve Human rights for our 800 million inhabitants the best? We have received inputs from different Human rights organisations who want us to draw the hard line which probably will result in the withdrawal of Russia from the Council of Europe. 143.5 million people will then be excluded from our monitoring as well as from their access to the European Court of Human Rights. If the same should be the result for the Turkish and the Azerbaijani people, we will have excluded another 20 million people from their rights towards the European Court. Do we really want this?

My conclusion is that the Council of Europe should stick to our obligations towards the individuals. Economic, political and other sanctions are taken care of by other international organisations such as the UN and the EU. The Council of Europe has its monitoring procedure and the Court as our main tools. I think it's in the best interest of all European inhabitants to keep both Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan as Members.

I will therefore vote in favour of De Sutter's report. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:46:55

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Mr ARIEV has the floor.

Mr Volodymyr ARIEV

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

16:47:00

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"War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength." That's George Orwell's reality of 1984 we have here. Strengthening the decision-making process of Parliamentary Assembly concerning credentials and voting are... Dear colleagues, have you seen a strengthening here? It's a weakening indeed, as well as, please tell me, in which member state does parliament voluntarily cut its power due to demand of the governmental branch and call it strengthening? I'm aware that we have here the festival of hypocrisy, I don't know another way to call it. What we really do here is fulfil demands in the sake to have an aggressor here and completely ignore the position of the state who we are told were targets of aggression or could potentially could be target of aggression. I don't want too much focus on the legal matters of the report but paragraph 7 of the draft resolution is completely in contradiction to the Statute and Article 5, Article 25 of the Statute, completely. And we have no legal opinions, no sending it to legal affairs committee, monitoring committee, other committee... just go through the decision on the base of political expediency. Sometimes I've heard here from this microphone that is in front of you the leaders of the European countries said that in the current situation it should be no winner, no loser, but now, we are moving very fast to the situation where we have a winner with red carpets and a loser that are going to be agreed with the triumphal returning of the aggressor to this world. And I don't know how to continue to work here as well as George Orwell's reality is going to be a reality in this hemicycle. "War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength". 

[APPLAUSE]

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:49:56

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I call Mr Goncharenko.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC 

16:50:02

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Dear colleagues, for me it's quite hard to speak now because I feel that today we can kill this organisation, because we asked the organisation will be the building, will be the place. We can sit here and make, in some way, that we are speaking. It's a dialogue platform but will it will be nothing, because what will be the authority? And, of our organisation, what people will say about our organization throughout the Europe? Since the beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, we adopted seven resolutions with the demands to Russian Federation, seven of them. One question to all of you: how many of them are implemented by Russian Federation from 2014? I answer you: no one. No one! No one of them is implemented, and what are we doing in five years after this? We are changing our rules, our procedures, to let Russia the possibility to come back here and sit here! Tell me how it is enforceable? It's absolutely abnormal and we are doing it by our own hands! I just want to remind you: 1938, Munich. They said, "Hitler wants part of Czechoslovakia, Sudeten region." And he said, "It is our only territorial demand." And Chamberlain, France said, "Okay, let's do it. Let's cut part of the other country and give it to him." And it - now we call it "Munich betrayal". What is going on here now? It's Strasbourg betrayal, Strasbourg betrayal! The same story and next year was Pact Molotov-Ribbentrop. What is going here now, it's a Pact Lavrov-Pasquier-Jagland. What is that? That's - that's true and everybody of you, my dear friends, who will vote for this will make your place, will find your place in the history, because you will give possibility to Russia to go further. There was war in Chechnya - no sanctions in Council of Europe. There was a war in Georgia - no sanctions from Council of Europe. Finally, aggression against Ukraine - sanctions, five years and, "Oh, sorry, we are coming back." I hear about 140 million Russians - yes that's true - but what is, how we call this tactics? This tactics is called "live shield". That's a terrorist tactics, when they're putting innocent people and said, "We are staying behind of them." That's a live shield tactics. It's a blackmailing. First, Putin blackmailed us with money; now he's blackmailing us with 140 million people and we're saying, "Okay, yes. Yeah, it's true and we need to speak about this." I think it's absolutely abnormal. One last thing: the day before yesterday, Le Monde made an article about Mr Levitsky, who was Consul General in Strasbourg, and who was sent from France one year ago. Why? Because he was a spy. And there's written - it's France, Le Monde - and it is written there that he had a direct access to the office of General Secretary of the Council of Europe. My dear friends, don't take part in this awful, awful attempt to kill our organisation! Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:53:26

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I call Mr EIDE.

Mr Espen Barth EIDE

Norway, SOC 

16:53:32

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Dear colleagues, first I want to commend Ms Petra De SUTTER for a very well elaborated report on a very complex issue. I think that everybody here, in this room, feels that this is difficult. I would start by urging everyone to respect that the views held by those having the opposite views of ones own, might also be based on good faith and good intentions, and commitment to rule of law, democracy and Human Rights. Which is the core principle of this organisation, but we read differently what is the right thing to do in this situation. So I suggest that, arguing that all the Members of the Council are succumbing to blackmail, or being Orwellian, or approaching terrorist tactics, is not a particularly constructive approach. But I also think that those of us who will vote for Ms Petra De SUTTER's report have to understand the emotional and difficult nature of this debate for some Members of this chamber. I think that would provide for a more mature and more healthy debate. When I end up voting in favour of the Report, and I hope to be able to vote for it exactly as it was elaborated, and not after having discussed 222 different amendments, it is because I think we have to remember what is the core purpose of this organisation. It is to promote the rule of law, to promote Human Rights and democracy through monitoring. It is about distinguishing between a government and the people of a country. It is to think long-term about the value of having Members continue to be present in the organisation, also when they err. So that we, through dialogue, through monitoring, through the means that we have at our disposal, can react to them and help the people in those countries to live better lives under the protection that the Council of Europe actually provides. This is a question for some people about Russia, and I very much respect that this is the reason we have it on the agenda. But I also want to say that this is the main question that might have to be applied to more countries, because we are entering rough waters. The world is in a different state than when the organisation was applied. We see the rollback of core principles in several Member States, and we need to agree on what the tools are by which to confront this. I believe that, just by believing that if countries leave the organisation the problem is solved, we are wrong. We have to continue in the long haul to uphold the pan-European nature of this organisation's principles. And I think that when I do that, it is not because I care about the money. I understand it's important, but that's not the purpose. It is not because I would give a vote in favour of Putin, if I could vote I would vote against. But because I do believe that the citizens of Russia also deserve the protection presented by the Council of Europe. So I really encourage everybody to really take seriously what the report says. I do believe it is an elaborate report, it's a mature report and it's a report that really goes to the core of what this organisation is all about. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:56:33

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I call Mr Mart van de VEN.

Mr Mart van de VEN

Netherlands, ALDE 

16:56:42

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Thank you, Madam Chair.

Dear colleagues, I'm against the illegal annexation of Crimea. I'm against the presence of Russians in East Ukraine and I am against the downing of airplane MH17. From January 2018, I have been involved in the work of the Committee on the role and mission of the PACE and in the follow-up work in the Rules Committee. With differing views, we work hard for the realisation of the De SUTTER report. I started my work unbiased and with an open mind. Quite soon I asked myself the question: what the PACE would get in exchange for the return of the Russian delegation in a Parliamentary Assembly? In this respect, the De SUTTER report is disappointing, as Russia to date offers nothing for its return in the Assembly. On the other hand, the Committee of Ministers, in its meeting in Helsinki on 17 May, has undertaken to support a proposal in the Cox Report of 10 April, on a joint procedure of reaction that could be initiated by either our Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers or the Secretary General, in case a Member State fails to live up at our core values, human rights, the rule of law and genuine democracy. So I'm not happy with the stance of Russia. I am of the opinion that there is now a window for our Parliamentary Assembly to start anew with our core business. Also, in the presence of the Russian parliamentarians, there exists great challenges in the field of the protection of human rights for citizens, women and children. In the final analysis, I will vote in favor of the De SUTTER report. Lastly, I congratulate this De SUTTER with a courageous perseverance to be able to present today her report. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:58:41

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I call Mr IELENSKYI.

Mr Viktor IELENSKYI

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

16:58:47

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Dear Madam President, dear colleagues.

Some of our colleagues call us to be more rational than emotional. Okay, I will go this way. What we have heard during our discussion, the situation with human rights in Russia is simply terrible. That is why we should return Russia back to Council of Europe. Russia invaded territories of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova - okay, that is why we should have Russia back. As my colleagues remind you, since 2014, the Assembly has adopted seven resolutions about annexation of Crimea, about human rights in Russia and occupied territories, about minorities, about freedom of consciousness, and Russia didn't implement any of them. That is why we should have Russia back. Another point: we found in our papers reference to Greece case but I remind you that, after the Black Colonels, Greece made enormous, enormous progress in the way of democracy, human rights, freedom - Russia didn't. Now we have heard about the necessity to support Russian citizens, their rights and their freedoms, but just hear what human rights defenders said about this issue. The most authoritative human rights agency in Russia - Memorial - clearly, clearly asked Russians to address their concerns about human rights - not to Council of Europe but to Russian, and only Russian, authority. And last point: I would like to remind you that Russia confiscated billions and billions active in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. Please be aware that probably Russia would pay their contribution by money stolen from Ukraine. Thank you. 

 

[APPLAUSE]

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:02:01

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Mr. FOULKES, you have the floor.

Lord George FOULKES

United Kingdom, SOC 

17:02:08

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Madam President, like Lise Christoffersen, I would like to congratulate Petra on doing a very difficult job very well. This is not an easy topic, not an easy issue. I've seen colleagues on all sides tortured about trying to make up their minds on this particular issue. Now I've been as critical of Russia as any of my colleagues from the United Kingdom on the poisoning in Salisbury, and indeed, on their interference in our referendum when they want to see the breakup of the European Union. But I came here undecided about what to do, whether to support this report or not. But I've become increasingly concerned at the polarisation, at the standoff between the two sides. I do ask myself the question, and I asked those who are maintaining and wanting to continue the exclusion of Russia: will it actually help the people of Russia? Will they move out of Crimea and Ukraine? Will the sailors be released? If that was going to happen, I would certainly support it. If I knew that our actions could achieve that effect, I would certainly support it. But with respect to my colleague, Sir Roger Gale, accusing some here as he did today of appeasement is not helpful to this debate at all. And I hope he will take it back. And I know he will - some people will regret it. You know, it's easy fighting the fight against Russia here in the Council of Europe with 222 amendments. That's the easy option. Perhaps it might be better and more effective for Sir Roger to persuade his government to deal with the dirty Russian money laundered through the United Kingdom and our offshore tax havens. Stopping the purchase of property in the United Kingdom as an investment and keeping it empty while homelessness in the United Kingdom soars. That might make the Russians think again. My Lords - I was thinking of saying my Lords. Colleagues, it is wrong in my view for Roger and others to use the Council of Europe which is... This Parliamentary is far too important to be used as a political pawn, and I hope he will think again.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:04:35

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I call Mr NICK.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD 

17:04:41

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Madam President,

Dear colleagues,

Today is the second time we have discussed a draft of the De Sutter report. Last October, we referred this report back to committee because we felt that there was still a need for discussion after all. Not only among us, but also between the institutions of the Council of Europe; between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Ministers.

Let me remind you that we conducted a process of dialogue under the Finnish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers - whom I thank very much for this commitment - with the strong participation of our group chairmen, especially our President, whom I also thank very much for your efforts.

We have had a discussion process which has found expression here in the adoption of the Kox report in the April part-session week. We had a decision by the Committee of Ministers in Helsinki, with the agreement of 39 Member States, and today we have the opportunity of adopting the revised report by Petra De Sutter, whom I would like to thank warmly once again for your efforts to bring this discussion to a close.

As well as the great opportunity to avert the institutional conflict that has long threatened this organization. Let me remind you that 39 Member States agreed to this in Helsinki, irrespective of the political orientation, party or orientation of their governments: Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives. I find it quite astonishing that colleagues from certain parties should take a different view here, even though the governments which they themselves have in their own countries, such as Great Britain or Poland, take a different view here.

Of course, it's also about Russia. It is repeatedly claimed that the position on the annexation of the Crimea, on the conflict in the Donbas or in the Sea of Azov would be changed here. None of this is right. We're holding these positions. The European Union, too, just last week extended its sanctions against Russia and did so unanimously. What we can achieve here, however, is to secure access to the Court for Russia's civil society. We can also take Russia to task as a member with all rights and duties. The fact that the Russian Federation obviously attaches great importance to being and remaining a member of the Council of Europe is also an opportunity for development forward. I believe that the representatives of the Russian Federation, if they return here this week, will have to engage in a great many critical debates. We have a debate on the clarification of the murder of Boris Nemtsov this week on the agenda. This morning we talked about commissioning a report on the state of investigations into the crash of the MH17 aircraft. We have experienced recently that with Ivan Golunov, with Ojub Titiev releases have also occurred in the Russian Federation, which we might not have expected recently.

We should seize this opportunity together. We should discuss and decide this in a dignified, respectful atmosphere today, and we should not deny any of our colleagues here serious and honest intentions.

Thank you very much, sir.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:07:59

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I call Mr SEYIDOV.

Mr Samad SEYIDOV

Azerbaijan, EC 

17:08:06

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And first of all, I want to express my gratitude to the rapporteur, because this is really a very difficult task, to try to change the attitudes to this organisation by changing the rules and procedures. Because the question is not about the rules and procedures, even the question is not about the values which we unfortunately can see in a very difficult surrounding. The question is about the approach to the values. My country, also occupied, we lost 20% of our territory. And not only Nagorny-Karabakh, but seven regions around Nagorny-Karabakh. And since the accession to the Council of Europe, we said that the Council of Europe had to adopt sanctions against the occupying country, against Armenia. Nothing happened, and we said that in this case, the Council of Europe should do something. Nothing happened. Instead of that, both Armenia and Azerbaijan were invited to sit together and discuss, to find the way out from this situation. If this organization is going to invite everybody to think together and to discuss their problems, in this case, why do we have this selective approach? Everybody should come. Everybody should discuss their own problems. I can say a little bit more. Today, we can see European games in Belarus, in Minsk. European games are in Minsk, but Belarus is not in the Council of Europe. We should invite Belarus to this assembly. We, all together, should find the way out of the difficult situation. But if the Council of Europe is going to do something, first of all, again, first of all, you should withdraw from your agenda this selective approach. In this country we have a violation of Human Rights, in this country everything is okay. In this country we have an occupation, in this country everything is okay. No! That is why we have today these problematic discussions. We have to have the same approach to the same problems and the same approach to all 47 countries. This is the only way out from these very problematic situations. And, from this point of view, of course, again I'm returning back to the report prepared by Madam De SUTTER. But this is not the answer to the question, because again, with rules and procedures, it would be very difficult to change the situation. We should change our approach to the organization. If we're thinking about this organization and for the future of this organization, we should do that. Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:11:11

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Thank you.

I call Mrs BLONDIN.

Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN

France, SOC 

17:11:16

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Thank you, Madam President.

I would like to thank Petra De SUTTER for her work. Her work today, the work she has done in this House all this time, on subjects that are always more difficult than others.

So, while Russia has not left the Council of Europe insofar as it still sits on the Committee of Ministers, it no longer sits in our Assembly, no longer pays its contributions and, in the meantime, freedom of the press, the rights of LGBTI people and freedom of assembly are regularly violated in Russia. This has led to numerous convictions by the European Court of Human Rights.

While the Court's judgments are not always applied by Russia, the Strasbourg Court remains the last of the walls against arbitrariness. I sincerely believe that Russian citizens must be allowed to defend their rights before the European Court of Human Rights.

Moreover, I also believe that the raison d'être of our Organisation is to provide a forum for pan-European dialogue so that conflicts can be resolved or, failing that, human rights violations in these areas can be reduced. Indeed, dialogue with Russia should enable Council of Europe bodies, such as the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to visit these regions in which Russia is involved in conflict.

But Russian citizens, just like civilians caught up in conflicts to which Russia is a party, need the Council of Europe. This is the essential reason why, in my opinion, Russia must remain a member of our Organisation.

I approve this motion for a resolution and this new mechanism, which appears to be an extended hand, a bridge offered to this country, which must also learn to live in peace with its neighbours.

However, Russia's return to our Assembly should be followed by concrete actions demonstrating a willingness to cooperate further with the Council of Europe in the defence of fundamental freedoms and, as I said, allow for the CPT, the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Rapporteur to travel quickly to the Crimea to take stock and make recommendations.

Being a member of the Council of Europe carries obligations and requires that democracy be respected by all states,  but also by all of us here as parliamentarians. If this is not achieved, certain conclusions can be drawn.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:14:18

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Ms. SOTNYK has the floor.

Ms Olena SOTNYK

Ukraine, ALDE 

17:14:22

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Merci, Madame Président.

All of this reminds me of the story –I know maybe all of you know this– Oscar Wilde's The Nightingale and the Rose. I will just remind you: the nightingale felt pain for the boy who was suffering from unexpected love and decided to help him to find a red rose. There weren't any red roses in the garden, just white roses and she performed a suicidal act while sinking with his heart on the thorn, giving her heart's blood to a white rose which turns into a beautiful red rose. The nightingale dies and the girl rejects the rose by saying that it will not match her blue dress and someone else has brought her jewels that are worth more than a rose. The boy threw away this rose.

It looks like Europe is doing the same about Ukrainians. You know our people gave blood, gave their lives to your secure lives. They stopped the aggressor on the borders of stable and peaceful Europe and they still continue doing this. Our people made priceless presents to you. They fought for the values of Europe and they gave you an opportunity to show up with a new vision of Europe, with a new meaning of Europe. And you are going to throw this present away receiving a price from the aggressor, receiving money from the aggressor. I'm sure everything that is happening here is about some of you having double standards and fake values, fake principles. All of you who are going to give the way to the aggressor, you need to remember that you will need to answer to our widows, to children who lost their fathers, to mothers who lost their children, thousands of people who died in Donbass, thousands of people who died in other countries, Georgia, Moldova, Syria, many, many other MH17 victims.

Today, the Le Monde newspaper has a huge explosion article about Mr Lewinsky, he used to be a General Councillor in the Parliamentary Assembly in the Council of Europe and according to this article, he has special access to the Secretary General. I propose all of you to read this article. After this, everything is expected, everything is understandable. But please, I know that many of you realise what is the threat of the Russian Federation, what is the threat of behaving like this with a beast. That's why I urge you colleagues, that one who realises please, don't give opportunity to change the rules without any condition for the Russians. Don't vote for this resolution if it's not going to be amended and support those who died because of the Russian Federation. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:17:43

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Thank you.

I call Mr JAGLAND, Secretary General.

Thorbjørn Jagland

Secretary General of the Council of Europe 

17:17:50

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Madam President,

This is the second time I hear about this person that I don't even remember the name of, which is from an article in Le Monde. This person I have never seen, never met. If I met him on the street I wouldn't recognise him because I have never seen his face. So that part of that article is totally false. Slander. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:18:19

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We are continuing the list of speakers.

I call Mrs BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL 

17:18:26

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Thank you Madam President.

Dear Colleagues. The report we are debating and voting on today is a good and thorough report. But we stand before a difficult decision today. We are deciding on changes to our Rules of procedure that will narrow our possibilities to sanction delegations in response to the country's behavior. In some respects this can be said to weaken the Parliamentary Assembly.

We need to face this choice with open eyes and weigh the negatives of such action carefully against the benefits. Those benefits and our goal in changing our rules today is that we will be protecting the rights of Russian citizens for years to come. The benefits are also that we can diminish the time and energy that we have spent on the Russian issue here in the Parliamentary Assembly while neglecting other very important issues.

We have to move on dear colleagues. By doing so we are not accepting the annexation of Crimea or giving in to blackmail. I want to repeat this. The annexation of Crimea was done in violation of International law and should be reversed. However the Parliamentary Assembly is not the most efficient avenue for sanctions. The Assembly should continue to be a forum for dialogue. We should work together with the Committee of Ministers to streamline our response to violations of our norms and values so that our procedures conform to our statute and have a clearer effect.

We must however preserve the protection of the Council of Europe for all the citizens of our Member states. Reserve the monitoring to a rapporteurship of Russia, something that has been neglected for the last five years. Faced with this choice today, I choose to stand with the citizens of Russia and the Council of Europe. I choose to stand with dialogue and solution, with constructive solution for the benefit of the tireless fight for Human rights.

We will not all be one hundred percent happy with the solution here and the decision taken here today. But nevertheless, we have to stand with the principles and values of the Council of Europe and I'm proud to do so today.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:20:52

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I call Mrs DURANTON.

Ms Nicole DURANTON

France, EPP/CD 

17:20:57

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Thank you, Madam President, dear colleagues.

After the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the Council of Europe brought all European countries together around common values centered on the respect for Human rights and the Rule of law. This is an undeniable success of our organisation, which has become a real forum for pan-European dialogue. Russia, for its part, joined the Council of Europe in 1996, thus demonstrating its desire to turn the page on the Cold War.

But today, as the Council of Europe celebrates its 70th anniversary, this unity is very fragile. Indeed, following the annexation of Crimea by Russia, our Assembly deprived the Russian delegation of its voting rights, which led to its voluntary departure. In 2017, Russia stopped paying its contribution to the Council of Europe, thus strengthening its disengagement from our institution.

Today we are at a crossroads. Either we can find a diplomatic solution acceptable to all to allow Russia to return to our Assembly, or Russia could leave the Council of Europe. Dilemma.

I strongly condemn the annexation of Crimea, which, let us be clear, is a violation of international law and the rules of our organisation. Will Russia's departure help to resolve the conflict in Ukraine? It is absolutely necessary to promote dialogue to enable a return to the rule of law in the Donbass and Crimea. If the Russian delegation returns to our Assembly, it must be accompanied by signals illustrating a desire for sincere cooperation. It would be inconceivable to reopen the doors to it without concessions. For example, Russia could release Ukrainian sailors captured in the Azov Sea, or allow the Human Rights Commissioner to travel to Crimea.

Membership of our organization implies respect for certain principles and a willingness to cooperate with its organs. If some consider that the sanction imposed by our Assembly on the Russian delegation is questionable from a regulatory point of view, it is necessary that in the future, the Council of Europe adopts a sanction procedure against a Member State that violates the principles of the organisation. This procedure should be implemented jointly by the Committee of Ministers and our Assembly, and the political dialogue between the two should be strengthened.

Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:23:34

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The next speaker is Mr CILEVIČS.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC 

17:23:38

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Thank you Madam President.

The issue we are discussing today is of special importance for me. Most of my voters are Latvian citizens for whom Russian is a mother tongue. Russian is also my first language and we speak Russian at home. My party is labeled as pro-Moscow by Latvian nationalists. Latvian Russian speakers are loyal Europeans, but naturally for them good relations with Russia, active involvement of Russia in European life, including the Council of Europe, is vitally important. But not at any cost.

It seems that it is the first time ever that I disagree with my good friend Ms Petra De Sutter.  Yes, I am strongly in favour of compromise and dialogue with Russia. But is the suggested solution indeed a compromise which can facilitate dialogue? In my view obviously not. Frankly to us it looks like a surrender. I appreciate the concessions we are making towards Russia, but does Russia reciprocate anyhow? Unlike most of you, colleagues, I can read the Russian media and I see that the Assembly's good will is used only for propaganda purposes, presented not as an opening door for dialogue, but as a full endorsement of Russia's actions.

In fact, Russia has not followed any demands or recommendations of our Assembly. Just weeks and days before this debate Russian authorities committed new hostile actions against Ukraine as well as Georgia, trying to exert economic pressure on the basis of completely fake pretexts. Millions of Russian tourists visit Georgia every year and not a single incident has ever been recorded.

The draft suggested by Ms Petra De Sutter is indeed a good basis for further dialogue. However, I strongly believe that some amendments are necessary. Madam President, we are not just a round table for discussions, not a UN or OSCE type organisation. We are a club with clear criteria for membership based on respect to democracy and Human rights. If all the amendments are rejected, the adoption of the Resolution would undermine our Assembly's credibility, and in fact will turn it into a poor copy of the OSCE. I believe it is quite enough to have one OSCE in Europe.

Madam President, how are we going to criticise other Member states? And should we expect them to take our advice seriously when they see that we turn a blind eye on much more serious wrongdoings? Are we going to continue calling this Assembly a temple of Human rights? Doesn't this sound as a bitter joke?

Madam President, I'm not a diplomat. I am a Human rights defender. I do not believe that a purely diplomatic approach pursued by the Committee of Ministers can be effective, and I cannot accept that our Assembly drops its statutory functions and rights.

I very much hope that we will be able to find the proper compromise without undermining our core values, and call upon all Assembly Members to support the amendments aimed at achieving this. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:26:42

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I call Mr BEREZA.

Mr Boryslav BEREZA

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

17:26:48

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What Sir Roger GALE said today was one of the most striking statements I’ve heard within this hall. Sir Roger GALE has quite rightly noted that for 70 million pieces of silver we’re prepared to have Russia coming back here. For 70 million pieces of silver we are going to close our eyes to the occupation of Crimea and The Donbass. For those 70 million pieces of silver we’re prepared to pardon the crime of the killing of Ukrainians. Now, at the time of Jesus Christ, the price was only 30 pieces of silver. That was a small price for a treachery, but here, the price is higher. Now when someone says that Russia should come back simply because it’s a danger to have Russia outside, and 140 million Russian citizens would no longer have access to the European Court of Human Rights. But that is hypocrisy. That is more than hypocrisy. Because there are decisions of the Parliamentary Assembly and of the Court to free Bakirov from a prison and move him to hospital for instance. That’s an official judgement of the European Court of Human Rights, but the Russian Federation has completely ignored that. And Madam President, you also know that the decision to be taken today is a political decision. It is not a decision that would support the Rule of law. Think of Boris Nemtsov. Think of all of those Ukrainian hostages who are being kept in the Russian Federation, who are being detained, who are in Russian prisons and camps for decades. You are in fact allowing and agreeing to all of this being done by the Russian Federation in Ukraine. Well that, of course, is your right. But if the Russian Federation comes back here, then what is that going to mean? As Mr. Levintsky has written in Le Monde, there was a Russian diplomat with access to the office of the Secretary General. If after all of that, after all of the scandals of the Parliamentary Assembly with Mr Pedro AGRAMUNT and others, you are insisting today that the Russian Federation must return. Well, that would really mean a complete reduction to nought of the prestige, of the authority, of the Council of Europe to work in Ukraine and to resolve problems in Ukraine. There has been this decision for a memorandum with the office in Ukraine. But a country that is completely ignoring the decisions of this Assembly and other decisions of other bodies of the Council of Europe just can’t be accepted. So to bring Russia back here is not an attempt to promote dialogue. It is simply an acceptance of the murder of Ukrainians, of the occupation of Crimea and The Donbass. If the Russian delegation does come back here, I really don’t see how us Ukrainians could continue to work with the Council of Europe, with an organisation that is trampling on those principles. Thank you.