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Opening of sitting No. 26

Joint debate (continued): Ending violence against children: a Council of Europe contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals / Stop violence against, and exploitation of, migrant children

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:32:33

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The setting is open.

Colleagues, the ballot for the second round of the election of a judge of the European Court of Human Rights, in respect of Germany, is once again open.

I would remind you that the vote takes place in the rotunda behind the presidency, and that the vote will be closed at 5 p.m.

The counting will take place immediately afterwards, under normal conditions, outside the meeting room. Under the supervision of the four tellers appointed this morning. Namely, Mr. EFSTATHIOU,  Mr. HOWELL, Mr. HUSEYNOV and Mr. ŞAHİN

I remind them that they must be in the area behind the presidential chair at 5 p.m., when the voting ends.

The result of the vote shall be announced, if possible, before the end of this sitting. If not, it will be at the opening of the next meeting.

We will continue with our work in the mean time.

Our next business is to consider the proposals for changes in the composition of Committees, set out in document "Commission 2019 06 Addendum 4".

Are there any objections to these changes?

Then they are therefore adopted.

We will now move on to the continuation of the discussion of two reports on ending violence against children. And we move on to the list of speakers in the general discussion. I now give the floor to Mr. BILDARRATZ.

 

Mr Jokin BILDARRATZ

Spain, ALDE 

15:34:08

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Thank you very much. Thank you very much President.

Ladies and gentlemen. This has been a very very exciting week. Full of passion. There have been difficult discussions, because the issues we are dealing with are difficult issues. We are like dikes that are holding back the water to protect democracy, to protect Rule of law and to protect fundamental Human rights as well. That's why it's a very difficult situation and we have a difficult task before us.

I would like, ladies and gentlemen, to have reports like this report that we have before us right now, which allows me to explain to my children what my quotidian tasks are. What I have to do every day as a politician. So these particular reports that help us to deal with issues of very serious nature, like this particular report by Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR. This type of reports allow to help us to facilitate to do important things in our countries. And I'd like to congratulate Mr COAKER as well for his intervention. Do more and do it much faster.

Frequently we criticise what has not been or what has to be done in the future. But we have to be aware of the fact that each one of us in our national parliaments has major responsibilities to bare as far as moving these particular types of projects forward. That's why these particular reports are extremely important. That's why we have to push forward as far as working concretely on them.

Another two elements which are very fundamental for all two of these particular reports. Two questions above all. Resources. Sufficient resources in order to be able to respond to all of the necessities that exist in order to serve the needs of young people. And secondly, ideology. Because it is the ideology of the right to protection, right to health of these individuals. Right to education as well. The right to protection. The right to not be separated from their families. The right to express their opinions and to be heard as well. And finally the right to be able to fulfil the various covenants that protect the rights of children as well. I will work for the eradication of this type of violence. This is one of the priorities of the Spanish state as well.

But above all, each time we say this, each time we receive messages of a xenophobic nature, and they are increasing in all Member states, it is our responsibility to protect these children so that there is no discrimination against these children as well. We have to be able to overcome these types of problems. And there is a clear message to society. Always be positive. Always issues positive messages on this type of issue. Europe has to wake up ladies and gentlemen. This particular message in this migratory issue. Europe has to wake up and we have to provide the help that we can. Help you very much ladies and gentlemen.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:37:53

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Thank you.

Mrs. De TEMMERMAN is on the list, but I don't see her in the room.

Ms. YAŞAR, you have the floor.

Ms Serap YAŞAR

Turkey, NR 

15:38:06

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Madam President,

Dear colleagues,

I would like to thank the rapporteur for his report on the issue of violence and exploitation of migrant children.

As a rapporteur on missing refugee and migrant children in Europe, I believe that the problem of violence against children and missing children are closely linked.

The measures taken to combat violence and exploitation of migrant children, presented in this report, will certainly help to prevent more migrant children from disappearing. Some refugee and migrant children travel with their families. Others, alone, still risk their lives in search of a better life.

When children and young people feel that they have no choice, no future, and no legal or safe alternative to emigration, they take matters into their own hands. Facing even greater risks of exploitation, by falling into the claws of smugglers and human traffickers.

Children on the move are vulnerable to abuse and other forms of serious violence, before, during and also after their journey. There is an urgent need to identify children, register them, and then put in place appropriate procedures to help them. So we can build trust with them as quickly as possible.

Ensuring that everything is going well, taking immediate responsibility for the child, involving cultural mediators and mobilizing members of the host community, are crucial measures to establish this relationship of trust, and protect children from smugglers, traffickers or severe pressure on their families.

These measures will pave the way for a strong and appropriate system, to ensure that no child is exploited or abused.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:40:57

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Thank you very much.

Mrs KEMPPI is the next speaker, but she is not here.

Mrs. GÜNAY .

Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY

Turkey, NR 

15:41:11

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Dear President, dear colleagues.

I would like to extend my gratitude to both rapporteurs for their reports. Sustainable Development Goals constitute a transformative and universal agenda with an imperative of leaving no one behind. They address specific forms of violence and harm towards children, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation, the eradication of child labour, including the recruitment and use of child soldiers. The inclusion of ending violence against children as a specific target among the Sustainable Development Goals is of utmost importance.

The Council of Europe, and specifically, PACE, has resolutely included specific Sustainable Development Goals on its agenda. It has adopted a number of resolutions and recommendations, producing groundbreaking standards and norms. This report too, successfully addresses violence against children, and provides significant input for national governments on how to combat violence against children.

Although there is still a long way to achieve Sustainable Development Goals, as a member of this Assembly, I can proudly express my gratitude for the great work done in this field so far. Violence against children takes place all around the world, regardless of culture, class, education, income and ethnic origin. It occurs in institutions designed for their care and protection. In schools, online, and also within the home. In this sense, combating violence against children requires a concerted effort at both national and international levels.

In our country, Turkey, the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services, leads the efforts to combat violence against children in collaboration with other ministries. The Ministry carried out a number of projects in this field, and established child houses and child support centres. These institutions aim at providing services to meet social, psychological and physical needs of child victims. Currently, they are operating in 34 provinces across Turkey. Turkey will continue to intensify its efforts to combat violence against children.

Finally, as correctly stated in the report, national parliaments need to step up their involvement in the implementation and monitoring of the target of ending violence against children. As a parliamentarian, I believe that we have an opportunity, and the constitutional responsibility to play a significant role in supporting and monitoring the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals.

I reckon that, the valuable contribution of the parliamentarians to combating violence against children, is particularly critical.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:44:32

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Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr. ŞAHİN.

Mr Ali ŞAHİN

Turkey, NR 

15:44:40

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Thank you. Madam Chair. Dear colleagues. 

I would like to thank the rapporteur for her hard work on preparing this significant report.

The risks that unaccompanied and separated migrant children face are continuing to grow as war, poverty, and conflict keep forcing people out of their homelands. The number of migrant children has grown immensely in the last decade. Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, Turkey received around 4 million Syrian refugees. Moreover, 1 million and 40,000 of them are children aged between five and 18. The total number of schooled migrant children in Turkey is 645,000. Almost 60% of the migrant children have been schooled in Turkey. After securing the region from war on terror, Turkey also carried out essential educational activities in Northern Syria. Turkey has opened 535 schools in Al Bab, Jarabulus, A'zaz, Qabasin and other cities of Northern Syria and schooled 129,000 migrant children.

I'm a politician of Gaziantep city located on the Syrian border and where we are hosting around 437,000 Syrian refugees. In this manner Gaziantep can be described as a breakwater city from a migration point of view for both Turkey and Europe.

The main objective to protect the migrant children from abuses and other harmful effects of migration must be to keep them inside their families and communities. We all have to know that to separate migrant children from their families is more traumatic than war and migration. Moreover, this is a vital point for them. Psychological support for migrant children and their families who lost their past and future about life is also vital for the future hope and life. They also need to be schooled and strengthened economically to protect themselves against all kind of exploitation.

A large section of children who arrived in this significant refugee-attracting countries in Europe was either unaccompanied or separated from their parents. Though the number of migrants seeking refuge in Europe has decreased, the number of migrant children has risen. Consequently, the number of children who fall prey to traffickers and abusers is on the rise. Children fleeing violence are still not safe when they arrive in the receiving countries. The lack of safety and security at the facilities make these young migrants even more vulnerable to risks. We all have to know that the children never know what border is. Moreover, do not let the borders kill and stop children.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:47:49

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Thank you.

I call Mr HUSEYNOV.

Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV

Azerbaijan, ALDE 

15:47:57

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Thank you Madam Chair.

Dear colleagues, there are such topics and problems that never lose actuality and in fact it is important to do something every day related to their solution. It doesn't matter but most of the issues are related to children and it is about achieving the protection of their rights.

The report around which we share views urges Member States to comply with the principles of the Convention on the rights of the child. It invites to protect children, specifically migrant children, from violence, implication in military conflicts, persecution and destructive effects of devastating climate and natural disasters. They are all so kind and noble appeals that everyone can vote twice for each of them. I understand that painful troubles cannot be measured with scales and they are not big or small. However, when reading the page about the suffering of my migrant children I probably would like to think about the children refugees and internally displaced people. Because more gigantic problems exist in scale.

I have been in my national parliament since 2001. Since then I have been active in the Assembly. 18 years ago I was looking forward to the future with great hope when I started my regular meetings in various tent camps with nearly one million people deported from the areas of Armenia historically inhabited by Azerbaijanis and from the seven districts around the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh. At that time, the youngest of the children of refugees and internally displaced people born in their own homes were nine to ten years old. Now they have their own families and children who appeared in the world as refugees and internally displaced people.

Living as refugees and internally displaced people is a grave problem. But it is a double tragedy to look into the world in such a state. All the difficulties and the worst manifestations of the efforts to protect migrant children are faced everyday by over half a million children living in families of refugees and internally displaced people for more than 30 years. This figure also increases every year. With this set status new generations are born and grow up. Instead of solving problems we are simply accompanying them by feeling pity. Over the years they have been very wise to overcome some of the most difficult hard to reach solutions that are actually very convenient.

But this matter is very simple. Let us imagine that today the migrant children and the children of refugees and internally displaced people scattered around the world are not their children. Let us put our kids and grandchildren in place of those children. I believe that you would try to save your dear ones even at the expense of your own life. I not only hope but also believe that neither in Europe nor in the world those problems will be left without a trace. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:51:09

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Thank you.

The list of speakers is exhausted, but we have some time and I have received the request for the floor from Mr. WHITFIELD.

He therefore has the floor.

Mr Martin WHITFIELD

United Kingdom, SOC 

15:51:24

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Thank you, Madam President.

Thank you for your kindness and extending the opportunity to speak in this debate. Can I first thank all of the rapporteurs involved in these reports which are fascinating, interesting, in depth and crucial to how we move forward both as an organisation and as a continent. The Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture are very high level. To see how they work we need to go all the way down to the grassroots level, the very basis.

And I would like to take this opportunity to make mention for disabled children. Back in 2005, the United Nations identified disabled children as among the most stigmatised and marginalised of all of the world's children. And education is the key to ending this. Education, not just for disabled children, but also for all adults.

And as an explanation and example, I would like to draw the attention to Grace Warnock. A 13-year-old girl who lives in East Lothian in Scotland. She suffers from Crohn's disease and when she was 10 years old she used an accessible toilet. When she came out, she faced abuse by adults for her use of this toilet. They may have done so for the best of intentions because her disability is invisible. She could have been upset, she could have turned in on herself and ignored it and become a lesser person. But she didn't. She went away and she designed a sign, Grace's sign, to show that people with invisible disabilities have just the same needs, just the same requirements as everybody else. And that as a human race we should have a heart and be kinder. This campaign has grown and through help from groups like Life Changes Trust, a charity in Scotland, and Lucy Richard at StudioLR, Grace's sign has now developed into an all-disability sign. Its reason for existence is a grass-roots example of this. It is to show that marginalising people with disabilities is fundamentally wrong, unfair and unkind.

The reports that we deal with here today are at a very high level and they call for governments and organisations to do great things. The really great things will only happen when they go down to grassroots level, like Grace Warnock's campaign, like the campaign by so many migrant children, like the campaigns by so many people trying to find a just and safe, and most of all peaceful world, for our children.

Violence is always wrong, so that violence against children must also, always be wrong. We are at the start here today. Let us not make it the end. But let's make it a start to a better world for our next generation and the generations that follow.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:54:34

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Thank you.

Does anyone else still wish to speak?

That is not the case. I therefore call for a reply from the committees, starting with the reply from the Social, Health and Sustainable Development Committee and its rapporteur, Mrs MASSEY.

You have four minutes left and you have the floor.

Baroness Doreen MASSEY

United Kingdom, SOC, Rapporteur 

15:55:00

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Madam President,

Colleagues, good afternoon. We have had many moving speeches today and speakers have been to the point and put many important issues to us. My experience tells me that parliaments are at their best when they are moved by an important issue and they're calling for action. And that we have had today from I think everybody. This has been I think a superb debate with many wise and powerful words about the importance of strategies for children based on Human rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says it all really. It's about access to health, to education, family life and access to the right to be heard. This includes all children. My colleagues just mentioned disabled children. Very important. It also includes, as Rosa talked about, migrant children, those ethnic minorities, LGBT children, children who are involved in the youth justice system. Children deserve the best from all services and they need to be given a voice.

I'd like to just say a thing about what Rosa pointed out in her speech today. She said that it was about children sometimes falling between the cracks. I think that she's had to talk about the seemingly impossible issue of migration and children. There are so many issues that we need to resolve there. But also the cracks are there and exist in our social services, in our education systems, in our youth justice systems, and we have to address those cracks. Children fall down because of lack of support and lack of intervention.

I think that action for children should not be based on crisis intervention. This is too late. We should build on action for children from birth, and we should build intervention early, at the first sign of a problem. What does come through to me and not for the first time is that all our declarations, all our conventions must be translated into strategies at a national level. Our governments must be persuaded to take them up and have strategies of their own to deal with particular circumstances in different countries. We're all different. We all have different populations. We all have different strategies to suit what those populations are at a national local level. I think that local strategies are also essential right down to, as my colleague Martin said, communities. Communities consist of schools, hospitals, youth justice systems. They involve children. They involve parents. They involve grandparents. And that is an important context in which we have to act.

Many people have said today that protecting children from violence is important and urgent and must be held now. Approaches must be adapted to local circumstances.

So I hope that colleagues will support and vote for these two reports which we have worked hard on. I'd really like to thank the Secretariats who have worked very hard to help and do research on these issues. In my case, on violence and children. I'd like to thank colleagues in the Assembly for comments and cooperation. I'd like to thank the German government for a visit to Germany which was most useful but informative and most enjoyable. And most of all I'd like to thank you all today for participating in this debate and giving your ideas and giving your support to what I think is a key and important issue. Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:59:25

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Thank you very much. And now, the Chair of the Committee, Mr Stefan SCHENNACH. You wish to speak?

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC 

15:59:40

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Thank you, Madam President.

Yes, I'd love to. This is the second report by the Committee on Social Affairs that we have presented on the UN's sustainability objectives. The first was from Mrs. Timmermann back the capacity in the municipalities and cities. Today we present a very special report. I would like to thank all three rapporteurs warmly.

All three reports show the incredible competence this Assembly has in children's rights issues. (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I can remember, in the context of a discussion on children's rights, I enthusiastically went to my Parliament in Vienna and said that we needed a children's rights committee. The reaction was a little funny. First it was said that we have a family committee before; we can take care of this in the women's committee; and once to explain that the child is its own legal subject, that a child, from child on, must be seen in itself in its developments in its personality, that has needed time. I am glad that we are one of three parliaments to have such a child rights committee. I was glad that we were able to invite the chairwoman of our children's rights committee to the Social Affairs Committee meeting in Vienna.

I would also like to thank him, Doreen and all the rapporteurs for this debate. I would like to say, as well as Thomas Hammarberg, perhaps I may quote you, yes we can be proud. We can be proud of a debate that shows how a parliamentary assembly, at what level, discusses the concerns and problems about children and includes all children no matter where they are.

A Member of this House has argued that it is possible to determine age with, shall I say, X-Ray and so on. All I can say is, my God, they're teenagers. How much money do we have to spend on such efforts, whether it is 17, 18 or 19? We have to take care of these young people, even if they are refugees or migrants, to help them and put less money into identification as we do now.

It was also pointed out that children who reach us on the run cost more. Yes, they cost more because they are traumatised; because they need psychosocial and therapeutic treatment. Whatever we need, whatever was said here, I remember one thing: how I reached the Council of Europe this Assembly here and I was full of enthusiasm for the One in Five campaign from the very first minute - the President knows it, she was in my place at the time - and I was still here less than a month ago, when the Council of Europe took me away, to Zagreb, to discuss this Question One in Five with the states of the Western Balkans. We have created something here the Lanzarote Convention and this campaign One in Five has sensitized and that if a child for example notices that it is not your disciplinary action but that you have to look behind it what is going on.

In this sense dear Doreen, dear Rosanne, dear Sevin, thank you very much. Doreen is our extra fighter for children's rights. Soon she will also fight for us in New York and I would like to thank the secretariat for the great work. Julia many, many thanks for you work in the Sub-Committee for Children's Rights.

Madam President, I very much hope that this very thoughtful debate today will perhaps lead to a unanimous overall result. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much, sir.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:04:35

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Dankeschön, Mr SCHENNACH.

Ms BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR, Rapporteur of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, to the floor.

You normally have one minute left, but as you have seen, this afternoon we are very tolerant of the time.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, Rapporteur 

16:04:54

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Dear Colleagues, I want to thank you sincerely for a very good debate. It's good to hear the profound solidarity to stop violence and exploitation of migrant children, that we have felt here in the hemicycle today.

And that is a good reminder of why we are here. It was necessary to be reminded that we are still faced with unacceptable situations for migrant children and unaccompanied children. Like Mr Paul GAVAN mentioned, on the situation of detention centres on the Hungarian borders. And Mr VASCONCELOS, the ambassador of Mexico, called upon the Council to help them resolve the crisis of migrant children in the US detention centres, as well as the crisis that we are facing now, and watching on the news, at the border of the US and Mexico.

Stella KYRIAKIDES reminded us that closing borders is harming children. But remember, colleagues, that PACE and the Council are doing work that is important for the lives of these vulnerable groups. We have to continue to fight for a better world, like Ms RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ said.

We have to continue, and we have to remind ourselves to never stop that fight. We have here concrete measures and recommendations in the report. Let us all accept these recommendations, and let us all go home with these measures and recommendations, to our parliaments. To implement that in our legislation. That is our work role here in this Assembly. To go home, to be champions for children and their rights.

We have to act now, like my friend Vernon said. We have to act now to stop violence against the most vulnerable groups in our society. Because, dear colleagues, we and our societies, are not measured by how we treat the wealthy and the healthy. But we are measured by how we treat the most vulnerable groups of our societies.

I want to thank the Secretariat, of course, for their tireless and good work in preparing this report, that I urge you all to accept and vote for.

Thank you so much for your support.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:07:23

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Thank you very much.

The Vice-President of the Committee, Mr FRIDEZ, has the floor.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC 

16:07:31

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Thank you, Madam President,

Dear colleagues,

The protection of the rights of migrant children is one of the main priorities of our Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, and I would like to thank Mrs BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR for the important work she has done on this report which calls for an end to violence and exploitation of migrant children.

Migrant children face multiple sufferings on the way to Europe –as the rapporteur rightly pointed out– but it is even more shocking to note that, even after their arrival in Europe, they are the first victims of trafficking, exploitation and inhuman treatment.

As part of my parliamentary mandate, I have witnessed the negative effects of detention on migrant children during my many visits to detention centres in refugee camps and other facilities. I firmly believe, ladies and gentlemen, that the detention of migrant children is a form of violence. It is, therefore, unacceptable and should therefore be prohibited.

Yesterday, we held the final conference of our parliamentary campaign to end the detention of migrant children. A campaign launched by our Commission four years ago. During the conference, we reviewed his main achievements. Thanks to the support of the Swiss government –which has been a great financial support in this story– we have raised public awareness on the issue of the detention of migrant children and the damage that this detention can cause to minors.

We have also worked hard to strengthen the role of national parliaments in protecting and promoting the rights of migrant children. In four years, the campaign has gained the support of more than 1400 parliamentarians, senior officials from Member States, members of NGOs and other personalities involved in this fight, who have signed our petition to end the detention of migrant children.

However, our work is only just beginning, and as the other rapporteur rightly pointed out, much remains to be done to ensure that all migrant children are properly treated in the best interests of the child in all Council of Europe Member States.

I agree with the rapporteur that we need a common European strategy to combat violence against migrant children, in order to ensure that we will never see any migrant minors behind bars again.

But we must not stop there. We must also prohibit the inhuman practice of invasive age assessment methods, and we must further promote guardianship systems and children's access to all their universal and specific rights. Our Committee will now work on a report on guardianship, which has been entrusted to Mrs GAFAROVA as rapporteur.

Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you all to support the draft resolutions and recommendations adopted by the Commission, and thus to show your firm will and commitment to put an end to violence against migrant children in Europe.

Thank you for your support.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:10:44

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Thank you. The discussion is closed.

We will now proceed to consider the draft resolutions and recommendations on the report entitled Ending violence against children: a Council of Europe contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals, contained in document No. 14894, to which no amendments have been tabled.

We will proceed to the vote.

The ballot is open.

The vote is closed.

The resolution was adopted.

Thank you very much.

We shall now proceed to vote on the draft recommendation contained in document 14894. The required majority is two-thirds of the votes cast.

The ballot is open.

The vote is closed.

The recommendation was adopted unanimously.

We turn to the 2nd report, entitled Stop violence against, and exploitation of, migrant children, contained in document No. 14905.

The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons has presented a draft resolution to which five amendments have been tabled, and a draft recommendation to which one amendment has been tabled.

I have been informed by the Chairperson of the Committee that she wishes to propose to the Assembly that it consider amendments No. 1 to 5 on the draft resolution, which were unanimously adopted by the Committee, as well as by the Assembly.

Is that right, Mr Vice-President?

Vote: Ending violence against children: a Council of Europe contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals / Stop violence against, and exploitation of, migrant children

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:12:59

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Thank you.

Is there any objection?

This is not the case. Amendments number 1 to 5 on the draft resolution were therefore declared definitively adopted.

We can therefore come to the vote on the draft resolution.

The ballot is open.

The vote is closed.

The resolution was adopted unanimously.

Thank you very much.

We will now proceed to consider the draft recommendation contained in the same document, to which an amendment has been tabled. Here too, I have been informed by the President of the Commission that she wishes to propose to the Assembly that it consider Amendment number 6, which was unanimously adopted by the Commission, as adopted by the Assembly.

Is that the case, Mr. Vice President?

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:14:07

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Thank you very much.

Is there any objection?

That is not the case.

Amendment 6 is therefore declared definitively adopted.

We are voting on the draft recommendation, which requires, I remind you, a two-thirds majority.

The ballot is open.

The vote is closed.

The recommendation was adopted unanimously.

My congratulations and thanks.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would remind you that the election for the second round of the election of a judge to the European Court of Human Rights for Germany is underway in the rotunda, behind me. I invite those of you who have not yet done so to go there to vote.

The next item is the debate on the report on the post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria, document No. 14904.

This report will be presented by Mr SCHWABE and Mr NÉMETH on behalf of the Monitoring Committee.

I invite the rapporteurs to go to their places.

As usual, the Commission has a total speaking time of thirteen minutes, which the co-rapporteurs share, at their convenience, between the presentation of the report and the reply to the interventions.

Debate: Post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:16:07

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Mr SCHWABE, you have the floor.

The both of you have 13 minutes in total.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Co-Rapporteur 

16:16:39

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I would like to thank you very much for your help in preparing this report.

First of all to the office of the committee and Agnieszka Nachilo, but also to the good cooperation with the Bulgarian delegation; even if we may not agree on every point in the end. But I think it was a very good cooperation, over a very long time.

Many thanks, for the good support and for the good organization also according to our visitors and the exchange.

It is not always easy to find dates, because there was once again an election; or sometimes with the rapporteurs, if you have two, it is not quite easy to reach an agreement.

But I want to thank Mr Zsolt NÉMETH for the fact that we sometimes had different approaches, but that's also quite good in work to have that sort of difference. At the end have found a report. On the question of what we actually have to do now in the future and how we should deal with Bulgaria accordingly.

I would also like to thank the authorities in Bulgaria who helped us to solve a case of a German citizen who was to be extradited. He was able to return to Turkey but in the end came back to Germany. Unfortunately, there are a number of other cases where I still have to worry about, and one has to take care of them accordingly.

I want to emphasize that we had a close cooperation with the EU mechanism and with the CSM mechanism and were in a very close exchange. One have exchanged with each other on positions correspondingly. Bulgaria is a country that certainly still faces a number of challenges, in terms of the values we have to defend. But there is also a whole series of positive developments and both are reflected accordingly in the report. Positive development, I want to mention in any case the development in the justice sector, although there is still a lot to be done there. But there has been a long-standing demand from this Assembly and the Venice Commission that we get a division in the Supreme Electoral Council; in two chambers between the judges and prosecutors. It's happened by now.

I also want to say that there has been progress in the nomination of the person as a member of the supreme electoral council, but if such a path –that is my assessment– can be taken further, then I believe it will be possible to say in some time that the post-monitoring process will have to be ended. But there is still a lot to be done. I want to call the system of dealing with and seeking refugees, this is  anything but perfect in Bulgaria. In any case, unfortunately for me there are very credible reports of mistreatment of fugitives and also reports of pushbacks of fugitives that are illegal.

I would like –and this is my proposal– for the further procedure to follow the procedure that the monitor has given itself in committee. Namely, to say that we want to end the post-monitoring procedure as far as only a few countries are concerned. We would, however, like to give you the opportunity, in a final report, to list once again the specific points on which we believe that special progress can be expected in the near future because they are particularly urgent.

But should we be able to expect that it will not be so difficult to make progress in this area? From my point of view, there are five points that I want to mention in particular, or six, but five that I want to list. The first is the issue of media freedom. As it says, this continues to be very badly off and Bulgaria is listed on rank 111 by Reporters Without Borders. So it is the worst country within the European Union, there is still a lot to do.

Secondly, I want to mention the issue of the Human rights of minorities, in particular the Roma minority; but also of other minorities, the Turkish minority, where I also believe that there is much to be done and precisely the issue of refugees. There too, I believe, Bulgaria can achieve a significant improvement.

Thirdly, I would like to mention that, unfortunately, hate speeches exist and that, in the past, members of the current Bulgarian Government have made hate speeches; and I think we have to measure Bulgaria against the fact of whether that members of the Government, in particular, refrain from making such hate speeches.

Fourthly, I want to mention the issue of corruption. We have a lot of progress in the area of corruption in the area of the lower ranks but we have in the area of high-ranking corruption again and again evidence that all can not be tackled sensibly and solved. There is a new authority that should dedicate itself to the whole.

To this day, I cannot see that there have been successes, or at least sustainable successes, for this authority. I think we can still wait, at least a year, to see whether this authority works properly. I will mention the theme of the Istanbul Convention. I know this is a particularly difficult and complicated issue in Bulgaria. However, ladies and gentlemen, it cannot be any different from insisting that every country in the Council of Europe ratifies the Istanbul Convention on the Prevention of Violence against Women. That is why I ask for broad support for this report. However, I would also ask you to support my approach in addressing these specific issues again. To give Bulgaria yet another year to devote itself to these issues in particular and, against this background, then to decide whether Bulgaria can be released from post-monitoring, and so I ask you to reject at the end of this motion the amendment, the only one that has been tabled in the spirit of the majority of the committee. Thank you very much, sir.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

16:22:49

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Thank you, Mr Schwabe.

Mr Németh, do you have anything to say or add at this stage?

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EPP/CD, Co-Rapporteur 

16:22:56

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Thank you very much. As we all know, Bulgaria became member of the Council of Europe in 1992. The country has been subject to the monitoring procedure for 6 years, from 1994 to 2000. In 2000, the Assembly decided to close the full monitoring procedure and to open a post-monitoring dialogue with the Bulgarian authorities. Since then, two reports have been submitted by the Monitoring Committee on the progress achieved by Bulgaria: the first in 2010, the other in 2013.

My German colleague, Mr SCHWABE and myself were appointed as co-rapporteurs in 2015 and 2016 respectively. We both carried out three fact-finding missions in Sofia, within the framework of the Post-Monitoring dialogue, in 2015, 2016 and 2018. During our visits, we had the opportunity to meet and talk to numerous representatives of the legislature, the executive power and the judiciary authorities in Bulgaria, including the President, the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament.

I would like to express here my special gratitude to Dzhema GROZDANOVA, the leader of the Bulgarian delegation to the Council of Europe and Agnieszka Nachilo, who has been on behalf of the Secretariat a very important colleague of us.

All of you have the final product of our extensive and comprehensive work as co-rapporteurs in your hands, in the form of the resolution and report.

This moment is crucial: we are arriving at a vital point in the history of the post-monitoring dialogue because we need to vote on these documents at the session of the Parliamentary Assembly. We need to decide whether to continue or to close the post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria after 19 years! I would like to clarify that unfortunately, the two co-rapporteurs we have cooperated very well, but have not been able to come to a common conclusion, in this regard, my position is that this is the right time today to close the post monitoring procedure vis-à-vis Bulgaria.

As many of you may remember the Resolution was discussed and voted during the meeting of the Monitoring Committee in London. The majority of the Committee members, however, supported Opinion 1 of the Resolution against Option 2 with their votes. In other words, the majority of the Committee was in favour of continuing the dialogue with Bulgaria and to assess the progress made in June 2020 only in 6 areas. That is the reason I table with my colleagues the amendment you have got in front of you and I hope you will consider my position.

The overall progress in the fulfilment of Bulgaria`s commitments and obligations cannot be questioned. Bulgaria has made substantial progress since the adoption of the last report on the post-monitoring dialogue. It has partly introduced the legislation which –with several exceptions– complies with Council of Europe standards and has addressed several concerns formulated by the Assembly and other monitoring mechanisms.

I think that we all should consider these findings as strong and positive signs of the firm commitment of Bulgaria towards meeting the Council of Europe expectations and implementing the highly desired and needed reforms.

At the same time, we agree with and accept the fact that further steps, including legislative changes –where relevant– still need to be undertaken by Bulgaria in certain areas. The most criticism addressed to the Bulgarian authorities relates to the fields of the judiciary, Human rights and organised crime.

Nevertheless, I strongly believe that we need to show trust and give credit to Bulgaria because of its tremendous efforts to ensure the sustainability and the irreversibility of the reforms that taken place so far.

Currently, only 3 countries are still engaged in the post-monitoring dialogue: North Macedonia, Montenegro and Bulgaria.

The post-monitoring procedure is limited to them. Please, everybody be aware of the bitter fact that Bulgaria is the country with which the Council of Europe has the longest history of monitoring –7 years between 1994 and 2000– and post-monitoring procedure, 19 years between 2001 and 2019. In total: 16 years, more than two and a half decades!

It is high time to re-evaluate our post-monitoring practice as well.

It is clear and obvious that, during the transition period following the change of regime, the monitoring, as a mechanism, proved to be very useful. It has been a help and assistance in the hands of the Council of Europe. Let me add to this, that it has been –and I believe continues to be– a vital mechanism for reinforcing democratic processes in Council of Europe Member States.

However, at the same time, we need to stress that decades have past since then and let me express my fear: a negative decision today might also result in a disappointment and probably it might endanger those positive trends which are happening in the country. It is worth mentioning at this point that Bulgaria has been under the EU so-called Co-Operation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), so the European Commission's own monitoring process is an ongoing process under the umbrella of the EU and its scope and purpose largely covers this procedure about what we are expected to make “verdict” today.

I would like to underline that the 2018 Annual CVM Report for Bulgaria –for the first time since 2008– temporarily closed 3 of the 6 benchmarks (independence of the judiciary, legislative framework, fight against organised crime). Based on the results, the Commission has anticipated the closure of the CVM for Bulgaria before the end of its mandate in a few months time.

Dear colleagues, finally, I would like to express that I am convinced that all these facts and signs show and lead to the same direction: clearly demonstrate the strong commitment of the Bulgarian government to carry out the necessary reforms and for that very reason I would like to suggest to you the closing of the procedure we are discussing. Thank you very much for your attention.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

16:30:10

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Thank you Mr Zsolt NÉMETH.

Two co-rapporteurs have finished up all their time, but if you have an urgent need to speak, at the end of the debate we'll look at that. So, we go to the speaker's list. 

In the debate I call first upon Mr Stefan SCHENNACH. The floor is yours.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Spokesperson for the group 

16:30:32

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Thank you Mrs. Chairman.

Thank you for this excellent report, which we have the opportunity to discuss here today. But we had discussed a report about Malta; about the murder of a journalist. I'd like to put a name here now: Victoria Marinova, 30 years old, Bulgarian journalist, investigative journalist, TVN television journalist. She just wanted to finalise a report on corruption and fraud involving EU funds. She's been beaten, raped and strangled; and just dumped like a piece of garbage. Until that's cleared up, we can't close this post-monitoring. Reporters without borders, including those who are actively involved in the Daphne Caruana case, say that there is no difference.

They researched this, and they don't see the difference. We cannot get out of a post-monitoring without clarifying who was behind this bestial murder of a young journalist who has done nothing but research on very, very sensitive issues related to corruption and fraud.

If we take paragraph 22 of this report from here, which says that we have to look into the justice system again this year, then we will have to do so. Again in the area of corruption, the media, human rights and minorities, hate speech and violence against women. I would just like to remind you that we have adopted the Istanbul Convention here. Once again: Bulgaria is not willing to sign the Istanbul Convention; to do everything possible to prevent domestic violence, violence at work or elsewhere by joining a convention; one is not ready for the termination of post-monitoring. These, I believe, are the Council of Europe's basic conditions, and if we regard media freedom and the protection of the media landscape as one of the most valuable things in democracy, then we need enlightenment. And a murdered young journalist; the non-accession to the Istanbul Convention; still the constant hate speeches; that's all from the same can and that should be clarified in this one year in which one should continue to work on post-monitoring.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

16:33:44

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Now I call upon Mr Krasimir BOGDANOV, on behalf of the EC Group.

Mr Krasimir BOGDANOV

Bulgaria, EC, Spokesperson for the group 

16:33:51

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Madam president, dear colleagues.

The European Conservatives Group asked me to present our view on the post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria. This procedure began 19 years ago. A very long period.

Now the Assembly has the opportunity to decide whether Bulgaria deserves confidence following its democratic development without such supervision. The report actually assesses the progress made by Bulgaria and acknowledges that most of the requirements of previous-based resolution have been met. The Monitoring Committee now proposes extending the procedure by another year. But even the rapporteurs have not reached a consensus on this matter.

Newer issues are being raised, which Bulgaria has to resolve. As a representative in the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, which is part of the government coalition in Bulgaria, I would like to react to an issue in the report and this is the claim of hate speech against Macedonians in Bulgaria. In fact, this is simply impossible because at family level almost all Bulgarians are close relatives to Macedonians. Bulgaria was the first in the world to recognise the independence of the Republic of North Macedonia and actively supported it along the way to NATO and the European Union.

In conclusion, on behalf of the European Conservatives Group, I call on all of you to support the amendment to close the post-monitoring of Bulgaria and continue the dialogue by means of periodic review of several issues. I think this is a fair solution.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

16:36:19

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Thank you, Mr Krasimir BOGDANOV.

Now I call upon Mr Jokin BILDARRATZ from the ALDE Group. 

Mr Jokin BILDARRATZ

Spain, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group 

16:36:26

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Thank you very much, President.

I speak on behalf of the ALDE Group, and I would like to express my gratitude to the rapporteurs for the excellent work done.

There is a question that is very important. There is, indeed, a division regarding the solutions to be given to this particular issue. But it's very important for us to evaluate positively that there is, if you like, a joint diagnosis of the situation as well. This is very important.

And I indeed think that we need to give time for this diagnosis to overcome a series of questions, of issues, that are very important for the Council of Europe. That is to say, we need to resolve issues — where we completely agree in ALDE — that need to be treated with special sensitivity, and this has also been transmitted to us from minority groups in Bulgaria. The treatment towards minorities, which is the main aim of hate speech towards Jews, Muslims, Romanies and Turks. These are issues that have to be dealt with, because it fall within the three key issues of the Council of Europe: democracy, Human Rights and rule of law. This is very fundamental.

Now, the media. In the particular ties between government, opposition, society, NGOs and social agencies, the media is a basic element to create a real democratic support. And if the media, as stated in the report, is owned by one particular group in the country, this leads us to a situation of great concern. If 90% of professionals are being  pressured by politicians, in order to issue some sort of message or behaviour, there is a very serious issue here.

I think it's very important to emphasize what's positive as well. It's important to encourage, to motivate Bulgaria, so that it continues to work in the right direction. Towards that main goal that we all share: for no country to be under monitoring. However, we think that maintaining dialogue is very important, in order to overcome the problems that exist. This doesn't mean that we do not agree. All of this can also mean that Bulgaria could be experiencing in recent years a series of political tensions, and a political climate, that are making important reforms very difficult to undertake.  We must motivate. And it is ok if, during this year, we work with the Bulgarian institutions so that next year, we may achieve important advances.

Thank you very much. 

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

16:40:00

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Thank you Mr Jokin BILDARRATZ. I call upon Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS from the EPP Group. The floor is yours.

Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group 

16:40:10

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Thank you.

Madam Chairperson, we are talking today about the country which, as a rapporteur said, has the longest history of different monitoring procedures. Monitoring, now post-monitoring. We are really discussing here one question. To stop post-monitoring dialogue and to say that Bulgaria is a full democracy or to continue looking for excuses for why we cannot say finally yet. I know what we can find in each country. Some negatives and positives. If necessary we can list the full democracies which are not investigating the murder of journalists very successfully. We can find, in the countries we call full democracies, where minority rights are not fully implemented.

So it depends on how we want to see the country. You know, in this Assembly I'm always saying that we have technical questions but we also have political questions, moral questions. We cannot judge the country or measure the democracy of the country only by technical means. How many elections they have, how many political parties they have. Because in each country we also have some spirit of democracy. I'm feeling if the country really wants to be or aims to be democratic or is it still waiting for miracles. Balancing between democratic and not necessarily democratic system. So Bulgaria is the country which very clearly, I would say, wants to be democratic. It's the only European Union country which is still under some kind of monitoring. Really I do not see the major obstacles why not to say to this country yes. To encourage, not to punish. Now we're punishing a little bit. Maybe one more year, two more years. Maybe something else.

But let's be courageous. This is the country which really made huge progress. I remember how this country looked in late 90s after some political crisis. But the progress is significant. So I'm speaking on behalf of EPP Group. In the group meeting we decided we are proposing to support the finalised post-monitoring dialogue and finally say this country is democratic. Of course we can invent a different one year monitoring procedure or something else to be sure that things are not going to get worse. My suggestion on behalf of the group is really to support, to finish the post-monitoring dialogue. Thank you.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

16:43:11

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Thank you, Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS. And then we go to the main list of speakers. First on the list is Mr Frédéric REISS from France.

Mr Frédéric REISS

France, EPP/CD 

16:43:22

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Thank you, Madam President,

Dear Colleagues,

Rapporteurs, thank you very much for your relevant and balanced work on Bulgaria, a country that I discovered with the friendship group of the French National Assembly.

The post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria has led to substantial progress, particularly in the field of criminal procedure. This shows, if necessary, the usefulness of parliamentary work in our organizsation. It is not a question of stigmatising, but of encouraging and supporting countries that are experiencing difficulties.

Despite this clear progress, problems remain in the judicial field. I would like to stress the need to develop adequate initial and continuing training for judges, which would enable the Bulgarian judicial system to progress. The cooperation programmes of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ) are very useful in this respect. Professional and effective judges are a guarantee of judicial independence.

Filling the gaps raised in the report is in Bulgaria's interest. Indeed, it is not just a question of the rule of law or criminal procedure, but also of creating a climate conducive to attracting more investors.

However, some of the points raised in the report seem to me to be more worrying.

Firstly, the fact that politicians can - often with impunity - hold hate speech against certain members of minorities, and I am thinking, of course, of the Roma, but not only.

Dear Bulgarian colleagues, as members of our Assembly, you must be vigilant in the face of the development of racism or ethnic hatred, including on social networks. In France we are about to adopt a law to combat incitement to hatred on the Internet. Here at PACE, the Alliance against Hate is a strong reminder of our founders' formula "never again". I am committed to dialogue and it seems to me that this type of public statement is an obstacle to living together and integrating minority communities.

Bulgaria has long given an important place to women, including in political life, as Mayor of the capital, or Speaker of Parliament. Yet violence against women remains a scourge. In this context, the Constitutional Court's decision on the Istanbul Convention, which prevents any ratification, is a problem, and Mr SCHWABE stressed this point. While I welcome the amendments to the Criminal Code adopted in 2019 to improve the legal protection of women, Bulgarian women should not be excluded from the rights guaranteed by our Convention.

The various opinion surveys have shown Bulgarians' commitment to Europe and our values, including the rule of law.

Dear Bulgarian friends, your country has real potential to contribute to the objectives of sustainable development. I'm sure you won't disappoint us.

Thank you.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

16:46:25

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Thank you, Mr Reiss.

Next on our speaker list is Ms Dzhema GROZDANOVA from Bulgaria. The floor is yours.

Ms Dzhema GROZDANOVA

Bulgaria, EPP/CD 

16:46:32

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Madam President.

First I need to give some answers to Mr Stefan SCHENNACH, Mr Frédéric REISS and Mr Jokin BILDARRATZ. Mr Stefan SCHENNACH made two very incorrect accusations. First is that we didn't find who stands behind the murder of journalist Viktoria Marinova. We found it and this person is under an active verdict of 30 years in prison.

Secondly,  we cannot now ratify the Istanbul Convention because we have a decision of the Constitutional Court. This is the Rule of law gentlemen. Mr Jokin BILDARRATZ, I want to assure you that we are encouraged enough and motivated and you're speaking about Bulgaria as though we are around the North Pole.

And now I want to thank both rapporteurs. Thank you for your job. Together with the Council of Europe we really passed through a long journey and we are grateful for the support and for the cooperation throughout the years by means of different mechanisms and the advisory role of the Venice Commission. We reached a certain level of development because of the support of international organisations as well as the desire and will of the Bulgarian people. This is very important because no one can force on anyone what they do not want. And nor can they force the impossible as well. I say this because throughout the years, in reports and resolutions, there have been and there still are impossible requirements. We all know that in order to achieve development there is the need for understanding, not for compromise, for understanding. This session proves this. In order for all of us to continue to towards a global goal we need to show understanding. Only time can show whether we made the right decision. Usually the decisions of the majority are the right ones. The more opinions coincide, the greater the legitimacy. Wasn't this why the number of rapporteurs for the post-monitoring dialogue was raised from a single one to two? So there could be more appreciation and better results.

It is a fact that the rapporteurs for Bulgaria disagreed on their positions significantly. What does it show? Different points of view? Or influence by information from different official and unofficial sources? This colleagues is a problem for the monitoring procedures in this Assembly. There is always a subjective factor. The important thing is for these reports and resolutions to have their positive effect. And they do. Bulgaria, through the Council of Europe, met the criteria for European Union membership, and last year we carried out our first presidency of the Council of the European Union. No international institution has not acknowledged that. Time has told us that the decision for our membership of the EU was correct. So please, I now stand in front of you for your support, for support from the region, from the neighbours who know us and from all of you. Thank you.

 

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

16:49:56

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Thank you, Ms GROZDANOVA. Next in our list is Mr AVETISYAN from Armenia. Is he here in the hemisphere? No? Then we go to Mr Dzheyhan IBRYAMOV from Bulgaria. The floor is yours.

Mr Dzheyhan IBRYAMOV

Bulgaria, ALDE 

16:50:15

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Colleagues, we highly value the commitments of the Council of Europe. Exactly for this reason, monitoring reports of this organisation, are of particular importance and they actually show the state of democracy in their respective countries. Because young democracies adjust their watches in them. We all know that the Assembly does not make legally binding decisions, but makes recommendations and requires governments to respect Human rights and democracy. As a representative of Bulgaria I would like the monitoring reports to be dropped with the relevant remarks. But as a convinced liberal, as a member of the Movement for Rights and Freedom and a member of ALDE, I'm very worried. In this case we're worried about the things that are not mentioned in the report. In Bulgaria extreme nationalists who encouraged the outburst of fascism in public life have been improved to be in the parliament. I will give you a few examples. Which country which did not get a positive outcome from the Second World War has fascist processions every single year? In which country is the celebration of the birthday of the Nazi leader organised annually? Is there another country in which hate language has become a political language? Unfortunately we did not find this in this PACE report. Precisely because we find PACE's recommendations to be really valuable and we would be glad if in the following reports, if there are any, such events are reflected. On the contrary, the report contains inaccurate data obtained through so-called NGOs that do not represent civil society in Bulgaria but certain corporate and political interests. For example, the name of a member of the MRF parliamentary group appears in the report. It is based on fake and incorrect information. Unfortunately there is not a single true anti-discrimination court case in Bulgaria in spite of the report noting that there is discrimination. Examples of such actions, and there are dozens, would take time to list. I'll stop here because I don't want to bother you any more with these sad facts. Thank you.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

16:52:49

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Thank you, Mr IBRYAMOV. Next on our list is Ms Milena DAMYANOVA from Bulgaria. The floor is yours.

Ms Milena DAMYANOVA

Bulgaria, EPP/CD 

16:52:58

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Thank you, Madam President,

Dear colleagues,

The Assembly's monitoring and post-monitoring dialogue procedure aims to establish a dialogue between the national delegation and the monitoring committee. Like any dialogue, the conversation should be held between two or more people. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more evidence that the committee is insisting that its views be implemented unconditionally without a thorough examination of the country's arguments.

This is, I believe, the example of the draft resolution on post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria. It is quite revealing that there is not even a common opinion of the two rapporteurs in this case, but each of them remains in its position on the same issue.

I would like to address the issue of the recommendation on minority rights. Bulgaria ratified in 1999, and has been implementing the Council of Europe Framework Convention on National Minorities for 20 years now. As we know, the Council of Europe has not formulated a definition of what a national minority is. Such a definition is missing in the convention. Nor is such a definition included in the Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria, which was examined and approved by the Council of Europe upon our admission to the Organisation.

However, a wide range of communities of ethnic origin other than Bulgarian benefit from the rights of the Convention. Now, opening Pandora's box and asking Bulgaria to recognise some minorities and not recognise others would lead to conflicts. It is neither appropriate nor an objective to which we aspire.

The assertion that there is hate speech against Macedonians in our country borders on absurdity. Bulgaria has supported and continues to support the Republic of Northern Macedonia's path to NATO and European Union membership.

With regard to the Istanbul Convention, as you know, our government signed the Convention, but in Bulgaria, political forces and public opinion split during the ratification process. The Constitutional Court has stated that, in this form, the Convention is in contradiction with the Bulgarian Constitution and should not be ratified. For its part, the National Assembly approved and amended the Bulgarian Penal Code, which aims to protect women from all forms of violence and to prevent, persecute and abolish violence against women and domestic violence.

Unfortunately, we do not see any real dialogue with the Monitoring Committee on the situation in Bulgaria on these issues. We do not perceive and do not want to accept this committee as a judge, but as a partner.

That is why we would like this procedure, which is already 19 years long, to end today and continue with a new equal dialogue as part of the periodic reviews carried out by the committee on the subjects concerned.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

16:56:00

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Merci, Madame DAMYANOVA and dear colleagues,

I just want to remind you that it's now nearly 5 o'clock. The ballot to elect the judge to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Germany is about to close.

Anyone who still wishes to vote should go immediately to the area behind the President's Chair.

The counting of votes will take place under the supervision of the tellers. I invite Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU, Mr John HOWELL, Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV and Mr Ali ŞAHİN to go at once to meet behind the President's chair.

If possible, the results will be announced before the end of the sitting this afternoon.

The vote closes at 5. Thank you.

 

So that concluded our speakers list and we have found some minutes for our rapporteurs. Each of you have, if you wish, two minutes, dearest rapporteurs. And I call upon Mr NÉMETH to reply now. Thank you. 

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EPP/CD, Co-Rapporteur 

16:57:08

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Dear colleagues.

Thank you very much for the interventions.

First of all, I would like to express to you that I'm sorry that we couldn't come to a common position with Mr SCHWABE. It would have been easier for you to follow our recommendation. I am convinced that there is no reason to maintain the post-monitoring towards an EU member state for 19 years. There are, as I told, two other countries in this process, for very particular reasons. Macedonia, we all know why. And Montenegro, arrived late.

But to keep Bulgaria in this position, it is just something which is totally useless, I'm convinced, for another year. There is not any legislative development which will happen in the next coming years and we can exercise political influence on the country through the periodic review, so I would personally suggest to you, as the rapporteur of the country, to decide now and let us come back to this very important matter which have been raised by all of you in the context of the periodic review.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

16:58:40

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Thank you, Mr NÉMETH. Mr SCHWABE, do you have anything to say this stage?

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Co-Rapporteur 

16:58:46

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Thank you very much Madam President.

So on one thing although we have some things in common, on one thing we totally disagree. This is the question if what we do here in the Council of Europe is a punishment or it's a chance for countries to be better. So it's really not a punishment. If we really think it's a punishment to have a kind of monitoring or post-monitoring or whatever, then I don't know what we do as an organisation. Then we don't need to do our jobs. I just ask for the foreseen procedure implemented under the chair of Mr Dzhema. This was to say, okay can we finish now? Or do we have some issues we would like to specify? Do we think that a country can be better, can do it better if we focus on these issues? And say at the end, after a period of maybe one year, to say okay, we can finish now or we cannot finish. I think there is the possibility to finish if Bulgaria fulfils some of those issues.

It's a question, again, of media freedom. It's in position 111, the last place in the European Union. We have the situation of hate speech. For sure there is hate speech. There's hate speech from high politicians in the country and I asked them, members of the government, to refrain from it. Not to make hate speeches. This is not too much. I asked them to do everything against higher level corruption. I would like to check and to control if the newly implemented agency will do the work.

For sure, I'm sorry, I understand the difficult situation about the Istanbul Convention. But when this organisation doesn't insist on implementing the very important Convention of this organisation and the Istanbul Convention, that is maybe one of the most important conventions, then I don't know what we should do with these issues. And again, this is in the procedures. What I understand and I ask you for, is one more year to look into these specific issues. Because of this I ask you not to vote in favour of the amendment. Thank you very much.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:00:54

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Thank you, Mr SCHWABE. Does the Chairperson of the Monitoring Committee wish to speak?

The debate is then closed. The Monitoring Committee has presented a draft resolution to which one amendment has been tabled, Document 14904, and we will now consider that Amendment.

I call Ms Dzhema GROZDANOVA to support Amendment No. 1. You have 30 seconds.

Vote: Post-monitoring dialogue with Bulgaria

Ms Dzhema GROZDANOVA

Bulgaria, EPP/CD 

17:01:22

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Madam President, thank you.

As I said, together with the Council of Europe, we passed through a long journey but we should acknowledge the real progress of Bulgaria, not because of me, not because of the Bulgarian politicians, but because of the Bulgarian citizens and for their self-esteem. It's very strange that Mr SCHWABE quoted Mr SCHENNACH because Mr SCHENNACH said incorrect things.

Thank you, please support the amendment.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:01:54

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Thank you, Ms GROZDANOVA.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

Mr SCHWABE, you have 30 seconds.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Co-Rapporteur 

17:02:05

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Sorry to say this, but we had very good cooperation. I didn't quote Mr SCHENNACH's speech. I said he was a Chair of the Committee when they implement the rules and I just asked you to follow the rules and not play other games here. I asked this Assembly to follow their own given rules, and the rule was to say let's look into some issues.

I mentioned - I don't want to mention it again - this is in being the rules and I think we can better the situation in Bulgaria with this kind of procedure and because of this I asked you not to vote in favour, but to vote against this amendment.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:02:37

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Thank you, Mr SCHWABE. What is the opinion of the Monitoring Committee?

Sir Roger GALE

United Kingdom, EC 

17:02:41

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The Committee was opposed by 11 votes to 6.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:02:45

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Thank you.

I shall now put the amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

...

The vote is now closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

The amendment is rejected by two votes.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in document 14904.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result. 

The draft resolution is amended and adopted - I'm sorry adopted.

Thank you.

Then we conclude this debate and I want to thank all the participants to that debate.

The next item of business this afternoon is a debate on the report entitled “Shedding light on the murder of Boris Nemtsov”, document 14902, presented by Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. 

I call Mr ZINGERIS, the rapporteur, to present the report. And maybe we will wait a few moments for that.

...

Mr ZINGERIS? Mr ZINGERIS.... is approaching and we move to the next item, the debate on the report "Shedding light on the murder of Boris Nemtsov".

I call Mr ZINGERIS, the rapporteur, to present the report.

Mr ZINGERIS, you have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between the presentation of the report and the reply to the debate.

Are you ready, Mr ZINGERIS? Or do you want to catch your breath?

 

Debate: Shedding light on the murder of Boris Nemtsov

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD, Rapporteur 

17:06:46

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I hope that my colleagues from the committee will arrive very soon. I will not misuse your time friends and we'll start in a revolutionary way by being alone, but I heard that they are now in the elevator.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:07:02

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Do you want us to wait a little bit, Mr ZINGERIS?

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD 

17:07:04

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Yes. (Ms BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR: Let's just do that.) Yes, OK.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:07:07

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(Mr ZINGERIS: I'm sorry, it's my joke). Let's wait for two or three minutes and catch your breath and we will just wait for two minutes or so.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD 

17:07:12

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I can easily start. Well, I'm a philologist and I can speak easily.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:09:33

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Mr ZINGERIS, are you ready to start or do you want us to wait a little bit?

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD 

17:09:39

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I would like to say that a part of my delegation left today to my home country for yesterday's reasons. I continue to be here because the Boris Nemtsov report was prepared for years and years and they should be here preparing the overview and evaluation of this key hero of a pro-democracy and pro-European Russia who was killed. How do we see that from a political background and for political reasons in front of the Kremlin? So I would like to present this report being friendly to Russia. If you allow me Madam speaker, probably in Russian language. That will show our goodwill to Russia and that we are accepting Russian culture like a part of European culture. I'm talking about Russian culture not about current political developments in Russia. So from my point of view, if you allow me, I will switch to Russian language. If you have translation here in Russian I will try to do that in Russian language in honour of Mr Nemtsov who was a pro-European Russian democrat. If you allow me to do this gesture. Okay? Okay. So I'm just doing this report for a reason, for years, and supported by the Bureau of our Assembly. The reason Mr Nemtsov himself was not only five times elected as a member of Russian parliament in Boris Yeltsin's time. One of the first leading democrats. He was Prime Minister of Russia. Actually a Member of the Yaroslavl Parliament in the moment of this terrible killing and especially because the court case in Russia was not very clear, not very independent during the investigation. Now I will just switch to Russian language if you allow me to go ahead.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD, Rapporteur 

17:12:08

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I simply wanted to point out that over the last couple of days, we have certain indications that there were certain loopholes in the entire issue in the particular investigation concerning NEMTSOV. So of course, we have to look at this particular situation understanding that it was a very, very cruel murder, assassination; something which took place to a certain extent unprecedented at the time that it took place.

Now, what do we see when we look at this situation? What we see essentially is that the courts decided. Well, there were five Chechens that were condemned, imprisoned. The entire investigation was conducted without considering that what had taken place was a political killing and that it required a special type of investigation process, which did not take place. It was looked at as a simple, criminal case. And this is, of course, totally unacceptable. An investigation of this particular high-level, political nature requires special treatment and that is foreseen in legislation, but that did not take place.

So, at this point, I think it is quite clear that what took place and the type of investigation that followed was not appropriate. So what we would call for is for the case to be opened once again in Moscow, and what we want is for some sort of cooperation to exist between the Assembly and the judicial authorities in the Russian Federation.

Yesterday, documents were presented to the Head of the Russian Delegation and, of course, it's quite clear that there were very, very diverging points of view concerning Russia - as we saw yesterday on a number of different issues - one of which included putting into those particular conditions, the issue of NEMTSOV and the investigation into the assassination of Mr NEMTSOV. 

Unfortunately, the various requests that have been made by a number of different international organisations to have this particular case reopened, reanalysed and reinvestigated have not received any positive responses.

And I would like to say that I, as rapporteur, and Mr OMTZIGT and a number of other individuals have been declared personas non grata in the Russian Federation for having opened this particular issue.

Now, I think it is quite clear that there have been issues of a similar nature that require further examination; for example, the case of MH-17. There again we see either dragging of feet or non-cooperation of the Russian authorities on these particular issues.

But coming back to the assassination of Mr NEMTSOV, we have to make quite clear that this was a political assassination. And once again, we call for the reopening of this case with the cooperation, of course, and assistance of the Assembly and the OSCE as well. 

And that is essentially what we are calling for behind this particular report and I would like to thank you very much for your attention at this point. Thank you.

 

 

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:16:55

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Thank you, Mr ZINGERIS. You have some minutes left for your final words if you choose to do so, around five minutes or so.

And in the debate I call first up, Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER, speaking on behalf of the EC group. The floor is yours.

Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER

United Kingdom, EC, Spokesperson for the group 

17:17:15

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Madam President, thank you very much indeed.

This is a very important debate. The most important thing that any parliamentarian can do is protect the citizens of their country. Where there are crimes perpetrated, as members of parliament, we must always try to get to the bottom of what has happened.

I would like to thank Mr ZINGERIS. This is not an easy report and it is a crucial report because, in shedding light on the murder of Boris NEMTSOV, we need to know what has happened. He was a brave and talented man and I believe a great patriot to his country.

I am, however, very worried about the fact that after four years this cruel and - dare I say - very public murder, the events of that night has still not properly been investigated. And, above all, the participants of this crime have yet to be brought to justice.

Colleagues, we live in a very modern type of world seemingly protected by equipment such as high-tech security systems, mobile phones and all the other stuff that we use today, which means we can be tracked and traced very easily, regardless of which country we are in. And, therefore, I find it very hard to believe that we are still not able to look back to establish the events of February 27th, the last days Mr NEMTSOV's life. I cannot believe - and I will take advice on this - there are no surveillance cameras so close to the Kremlin. And five Chechen guys walking next to the Kremlin with a gun. You know, come on everyone, I think we've got to look at reality in the face.

Can I say just on behalf of my group, colleagues, I'd like to express my deepest concern for the situation and that some parts of this investigation are literally being kept secret and away from public scrutiny - and parliamentary scrutiny. That is why I think now it is absolutely vital we reopen our own independent examination on this particular case. And the rapporteur, I would urge, needs full access to the Russian Federation to investigate and scrutinise this, and I would ask Russian colleagues to listen carefully. Therefore, I do ask members of the Russian Federation who are now back here and enjoying their rights in the Assembly - absolutely right - to use this opportunity to help us speak out and help us to find who is actually standing behind this crime.

Moreover, there is a vast number of inconsistencies in this investigation conducted by the Russian authorities. May I ask colleagues why we didn't have any amendments tabled by the Russian Federation or anyone else? They're perfectly in their right not to, of course, I do accept that. And if people disagree we should come to this place to say why and wherefore what we'll do about it. Can I, above all, assure our Russian colleagues that, in this place, you have the right of political immunity and we look after that and we cherish that ability to speak out. And I do the say to them, nobody has worries back home because you are part of this. Let's slowly investigate this properly. 

Thank you, Madam President.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:20:28

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Thank you, Mr LIDDELL-GRAINGER.

Next on our speaker list is Mr Martin POLIAČIK, from the ALDE group. The floor is yours.

Mr Martin POLIAČIK

Slovak Republic, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group 

17:20:36

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Thank you, Madam President.

The ALDE Group was and is particularly shocked with the gruesome murder of our friend and ally Boris Nemtsov. Some ALDE members had the honour to know him personally. He was a friend and a frank and fearless person who fought for a free Russia. In many ways, Nemtsov embodied the hopes and opportunities of the Russian people after the fall of communism. His murder, the most blatant political assassination of the recent Russian history, cast a dark shadow on the aspirations of Russian citizens for a free and just society.

This murder is, unfortunately, in line with previous murders of journalists and other prominent activists over the past decade that have been killed in cold blood. These so-called apprehensions of the five Chechen men are, unfortunately, also in line with the official investigations of previous political murders. Various aspects of the investigation and the prosecution's case give rise to serious concerns about the independence and effectiveness of the authority's efforts to identify and prosecute all the participants in this crime, including its instigators and organisers.

It is obvious that this murder is not a coincidence. It is the consequence of a climate of fear, state intimidation and continuous infringement of freedom of speech and political rights. Boris Nemtsov was a prominent voice for democracy and for the Russian liberal and progressive movement. He also was a successful region reformer, a daring cabinet minister resolved to fight the influence of the oligarchs. He was the face of a more hopeful and modern Russia.

In all his actions, he always stood firm on his principles, despite repeated arrests and peaceful rallies and despite being physically attacked by pro-Kremlin groups and despite being attacked as a traitor by state-controlled media. He would not relent. He was well known and had broad support among the Russian people. This made him dangerous. Thus, he was silenced the only way he could be. Murdered a stone's throw away from the Kremlin in broad daylight.

Boris Nemtsov was one of the most outstanding political figures in post-Soviet Russia. This murder is a culminating point of an ongoing climate of hate and violence. It is a direct reflection of the actions of the anti-democratic forces that dominate Russian politics. The memory of our long-time friend is ours, and we shall not stop until the true murderers and organisers of this crime are found and placed in the hands of justice. The best homage that we as an Assembly can render to Boris Nemtsov is to continue his fight for a free and democratic Russia.

The ALDE group urges Russian authorities to create the conditions for an independent and effective investigation into this shameful crime. We are happy that this report is finally discussed, although we think it would deserve a more prominent time slot on this agenda. We do remember the unusual length of the reference of this motion signed by 53 members of the Assembly. It took more than a year to finally appoint a rapporteur.

It is in the interest of all, and in first instance the Russian people, that you'll support his allies in Russia and continue his fight. The people of Russia deserve a just and free society where opposing positions are shared without fear of prosecution and death. Democracy will prevail in the end.

Thank you.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:24:36

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Thank you, Mr POLIAČIK. Next, I call upon Mr Andreas NICK, for the EPP group. The floor is yours.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD 

17:24:53

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Madame president,

Dear colleagues,

The fact that the murder of Boris Nemtsov concerns not only Russia, but goes beyond, I believe has two main causes:

The first reason is because of who Boris Nemtsov was; a prominent opposition leader, a former Deputy Prime Minister, speaker of the Duma, regional Governor of Nizhny Novgorod. He was a distinguished political personality in the Russian Federation, who was certainly controversial. And of course, there is a Foundation today, based in Bonn, in my home country, which commemorates his legacy and his political work.

The second reason, of course, lies in the special circumstances of his murder. On the 27th of February 2015, on the bridge over the Moskva River, immediately in front of the Kremlin wall. That is where he was murdered. In November, as part of a visit to Moscow, I was also at the place of the murder, where flowers and letters commemorate this murder on a daily basis. So, it is something that moves many people in Russia, very deeply, to this day. The circumstances surrounding this murder - and this is mentioned accordingly in the report - await a comprehensive clarification of the background.

I expressly welcome the fact that we are having this discussion today, and also, that we are leading it in the presence of our Russian colleagues, who are once again members of our Parliamentry Assembly. I would like to point out that a comprehensive clarification of this case can help to create trust, and also, a better relationship in the future. I want to emphasise — and this is important to me once again — that this is not a particular accusation against a country, a people, or against its government. We are discussing, and this has been mentioned several times in this debate, the politically motivated murders of journalists and politicians in many countries. In Malta, Slovakia and Bulgaria as well. When there are such cases, we need to make sure we have measures, and we need to have these discussions, including the one that we are having here now.

I want to address my own country as well. We are in shock, still, after the murder of Walter Lübcke; a district president in Hesse, the neighboring state to mine, who was murdered in cold blood by a right-wing extremist. He decided to kill him on the terrace of his own home late at night. Behind this, there are apparently right-wing radical networks, which are motivated by hate speech, are very interested in persecuting those who think differently in political terms, and communicate a lot over social media.

Whatever divides us politically, in this Assembly, there are also matters that should bring us together. When we are talking about politicians or journalists, just because they take a critical position, nothing justifies their murder or harassment. Everything that serves the purpose of enlightenment, helps to pacify this situation.

Thank you very much.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:28:12

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Thank you, Mr NICK. I call upon Mr Martin WHITFIELD to speak on behalf of the Socialist Group. The floor is yours.

Mr Martin WHITFIELD

United Kingdom, SOC, Spokesperson for the group 

17:28:20

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Thank you, Madam President. And may I thank the rapporteur for what is a full report on what is a very complex situation.

Boris, a true internationalist, Europhile, known by so many around the world and indeed by people within this hemicycle. A figurehead of the political opposition in the Russian Federation. A man described to me by people who knew him as someone who personified the values, morals and aspirations of this organisation. A man who had the potential to offer not just Russia, this organisation and indeed possibly the whole world, an insight into the values we should all aspire to. A man whose potential was cut short on the 27 February 2015 with his murder.

The question of the assassination is, of course, mired in confusion and this report does set out a coherent synopsis of the known events. But what is not beyond question is the very poor quality of the investigation that followed. This report sets out clear recommendations which must be followed and, in the light of trust-building, that really must take place. This is the golden opportunity to show that all who sit here share the ideals of the rule of law, democracy and human rights. These recommendations should be followed.

And on that point, I was informed that last night a member of the Russian Federation delegation said to the media, with its voting on the amendments to the adopted report, which were rejected by a qualified majority of the Parliamentary Assembly in the Council of Europe, they took a significant step to recognise Crimea as Russian, and this has been made by the Member States of the Council of Europe. This is wrong. On behalf of the Socialist Group, may I say, the ratification of the credentials does not alter the view of our political group and, indeed, I hope this Parliamentary Assembly, that the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation has to be strongly condemned as a clear violation of international law and the Council of Europe Statutes.

We will not provide cover for human rights abuse, failure of the rule of law or democracy. We will defend them. We will defend them because that is why we sit here in this hemicycle.

(APPLAUSE)

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:30:56

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Thank you, Mr WHITFIELD. Then I would like to ask Mr Tiny KOX if he is ready to speak on behalf of the UEL group.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, Spokesperson for the group 

17:31:04

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I apologise, Madam Chair, that I was late. That is of course unacceptable. These days are a bit busy, so sorry for that, and you had to preside so that I have to take the floor.

The murder of  Boris Nemtsov shocked many citizens in Russia and also outside Russia. The murder of a politician draws extra attention, not because it's from a higher level but because any murder is of course unacceptable. But the politicians are also representing people. If you kill a politician, then you more or less also kill those who he represents. Not only the murder shocked but also the way the prosecution took place, the investigation took place and the trial and the results of the trial.

There are still very many questions in Russia but also outside Russia. In that respect, it is good for an organisation which looks at human rights, which includes the right to live and the right to fair trials to draft a report on this.

Nevertheless, there are some questions with regard to what the report brings us. I'll come to that later. Boris Nemtsov was a relevant politician. I had the pleasure to meet him several times in Russia and outside Russia. I think that it is not good to make an enormous hero of Boris Nemtsov because he should not be remembered as that. He was a relevant politician, a minister who became a member of the opposition and played a relevant role in demonstrations that were organised, meetings that were organised, and it was good. It was a part of the beginning of Russian democracy. That was Boris Nemtsov. Don't make a hero of him. He was a politician. Murdering a politician is bad enough. We do not have to invent stories. The whole story is the murder of a politician. That is the story and it should have been investigated in a proper way.

The problem which I had from the beginning with this report was not that we should investigate, we should. The problem was that due to our relation with the Russian Federation and its Parliament we were not allowed, among other things, to go to Russia. Whereas especially for such as my colleague from Great Britain said, such a complex situation needed a proper investigation.

I think this report would have been far better if our rapporteur could have gone to Russia. I hope after this report that we again will be able to talk in Russia and do our work there together with our colleagues, because then I think we could have produced a far better report.

Thank you very much.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:34:31

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Thank you, very much, Mr KOX. 

Now we have finished the speaker's list for the political groups. The rapporteur will reply at the end of the debate, but does Mr ZINGERIS wish to respond at this stage? Yes?

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD, Rapporteur 

17:34:50

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Only very quickly, to Mr Tiny KOX about the cooperation of our committee.

We tried to do that and Ms Thorhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, chairwoman of our committee and behind this whole team, who tried permanently to ask Russia for cooperation in the case of the murder of Boris Nemtsov.

We got no results and if Mr Tiny KOX is now saying, dear colleagues, that now we will have access, we will be very happy. We we will look into our regulations. Our rapporteurs still have 12 months ahead to be a rapporteur, just as Mr Pieter OMTZIGT is still a rapporteur for the aeroplane which was shot down.

I will apply, of course, to go to Russia. They will recall the same persona non grata and they will cooperate with the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the Duma levels of our partners in the Legal Affairs Committee of both houses.

I have access to the case files, thanks to the family lawyers, who are now presented here. It's Zhanna Nemtsova and Boris Nemtsov's family lawyer, Vadim Prokhorov. Next to him is Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is actually one of the former leaders of the Russian opposition and a leading democrat, who was actually poisoned twice.

Vadim Prokhorov officially sent me material from 82 files from 82 sittings of the court.

So our committee has access to the lawyers.

I would like to say thank you so much - you are in the balcony - thank you very much for sending us all the accessible material.

Thank you.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:36:52

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Thank you, Mr ZINGERIS.

Now we go to the speaker's list. The first on that list is Mr VAREIKIS from Lithuania. The floor is yours.

Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD 

17:37:04

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Thank you once again, Madam Chairperson.

This time I want to speak about the Nemtsov case.

This week we have had a very strange plenary part session. Day after day, we are talking about things and discussing the reports, but in reality this should not be the business of the Council of Europe.

The business of the Council of Europe is not to investigate murder cases, or to invent the mechanisms to make a little non-democratic country democratic, to make it into a nice member of the Council of Europe.

We have had two reports about Russia - we spent almost two days on that. Yesterday we had the Malta case, and today we have again a Russian case.

So what happens in that continent? 

We do not simply have to discuss how to improve Human Rights, but we have to discuss how to save the people who are defending or advocating for Human Rights.

Of course, the murder of Boris Nemtsov is a very strange case. I think the rapporteur knows, I have discussed it with him many times. The fact that Nemtsov was murdered by so-called criminals in what has to be, probably, one of the safest places in Moscow, near the Kremlin. There are hundreds or thousands of video cameras, there are a lot of security guards, and suddenly, some unknown criminals are murdering politicians. It has to be really guarded by State authorities.

So, this is very strange, but this is not a unique case, as you know. There are also more politically motivated murders. This pushes us not to speak about a single case. We are not an organisation investigating how many criminals there are.

We are a political organisation. We have to answer the question to why political murders are becoming widespread, in an Organisation that unites countries which are supposed to be defenders of democracy and Human Rights.

Because of that, the report is important not only as a factual compendium. The report is important as a political signal. I suggest to everybody who reads that report, they must pay attention, not only to the technical details, but to think, to reflect on what political significance it has.

Thank you.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:40:02

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Thank you Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS.

Next on our speakers list is Mr Raivo TAMM, from Estonia. Please, the floor is yours.

Mr Raivo TAMM

Estonia, EPP/CD 

17:40:14

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Dear Madam President, dear colleagues,

As my Finnish colleague has already mentioned a couple of times that he is a new member of the Assembly so am I. I also would like to stress how honoured I am to be here in the house of democracy, full of history of the past 70 years. It is really significant for me to take the floor for the very first time and especially regarding this particular matter.

I would like to thank the rapporteur for his excellent report on this painful but highly relevant topic, and for not letting us forget this crime.

It is like in Anton Chekhov's play; if there is a gun hanging on the wall during the first act, then it will highly likely be shot during the last act. And so it looks like a new normal - that if someone has a gun one can be quite sure that in one moment there will be a shooting. Consequently someone might be shot to death, and everyone else would go on with their lives as is nothing happened.

No, it cannot be the new normal. We must investigate the murder of Boris Nemtsov until all our questions have answers. Boris Nemtsov was one of the most capable, respected and well-known opposition politicians in Russia.

I am particularly pleased about the coincidence and the perfect timing that even our Russian friends, who are now back in the assembly, can participate in the current debate. Help us to shed light on the murder of Boris Nemtsov, until we find out the ultimate truth.

Thank you.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:42:33

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Thank you Mr Raivo TAMM. Next on our speaker's list is Mr André GATTOLIN from France.

Mr André GATTOLIN

France, ALDE 

17:42:54

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Thank you, Madam President,

My dear colleagues,

I would like to begin by paying tribute –in my own name and on behalf of many French people, according to the letters I receive, from various municipalities and French elected representatives– because we have a rule, in France, we do not give a street name, a place, to a person who is alive, and we wait some time to do so, generally five years to do so.

I am witness to the many intentions of French and local elected representatives to pay tribute to Boris Nemtsov, this fervent opponent of corruption and ardent defender of human dignity and our democratic values. His struggle for democracy and Human rights in Russia was respected and admired. The best tribute that our Assembly can pay to him today is to work to ensure that all the light is shed on this heinous murder. In this regard, I would like to welcome the commitment of this House to shed light on this matter.

The report by our colleague Mr ZINGERIS provides many insights into this case. The investigation into this case raises several questions and serious doubts remain as to the guilt of the convicted persons as well.

First of all, how can we not underline the impossibility of obtaining a video recording of the scene, even though the murder of Mr NEMTSOV –as several speakers have mentioned– took place in the middle of the street, a few steps from the Kremlin and under the watchful eye of the DashCam, with which many Russian cars are equipped.

Just five months after Boris NEMTSOV's murder, I had the opportunity to visit the crime scene. Sometimes we say "the criminal always returns to the scene of the crime". If I believe the monitoring that was carried out by the Russian authorities on this place, which has become a place of commemoration, a tribute to Mr NEMTSOV's fight for democracy and freedom in Russia, then I must say that, if this work has not been done beforehand, certainly after the fact, this verification has been greatly advanced.

Finally, there would be a lot to say –and a lot of things are in this report– but I believe that we must nevertheless note the political opportunity of this murder when we know that Boris NEMTSOV was to lead a large opposition rally in Moscow the day after his death.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I fully support the draft resolution before us.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL, President of the Assembly 

17:46:04

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I'm afraid that Mr LOGVYNSKYI and GONCHARENKO are not here, so I call upon Mr Hendrik DAEMS from Belgium.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE 

17:46:17

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Thank you Madam speaker.

This report by Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS is not only a tribute to Mr Nemtsov, but basically it's a report about democracy. Now why am I saying this? Because the check and balance of democracy is the mere existence of opposition. There cannot be democracy without opposition. So Mr Nemtsov was basically a very prominent person in the opposition in one of the countries that are Member of the Council of Europe. In this case the Russian Federation. So if you wish to silence the opposition, it's basically killing democracy. That's what it's all about. Therefore I think that this report is quite crucial. Especially also this week, for it to be on the table, for it to be able to be approved, and to be able to try and at least execute the recommendations that are in it.

So again, this report is of course about the liberal politician which was Mr Nemtsov. But it is specifically about the mere existence and functioning of democracy. Again, if you kill the opposition you kill democracy. In that case I think it's very interesting, and also good in some way, that the Russian Federation's Members of the Duma are again here in this Assembly. I would call on them to go to the Duma and to ask their government to reopen the investigation. Why? If it was a plain murder for some reasons or it was a political murder. We need to know that because this is the mere essence of democracy. Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:47:46

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Thank you.

On the list of speakers, Mr BASHKIN.

Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN

Russian Federation, NR 

17:47:54

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Madam President, Dear colleagues.

Please let me share the position of the Russian Federation delegation on the issue at hand. We have not participated in the discussion of this issue and we are not participating in the vote for three objective reasons. First of all, the draft Resolution and the report, as submitted to us, was prepared without the participation of the Russian Federation delegation. We were prevented, while the report was being drafted, from putting forward our views and arguments.

Second, any murder is the most horrible way of violating someone's Human rights. It doesn't matter who the individual is, whether a man in the street or an outstanding politician. And yet the President of the Russian Federation did call this a huge tragedy. In any event, Russian legislation does call for a very thorough investigation of any such event. There was a judicial procedure. There was an investigation that indicated clearly what had happened. The picture painted by that investigation is very different from what is stated in the report.

Thirdly, five individuals have been found guilty of involvement in this murder and have been sentenced to lengthy prison sentences, and yet, there is still an open investigation related to certain unidentified people. It is an ongoing judicial investigation. The length of those proceedings have been extended through until the end of August. So any discussion of an ongoing judicial proceeding amounts to interference in the independence of the judiciary. That is true in any State.

Those are the reasons for which the Russian Federation delegation is not participating in this debate and will not vote on this report. Thank you for your attention.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:50:16

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Thank you.

The list of speakers is thus exhausted.

I call on the Commission's reply: the rapporteur has four minutes left.

I give him the floor.

Mr ZINGERIS.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD, Rapporteur 

17:50:36

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OK. Madam Speaker I just told you that, before you arrived, that I was speaking Russian, with honour, to the figure of  Mr Nemtsov, himself, in his mother tongue so...

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD, Rapporteur 

17:50:51

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So, I'm moving to Russian now.

I'd like to say that I am astounded by the statement that has been made by the Russian Federation delegation. I think that the rapporteur, who has another 12 months left to complete his report, will finally be allowed to visit the Russian Federation, and it will be possible for me to discuss this issue with your Legal Affairs Committee. You were in fact able to join the Legal Affairs Committee that met this morning, so I hope that it will be possible, in an official way, for me to meet with your Legal Affairs Committees in the two houses of your parliament.

We needed to shed every possible light on this most horrible political murder of the 21st century.Thank you so much for the statement made by the representative of the Russian Federation. 

Now, the fact that there were many inconsistencies and incoherences, especially concerning Mr PROKHOROV, as well as others related to this tragic event in some way, shape or form, is clear. The fact that the judiciary did not take testimony from a sufficiently broad group of witnesses is also obvious. The court called for video recordings of testimony, and yet, those video recordings were not made available even to the court itself. So, it's very clear that the investigation was not thorough, and we have a lot of questions to ask the staff of Mr BASTRYKIN.

After all these years of non-cooperation with the Parliamentary Assembly, there have been other reports from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). There are still 12 months left, as an opportunity for the Russian Federation to show that it is prepared to cooperate on this issue, an issue of an insufficiently thorough investigation of the murder of an outstanding politician. Someone who showed us that democracy, after all, may actually be possible in Russia. So please, do answer our letters. Make it possible for us to travel to Russia and to discuss the details of this issue even as the investigation is still open. We need to understand all the circumstances of this tragic death, and the political dimensions of it as well. The fact that it was treated as a purely criminal case, and not a political case, was shocking for the international community as a whole. 

So, I would appeal to the Russian delegation to start cooperating, after many years of self-isolation from the work of the Parliamentary Assembly, in order to contribute to the building of democracy in Russia. 

Thank you all for your attention. Thank you to all of those who did cooperate with us, in particular David MILNER and  Günter SCHIRMER, as well as all of the members of the Legal Affairs Committee. And, of course, all those who provided us with factual evidence, Mr PROKHOROV, and those who are in the hemicycle at the present time.  

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD, Rapporteur 

17:55:36

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I would like to express my gratitude to all those who contributed to the preparation of this report. This is a first step in the investigation into the political assassination of a leader of the democratic opposition in Russia.

Thank you so much

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:56:01

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Thank you.

I give the floor to Mrs ÆVARSDÓTTIR , Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee.

Ms Thorhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC 

17:56:09

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Merci, Madame Le President, dear colleagues.

On behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, I should like to congratulate our rapporteur Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS on his excellent report.

This is now the second time this week that our Committee was obliged to present a report on the competent authorities' failure to investigate a high-profile murder case. Yesterday, a famous investigative journalist, Daphne CARUANA GALIZIA from Malta, who was assassinated by a car bomb and today the charismatic leader of the Russian opposition, Boris NEMTSOV, who was gunned down right in front of the Kremlin walls.

As Mr ZINGERIS says in his report, there are several theories of who could be behind this outrageous crime for which three Chechen soldiers or former soldiers have been found guilty of. He does not come down in favour against the one or other version but he states very clearly that the result of the official investigation is not convincing at all. Namely that the mastermind, so-called, of this crime, was a lowly military driver who had money from an unknown source and paid three killers for their deed. An assassination right in front of the Kremlin of an opposition leader that was permanently followed by a detail of special service minders and a place covered by dozens of CCTV cameras, which all happened not to function at the crucial moment. Based on case files made available by the NEMTSOV family lawyers, the resolution meticulously lists the failures of the investigation, the evidence they could have and should have taken to go up the chain of command to hold the real instigators and organisers to account, and it recommends concrete steps to repair these omissions.

In the coming year, as rapporteur for follow up, Mr ZINGERIS will continue to observe and comment on the situation with the support of the Committee which he has rightly enjoyed throughout his mandate.

I encourage you, dear colleagues, to do the same and support this report.

Thank you very much.

Vote: Shedding light on the murder of Boris Nemtsov

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:58:29

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The Legal Affairs Committee has presented a draft resolution to which four amendments have been tabled. I understand that the President of the Commission wishes to propose to the House that amendments 1, 3 and 2, which were unanimously adopted in the Committee, be considered as adopted by the House.

Is that the case, Madam Speaker?

Yes.

Are there any objections?

There is no such thing.

Amendments number 1, 3 and 2 to the draft resolution were therefore declared definitively adopted.

We come back to the discussion of the remaining amendments and we first move on to amendment number 4.

Mr. EVANS, to defend him.

Mr. BUTKEVIČIUS?

You have the floor.

Mr Algirdas BUTKEVIČIUS

Lithuania, SOC 

17:59:33

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Thank you very much Madam President.

In the draft resolution, paragraph 8, after the words "severely flawed investigation and trial and", insert the following words: "insofar as it..."

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:59:55

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Excuse me, it's the amendment before...

Mr Algirdas BUTKEVIČIUS

Lithuania, SOC 

18:00:07

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You need, in the draft resolution to replace Paragraph 6.3 with the following paragraph “There were reportedly threats and attacks against one of the defendants' lawyers, following these suggestions that President Putin be called as a witness. This lawyer has since fled Russia claiming to fear for his safety“.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

18:00:36

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Thank you.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the committee?

Ms Thorhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC 

18:00:48

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Approved by a large majority.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

18:00:50

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Thank you.

We will proceed to the vote.

The ballot is open.

The vote is closed.

Amendment 4 is adopted.

Amendment 2 was adopted unanimously.

We shall therefore proceed to the vote on the draft resolution contained in document number 14902, as amended.

The ballot is open.

The vote is closed.

The resolution is adopted unanimously, thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am still giving you the results of the election of a judge to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Germany. The second round took place today.

Number of people who took part in the elections: 130.

Invalid or blank ballots: 2.

Votes cast: 128.

Mr. MARAUHN received no votes; Ms. SCHMALTZ, 46 votes; Ms. SEIBERT-FOHR, 82.

Ms. SEIBERT-FOHR, having obtained a relative majority of the votes cast, was elected a judge of the European Court of Human Rights. His nine-year term begins on January 1, 2020. On behalf of the Assembly, I would like to congratulate him and wish him all the best in this position.

The next public sitting will be held tomorrow morning at 10 am with the agenda of this part-session.

The meeting is adjourned and I wish you a great evening.

Next sitting at 10.00am

The sitting was closed at 6.02pm