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Opening of sitting No. 23

Elections: Secretary General of the Council of Europe /Judges to the European Court of Human Rights

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:05:38

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The meeting is now in session.

The next item is the announcement of the results of the first round of voting for the election of a Vice-President of the Assembly in respect of the Russian Federation.

The number of people who participated in the vote was 194, knowing that the number of representatives in the assembly is 317 and that the number of votes required for the majority of representatives was therefore 159.

Blank or invalid ballots: 4.

Votes cast: 194.

Mr SLUTSKY, who received 101 votes, which means that there was no absolute majority, which is why we will have to proceed to a second round for the election of a Vice-President of the Assembly in respect of the Russian Federation.

I would remind you that, in accordance with Rule 16 of our Rules of Procedure, in the second round of voting, the election is valid by a majority of the votes cast, provided that half of the representatives composing the assembly have voted: 159 men and women voting. If the candidate is not elected following the second round of voting, the seat of Vice-President shall remain vacant until a candidate presented by the Russian delegation obtains the required majority.

The vote will take place in the rotunda behind the presidency. At 1 pm I will suspend the vote; it will resume this afternoon at 3.30 pm In order to allow time for all the necessary ballots to be counted, since we are going to have three elections at the same time, and so that we can announce the results before the end of the session, I propose that the ballots be closed at 6 pm, rather than at 7 pm

There is no opposition? It is therefore decided so.

I will first draw lots to determine the names of the two deputy returning officers responsible for counting the votes.

Mrs PASHAYEVA and Mr VICKERS.

I remind the deputy returning officer that they must be in the rotunda behind the presidency at 6 pm. The announcement of the results will take place, if possible, before the adjournment of this afternoon's meeting and the vote is already open.

Let us first proceed to the election of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and judges to the European Court of Human Rights.

The next item is also the elections, as you know.

For judges at the European Court of Human Rights, it is in respect of Estonia and Germany.

For the election of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the two candidatures submitted are those of Mrs Marija PEJCINOVIC BURIC, from Croatia, and Mr Didier REYNDERS, from Belgium.

For the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights of Estonia and Germany, you will find the list of candidates and biographical information in documents 14883 and 14884.

The Commission's recommendation on the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights can be found in document 14911 addendum 2.

For these two elections, the vote also takes place in the rotunda behind the presidency. There, too, at 1 pm I will suspend the polls, they will resume this afternoon at 3.30 pm and will be closed at 6 pm The counting will take place immediately afterwards under the usual conditions under the supervision of four tellers, whom we will now designate by lot.

Mr. CAZEAU, Ms. BONELL, Ms. GROZDANOVA, Ms. WONNER, you are among the tellers.

I would like to remind the four tellers thus appointed that they must be in the rotunda behind the presidency at 6 pm, and the results of the ballots will be announced, if possible, before the end of this afternoon's sitting.

For each election, the ballot is open and we continue our work during this time.

I have received a letter from the Committee on Rules of Procedure, which had been seized of a challenge on formal grounds to the credentials of the Spanish parliamentary delegation, informing me that the Committee has concluded that the delegation's credentials have been ratified. I will read you the main points of this letter.

“The Committee took note of the explanations provided by the chairperson of the Spanish delegation, in particular the fact that Parliament had appointed an interim delegation with seven vacant substitute seats, which would be filled as soon as possible in accordance with Rule 6.2 of the Assembly's Rules of Procedure. The Commission notes that the main political currents present in Parliament are represented and that the delegation includes representatives and representatives of the opposition parties. The existence of vacant seats in the Spanish delegation suggests that members from certain minority political groups not currently represented in the delegation may join it.

The Committee therefore considers that there is insufficient reason not to ratify the credentials of the Spanish delegation.“

It is so decided.

In addition, the Committee on Rules of Procedure, at its meeting last night, did not finally adopt a resolution concerning the challenge of credentials on formal grounds of the delegation of the Russian Federation. We will therefore not have a debate on this subject this afternoon. Of course, I will provide you with additional information at the beginning of this afternoon's session.

Ladies and gentlemen, the next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report Putting an end to coercion in mental health, the need for a human rights-based approach which will be presented by Mrs de BRUIJN-WEZEMAN on behalf of the Social, Health and Sustainable Development Committee, and the opinion of Mrs Saiba GAFAROVA, presented by Mrs Elvira KOVÁCS on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. The Assembly will also hear from Mrs Dunja MIJATOVIĆ, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

I would remind you that we will have to finish examining this text –including the vote– at 12 noon.

Mrs de BRUIJN-WEZEMAN, you have a total speaking time of 13 minutes, which you may divide at your convenience between the presentation of your report and the reply to the speakers.

You have the floor.

Debate: Ending coercion in mental health: the need for a human rights-based approach

Ms Reina de BRUIJN-WEZEMAN

Netherlands, ALDE, Rapporteur 

10:14:54

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Thank you, Madam President,

Fifty-five steps, uphill, counted Eleanor Riese, every time she forced her sick body up to the Courthouse, to battle for her right to refuse medical treatment as a psychiatric patient.

In fact, while the patient’s rights to be informed about the consequences and side effects of a treatment, and to refuse or consent to treatment, have become a common practice in most healthcare settings, during the last decades, Eleanor’s case was different. That is because she had a mental health condition, she was diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia, and was treated in a psychiatric hospital. There, forced medication was – and still is – a common practice. Even when a treatment has irreversible damaging side effects, as in Eleanor’s case. In the end, Eleanor died suffering from renal failure, caused by the side-effects of forced medication.

‘55 Steps’ is the title of the movie about the true story of Eleanor’s life. It was projected during a side-event on involuntary measures in psychiatry, that I hosted last January, in relation to this report.

Although Eleanor lived in California in the 1980s, today, across Europe, a growing number of persons with mental health conditions, or psychosocial disabilities, are also subject to coercive measures such as involuntary placement and treatment.

The overall increase in the use of involuntary measures in mental health settings mainly results from a culture of confinement. Which focuses and relies on coercion to “control” and “treat” patients who are considered potentially “dangerous” to themselves or others. The notion of "risk of harm to oneself or others" remains a strong focus in justifications for involuntary measures across Council of Europe member States. Despite the lack of empirical evidence regarding both the association between mental health conditions and violence, and the effectiveness of coercive measures in preventing self-harm or harm to others.

Persons with mental health conditions experience overwhelmingly negative effects of coercive measures, including pain, trauma and fear. Involuntary treatments administered against the will of patients, such as forced medication and forced electroshocks, are perceived as particularly traumatic. They also raise major ethical issues, as they can cause potentially irreversible health damage such as memory loss after electroshocks.

As a result, persons with mental health conditions, avoid or delay contact with the healthcare system for fear of losing their dignity and autonomy. Ultimately leading to negative health outcomes, including intensive life-threatening distress and crisis situations which, in turn, lead to more coercion.

We have to break this vicious circle.

The historical background of this report lies in the Committee of Ministers’ decision to work on an Additional Protocol to the Oviedo Convention, aimed at protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people with mental disorders, with regard to the use of involuntary treatment.

In 2016, the Assembly opposed the drafting of this Additional Protocol that is authorising, while regulating, the use of involuntary treatment and placement. In particular, the Assembly raised concerns about the protocol’s compatibility with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

In a Resolution on “Mental health and human rights” adopted in September 2017, the United Nations Human Rights Council expressed deep concern that persons with mental health conditions, or psychosocial disabilities, may be subject to widespread discrimination, stigma, prejudice, violence, abuse, social exclusion and segregation, unlawful or arbitrary institutionalisation, overmedicalisation and treatment practices that fail to respect their autonomy, will and preferences.

Affirming the importance of adopting a Human Rights approach in the context of mental health, the Human Rights Council called upon States to abandon all practices that fail to respect the rights, will, and preferences of all persons on an equal basis. And that lead to power imbalance, stigma and discrimination in mental health settings. It also requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to identify strategies to promote Human Rights in mental health and to eliminate discrimination, stigma, violence, coercion and abuse in this regard.

Despite the opposition of NGOs, the UN special rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, our Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Parliamentary Assembly – amongst others – the drafting of the work on the Additional Protocol still continues. Thus perpetuating the culture of confinement that focuses and relies on coercive measures, and failing to adopt a Human Rights-based approach.

The additional protocol will neither reform the mental health systems across the Council of Europe States, as required by the CRPD, nor make them respectful of medical ethics and of the Human Rights of the persons concerned. Including their rights to health care on the basis of free and informed consent.

A fundamentally different human rights-based approach is needed.

To show the way forward, I set out in my explanatory memorandum a number of positive examples from within and outside Europe. Including hospital-based strategies, community-based responses  – such as peer-led crisis or respite services  – and other initiatives  – such as advance planning  – that have proven to be highly successful in preventing and reducing recourse to coercive practices.

These promising practices are also highly effective in assisting persons with mental health conditions during crisis situations, and should thus be placed at the centre of mental health systems.

Services which rely on coercion should be considered unacceptable alternatives, which ultimately must be abandoned.

In view of these elements, and convinced that greater awareness, cross-stakeholder coordination and political commitment, are crucial in initiating and sustaining the much-needed change in mental health policies, I ask this Assembly to urge Council of Europe Member States to immediately start to transition towards the abolition of coercive practices in mental health settings. So I call on the States;

- To develop a road map to radically reduce recourse to coercive measures;

- To develop effective and accessible support services for persons experiencing crises and emotional distress. Including safe and supportive spaces to discuss suicide and self-harm;

- To develop, fund, and provide resources for research on non-coercive measures;

- To dedicate adequate resources toward prevention and early identification of mental health condition, and early, non-coercive intervention. Especially in children and young people, without stigmatisation;

- To fight the stereotyping against persons with mental health conditions. Particularly, the erroneous public narrative about violence and persons with mental health conditions;

- To review the curricula of higher education institutions, in particular those of schools of medicine, law and social work, to ensure that they reflect the provisions of the CRPD;

- To fight against the exclusion of persons with mental health conditions by ensuring that they have access to appropriate social protection, including housing, work and employment;

- And to provide adequate social and financial support to families of persons with mental health conditions.

Then, about recommendations:

I also call on this Assembly to reiterate the need for the Council of Europe, as the leading regional Human Rights organisation, to fully integrate the paradigm shift initiated by the UN-CRPD. And recommend the Committee of Ministers to prioritise support to Member States, to immediately start to transition towards the abolition of coercive practices in mental health settings.

During the last meeting of the Council of Europe Committee on Bioethics (DH-BIO) I noted with satisfaction that the DH-BIO is now planning a study on “Good practices in mental healthcare: how to promote voluntary measures”. So we should recommend the Committee of Ministers to encourage the DH-BIO to carry out such a study, with the involvement of all relevant actors in the field. In particular, relevant NGOs representing persons with mental health conditions or psychosocial disabilities.

And we should invite the Committee of Ministers to redirect efforts from the drafting of the Additional Protocol to the drafting of guidelines on ending coercion in mental health. Thus acknowledging the continued widespread oppositions to the work on an Additional Protocol, as well as the comments received during the consultation rounds in 2015 and 2018. Including the comments of the two competent committees of this Assembly, which underline the draft Protocol‘s incompatibility with the CRPD, and its incapacity to protect persons with mental health conditions or psychosocial disabilities from violations of their Human Rights.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:24:49

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Madam Rapporteur, you will have three minutes to respond to the speakers' interventions later.

You now have the floor, Mrs KOVÁCS, to present the opinion on behalf of the Commission on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

 

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD 

10:25:10

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Thank you, Madam President.

Dear colleagues,

We all know people who are affected by mental health issues. Yet, mental illness is still surrounded by stigma and stereotypes and people with mental health conditions or psychosocial disabilities are still subjected to treatment and attention without their consent.

I would like, first of all, to congratulate Madam Rapporteur for really her excellent work and excellent analysis of this paradigm. She has shown the harmful effects of an approach to psychosocial disabilities that is based on minimising perceived risks and danger. She has really made a powerful case for the need to move to a human rights-based approach and she has shown that such alternatives already exist and work in many of our Member States.

The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination fully supports the support of the Committee on Social Affairs, and we would like to urge you to support this report too. We have made only one amendment - one proposal for an amendment - to the draft resolution, so as to ensure that equality and non-discrimination issues are addressed here. I invite you to support this amendment too.

Dear colleagues,

Now I would like to turn to the draft recommendation. As we heard, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities forbids involuntary placement of individuals with disabilities based solely on their impairment.

The Commissioner for human rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and many NGOs have urged the Council of Europe to stop working on a draft protocol to the Oviedo Convention on Bioethics which aims to create additional safeguards surrounding involuntary placement and treatment. They stress that focusing the Council of Europe's work on coercive measures would create conflicts in international law.

Worse, it would divert resources away from developing and implementing alternative measures that fully respect the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities. Our Committee fully supports the draft recommendation of the Committee on Social Affairs. Therefore, dear colleagues, I invite you all to vote in favour not only for the proposed amendment of our Committee and for the draft Resolution, but also in favour of the draft recommendation.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:27:57

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Thank you, Mrs KOVÁCS.

Our debate now calls for the address of Mrs Dounia MIJATOVIĆ, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.

Commissioner, it is a great pleasure to welcome you once again to our Chamber. Please allow me to underline just how much our Assembly appreciates this close cooperation, as well as your renewed willingness to discuss with us. Both in plenary and at committee level, or even at bilateral meetings with our members, or by organising exhibitions during our part-sessions.

Madam Commissioner, your speech today will be an opportunity to share with our members your views on the issue of eliminating the use of involuntary measures in the field of mental health. I am sure that your intervention will contribute to enriching our debates.

It is there for a pleasure for me to give you the floor.

Ms Dunja MIJATOVIĆ

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights 

10:29:03

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Madam President. Distinguished parliamentarians. Excellencies. Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to have this opportunity to address you today on a subject that is very important for my mandate, but at the same time, very close to my heart.

I would like to start by saluting the extraordinary work accomplished by the rapporteur, Ms Reina de BRUIJN-WEZEMAN. For her accomplishments as a rapporteur, for the extremely important report in front of you today. I strongly agree with her findings and conclusions, as well as the contents of the draft Resolution and the recommendations.

My experience as your Human Rights Commissioner has only confirmed these findings, and the vicious circle caused by a coercion-based mental health approach. For example, I have seen first-hand how the lack of community-based voluntary mental healthcare services, result in even more coercion and deprivation of liberty. This causes tremendous suffering to the individuals concerned, at great cost to our societies.

I have seen how a coercion-based mental health systems perpetuate the isolation of the very persons who need the support of their community the most. Which, in turn, fuels more stigma and irrational fear. I have seen how, the supposed safeguards to protect persons with psychosocial disabilities from arbitrariness, are reduced to mere formalities. This is because, these safeguards, function in a legal system where these persons do not even have a chance to have their voices heard. At their worst, such safeguards do little more than give a good conscience to those who are, in fact, taking part in Human Rights violations.

What coercion in mental health ultimately does, is to silence and isolate those who are already suffering from mental illness. Crucially, it reduces our ability to listen and respond to their needs. Historically, rejection and isolation has been our default response to persons with psychosocial disabilities. This ingrained fear is still very strong in us, and is fuelling the prejudice that they are automatically a danger to themselves and to society, against all available statistical evidence to the contrary.

The rapporteur points to the fact that there is not enough scientific evidence to prove the usefulness of coercion in reducing harm, whereas there is abundant evidence for the harm — sometimes, irreparable harm — that involuntary placement and treatment can cause for patients.

Evidence also suggests that recourse to coercion has often more to do with a habit of culture, of confinement, and the absence of alternatives, rather than therapeutic necessity.

Let me be very clear: I do not want to belittle the positive impact that psychiatrists can have in the well-being of their patients, and mental health is a key component of well-being. The rapporteur herself, refers to the negative impact of involuntary measures on service providers. There are service providers for persons with disabilities who want to stop using coercion, but do not have, or do not know, about alternatives.

I agree with the rapporteur and the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, that a mental health system which fully integrates a Human rights-based approach, is the best way to avoid Human rights violations in the future.

This requires that we respect the voices, sometimes conflicting voices, of persons with psychosocial disabilities, who are also patients.

We should hear their stories, and not only listen to the psychiatrists or judges who take decisions to deprive them of their liberty, and treat them against their will. Even when they are convinced that these decisions are supposedly in the best interest of the person. We should also carefully listen to the solutions patients propose, and to the wishes they express in relation to mental health care services.

We should question our assumptions about how a mental health system should operate. I find the mention in the report of so many successful and promising practices, such as the Open Dialogue approach to Acute Psychosis, mobile mental health units or advance directives, very encouraging. We should reduce the stigma and barriers around the provision of mental health care, so that persons are empowered to seek and fully participate in their treatment as early as possible.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the CRPD) is one of the greatest achievements in Human Rights of recent years. It was the result of a tireless campaign by persons with disabilities, including psychosocial disabilities, to have their voices heard. What these voices are saying is perfectly rational and Human Rights-based: they say that they want to be treated equally and not to be discriminated on the basis of their disability. And we should listen to them.

It is mostly thanks to the CRPD that we are now having this debate, and facing the entrenched discrimination built into our legal and mental health systems. This brings me to the subject of the draft Recommendation put to you today and the role of the Council of Europe. My predecessor and I have explained on many occasions, including before this Assembly, why we are against the Additional Protocol to the Oviedo Convention currently being drafted, so I shall not repeat myself today. Suffice to say that I think that such a Protocol, rather than protecting people with psychosocial disabilities, would set the clock back. Legitimising an outdated approach, creating a lot of legal uncertainty, and putting the Council of Europe on an unprecedented collision course with the global Human Rights protection system.

But the work on the Protocol has the merit of having brought this debate into our organisation. It is time that the Council of Europe adopts a more holistic approach to the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities, including their right to mental health. The European Convention of Human Rights cannot be considered the only, and ultimate, benchmark on the issue of involuntary placement and treatment of persons with psychosocial disabilities. As the CRPD has brought in much more up-to-date and comprehensive standards on the rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities.

I fully endorse the draft Recommendation to the Committee of Ministers to redirect drafting efforts, from an Additional Protocol, towards guidelines on ending coercion in mental health. I believe that this could give us an opportunity to finally bring our standards into the 21st century when it comes to this very complex issue.

It is our duty to encourage and support our Member States to embark on a Human Rights-based transition of their mental health systems to reduce and end coercion, which is long overdue.

We have to start today, we have to start now.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:37:32

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Thank you very much, Mrs MIJATOVIĆ, for your most interesting speech.

Ladies and gentlemen, I will remind you that votes for the election of a Vice-President of the Assembly on behalf of the Russian Federation, of two judges on the European Court of Human Rights, and for the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, are in progress. I invite those of you who have not yet voted to do so.

We now move on to the general discussion, starting with speakers on behalf of the political groups.

I give the floor to Mr PRINGLE for the GUE Group

Mr Thomas PRINGLE

Ireland, UEL, Spokesperson for the group 

10:38:13

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Thank you, Madam Chairperson. I'm speaking on behalf of the Unified European Left.

Madam Chairperson, according to global advocates on mental health, we are facing a global human rights emergency in this field. All over the world, people with mental health disabilities experience a wide range of human rights violations. Member States of the Council of Europe must advocate for mental health systems across the world to conform to a human-rights based approach, which is compatible with the United Nations convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We should also focus on the rights of young people who do not have the ability to advocate for themselves and we should encourage them as much as possible.

So this requires mental health services that rely on coercion to be abandoned and practices relying on consent to be placed at the center of mental health systems and whereby individuals are empowered, instead of been stripped of their autonomy.

In Ireland, we have a dark and disturbing history when it comes to the mass institutionalisation of people with mental health problems. It's only in recent history that the state has begun a broad shift away from this model of care. However, according to the Mental Health Commission in Ireland, the law and its current form is outdated, outmoded and is not based on a progressive rights-based approach to mental health care. Advocates have continued to call for legislation to be published no later than the end of this year. Irish legislation still does not incorporate specific guiding principles for children under the 2001 Act; individuals do not yet have a statutory right to individual care or recovery plans; voluntary patients still do not have basic rights to information or advocacy and while people aged between 16 and 17 can consent or refuse to physical health care decisions, this does not apply to mental health care decisions and, most poignantly in the context of this debate, involuntary patients do not have the right to have their advance wishes about treatment respected, leading to, every year, between two thousand to two and a half thousand people detained against their will in psychiatric facilities, where they can be forcibly injected with medication, physically restrained by staff and locked in isolation.

It is clear that despite reforms made in recent years, the Irish State still retains a disproportionate amount of power over individuals with mental health issues. The Mental Health Commission has repeatedly called for serious attention to be paid to the human rights of mental health service users in terms of capacity and consent to treatment. The main obstruction to greater reform is the fact that the state funding has been in crisis, largely due to decades of chronic under-investment and the inability to recruit and retain staff providing care. Waiting lists are long and demeaning, in fact generating more problems for people with mental health issues, as they continue to wait for mental health care. Another issue is ideological. The government does not believe in the right to health care and the sense that it should be based on need and not ability to pay, instead they have invested in a two-tier health system which consistently undermines our health services and yet the government continue to invest in this structure. This has delayed the implementation of community-based health services across the country and there is no sign of this changing yet. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:41:27

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For the FDG Group, the floor is given to Mr HASANOV.

Mr Elshad HASANOV

Azerbaijan, FDG, Spokesperson for the group 

10:41:35

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Thank you very much, Madam President.

Dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to thank the rapporteur for her perfect work.

Today, we live in the times of human rights, when the rights of a human being have become a universal value. In our times, human rights are an unconditional global value for humanity, but unfortunately in some areas of our lives the approach to human rights still has not changed the old rules and traditions. In this regards, compulsory treatment of people with mental illness is a matter of urgent action.

According to the report, the rights of people in need of mental health assistance are systematically violated. It is a common approach that human rights require consent to undertake medical care. According to the United Nation’s Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, individuals are free to make their own choices. Disabled people have the same rights as anybody else and must be included in society. So, mental health facilities should conform to the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

We have to admit that there are ethical challenges that emerge when using coercion in mental health care. Coercive practices are relatively common in mental health care but coercion is ethically problematic because it involves acting against individual autonomy. As the leading regional human rights organisation, the Parliamentary Assembly has to has to identify strategies to promote in human rights in mental health and to eliminate discrimination, violence and abuse. European nations should abandon all practices that fail to respect the rights of people with mental illnesses. It is sad that persons with a mental illness or mental disorder still face detention in hospitals and are subjected to physical restraint and seclusion. According to the report, there has been an increase in the use of involuntary measures in mental health settings.

And to conclude, I want to say that today we need to undertake deep reforms, legislative changes and targeted projects to reduce the use of coercion in psychiatry. We need hospital-based strategies, community-based responses, psychological assistance and other positive examples in order to prevent, reduce and eliminate coercion in mental health care. The governments should reform their mental health system to ensure that persons with mental illnesses voluntarily seek treatment which is respectful of medical, ethical and human rights.

Thank you very much for your attention. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:44:31

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Thank you.

I call Ms KYRIAKIDES on behalf of the EPP/CD Group.

Ms Stella KYRIAKIDES

Cyprus, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group 

10:44:38

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Thank you. Thank you Madam President.

Dear colleagues

I would like to start by thanking the rapporteur for an excellent report. A report that touches on a difficult subject and that has been the centre of a long discussion especially concerning the additional protocol to the Convention of Human Rights and Biomedicine, concerning the protection of human rights and the dignity of persons with mental disorder with respect to involuntary treatment and involuntary placement.

Dear colleagues, sometimes we discuss and debate reports and vote on recommendations on challenging topics without having ourselves first hand or expert knowledge. In this case I can speak from personal experience as I am a clinical psychologist and worked for many years in mental health at a time when treatment was only in big isolated asylums. The only way of admission was by force, using the excuse of being a danger to oneself and to others.

Colleagues, the greatest myth is that most crimes are committed by those who are mentally ill and that we must protect them from themselves and ourselves. It's a myth that people with mental disability are violent and unpredictable. In fact, these people with mental disability are usually 10 times more likely to be victims of violence and bullying by others.

I have seen what coercion in mental health can do to a person's dignity, to their confidence, to their self-esteem. But I have also seen in my own country, since we moved away from asylum to community care, from institutionalisation to integration, how those with mental disabilities thrive and respond as we never expected them to.

So what we need to do here today is to commit to integrating the paradigm shift initiated by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into our work. Protecting the human rights and dignities of those with mental health difficulties. And believe that we can, in all our Member countries, end coerced detention in all cases. EPP therefore asks you to support this important report which will, like many others we have adopted, change the lives of individuals in our societies the lives of those individuals whose disability often deprives them of the voice to advocate for their own basic human rights.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:47:21

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Thank you, Mrs. KYRIAKIDES.

For the SOC Group, the floor is given to Mrs ÆVARSDÓTTIR.

Ms Thorhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC, Spokesperson for the group 

10:47:29

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Thank you Madam President.

I would first like to congratulate the rapporteur on her excellent report and her excellent work on this issue. It is very important. People with mental disorders or conditions and psychosocial disabilities are denied many of our most fundamental rights. Even today. Our organisation, for some reason, is not helping.

The rights that these people are denied consist of some of our most fundamental values, like the right to personal autonomy, the right to health, the right to decide on your own treatment, the right to be free from torture and other inhumane or... I've lost the word. Other inhumane treatment. And in some cases the right to life. Their reproductive rights are systematically denied to them. Their right to take decisions, be it bad or good decisions, are denied to them.

I have the right to make bad decisions. And because I do not have a mental condition I do not have to fear that my right to make decisions will be taken away from me just because I make one or two bad decisions. This is not the case for people with mental conditions who systematically and very frequently are deprived of their legal agency and are deprived of their right to exercise their rights. To decide where they live. To decide what kind of treatment they would like to have.

Coercion and mental health can constitute torture. It can constitute a violation of people's fundamental right to bodily autonomy. And it can constitute a violation of our right to decide on our fertility. Sterilisations and forced abortions are still practiced today in Europe against people with mental conditions. This is something that needs to stop. That this why I celebrate this report because it looks forward. It looks towards modernising the approach that we have towards people with mental conditions. And it is in line with our obligations according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which rejects all coercion-based approaches in healthcare for people with disabilities.

I think the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Court of Human Rights need to evolve, need to look forward, and need to ensure that people with mental disabilities and people with mental conditions enjoy the same rights as all other peoples in Europe do. If we manage to remove the stigma then maybe we can manage to recognise that people with mental conditions have exactly the same rights as we do and that we should expect a respect them equally to ours.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:50:48

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Thank you.

I call Mr RUSSELL on behalf of the EC Group.

Lord Simon RUSSELL

United Kingdom, EC, Spokesperson for the group 

10:50:54

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Thank you, Madam President

I would also like to thank and congratulate the rapporteur on her thoughtful and, above all, balanced report. Balanced because it focuses both on what is wrong and what appears to be successful and promising practices to mitigate or even eliminate unnecessary coercion. All of our countries can learn from and should reflect on initiatives such as the personal Ombudsman support model in Sweden, which is firmly client- and patient-focused, the mental health equivalent of what we call the Living Will, in the United Kingdom, advanced directives, and the open dialogue approach in Finland, which involves the patient, their families and friends, as well as specialists, in an integrated patient-centred approach to avoid unnecessary hospitalisation.

However, when I read paragraph 24 on page 11, my initial reaction was surprise that I myself appeared to be taking part in one of these promising initiatives, because when I read about “peer-run respite houses”, I not unnaturally assumed it was referring to the House of Lords, which is also known as the House of Peers, where our average age is 69 and many people assume we are kept busy there so that we do not stray out onto the street and alarm the public. To my relief, it actually refers to safe residential settings to which patients can go if they are experiencing a mental health crisis. Some people would say that has remarkable similarities to the House of Lords as well.

It is a conundrum that that the survey of 36 countries referred to in paragraph 5 concluded that the countries with legislation to restrict and reduce coercion are actually the countries that have the highest rates of coercion.

I was very struck by our own Human Rights Commissioner's observation that, and I quote her: “maybe the time has come to regard the use of involuntary measures less as the core of the mental health system, but more as a symptom of its failings”.

An important area for improvement must be improving the standards and accuracy of psychiatric diagnosis, since there are no objective tests for establishing a diagnosis and it remains highly subjective. These diagnoses are so influential on patients, redefining their identity, imposing a powerful stigma over their lives, with sometimes frightening legal consequences, which can result in judiciary processes, which can withdraw one's legal capacity.

Finally, I think we should all reflect on the challenging and wise words of a prominent reform psychiatrist, Dr Thomas Szasz, in 1973, when he said, and I quote: "if you talk to God you are praying, if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia. If the dead talk to you, you are a spiritualist, if you talk to the dead you are schizophrenic." Discuss.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:54:05

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Thank you.

I call Mrs FRESKO-ROLFO for the ALDE Group.

Ms Béatrice FRESKO-ROLFO

Monaco, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group 

10:54:12

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Thank you, Madam President.

To better understand this resolution, let me remind you what is a ”constraint”.

”The term coercion refers to situations of intervention on others in which the person does not give his authorization and/or which involve, to varying degrees, an attack on his physical or psychological integrity or his rights.”

For decades, mental health coercion has been the subject of exciting political-philosophical debates. The ”pros” opposing the opponents, both movements putting forward serious arguments. These debates have sometimes led to an anti-psychiatric movement.

So where should we position the cursor? Where should we draw the line between a measure taken to ensure the protection of the person and a measure considered too invasive, which would de facto sweep away a person's basic rights?

Can consent be dispensed with in specific cases, such as care measures ordered by a judge, carried out in psychiatric institutions, on vulnerable adults? Of course, some studies dispute the therapeutic effect of the use of confinement and isolation, but we all have in mind a fact that could justify the use of this practice.

To this end, the authors of these constraints put forward a therapeutic aim, a preservation of the person's interests, or finally ensuring his or her safety. However, the effectiveness of some care is closely linked to the effective participation of the person. Negotiation with the patient should therefore be privileged.

Another issue is to define the capacity of a person to consent to treatment. It is difficult to set precise standards in a context such as mental illness.

I would now like to turn to the moral code that should guide our actions. With regard to ethical principles, only consent should be privileged. It must remain the essential condition for care. And to guarantee this right, States are obliged to establish a legal and administrative framework with an efficient control mechanism.

Before concluding, the ALDE Group would like to thank the rapporteurs for their comprehensive work on such a complex subject.

We must give priority to the will of patients and develop a local mental health policy dominated by the need to respect consent. To provide patients with care as close as possible to their homes, with the condition of success being an increase in human and financial resources.

Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:56:46

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Thank you.

You now have the opportunity, Madam Rapporteur, to reply immediately to the spokespersons of the groups or only at the end of the entire list of speakers.

Madam Rapporteur, what is your wish?

In the end? Okay.

Thank you very much.

We are continuing the list of speakers.

The next speaker is Ms HOPKINS.

 

Ms Maura HOPKINS

Ireland, EPP/CD 

10:57:19

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Thank you Chair, and thank you to the rapporteur for her excellent work.

This is an exceptionally important debate in seeking to do more to protect the human rights of people with mental health difficulties. I was also very interested to hear from the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Mijatovic. We were very happy to welcome her to our Ireland recently.

As an occupational therapist and as a senator we know that we should be supporting people with mental health difficulties to live in the community and to be very involved in their treatment, allowing choice, allowing autonomy and allowing consent. We also know that the criteria for involuntary admission to a mental health inpatient facility and treatment vary significantly across countries. Mental health legislation should always strive to support the rights of the person.

Ireland ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in March of this year. In Ireland the updating of the Mental Health Act 2001, along with the recently enacted Mental Health Amendment Act 2018, will work to ensure a greater emphasis will be placed on the autonomy of the individual rather than relying on the principle of best interests as set out in the Act.

We should absolutely focus on ensuring that adequate resources adequate funding are put in place in order to access the best possible treatment, to support people with mental health difficulties in their recovery in order to ensure that they achieve their full potential and absolutely allowing them to remain in our community and to live, to work and to participate as all of us. It is exceptionally important that we have this debate here today.

I thank the rapporteur for the excellent work which has been done.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

10:59:53

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Thank you very much.

I give the floor to Mr TOUHIG.

Lord Don TOUHIG

United Kingdom, SOC 

11:00:00

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Madam President,

Secluding, physically restraining or over-medicating people experiencing mental health crisis is still fairly widespread. This shameful abuse of human rights is often supported by health professionals under the mistaken belief "it's for the patient's own good".

Our Rapporteur sums it up rather well in a quote in her report from CS Lewis: "Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised 'for the good of the victim' may often be the most oppressive." But Madam President, countries around the world are trialing successful alternatives.

A German study found open psychiatric wards were associated with the decreased possibility of suicides. Certain assumptions in mental health care practice were challenged, such as the notion that psychiatric wards need to be locked. This assumption is based on the belief that locked doors prevent people from absconding, attempting suicide or dying by suicide.

Research examined 350,000 admissions, in 21 hospitals, over 15 years and concluded, "There is insufficient evidence that treatment on locked wards can effectively prevent these outcomes." In fact, their research suggests the opposite.

An Italian study - an open-door, no-restraint system of care for recovery and citizenship in Trieste - has been very valuable. Those who have observed the changes say Trieste's mental health system changed from a clinical model, based on treating illness, to a wider concept of mental health that looks at the whole person and his or her social background.

These examples provide a glimpse into many global initiatives that aim to provide high-quality healthcare that non-intrusive service, user-led, preferred by local groups. Research shows a broad range of practices, policies and interventions with a strong evidence base but, Madam President, no single country has yet implemented a full range of measures to reduce and eliminate coercive practices.

Evidence shows that when governments, service providers, courts and communities take concerted action to move away from coercive practices, the results are almost always successful. While practices like seclusion, physical force, using belts or straps to restrict movement or medication to control behaviour are arguably justifiable in extreme circumstances to prevent harm to the person or other persons, according to the World Health Organization, they are often counterproductive.

Coercive practices can impede people's recovery and re-traumatise those who've already suffered. In the Netherlands, a national policy aimed to reduce rates of seclusion in mental health settings reportedly resulted in a reduction of seclusion incidents by almost 9%.

Studies show that, across Europe, we have developed and are developing new policy approaches that protect human rights in the field of mental health care, but many of these reforms are still aspirational. I quote, again, the report from our Rapporteur who, again, used CS Lewis who said, "Those who torment us 'for our own good' will torment us without end, for they do it with the approval of their conscience."

Madam President let this assembly awaken the conscience of Europe to put an end to barbaric practices that even today enslave so many of our citizens who suffer with mental health.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:03:22

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Joe O'REILLY, please, from Ireland. You have the floor.

Mr Joseph O'REILLY

Ireland, EPP/CD 

11:03:31

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About three weeks ago I visited one of the infamous former, "lunatic asylum" was the gruesome title, psychiatric hospital, Grangegorman, in Dublin, and I saw that it was transformed into a very vibrant, beautiful, third level college, and that the horrible institution that existed was gone. I use that as a symbol or a metaphor for what should be the case everywhere, onand what should be done.

Mental health is a human rights issue. Any involuntary treatment, coercion, of course, all of that should go and I congratulate the Rapporteur on an excellent report, setting out mental health as a human rights issue. The autonomy of the individual should always be supreme.

I think, first of all, we as the Council of Europe, we as Member States and as a collective, have a leadership role. We have a leadership role in putting mental health on the same par as other forms of illness. It's no different to other illness to other difficulties in life and I would put it to you and that many, many people are mentally ill, who manifest themselves in regular existence. It can show in substance abuse. It can show in a whole range of things so it needn't necessarily have a dramatic quality. So I think we have to have a sensitivity, across our Council of Europe, across our Member States and there should be a societal buy-in to dealing with this.

Now the big thing that's needed and, we have to put our money where our mouths are, is the first thing that's needed, is a decent share of resources, in each Member State, to be channelled into the mental health area. During the austerity years, mental health was the Cinderella that suffered, in many States; that needs correction and that should be the message going out from this chamber. That's the first thing that's needed.

The second thing that's needed is a whole of community approach, a whole of community acceptance of mental health, de-stigmatising it and involving the person going through difficulties, the person with the pebble in the shoe, with a bit of hurt, that could be any of us the next day and they should be helped accordingly. A wholistic approach is needed. I mean we all have enormous sympathy when we see people with crutches, and rightly so, we have enormous sympathy when we see visible injury, but this is a silent, secret, injury.

I'm very proud, myself that I was the founder, the chairperson of a large mental health association at home, in my region, and it survives to this day, 30 years later, and remains dynamic and active and remains an umbrella for people who both care about the issue and people who need support. I think what we need is this: we need a bottom up but a top-down approach. We in the Council of Europe should send a clear message to our Member States: there's no point in adopting conventions, there's no point in legalistic activity. You need to put your money where your mouth is and it needs to be backed up with action.

Thank you.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:06:42

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Thank you, Mr O'Reilly. Mónika BARTOS, please, from Hungary.

Ms Mónika BARTOS

Hungary, EPP/CD 

11:06:47

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Dear Madam Chair, dear Colleagues,

First of all, let me congratulate the rapporteurs for their excellent and very timely report. Mental health problems are not new phenomena in society, but the challenges of a modern and accelerated culture aggravated the situation.

The report deals with a very important and sensitive issue based on human rights. Allow me to start my intervention by quoting the following thought:

"Whatsoever you wish that others do to you, do also to them”. I think this kind of approach can be encompassed when we would like to find solutions for people in need.

Over the past decades the approach has been changed towards disability in Europe. This paradigm shift is based on the active participation of disabled people in society, supporting their independent living and social engagement. One of the most important consequences of this new approach is the transition to services which help community lifestyle.

The Hungarian government pays particular attention to improving the situation of disabled people. The Resolution on the Strategy of Social Institutional Capacity in Care Facilities was adopted in July 2011 with a view to implementing the new principles into practice. The opinion of NGOs and professional experiences have an essential role during the process of implementation.

The primary goal of the strategy focuses on the needs of patients and the supply of high-quality services.

One of the main initiatives is that of supported housing opportunities with a focus on personal needs. This programme intended to replace residential institutions, nursing and care.

The new strategy pays attention to disabled people living in a family too.

It is important to notice that the use of social services are based on a voluntary agreement in Hungary.

The main principle of supported housing opportunities is the separation of the housing, the accommodation and the social services. A flexible combination of these elements, and a different place of residence during the day and night, encourage people with mental health problems to participate in local community life.

The social service system is based on the complex needs assessment of recipients. This kind of process may guarantee the best supply reflected to individual needs.

The main goal of the community care approach is to provide the best mental and physical conditions.

In conclusion, the Hungarian strategy has implemented the new approach of care related to people with mental health based on the opinion of European and international professional organisations.

Thank you for your attention.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:10:04

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Thank you, Ms BARTOS. 

And now Tom HAMMARBERG, former Commissioner for Human Rights and member of parliament for Sweden. Mr HAMMARBERG, the floor is yours. 

Mr Thomas HAMMARBERG

Sweden, SOC 

11:10:13

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Thank you very much.

I find this discussion extremely encouraging because we are demonstrating a broad consensus on the great importance of this issue. This is definitely an area where the Council of Europe could play a very important role to stimulate our Member states really to be serious about protecting Human rights for this group of people.

The situation in reality is still not good in spite of the United Nations Convention from 2006. Not all Member states have even ratified that Convention which we should ask them to do. We still have situations where we have big old-fashioned institutions where people with mental problems, mental health problems, have been brought and in practice are not in freedom. Their treatment in some countries still would not be acceptable when it comes to basic Human rights. We still have a situation where the Ombudsman, we have an Ombudsman now in every country in Europe, but the priority given to this particular issue has not been very strong in several Member states. There are issues here to raise in our home situation when it comes to making reality of moving in the situation where this group of people will have full capacity as much as possible in their own society.

The legal capacity in some countries are totally deprived from this group of people. They have no real possibility to take independent decisions and we have to move away from that situation. I think the report and the statement by the Commissioner here is encouraging us to support the continued work of the Council of Europe when it comes to protecting Human rights for this group of people who tend to be forgotten and therefore not given full rights. I'm very optimistic about this discussion because you have demonstrated so much knowledge and so much engagement in this issue. Let's continue this work. Thank you very much.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:12:36

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Thank you, Mr HAMMARBERG. Now, Ulviyye AGHAYEVA from Azerbaijan, please. The floor is yours.

Ms Ulviyye AGHAYEVA

Azerbaijan, FDG 

11:12:46

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Thank you, Mr Chair.

I congratulate the rapporteur for an interesting and, at the same time, difficult work.

Let me start with the undeniable fact that coercion has always been an integral part of the psychiatric armamentarium. Fortunately, the attention on the use of coercion in mental healthcare has increased recently. The term "coercion in mental health care" is a straightforward notion which is used when someone is subjected to medical treatment against his or her own will.

It threatens the autonomy of patients, which may have adverse effects. Unfortunately, in this regard, psychiatry is completely different from other medical fields, and the latter don't allow forced treatment. Of course, during the treatment, along with the administration of psychiatric drugs, clinicians may use practices such as physical holds, bed nets, restraint beds or isolation rooms. Regrettably, in some European countries, the frequency of compulsory admissions to the hospital is assumed to be alarmingly high.

Coercion could be used to ensure hospitalisation and treatment for the patient, in the event that the patient refuses to enter the hospital, or if there is a probability of doing harm and dangerousness. Of course, services and resources in mental health care vary from country to country. However, I think patients have to be provided with an appeal right in this kind of situations. In addition, such treatments should be given in the least restrictive manner.

We should take into consideration that, being subjected to coercive treatment, is a serious limitation of those people's personal freedom. They can easily feel threatened by the decisions taken over their lives, without their consent, which in turn constitutes a grave Human Rights abuse.

We're all aware of the fact that the use of compulsory treatment doesn't result in recovery. It instead, impairs people's recovery and traumatises them, thereby, causing many irreversible problems. From another side, the person with mental illness is unable to decide on the necessity of compulsory treatment, or make a decision about the accuracy of the type of treatment. This is a very sensitive issue, it depends on the level of mental health, and if we want to find out a solution to this problem, we have to look at the situation from several aspects. That's why it's difficult to put forward a concrete opinion in this regard. Nevertheless, the rapporteur prepared a very interesting work requiring considerable efforts.

I, once again, would like to reiterate that the use of coercion is morally problematic and required an ongoing critical reflection. I definitely believe that using such mechanical restraints as belts, harnesses, sheet straps or locking a patient in a room, just to restrict the patient's movement, or other actions, are dangerous, counter-therapeutic and traumatising.

In the end, I want to highlight that, in order to improve health care in the mental health field, there has to be a systematic approach on the ethical challenges that are connected to the use of coercion. Developing funding and providing resources for research, or non-coercive measures, increasing the knowledge about ethics, fighting the stereotypes against persons with mental health conditions, providing effective awareness-raising activities, involving all the relevant stakeholders in this field, are really important to enhance the ethical reflection and ethical practice.

Thank you for your attention.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:16:32

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Thank you, Ms AGHAYEVA. Could I please, as a matter of courtesy to all participants, ask colleagues to keep their speeches to the approved time limit.

I'm hoping that we'll be able to accommodate all our speakers this morning. Martine WONNER, please, from France.

Ms Martine WONNER

France, NR 

11:16:53

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Thank you, Madam President,

Madam Rapporteur, My dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to thank you, Mrs SCRIVENER, for the remarkable work you have done to summarise and highlight the main issues at stake, which has led us to raise this fundamental issue of coercion in mental health in our various countries today.

First of all, too, let me assure you that France is playing its full part in addressing these issues, since a Ministerial delegate in charge of mental health has been appointed for the first time and, following the first mission I carried out last winter, I was appointed rapporteur for a new mission on the territorial organisation of mental health in France. I will naturally be at the disposal of this meeting to keep you informed of my work.

As I said in my opening remarks, I share with you, Madam Rapporteur, a number of observations, and I would like to come back to two of them:

– You highlight the existence of extremely worrying territorial disparities between our States, on the one hand –you mention France and Germany for example– but on the other hand within States, between different administrative regions, Länder or provinces. This regional differentiation is obviously likely to raise questions about the degree of compliance with legislation depending on the authorities that implement it.

– In addition, you insist on the need to take into account the fundamental rights of individuals. You establish by condemning –and I can only agree with you– "the culture of confinement" as a common denominator for our States.

I am firmly convinced that we must embark on an ambulatory shift in mental health so that psychiatric care is no longer seen as focused on coercion, let alone hospital-based care. In this sense, the issues of psychosocial rehabilitation and access to housing and employment, which you mention in the rest of your report, seem to me to be absolutely crucial priorities.

I would now like to say a word, if you will allow me, on the very issue of care under duress, and will take the case of France to illustrate my remarks. In 2015, more than 92,000 people were hospitalized at least once without their consent. This increase is also accompanied by an increase in the number of so-called "care for imminent danger" treatments: these figures have exploded since 2015. 27% of these have a duration of 72 hours or less. All this leads me to believe that in many cases, management under constraint is much more in response to an administrative need than to a real clinical response. These are the disorganization of hospitals and psychiatric emergencies. It is imperative that we put the user's interest back at the heart of the process.

I therefore come to my conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, which does not differ from that of the rapporteur: the preliminary draft resolution seems to me to be quite measured, balanced and likely to allow a necessary evolution of realities. The reference to the increasing importance of prevention and early detection seems to me to be relevant, as I said a few moments ago, as well as the guarantee that must be given to individuals regarding access to housing and employment, which are among the most effective guarantees of people's recovery.

Thank you very much.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:20:52

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Thank you, Madam WONNER. May I reiterate, please, my request that members adhere to the time limit, which is 3 minutes, not 4. Haya MUFLIH, please, from Jordan. You have the floor.

Ms Haya MUFLIH

Jordan 

11:21:12

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Thank you. Thank you, Chair. Good morning dear colleagues.

Many thanks to the rapporteur Ms Reina for this from the Committee of Social Affairs, health and sustainable development for this Resolution which talks about ending coercion in mental health, the need for a Human rights-based approach. In Europe and everywhere around the world, we can see and hear that there is an increase in the use of involuntary measures in mental health settings instead of a practices that are respectful of the Human rights of the persons concerned. We are very proud to be partners of democracy and hear interventions and opinions from politicians and specialists in this subject.

In order to observe and learn from these laws and legislations and adopt the new ideas and opinions that can help to reform what is necessary to do for mental health persons from suicide or self-harm or anything they do because of the increase of being coerced treatment. These are humans with emotions and senses and they need all care and respect from us. Thank you.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:22:48

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Thank you very much. Thank you, Ms Haya MUFLIH, it's always good to hear from our partners in democracy. Mr Nagif HAMZAYEV, please, from Azerbaijan. The floor is yours.

Mr Nagif HAMZAYEV

Azerbaijan, FDG 

11:23:04

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Ladies and gentlemen, honourable members of the hall, Mr President.

Europe is facing the challenge of promoting and making harmonious coexistence between settings. By doing that, we continue to test the capabilities of European countries to uphold fundamental rights and freedoms for all rights. Without a doubt, mental health systems across Europe should be reformed to conform to a Human rights based approach, which is accountable with the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.

Mental health is grossly neglected with health systems across Europe. More and more people are subject to coercive measures based on outdated practice set violate Human rights. During that, Human rights based approach should be utilised since Human rights are fundamental pillars of justice and civilisation.

Combatting the coercion in mental health is our shared responsibility. We need a resilient Europe that defends civil society, the rule of law and stands up for the universality of Human rights. They need to come up to the surface as a matter of urgency along with horrible condition to exercise adequate treatments. For example, in my country Azerbaijan we are doing our best to make sure to implement the Human rights based approach to those in need. It is crucial now to access the root causes of failure and to chart a way forward, returned consensus on the best way to do this. Fortunately, we don't have to do much, since there are people out there doing excellent job. All we need to do is to push the right way forward and promote proper institutions.

While a great contribution on its own, I hope this report by Ms BRUIJN-WEZEMAN and Ms Sahiba GAFAROVA will succeed in shaping and advancing our understanding with rendered strategies for change. They start score is simply unacceptable. We need a moral and a legal game change.

We are here today to fight for the well-being and inclusivity of the European society because I believe we are all born equally. We must fight for the equality of every man, woman and child, regardless of race, religion and state of mind. So I'll say here and now are you believe in this message of peace, love, positivity and corporation, then I ask that you make a vote not just for yourself but for the foundation we are laying for our children. A collective multifaceted effort is required to Human rights and development practitioners now more than ever.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:26:33

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Thank you, Mr HAMZAYEV. John HOWELL, please, from the United Kingdom.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC 

11:26:36

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Thank you, Mr President.

I would start by saying that I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for this report. I congratulate the Rapporteur on having produced a balanced assessment of the problem. But she and I will be aware, of course, that arguments are put that patients - either risk of harming themselves or of harming others - are incarcerated for their own good.

What you may not be aware of - and I think she may have just referred to that - that in my experience of prisons in the UK and around Europe, is that those with mental health problems who are at risk of being harmed by others are also confined and lose their liberty as a result of that. I think that is something that we need to keep a strong eye on in this balance.

I think that that says a lot about the need for proper assessment and also the need for proper training and a need to really strengthen the human rights approach to this. So there is a big role for proper assessment in this. It plays a major part in understanding the behaviour of those likely to offend.

In the UK, I've been a member of the Justice Committee for many years now. I am well aware that the police do a tremendous amount of social work because they are the first port of call for those with mental health problems who they have to arrest and who they have to look after. There are no services to look after them.

There is a big emphasis on mental health in the UK. The proper mental health solutions are needed by ensuring the right services are there for the right people. And let me give an example of that, which is the case of ex-servicemen and women who, of course, are likely to have the additional problems of being traumatised, and where we have a covenant approach to providing them with the services that they need.

There is also a need for the proper training of general medical practitioners. There is a view that they will have an idea of mental health. But, actually, I think that is wrong. They do need proper training.

I think one of the important things is the early identification of the problems, which is why I was really pleased to see the emphasis being put by the UK Prime Minister on having mental health counselors in schools who are able to identify people with mental health problems and to counsel them, and also to provide the education for other pupils to recognise that and to take, in their own case, a human-rights approach to that sort of problem.

Thank you.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:29:43

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Thank you, Mr HOWELL. Robert TROY, please, from Ireland.

 

Mr Robert TROY

Ireland, ALDE 

11:29:50

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Mental health historically has been covered in a shroud of darkness because of the stigma attached to it. People who suffered from mental health have been marginalised, shunned and demonised throughout history. Sent away, locked up in institutions, never to see the light of day. Families do not dare to speak due to the huge source of embarrassment.

While undoubtedly over the last decade or so much better awareness of the challenges of mental health and how it can affect anyone of us at varying levels has come about, this greater awareness and understanding is thanks largely to community groups and NGOs. I think of Pieta House in Ireland who once a year, throughout the year it provides support, but once a year have a Darkness into Light walk where hundreds of thousands of people come out and show their support for people with mental health.

Governments in my view have been followers, not leaders, in this area. While there has been notable improvements as a society and as legislators we have still a long way to go. Mental health difficulties vary, from psychological distress, anxiety and depressions which will be experienced by many people throughout their lives. If we continue to be influenced by the surreal world of social media I think these experiences will be experienced by many many more. It's important to intervene at an early stage to ensure that people don't move on to serious disorders and illnesses which currently affect a much smaller amount of our population.

In Ireland there was a 4% increase in admission orders between years 17 and 18, and a 13% increase in the previous five years. Mental health legislation must always strive to find a balance between the rights of the person and the requirement to protect others. It's critical that this balance is maintained. The comprehensive updating of the Mental Health Act 2001 in Ireland, which was recently enacted in the Mental Health Act 2018, will ensure that in future a greater emphasis is placed on the autonomy of the individual rather than relying on the principle of best interest as set out in the 2001 Act. It is accepted that people should have the right to make their own choices and that where necessary, support should be available to ensure persons' will and preferences are fully respected. The updated Act will put the focus firmly on protecting and promoting the human rights of those with mental health difficulties, ensuring that their voice will be clearly heard.

I hope that the various governments will take on board the contents of this report.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:32:55

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Thank you, Mr TROY. Lord BALFE, please, United Kingdom.

Lord Richard BALFE

United Kingdom, EC 

11:33:00

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Dear Chairman, 

Can I add my congratulations to the Rapporteur both of the report and of the opinion. We are dealing, of course here, with a very difficult situation, which has very wide dimensions.

We, at the one hand, have to cope with public opinion and if there were two words in this report, which I think are out of place is the word "loved ones", because the problem many of these people face is precisely that they are not loved or cared for.

The public opinion is great in theory but very bad when it comes to practice, and mental health and coercion stretches across a very wide field. In the United Kingdom, as one example, it stretches from our secure psychiatric prison of Broadmoor, where people are literally incarcerated for life because they are deemed to be "unreformable", and, at the other end, you have people on the streets who clearly suffer from mental problems and clearly, on occasions, have coercive measures applied against them.

I am talking here of former prisoners, who are found in great numbers on the street, people who served in the military forces, people who have addictions and other people at the margins of society, who in Britain, believe it or not, are still pursued and charged under something called the Vagrancy Act of 1824. No, you didn't mishear me, 1824, a 195-year-old Act of Parliament, which deals with, and I quote from the Act, "rogues and vagabonds" and gives the police the authority to move them on, to put them in the cells overnight and to do what you like.

The fact of the matter is that post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects some 20% of prisoners in our prisons, is also a problem. So I see the answer, in part, as being in here, not only the role of ombudsman but the need for an urgent ombudsman; the need for someone to whom an early appeal can be made and an early decision given. Something between the coercive powers of the police and dealing with an immediate situation, and the wider condition of protecting the rights of the individual.

I think that this interface is one that we need to look at it because it is the challenge to get that in place if we have proper rights against coercion.

Thank you. 

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:36:02

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Mikayel MELKUMYAN, please, from Armenia.

Mr Mikayel MELKUMYAN

Armenia, EC 

11:36:06

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Thank you, Mr. President.

Dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to congratulate the very effective work of the Social Committee and the report by Mrs WEZMAN. The fate of people with mental illness is at the centre of the concerns of all humanity, all States, all peoples and all governments.

But how are these problems being resolved? In some countries, the mental health care system is in relatively good condition, while in others, its level is poor, even failing.

It is necessary to undertake both strict legislative and administrative measures, but they must be humane. Yes, laws must be productive and humane, and those who apply them must be humanistic in the strict sense of the word.

I believe it is necessary to consider criminal liability in countries where indifference towards the persons concerned prevails.

Yes, it is a moral problem without borders, but I encounter a lot of indifference and neglect in those around me.

Will health sciences and artificial intelligence make a decisive step forward? God knows that.

But there is a chance to integrate people with mental illness into society as much as possible, and that is obvious.

So being human, loving your work, means being patriotic. Respecting yourself and your family. In my opinion, the near future depends on the proper training of children, pupils and students. Training that will provide access to deep knowledge and a decent attitude towards those who need it.

Yes, it is with sincerity and maximum effort that we will be able to help our fellow citizens with mental illness.

What do you think, what is the secret of a person's success? It is about surpassing yourself and others, but it is also about rejoicing in the success of others.

So let us rejoice in supporting those in need and always be at their side!

And may God keep us!

Thank you for your attention.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:38:47

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Thank you, Mr MELKUMYAN. Ulrich OEHME, please, from Germany. Mr OEHME isn't here. Mr SABELLA, please, from Palestine.

Mr Bernard SABELLA

Palestine 

11:39:06

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Thank you, Mr Chair.

Thank you, Ms Rapporteur, for a comprehensive report on a difficult subject and for your recommendations. While the topic is coercion versus consent - specifically as you addressed in Europe - this human rights infraction, when coercive approaches are used in mental health treatment, applies as well to other societies outside of Europe.

In Palestine, we have over a number of years had an increase in psychosocial disorders and of mental disorders due to the situation of the Israeli occupation, its harsh measures, among others, that impact the general population. The World Health Organization, in May 2019, reported that Palestine has mental ill health that is one of the most significant public health challenges for society.

In the Gaza strip, according to the WHO, 210,000 people - or over one in every 10 persons - suffered from severe or moderate mental health disorders. In addition, Palestine has the highest burden of adolescent disorders of mental health in the eastern Mediterranean region.

In April 2014, Palestine - the state of Palestine - has signed its accession to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Yet the extent of traumatised people highlights the need to develop a system of mental health care that deals effectively with the increased demand.

For your information, in Palestine today there are only 32 psychiatrists for a population of 4.8 million people. Your report, Ms Rapporteur, can serve indeed as an important guideline to us in Palestine as we strive to develop our mental health and care system.

Thank you very much.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:42:03

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Thank you very much, Mr SABELLA. And finally on the list of speakers, Éctor RAMÍREZ BARBA from Mexico. Mr RAMÍREZ BARBA, the floor is yours.

Mr Éctor Jaime RAMÍREZ BARBA

Mexico 

11:42:13

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Honourable members, 

I would like to start by reminding you of an extraordinary painting, dating back to 1568 called The blind leading the blind by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, this was based on a saying from Christ in Matthew 15, Verse 14, which said, "leave them, they're the blind leading the blind, and if one blind person leads another, both will fall into the pit." 

The matter addressed in this report is an attempt to bring to an end coercion in the field of mental health and to try to sketch out an approach based on Human rights, based on the motion put forward by Ms KYRIAKIDES and supported and carried out brilliantly, I think, by Reina de BRUIJN-WEZEMAN.

This is based on the understanding that we have to move beyond the blindness which human beings have shown when it comes to mental health issues, so as to move towards a fairer approach based on better social integration. An an observer on behalf of the Mexican Parliament, here in this august Assembly, I would like to congratulate you on the work done and call on you to adopt this report which is another step towards medicine which is based on evidence, on the one hand, and on the other, a deeply-rooted respect for human dignity. My own background, with more than 40 years in medicine and politics in Mexico, I'm convinced that health has to be a clear interface between our citizens, our medical staff and public policy making. I'm also aware of the enormous ignorance that continues to prevail whenever we try to address this issue in the field of health. There's an enormous range of different treatments, many of which represent a clear and flagrant violation of the patients' Human rights, far more, in fact, than is the case with those with physical disabilities.

Ladies and gentleman, we continue to act like blind people. Moreover, we seem like many people to be looking for the spots of light that appear in this report and I am absolutely sure that the State of Mexico, and I am talking about the whole country and all of the authorities, will pull together in enacting the findings of this report.

If you follow the situation in Mexico, you will be aware of the budgetary problems we have and a lack of clear policies when it comes to public health policy, shortages of human resources, medication, infrastructure and research. Our National Action Party, the PAN, has been flagging up this problem over the first six months of the new government, and there is a very real risk of us falling short of our obligations in terms of recognising health as a fundamental human right. Our public health system is threatened by a move towards decentralisation in a country with 160 million citizens, that's an enormous risk for our country and we have to be aware of that.

So thank you very much to everybody for your attention.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:45:12

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Thank you, Mr RAMÍREZ BARBA. And again, it's always good to hear from one of our observers.

Just before I revert to the Rapporteur, could I remind again members that three votes are in progress. We have a vote for the election of the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, the second to elect two judges, from respectively Estonia and Germany, to the European Court of Human Rights, and the third, of course, is to elect a vice president of the Assembly in respect of the Russian Federation.

At 1 p.m., the ballots will be suspended and they'll reopen at 3:30. The ballots will finally close at 6 p.m. when the votes will be counted.

So, those who haven't voted can still do so by going to the area behind the President's chair, which is behind the chair I'm sitting in, back there.

So, we've concluded the list of speakers and I'd now like to call Ms BRUIJN-WEZEMAN, the Rapporteur, to reply. Madam BRUIJN-WEZEMAN, you have three minutes.

Ms Reina de BRUIJN-WEZEMAN

Netherlands, ALDE, Rapporteur 

11:46:12

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Thank you Chair.

Dear colleagues, first of all I want to thank you for participating in this very interesting debate and for all your strong support and sharing experiences from your own country and situations which show the importance of this report. Both situations. Situations that are not good yet and hopeful situations like what I heard from Hungary.

I want to address a special word of thanks to the Commissioner of Human Rights, Ms Dunja Mijatovic, for supporting this report. Also for her statements not only during this meeting but also during the joint hearings both of our Committees had in October. I also want to thank all the other participants at that hearing.  During that hearing the controversy on this subject became very clear. Furthermore, I want to thank the rapporteur of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination Ms Sahiba GAFAROVA for her expert opinion on my report and for her kind words. I hope Ms Elvira KOVÁCS will bring the compliments to her. Last but not least I want to thank the Secretariat, especially Ms Ayşegül ELVERIŞ, for the tremendous work she has done for this report and for your friendship. Ayşegül thank you. Ayşegül you have other things to care about other than this report during the upcoming weeks, so I wish you and your baby very well and I'm looking forward to the pictures of the baby and the happy family.

Dear colleagues, less fortunate are people who face mental illness. We may not all be aware of this but a mental condition, just like a physical illness, and some of you refer to it, can hit all of us. For instance a severe depression or a post-traumatic distress syndrome or even becoming a parliamentarian, Mr RUSSELL. What is the right approach when someone is in a serious state of psychological distress and wants to put an end on his or her life, or acts particularly aggressive towards others. From my own practice as a nurse I know how difficult it is to prevent a young woman suffering from anorexia from starving. Or nursing someone with a severe depression after a suicide attempt. But banning coercion by all means should not lead to banning patients and leave them to their own fate. I'm not saying it will be easy. This report is also not a verdict for the mental healthcare workers as our Commissioner also quoted. But for a Human rights-based approach we all have to be more self critical. Not to be blind, but asking ourselves why we often interfere in coercion in mental healthcare situations. Why do we stick to the assumptions of violence regarding mental health conditions despite the lack of empirical evidence?

To end coercion in mental health, a paradigm shift towards the the principle of a Human rights-based approach is very urgent. Only by pursuing ambitious targets on ending coercion in mental health can states achieve systemic change leading to a Human rights-based mental health system. To this end, and as a first step I accord Member states to make both commitments to radically reduce coercive medical practices, including in acute emergency situations, with a view to a progressive elimination bearing in mind that this is a challenging process that will that will take time. It is time to start changing the way that societies and states deal with mental illness. There is a need for psychiatry to transform and embrace a Human rights-based approach. I sincerely hope that you will all vote in favour of this report.

Thank you.

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:50:29

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Thank you very much, Ms BRUIJN-WEZEMAN. Mr SCHENNACH, as the Chairman of the Committee, do you wish to speak? You have three minutes.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC 

11:50:39

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Thank you, Mr. Chairman,

First of all, as chairman of the committee, I would like to thank all those who have taken a very, very active part in this debate. But above all my thanks go to Reina for her excellent report and also for the contributions you have made and the reports that show how important this resolution is now. They all underline that there is an increase in forced treatment and involuntary admissions in their countries as well. I would just like to remind you that six years ago we had this debate of the Social Committee here too. That was our colleague from Georgia, Mrs Ms Guguli MAGRADZE, who reported here.

For six years now, the Social Affairs Committee has been dealing with this important issue, because everything that takes place in the psychosocial field should be free of coercion. We need to find a way to abolish coercive measures in psychiatry and effectively protect Human rights in this area. As a young person I myself was a member of a citizens' initiative called “Democratic Psychiatry“. That is already some time ago, but the democratisation and the entry of Human rights in the field of psychiatry is important, and also the speech of Dunja MIJATOVIĆ, but also at the hearing on the part of the UN shows that this initiative here in the Council of Europe is supported by all instances.

Sometimes you have to have a longterm view. But in this very seat where Reina now sits, there sat 25 years ago Hans Göran FRANCK ; unfortunately he died. From this table here he had the vision of no more death penalty in Europe and we have it, apart from Belarus, as a reality today. Let us do everything that Reina demands here in this resolution and if one sees paragraphs 7.2, 7.3, 7.4, 7.7, then these are very concrete approaches that we can implement here. The Council of Europe has managed to abolish the death penalty. He will also be able to abolish that coercive measures, coercive treatments in psychiatry that survive. I myself was the GABI, the ethics commission, for the Social Committee in the expert commission, and I told them once again: stop with this additional protocol. We will not agree to the Additional Protocol. Unfortunately, here are a few countries that hold up a very outdated system. In this sense once again dear Ayşegül, thank you for the secretariat.

Dear Reina Thank you. Thank you for your report, Mrs Kovaç. We did it all unanimously in committee; all unanimously, in an intensive debate with hearings. I hope you'll give us a chance today to adopt it unanimously.

 

Vote: Ending coercion in mental health: the need for a human rights-based approach

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC, President of the Assembly 

11:54:35

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Thank you, Mr Stefan SCHENNACH. And that concludes the debate.

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has presented a draft resolution, document 14895, to which one amendment has been tabled. The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has also presented a draft recommendation, document 14895, to which no amendments have been tabled.

I understand that the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendment 1 to the draft resolution, which was unanimously approved by the Committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly. Is that so? That is correct. There is no objection?

In that case, I declare that Amendment 1 to the draft resolution has been agreed.

We now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in document 14895 as amended.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed. Display the result, please. (Applause)

I think you can say that the motion was carried.

We now proceed to vote on the draft recommendation contained in document 14895 to which no amendments have been tabled.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed. Display results, please.

That motion is also carried.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Congratulations.

Address by Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA, President of Portugal

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

11:57:20

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Ladies and gentlemen, I would remind you that the elections for the election of a Vice-President of the Assembly in respect of the Russian Federation, two judges of the European Court of Human Rights and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe are in progress. I therefore invite those of you who have not yet done so to do so.

Thank you very much.

The next item is the address by Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA, President of Portugal.

[Announcement: His Excellency, the President of the Portuguese Republic]

Mr. President,

I am extremely honoured to welcome you to our Chamber, our common home for Human rights, democracy and the Rule of law.

Portugal joined this family on 22 September 1976. This was the first major manifestation of the European option of Portuguese politics, affirming not only the Portuguese desire for closer union with the countries of Europe, but also testifying to the affirmation of the European character of a people seeking to regain its place in the old continent. Former Prime Minister Mario SOARES rightly pointed this out when he addressed our Assembly in 1977.

In this context, over the years, we have appreciated the commitment of your authorities and the aspiration of your people to closer cooperation not only among our member countries, but also beyond our continent.

A concrete manifestation of this ambition is the North-South Centre, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and is based in Lisbon. This institution plays a particularly important role in bringing the Council of Europe closer to its southern Mediterranean neighbours and promoting its values beyond Europe's borders. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Portugal's support for the work of this important institution.

Mr. President,

This year we are also celebrating the 70th anniversary of our close Union. On this particularly symbolic date, we are deeply honoured to be able to count on your presence and to continue our reflection on the role and place of the Council of Europe in the international multilateral architecture with you. We are all looking forward to hearing your message.

Mr. President,

You have the floor.

Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA

President of Portugal 

12:01:30

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Madam President,

Mr. Secretary General,

Excellency,

Ladies and gentlemen,

There are moments in our lives that we never forget. This was in 1975, one year after the "Carnation Revolution". I was only 26 years old, I was even the youngest member of the delegation of the Portuguese Constituent Assembly invited to explain to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe what was happening in Portugal. A Constitution voted in the middle of a revolution.

I remember this session as if it was happening today. We wanted to know everything, to understand everything, to decipher everything, and it was very difficult to explain an ongoing revolution and to detail the content of a Constitution that was being debated and written. We knew very well what we wanted: a political, economic, social and cultural democracy for Portugal.

Forty-four years later, the young Member of Parliament of 1975 has now become the President of the Republic, elected by universal suffrage in a democratic and social State governed by the Rule of law.

With the Constitution and accession to the Council of Europe, both voted in 1976, the negotiations on entry into the European Community concluded in 1985, the community of Portuguese-speaking countries created in 1996, a youthful dream has come true.

In addition, the Secretary General of the United Nations, the President of the Eurogroup, the Director General of the International Organisation for Migration, are Portuguese. Portugal now lives in a democracy, has overcome budgetary and economic crises –the most serious of which occurred between 2010 and 2014–, had a primary surplus in 2018, a nominal budget deficit of 0.5%, growth that exceeds the euro zone average, an unemployment rate of 6.8%, and is reducing a heavy public debt. Our main concern is to seek to strengthen the quality of democracy and transparency in political life. Because democracy is a daily conquest and is never achieved, and must be achieved day after day.

Its external policy is based on historical alliances –Portuguese-speaking countries, the European Union, the Atlantic Alliance, the Ibero-American organisation– but is complemented by membership of the Council of Europe, the United Nations and other multilateral organisations, adopting a very clear position in defence of International law, Human rights, the Rule of law, multilateralism, the role of international organisations, the free movement of persons and international trade, dialogue for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, the understanding that the world has changed and is changing at an astounding rate.

But always safeguarding the primacy of Human rights. It is an honour to be able to testify here in this House of Human Rights, which in 2020 is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Convention that proclaimed them, which is the leading institution in the field of Human rights, democracy and the Rule of law, and which continues its fight against the death penalty, and which closely follows the constitutional development of the Member States, extends Human rights to the field of social rights, local authorities, North-South dialogue, all the major issues of modern and post-modern societies, including gender equality, the fight against violence and harassment, non-discrimination policies, children, children's rights, youth, citizenship education, drug dependence and cultural routes.

The Council has always affirmed itself as a singular reference for the application of Human Rights, in the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, in the parliamentary recommendations, in the Council's decisions, in the monitoring and pedagogical mission of the Commissioner for Human Rights, in the persistent activity of European and universal dialogues, in the North-South centre celebrating its 30th anniversary, the Venice Commission and the GRECO, both celebrating their 20th anniversary, are remarkable examples.

The North-South Centre, based in Lisbon, is a pioneer in opening up to realities that too many European states have only discovered with recent migration. The Venice Commission, ensuring that the bulk of Europe's cultural and civic contribution is not forgotten. The GRECO, insisting –and well - on the importance of transparency in public life through the fight against corruption.

Portugal has owed you a permanent inspiration since 1976. Inspiration on which our democratic consensus was largely based. A democratic consensus that requires permanent commitment, permanent demands from institutions and citizens.

Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA

President of Portugal 

12:08:35

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Madame President, ladies and gentlemen.

In '75, when I first had the honour of sitting in this hemicycle, the world was still suffering the Cold War between the United States of America and the USSR. And Europe was one of the stages of this bipolar world's conflicts.

European communities were digesting British succession, and debating whether to deepen integration or to enlarge, including new members — some of them former dictatorships — like Portugal, Spain or Greece. One of the main subjects of prospective discussions was if and when Comecon and the Warsaw Pact would implode. And many more countries, coming from Eastern Europe, would join the list of European Democracies.

The 80s started giving an answer to that question. At the end of the decade, bipolarism was replaced, for a short while, by what was considered to be absolute monopolarism in the world. And Europe saw the beginning of a substantial change in many political, economic and social regimes in Eastern Europe.

This intense evolution, also lived in the 90s, was soon to be followed by successive demands of accession to the European Union and the conversion of the world's absolute monopolarism. Some people believed that the USA could go from being the police of the universe, to an imperfect or conditional monopolarism. Where the United States of America needed allies and depended on them to intervene in areas they scarcely knew, and understood, like Africa and Asia.

The new century was even more challenging. After having known a period of apparent low profile, the Russian Federation, not accepting to become a mere regional power, reaffirmed its diplomatic and political space of manoeuvre in Near and Middle East, Northern Africa, the Mediterranean and even Central Africa. Of course, always being very attentive to Eastern Europe.

China went on preparing and implementing with patience, as well as economic and financial presence everywhere, their conversion into a world power. While waiting, also, for the outcome of a multi-secular fight for the world's future economic centre. Whether in the west, as it had happened after the Industrial Revolution, or in Asia: China, India, Japan, Korea. As it used to be until the Industrial Revolution.

The world, little by little, became aware of a certain unavoidable multipolarism. And that coincided with a sudden, apparent, new trend in the most important global actor. The USA seemed to change some of its foreign guidelines. Opting, at least tactically, for more unilateralism, protectionism and trade tensions, not only with an economically expansionist China, but also with classic allies like Canada, India or the European Union. Undermining the role of International Organisations whenever they could mean less power of intervention.

Europe sometimes looked like a casualty in this new scenario. Squeezed by internal and external strategies, both from the East and the West. But not only that, too many European party systems revealed signs of crisis. The traditional centre-right and centre-left parties, which had been the basis of support of the European Union, took too long to adjust to different social needs and requests. These needs and requests were steaming from the economic crisis. The recipes used to fight them, like inorganic movements, digital participation, but also populistic leaderships, were very similar to those coming from the other side of the Atlantic. Ecological appeals, very much deepened by climate change worries, joint faster with women empowerment, the fight against all the new inequalities and different worries concerning the social effects of scientific and technological disruptions, like the digital revolution.

If we add to this setting both European cleavages, concerning neighbouring regions, migrations and refugees or Brexit, and the redesigning in some European countries, that are adopting constitutional or legal reforms, questioning some of the traditional patterns of representative democracies, we will easily understand the debate that has been going on about Europe and its values. 

Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA

President of Portugal 

12:14:44

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Madam President,

Ladies and gentlemen, 

In my opinion, there are only three ways for Europe — the whole of Europe and not just the European Union — to face its heavy and decisive challenges.

The first one, which I reject, is to renounce to its values. To accept that democracy, the rule of law, and Human Rights are the values of the past, overtaken by time and social dynamics. By the digital revolution, by the new media, by direct contact between people and governments, by the speed of events, by unilateral leadership, by twitter, by the simplicity of political discourse, by the appeal of emotions, by the death of reason.

This path is based on the principle that this phase is irreversible, and that much of the democratic deficit cannot be recovered. I do not share this vision, both of the world and of Europe as a whole. We are not at the end of history. Neither Marxism nor Liberalism are over. For some who are believers, even the most religious ones, it is not sure that this end is only to enter another world. 

For me, the values affirm themselves. The weight of their content, attached to the dignity of individuals and Human Rights, makes them valid in themselves. Democracy is absolutely valid and has an absolutely positive content, but also, the procedure itself is inseparable from the content of Human Rights. 

A second path, opposite to the first one, and which I also do not share, is that of rejection of reality. Since we know that the values are absolute, let us stay away from the world. Let us ignore this world and insist on formulas, solutions, concrete applications, and the time will come when we will be recognized for all reason. The Principles are enough for us, everything else will pass, it is a matter of patience and waiting.

This path is almost as wrong as the first one. The person who tells you this has always been a law professor. To ignore reality is to understand nothing, neither about that reality, nor about Law, nor about values. What are values worth if the structures, methods and behaviours to apply them are incorrectly chosen? If we miss the example of those responsible, if institutions, like people, are no longer able to represent these values, to give them life, to bear witness to their fundamental content. What is the purpose of procedures that are not inextricably linked to the content of values? On the contrary, they hide and render the values and deprive them of all meaning.

The path is to combine truly crucial values with a reform of structures and people, before it is too late. We must be able to discern, what must be preserved as untouchable content, and what must be reformed with a vision for the future.

Untouchable values are, in my opinion: the dignity of people, their fundamental rights and duties, the rule of law, the separation of powers, the independence of the courts, the freedom and authenticity of citizens' votes, the pluralism of thought and expression, beliefs, religions, philosophical, political, social, economic and cultural choices, respect for others, tolerance, non-discrimination, the prohibition of monopolies of truth or patriotism, or the domination of a community, region, country or continent over another.

All the rest can be rethought and reformed, if necessary, by the parties, the social partners, the systems... But above all, by the people, the citizens. In this reform, the role of the Council of Europe is increasingly important, because it places citizens as the number one priority. Not the States, not the powers — because they change —, but the citizens, who are at the heart, with their dignity, at the heart of the raison d'être of this institution.

That is why the Council is paying attention to climate change, the Paris Agreement, the 2030 Agenda, anything related to Human Rights. Sustainable development — which has a very close relationship with Human Rights — the protection of social rights threatened by the new economic powers, and even new technologies, the effects of artificial intelligence, action against cybercrime, the fight against corruption. But also the fight against racism and intolerance, against all forms of discrimination, violence against women, freedom of the press and pluralism, the situation of migrants and refugees.

Your recent recommendation "Life Saved, Rights Protected", challenges us all against a growing rhetoric that dehumanizes Europe and challenges its civilisational heritage. Cooperation between Member States and NGOs and, above all, the third countries from which migrants come from, supporting their development, is the way forward to constantly combat criminal practices and organised networks. Without ever sacrificing the principle of principles, the protection of human life.

Everything must therefore be done to preserve the Council of Europe's pan-European composition and heritage. To provide it with the means and resources necessary for its irreplaceable mission.

Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA

President of Portugal 

12:22:46

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Madam President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

We Portuguese, we believe in human dignity. In Human Rights, democracy and in the rule of law, which are enshrined in the historic European Convention of Human Rights.

We know that, to make them win the souls and the minds of citizens and of societies, we have to understand reality, and change structures and behaviours. Count on us to achieve it. Count on Portugal to achieve it, with conviction and courage.

Conviction that is more than just faith or belief. And courage that is more than just boldness and determination.

The same conviction and courage of 44 years ago, when I was sitting here. As a young member of our constituency, and when we were starting our journey to freedom and democracy. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

12:24:13

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Thank you very much, Mister President, for your words and for your comprehensive analysis of the situation in which we live, finally, as citizens of the world.

Thank you also for your personal support and for your country's support to this Organization.

Thank you, above all, for pleading in favour of the values we share.

We will now turn to the questions. I would like to remind my colleagues that these questions should not exceed thirty seconds, and that you should ask a question and not make a statement.

The first speaker is Mr VAREIKIS, on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group 

12:25:02

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Thank you, Mr President.

We Council of Europe countries, European Union countries, we suffered the quite severe refugee crisis in recent years. You mentioned in your speech a little bit that you are solving somehow this crisis. I know from mass media that Portugal is very often like Coca-Cola's success story for crisis management and integration, maybe you can say in a few sentences, what is the secret of your success?

Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA

President of Portugal 

12:25:37

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Well, thank you for your question. It's a very simple answer. We are a country of migrants. We are all around the world. We are 10 million inside our territory and 10 to 12 million abroad. In every continent. So for us, migration and the drama of refugees is a reality we have known for centuries. 

We have had a dictatorship. Several dictatorships. The last one until 1974, which means we know what fighting against a dictatorship means. So we do understand the drama of migrants and refugees. We do know how important it is to understand the dramas of those societies because we have troops fighting in central Africa with humanitarian purposes. They're fighting wars, avoiding instability, working for sustainable development with economic and social aid.

So we know how important it is to create conditions in those countries around Europe, the Middle East, Northern Africa, even central Africa. I don't speak of some other Asian or Latin American countries at this point. So we do understand to have a democratic consensus on that subject. From the far left to the far right, all the parties agree on that subject in Portugal.

We know that there are several questions. The first one is the protection of human life. Then there is, of course, the fight against illegal or criminal activities. There is the need for common policies, European common policies concerning both migrants and refugees. There we have a very open vision. The best solution would be to try to find multilateral solutions. If not possible, let us at least bilaterally through agreements or unilaterally adopt positions accepted by the countries that don't want to go as far as Portugal does. Accepting, receiving, including in every sense of the word.

So that's the reason. I mean, history explains a lot how people are and how people do understand certain problems. But we do understand also that for other countries it's more difficult, without having this experience, to have the same position Portugal has. That's why tolerance, dialogue, understanding and institutions like these are so important.

The world is full - it's one of the last fashions - full of unilateralism, full of protectionism, full of egocentric ideas. Let us try to keep on moving the institutions where there is multilateralism, where there is the tolerance that is dialogue. Because no country, even the most powerful superpower, is an island. Nobody is an island in this world. Everybody depends upon all the other countries.

And mostly, let us think of the citizens, of the people. Those people were born where they were born. They didn't choose where they were born. They have the right of being treated... Protecting and respecting their dignity. That's my answer.

(APPLAUSE)

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

12:29:52

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Thank you.

Mr SCHENNACH has the floor for the Group of the Party of Socialists, Democrats and Greens.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Spokesperson for the group 

12:30:00

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Thank you, Mr President for this answer of tolerance, far from fear. You see it's possible. 

I want to thank you for your coastal vessel, which saved so many lives during Mare Nostrum in the Mediterranean Sea. Now this programme is over. But now, young human rights activists from Portugal were saving lives but got into trouble with the Italian government. Is Portugal helping those people who are now in trouble because they only save lives?

Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA

President of Portugal 

12:30:42

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Well, of course, we respect the sovereignty of any state, but it's our duty to diplomatically support our citizens through all means accepted by international law. Most of all, this is when we think that they are fulfilling an important mission, when they are thinking mostly of that value I've spoken of, protection of human life. But, we do not forget that we need to find the way of trying to define policies and take measures at the European level. I mean, unilateral actions are very important. Citizenship is very important. The role of the citizens, young citizens, all the citizens, is vital, because that's the key to democracy that is alive all over Europe. But, I think, at the same time, European states, at different levels, must consider and make an effort to find common solutions and, once accepted, to implement them. Because I do believe in multilateralism. But my answer, yes, of course, the Portuguese state is doing whatever is needed and is possible under the legal point of view to protect one citizen, every citizen, in such a situation.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

12:32:31

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Thank you.

Mr DUNDEE has the floor for the Conservative Group.

Lord Alexander DUNDEE

United Kingdom, EC, Spokesperson for the group 

12:32:41

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Mr President, in view of recent Council of Europe structures, what action is your government taking to prevent mistreatment of prisoners, particularly at the time of arrest, and to improve prison living conditions, including within psychiatric institutions?

Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA

President of Portugal 

12:33:07

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Well, that's the problem. I think it's a universal problem, it's a European problem, it's also a Portuguese problem.

 

Why? Because courts now implement decisions or take decisions that, in most cases, mean preventive measures that increase the prison population up to thousands, thousands of people in different situations and circumstances. So, there is a need for reform. Not only a reform of logistics, which is very important, the physical situation of those that are in prison, in jail, but also as you mentioned, psychiatric and psychological support, permanent support, in conditions that are very different, very, very different, because there was also a change in the kind of criminality.

We were used to physical criminality against people. Now, we have very much the development of economic, financial, social criminality. Of course, we have developed measures concerning other alternative measures. I mean to be in prison at home, to have electronic control, to develop these kinds of - and follow-up of people that used to be detained and be in jail.

This has developed very much, but I do admit, we need to do more. And we must do more in the very near future even because there are different situations, it depends on ages, on the kind of criminality, and also there is a problem of the social conditions of living inside prisons. The social conditions are a very worrying problem, I think, at the European level, at a universal level, but also at the Portuguese level. But I think it's one of the reforms that will be taken - will be debated - during the next electoral campaign, very much debated, and we'll have its follow up in the next four years, I'm sure.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

12:35:45

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Thank you.

I call Mrs RODRÍGUEZ FERNÁNDEZ, on behalf of the Liberals and Democrats.

Ms Melisa RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ

Spain, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group 

12:35:54

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Mr President,

The last GRECO report told us that Portugal is the country which is doing the least for the fight against corruption. Amongst the recommendations drafted by the Council of Europe with a view to guaranteeing the independence of institutions, Portugal ignored 50% of those rules and only partially implemented, only partially, 40% of them. It is also well known that the government has placed high-ranking officials and family members from the main party in important positions. So, President, what do you intend to do so as to ensure that Portugal takes the fight against corruption more seriously?

 

Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA

President of Portugal 

12:36:31

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That was a very important subject, which I mentioned in my speech and which is very topical.

There have been GRECO recommendations concerning transparency in public life in different areas. As far as the status of judges is concerned –and we will vote– it took time. It has taken time to negotiate with the judiciary, with the Union Associations representing judges, and we will vote next week, before the end of the legislature, on the new status of judges. Similarly, with the Public Prosecutor's Office, which is a very important institution, for the fight against corruption, we will approve today or tomorrow in Parliament the new statute of the Public Prosecutor's Office.

The concerns are precisely as follows: to affirm a rational principle of the independence of judges and courts, to affirm the autonomy of the public prosecutor's office and to strengthen its resources in terms of functional and financial status.

At the same time, there is the problem, which you mentioned, of transparency in political life. This requires other measures, which are addressed, for example, to Members of Parliament or officials in the public administration. It was a long negotiation that took four years.

You know, it is very difficult to debate and vote on this type of measure. I am a suspect, since I have always supported them, before becoming President of the Republic, as a professor of law, but I admit that it is a long and difficult negotiation, on incompatibilities, on the property status of political and administrative leaders, on relations with the private sector, on relations with professional life, but also you, as you mentioned, with regard to family ties or excessive proximity ties that can allow the appearence of clientelism. This is a very important subject because populisms appear very often because of this type of argument. It is easy to say that the system is "rotten" where the system has examples of crises concerning transparency in public life and sanctions for political leaders.

Well, these transparency laws are going to be passed –this is the part of the recommendation that was not followed last year, it took time– before the end of this legislature. I myself –you know, the Head of State has no power to present bills– informally, I have submitted to the government a regulation on the same subject within the Presidency of the Republic. Not necessarily for the President of the Republic, this was not the case, but if it is necessary to do so, of course, there is the law that provides for it, but concerning everyone who revolves around the President of the Republic.

I hope that all these laws are passed, I have to enact them. This is the first time that lobbying, which was not settled in Portugal, neither at the level of the parliament, nor at the level of the government, nor at the level of local or regional authorities. This is a very important step, in my opinion, decisive for the quality of democracy in Portugal.

It is not enough to look back, to say what we have done from a dictatorship to change, to enforce a democratic Constitution, to replace revolutionary military power, to have a strong political system. Democracy must be permanently recreated. That means a lot more quality in our democracy. This means that many of the recommendations of GRECO that have waited until now will be observed, I hope, by the end of July, through the approval and promulgation, if necessary, of laws concerning transparency in public life and also the status of magistrates, judges and the public prosecutor.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

12:42:30

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Thank you.

The last question on behalf of the political groups is from Mrs GORROTXATEGUI, from the United Left.

Ms Miren GORROTXATEGI

Spain, UEL, Spokesperson for the group 

12:42:44

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Mr. President, I'd like to welcome you today. You're a source of inspiration for us. You're a head of a country in which progressive forces have improved the economy are fighting inequality and ending policies of austerity.

I'd like to know whether you agree if the fight against climate change must be one of the overarching priorities of the policies which need to be adopted in the European continent.

If so, what do you think could be done to ensure that this issue figures very high in European political agendas, including in this House? Thank you.

Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA

President of Portugal 

12:43:28

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I think that democracy is not just personal democracy, political democracy. It's also economic, social and cultural democracy. There is no full democracy if you don't have, of course political rights, personal rights. If you don't have separation of powers, Rule of law.

But you don't have full democracy if you're not worried about social rights, economic rights and cultural rights and if you do not fight against inequalities. Different kinds of discrimination, unfair discrimination at a national level, at a regional level, at a local level, at European level, at a universal level.

We know it's a difficult fight. We are facing it in Portugal with a broad consensus. There is a broad consensus because we feel it's not just a party question. It is really a problem of human dignity. A problem of respect for Human rights. Human rights must be respected by the right-wing and left-wing parties, far right and far left-wing parties. I myself am a centre-right politician coming from the centre-right. The government in Portugal is a left-wing government as you know. We have centre-right and right-wing parties in the opposition that are always very attentive to Human rights and social rights.

The question is how to really convert those social rights into a priority in the European agenda. When sometimes one speaks much more about the budget, about budgetary deficit, of the control of that budget, of external budget, you have mostly a very financial point of view. Most of it. As a head of state I should have it, but I have personally, a mixed position on that subject. I think it's useful and important to have control over budget and public debt because we know that the reality, the financial reality of the world, is what it is. If you don't have it, if you do not fulfil those objectives, we will be facing, as we faced, a serious crisis, and it will be impossible to create the base, a sound base, for strong economic reforms.

But at the same time we cannot forget the appeal not only for social rights concerning the change in technology, in science, but also that huge appeal that some people ignored for a while and still ignore, that is climate change. We cannot deny it. I read very carefully all the declarations by politicians denying that reality, but you cannot deny reality. I just came from Portugal where one is not freezing but where the weather is very cold. Seasons have changed completely. I find myself here as if I was in a tropical country.

But that is just a detail. What is not a detail is what we see being an ocean country. The problem of the oceans. Having islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. What we see. of he effects of climate change. Just to give you an example of realities that go beyond just a financial point of view, that go beyond just a strict economic point of view.

And then you have common people, the citizens. They are people with their needs and their requests. Needs and requests mean social rights. So the European Union for instance should be more attentive to the social pillar, to sustainable development. At the same time, one is very attentive concerning financial and economic situations. One should look at it and not just because not looking at it is losing most of what matters for younger generations. Not just for that reason but for a substantial reason. It matters also for those that are ageing. European societies, not all of them, but many of them are ageing very very quickly, with social problems. Social needs. That means social rights. So I believe and I hope that the European agenda for the next couple of years will introduce, all together –with the traditional way of seeing what is more important for European integration– introduces social concerns, social policies, social commitments and climate change. Not doing it would be for Europe to lose one of the reasons why Europe is so important in the world.

I believe that Europe, the whole of Europe, is important for the world. Because I believe that the the world will be multipolar. It won't depend on one president. Presidents change. Administrations change. Reality is stronger than every day heads of state or governments. In this multipolar world Europe has a role to play that begins in that concept of Human rights, in the broad vision of Human rights. There it's at ease to play that role. It's stronger than every other power. And it is irreplaceable. That's why the Council of Europe is so important.: because you must have a place where people try to make bridges and not to cut bridges. We have enough in the world to cut bridges. Every day we have news of walls, disruptions, unilateral decisions. This is a place of understanding. That's why Portugal is really very much committed in supporting the Council of Europe.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

12:51:12

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Thank you, Mr. President.

If you agree to allow more colleagues to speak, I will group the questions together, and take three successive questions before giving you the floor for the answer.

I give the floor to Mr. HOWELL.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC 

12:51:30

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Thank you, Mr. President. On my recent visit to Lisbon with the Council of Europe, I witnessed the Jewish community employing heavy guards to guard their synagogues. I had always associated Portugal with being a Jewish-friendly place. What does this say about the current rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, and what part does that play in Portugal?

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

12:51:55

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Thank you.

The following question was asked by Mr VARDANYAN.

Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN

Armenia, NR 

12:52:01

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Madam Chairman, Your Excellency. Prevention of genocides is one of the main priorities of Armenian foreign policy. Using this opportunity, I would like to express our gratitude for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the Portuguese Parliament. My question is, what could be the possible role of the Council of Europe in the prevention of genocide and crimes against humanity? Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

12:52:28

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Thank you.

And then there is Mrs MENDES' question.

Ms Ana Catarina MENDES

Portugal, SOC 

12:52:34

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Thank you, Madam President.

Mr President, the Portuguese Delegation is honoured by the speech of hope you gave here earlier, at the Council of Europe. However, today we have many threats to democracy here in Europe: hate discourse and Human Rights violations, accompanied by nationalism and the rise of populism.

In this context, what role can Portugal play, within the Council of Europe, to deepen democracy on a daily basis?

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

12:53:11

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Mister President, you have the floor.

Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA

President of Portugal 

12:53:15

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So I'll be very brief.

First of all, there is no anti-Semitism in Portugal. We have a tradition today. This was not the case in the past; one of the faults, one of the mistakes in our history has been the persecution of the Jews, it has been recognised, and today we are witnessing the development and enlargement of the Jewish community in Portugal, especially in Porto, to the north, also in Lisbon, less so, and in the interior of the country, where there is a tradition. My family, on behalf of my mother, has a very strong Jewish root. There is no such thing.

When I see anti-Semitism sometimes, I have the same feeling as I do about any discrimination. Any discrimination is unacceptable and unfair and must be combated. First of all, it fights in the field of ideas. Let's start with education, by the youngest, by the children. But any discrimination! We have to do it.

Secondly, it is not the President of Portugal who is going to tell the Council of Europe what to do about a problem that is a problem at the heart of the debates in this Parliamentary Assembly. What I can say is that in all cases where Portugal or a Portuguese body has considered an act as genocide it has condemned the genocide. But here again, the problem is a cultural rather than a political one. We know that history is always written by the winners, never by the defeated. That is why history has been rewritten many times over the centuries and millennia. That being said, I consider that having a principled position on Human rights helps a house like this to deal with issues like the one you mentioned.

Finally, I would like to say this to you, the Portuguese Member of Parliament. Portugal has a tradition as a country of emigration. It is all over the world. Yesterday I had lunch with a very well-known Swedish politician, a good friend, who discovered at the end of lunch that Portugal had played a role –and is playing a role– in the world, which it did not know about. Why? Because we have Portuguese in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Africa, everywhere in Africa, everywhere in Europe. This makes us even more responsible in this fight for the values that are essential for the Council of Europe.

We have our faults. I recognized them as Head of state. We should do better. We're doing better now. We'll try to approve, for a change, to match your recommendations. I didn't come here to make the nationalist optimism speech. No. Not at all, since I am very against hyper-nationalism. To fight against hyper-nationalism, xenophobia and Human rights violations, we can count on Portugal. Because we are very open to understanding others, to dialogue with others. We understand dictatorships; we have had dictatorships. We understand persecutions; we have persecuted, we have been persecuted all over the world. We understand wars; we have had wars, we have fought, we fought in the Great War. Last year I was with the French president in northern France: thousands of Portuguese fought for a country they did not know, in France, that they will never know. Their families came to visit this country through this ceremony.

We are in missions of the European Union, missions of the United Nations, several, too, of the Atlantic Alliance, in several countries, with humanitarian objectives and I believe that in this Council of Europe, the Portuguese must always be present, in the committees, the subcommittees.

The North-South centre axis is essential for dialogue. Without this dialogue we will have unsuspected problems for some Europeans. We have to work on the area where we have the presidency, at the Pompidou Group: drug addiction. One thing where we have policies that are very advanced, but successfully.

In the area I know we are discussing a little: there are some who do not understand the diaspora. The diaspora are the Europeans who are everywhere in Europe; the British who are in Portugal, the French who are in Portugal, not only the Portuguese who are in France, the Europeans who are in Europe, but of course the people who are elsewhere and the others who are here. There is such a thing! There is no denying that. We cannot consider that by building walls we will stop the circulation of ideas, science, technology, finance, the economy and people. There is no such thing!

That is why I think you are right: we have a role to play and we must carry it out with even greater vigour.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

13:00:09

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Thank you, Mr. President.

Dear Colleagues, we must now conclude the questions to Mr Marcelo REBELO DE SOUSA, whom I thank once again very warmly for his presence and his answers to our questions.

Dear colleagues, the votes for the election of a Vice-President of the Assembly in respect of the Russian Federation, for two judges of the European Court of Human Rights and for the Secretary General are now suspended. They will resume this afternoon from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Voting is therefore suspended.

The next sitting will be held this afternoon at 3.30 p.m. with the agenda of this part-session.

The meeting is adjourned.

The sitting was closed at 13.00

Next sitting at 3.30pm