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Opening of the sitting No 34

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:30:21

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My dear colleagues,

The meeting is open.

Proposed changes in the composition of the committees were published in document "Committee 201907", Addendum 4.

Are there any objections to these changes? This is not the case. They are therefore adopted.

The next item is our current affairs debate entitled "violation of democratic rights and repression of peaceful demonstrations in the Russian Federation in the context of the elections to the Moscow City Council".

The speaking time of each speaker is set at three minutes, with the exception of the first speaker, designated by the Bureau, who has 10 minutes.

The Bureau has appointed Mr POLIAČIK, to whom I give the floor.

Current affairs debate: Democratic rights violations and suppression of peaceful protests in the Russian Federation against the background of elections to the Moscow City Council

Mr Martin POLIAČIK

Slovak Republic, ALDE 

15:31:15

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Honourable Mrs. President of the Parliamentary Assembly, dear colleagues and guests,

The reason we are having this debate today is not a double standard, as some of the speakers after me might want to claim. Actually, it is the opposite. When it comes to democracy, rule of law, and when it comes to Human Rights, there is only one standard.

This standard is set by the European Convention on Human Rights, the cornerstone of everything we do or should do in this great institution. And by hundreds of conventions and declarations stacked around this cornerstone, creating a legal environment, in which dignity, freedom and space for pursue of happiness is granted for every single human being.

In June this year, I had the privilege to represent ALDE, my political family, in the discussion concerning voting rights for the Russian delegation. Some of you might remember, I said that the Russian Federation is not coming back with finished homework in their pockets. That the assignment, formulated by this very Assembly in at least seven resolutions, in the last five years, has remained mostly untouched by the Russian authorities.

Today, most of that remains a reality, although some important steps, like the exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine, have been taken and need to be recognised. I do welcome the fact that Mr. Oleg Sentsov is walking through the halls of this building, free. At the same time, we need to think of all the other political prisoners that are still in jail, waiting for their release.

The Russian Federation has failed to fulfil the obligations that came from resolutions 1990 from 2014, 2035 from 2015, resolution 2063 from 2015, and so on.

On top of that, new, very disturbing facts emerged in connection with the local elections in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

When we listened to some of the Russian representatives in June, they claimed that the Russian Federation is ready to protect democracy, rule of law and Human Rights on its soil. Yet, the example of local elections shows the exact opposite.

Many opposition candidates were stripped of their rights to participate in fair and democratic elections. The Moscow election commissions officially refused to register several democratic candidates for elections to the Moscow City Duma, among them llya Yashin, Lyubov Sobol, Dmitry and Gennady Gudkov, Yulia Galyamina, Konstantin Yankauskas, Alexander Solovyov or Ivan Zhdanov.

The procedure to verify the signatures of candidates lacked transparency and, according to many observers, was full of mistakes.

The election commissions considered many Moscow citizens, who signed up for the nomination of opposition candidates, to be "dead souls" or non-existent people at all. Among them, for example, Professor Elena Lukyanova and sociologist, Professor Shaninki Grigory Yudin, who do exist, and have proven to exist by signing the petitions, but were still not recognised as having done so.

Dmitry Gudkov, who by the level of inconsistencies in the signatures, was not allowed to run in the election, posted a photo evidence that that election commissions made several mistakes in entering signatures into the public checking system. Skipping letters or changing male middle names for female names.

The right to participate in fair and democratic elections is a fundamental right, that assures that all the power in hands of elected representatives, truly comes from the hands of citizens. Blocking candidates, creates a situation in which citizen's right to choose their best representatives is violated.

State organs should not be misused for the creation of absurd and illegitimate obstacles in a free and democratic voting process.

It is only understandable that citizens of Moscow saw this as a threat to democracy, and went out to protest in great numbers. More than 20 thousand protesters gathered and demanded the participation of opposition candidates in the Moscow Duma elections.

According to various sources, like the Wall Street Journal, more than 2 thousand people were detained in the protests in Moscow. Many were taken to other districts, to make it harder for their families to pick them up. People were not allowed to have food or water for several hours. According to Human Rights activists, more than 50 of the detained persons were minors.

The Council of Europe has the full right to monitor election preparations, registration of individual candidates and all the processes connected to elections. In a country, known for several violations of the Council of Europe's rules and recommendations, it should be vital to actively seek for third parties, like independent observers, to watch and prove that elections were fair and democratic.

That is why we, at ALDE, feel it is necessary to point at these situations, in which the standards of this organisation are not met.

The reason why we're holding this debate today, is that there were two times of the Russian delegation in this hemicycle. One time was until June, when they said "we are not allowed to be here", and "you are not talking to us". "That is why we don't feel the need to speak to you, because first, you ought to let us in". We all remember that the process in June was very complicated. I didn't agree with the fact that the voting rights were totally restored to the Russian delegation. I think they should have been limited. That's why I ended up voting against. But I do respect the fact that the Russian delegation is back in the hemicycle.

Since then, we've had local elections in Moscow. We've had local elections in Saint Petersburg. But we do not see good will on behalf of the Russian authorities. We do not see that, the Russian Federation, is there to fulfil the obligations that are put on it by institutions like the Council of Europe.

If many people said in June that they are willing and ready to fulfil the obligations of this organisation, to be part of the family of the democratic countries that are willing to pursue the values of democracy, rule of law and Human Rights, we should be seeing active participation of the third sector in the elections and observation of elections. We should not see things like what has happened to Ivan Podkopayev, 25 years old and sentenced to 3 years for participating in the Moscow protests. Danila Begletz, 27, sentenced to two years for participating in protests. Kirill Zhukov, 28 years, sentenced to 3 years for participating in protests.

This is not a way for a democratic country to behave. This is not fulfilling the values of Human Rights, democracy and the rule of law.

So, two things. First, every Member country of the Council of Europe, should be able to allow all people that want to run in elections to do so, without technical and obscure tools, to show that they are not welcome in the elections. Secondly, if people are protesting, they should be treated with dignity and as human beings, as people who want to protect democracy in their country. That's why we think this debate is urgent, and it should take place in the hemicycle of the Council of Europe.

Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:41:21

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The next speaker is Mr EVANS, on behalf of the European Conservatives Group .

Mr Nigel EVANS

United Kingdom, EC, Spokesperson for the group 

15:41:27

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Thank you very much, Madame President. 

Can I just start today, though, by saying, on behalf of the British delegation, how deeply saddened we are by the news coming out of Paris today, with the murder of four police officers. I know that every parliamentarian here at the Council of Europe will stand shoulder to shoulder with the police force of France, the people of Paris, and the people of France, today, as they grieve their loss.

Can I say that I support the vast majority of what Mr POLIAČIK has had to say today. We know the backdrop of this. With the presidential elections, the main opponent to President PUTIN being denied the ability to stand, and then, well, over a thousand people being detained by the police and the brutality that is shown to any peaceful demonstrators. It, clearly, has no part in any democratic processes that should take place.

We are all Members of Parliament in one way, shape, form or another. We've all had to stand in elections, and I have lots of people standing against me —no doubt, in the impending elections in the United Kingdom we will see that, yet again. A plurality of candidates will be standing, and that's important, and indeed, the European Court of Human Rights has said, how bad it is, that the lack of pluralism that exists within Russia today.

And we've seen further evidence of the detainment of peaceful protesters in Russia with, there again, well over a thousand people —including children— being detained by the police. Well, that cannot be right, and I think the important thing, if you're looking for a silver lining about the Russians being back on the Council of Europe, is that they're here to listen to what we have to say, to engage in the debate which is important to us. There are six of them that are going to be speaking today, so it will be important for them to respond to some of the points we are putting out there. 

We have demonstrations in London all the time. Particularly, over the last three years, since Brexit, people are able to have their say, and I think that is important. But in the Monitoring Committee earlier this week, we heard one of the Russians say that they believe that some of these people were enemies of the state. Well, no! Those who are opposed to a government are not automatically enemies of the state, they just happen to oppose the government, and the flourishing of a democracy in any country must be that there have to be different opinions heard. Just because people have a different opinion, whether it's online, on the Internet, whether it's in the streets, or whether it's at election time, does not mean that they are an enemy of the state. It means that they just happen to have a different opinion.

And in the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe, it is important that we stand for the democratic rights of people throughout all of our countries —throughout the whole of the world quite frankly. But the ability to have candidates, who have differing opinions to that of governing candidates, should be able to stand and be able to have freedom of speech. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:44:35

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Mr. BOUYX, on behalf of the Liberal Alliance, has the floor.

Mr Bertrand BOUYX

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group 

15:44:44

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Thank you, Madame President.

On behalf of the French delegation, I wish to express my deepest condolences for the four policemen killed in Paris. It was a cowardly assassination that occurred a few moments ago.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The capital of Russia has experienced in recent months a level of extreme tension around the municipal elections held on 8 September. Candidates were prevented from running, opposition leaders were imprisoned repeatedly for their calls to protest, nearly 2 700 demonstrators were arrested and sentences of up to five years imprisonment were handed down.

We strongly condemn the particularly violent repression that occurred on the streets of Moscow this summer, especially since these actions were committed after the reinstatement of the Russian Federation into our Assembly.

We reaffirm our commitment to freedom of expression, freedom of demonstration, freedom of opinion, freedom to stand for election. These values are those that bring us together here in the Council of Europe and that we all defend.

And it is precisely to allow these values to come fully to the floor that it seemed necessary to reintegrate Russia into this Council. In the words of President Emmanuel MACRON, we believe in this European Russia, we believe in "European sovereignty", that is to say, to a stronger Europe, a Europe that has the right to reinvent itself in this dialogue.

The renewal of this dialogue, within the Council, cannot be done without precise monitoring of the commitments and obligations of the Russian Federation.

The latest report by the Committee on the Honoring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe on this subject dates back to 2012. It already pointed out the shortcomings and the restrictive implementation of laws essential for the functioning of democratic and regional institutions for the political environment, which has led to a deterioration of conditions necessary for genuine political pluralism. It seems important now to continue this type of evaluation in our Assembly.

It is a question here of gradually working to reduce the mistrust between Russia and Europe, to pose ourselves as partners and to set up a common agenda in particular as regards security at the international level.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:47:19

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I call Mr Özsoy, on behalf of the European United Left.

Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY

Turkey, UEL, Spokesperson for the group 

15:47:26

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Thank you, Madam Chair.

This summer we have seen protests in Russia against the government's crackdown on the opposition, in the run-up to the Moscow city council elections. Detentions, police violence, disqualification or arrest of opposition candidates have greatly undermined the legitimacy of these elections. Russian authorities have violated the freedom of speech, the right to assembly and peaceful protest, and the right to have a fair and free election: the fundamentals of any democratic system. This is simply unacceptable.

What is happening in Russia, however, is neither new nor unique. Let me give you a couple of even worse examples from Turkey. Between 2016 and 2018, under emergency rule, and without any court decision, 94 elected Kurdish mayors were removed from office and replaced with appointed Turkish Governors. Ninety-three mayors were arrested before the March elections this year. Fifty Kurdish mayors were still in prison.

The removal of Kurdish mayors was done under the anti-terror law, which with its excessively broad and vague definition of terrorism, makes it impossible to determine the precise nature of alleged offences, and acts as an instrument to repress political rivals. As we have discussed in this very room several times before, anybody who dares to criticise the government in Turkey is easily criminalised as a terrorist or supporter of terrorism. So, please disregard terrorism-related charges against politicians.

Although protests against the removal of our mayors were banned, still many people protested on the streets, hundreds were detained, dozens injured and badly hospitalised due to police brutality, including one member of this Parliamentary Assembly, Ms Feleknas Uca, who is sitting right there. What else?

Last spring we also saw the unlawful cancellation of Istanbul elections. Ms Canan Kaftancioglu, the head of Turkey's main opposition CHP in Istanbul, and the architect of her party's electoral victory, was sentenced to nearly 10 years, with again the cliche charge of terrorist propaganda and insulting the president. No doubt this sentence was the ruling party's retaliation for its devastating defeat in Istanbul elections.

Another example: despite the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights to release HDP's former co-chair, Mr Selahattin Demirtaş, President Erdogan put it bluntly "we cannot release him". Revealing, in his own words, that there is no independent judiciary in the country. Indeed, European Court of Human Rights had previously emphasised that the primary aim of Mr Demirtaş's detention was to stifle pluralism and to limit the freedom of political debate.

I can multiply examples, but I have no time. What we see in Russia or Turkey is neither new nor unique. Governing parties in authoritarian systems across the globe are increasingly using the means of repression at their disposal, the police, the courts, and prisons in particular, to deal with their political rivals and maintain the rule. So the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly should take concrete action against such practices in member states, in order to protect both its institutional dignity and integrity, and the very principles on which it was established.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:50:54

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Ms ÅBERG has the floor, on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Ms Boriana ÅBERG

Sweden, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group 

15:50:58

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Madame President, dear colleagues.

This debate is about Russia. What is the first word that comes to mind when Russia is mentioned? Is it harmony, contentment, unity? No, the word is fear. The Soviet empire was built on fear. Maintaining constant fear in the population was the Communist dictatorship strategy for staying in power.

Therefore, it is profoundly miserable that the current regime is so reminiscent of the Soviet's darkest days. The Kremlin wants people to feel fear. People in Ukraine, in Georgia, in other neighbouring countries, but most of all people in Russia. We who have suffered under the horrors of communism, remember how severely, really, those who dare to oppose the regime were punished: through internment labour camps, long prison sentences.

People were also killed when the regime found them displeasing. It still happens today: Sentsov, Skripal. The elections to the Moscow City Duma, and the summer of protests that preceded them, have attracted unusual International attention. Russians vote nationwide, even in occupied Crimea, against the international law. But the Moscow elections grab global headlines.

There are several reasons: the dubious decision of Russian authorities to ban independent candidates from running for the Moscow City Duma, the mass demonstrations, and the authorities' willingness to resort to brute force against ordinary citizens. Is it acceptable for a country, a member of Council of Europe, posing as a democracy, to employ such appalling violence against peaceful demonstrators, many of them women and youngsters?

To send siloviki to beat up unarmed protesters, arrest students and threaten to take away children from their protesting parents, is blatantly a violation of human rights. Russian people deserve to live free from fear in a normal country. We want the Russian people to benefit from the same extent of freedom as we do: to demonstrate without being beaten up, and to choose their representatives in free and fair elections.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:54:03

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I give the floor to Ms OHLSSON, on behalf of the Socialist, Democratic and Green Group.

Ms Carina OHLSSON

Sweden, SOC, Spokesperson for the group 

15:54:08

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Thank you, Madame President. 

Colleagues,

The Council of Europe was established 70 years ago to rebuild trust and co-operation between peoples, to protect and promote the fundamental rights of everyone living in our continent, without discrimination, and we have this week celebrated the anniversary.

Nevertheless, we have a long way to go to reach fundamental rights for all. In Sweden, we celebrate now a hundred years of democracy. The decision when all men and women get the right to vote.

Democracy, human rights and the rule of law, we must defend every day, wherever we are. That is what this current affairs debate is about: democratic rights, violations and suppression of peaceful protests in the Russian Federation, against the background of the elections to the Moscow City Council. As parliamentarians, here in the Council of Europe, we have a responsibility to defend these fundamental rights. Not to defend and excuse our own governments when they do not follow these rights.

It is primarily the responsibility of any member state, having violated statutory obligations, to take steps towards solving the situation. Together, as parliamentarians, we must stand up for fundamental rights and our values. The right to vote, and the possibility for all candidates to represent different parties in the election, both promise and deliver. I hope that, after this debate, we can conclude and say that we have an agreement. That we have a role to play in reminding governments of their commitment to common European values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, which the Council of Europe protects and promotes. It can send a strong message to Russia and other states who do not follow our common values.

We, as parliamentarians, have a special responsibility to bring home European human rights standards. We have the responsibility, and must guarantee that. It's about fundamental freedom, so let's do that together.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:56:38

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The next speaker is Ms ENGBLOM.

Ms Annicka ENGBLOM

Sweden, EPP/CD 

15:56:44

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Madame Chair, dear colleagues,

In July of this year, more than 50 000 protesters turned out on the streets of Moscow in objection to authorities refusal to allow several prominent candidates of the opposition to be placed on the 8 September Moscow City Council ballot. Swarms of police in riot gear broke up the demonstrations and more than 2 400 people were detained amid complaints of police brutality. And we have all seen and read the reports, seen the films and footage from TV stations, both domestic and international. The appalling arrests of students, innocent passers-by, mothers and even children being torn from their parents. The Russian opposition is now focused on a new task: freeing those caught up in the Kremlin's crackdown, and the demonstration continues.

With 14 people facing up to eight years behind bars for the rows in the demonstrations for fair elections, Russians from all spectra of Russian society have demanded their release. It must be said that prosecutors since then have dropped criminal charges against six of the defendants, but one of those still remaining in jail is a 20-year-old young man called, Kirill Zhukov, who shall spend three years behind bars for lifting a policeman's visor.

And who stands out this time is the Russian civil society has awakened in response. In recent weeks, groups of professionals ranging from teachers to doctors to Orthodox priests, have signed open letters demanding the release of those left sentenced. And we, as delegates of the Council of Europe, must support it, in any way possible. That is why this debate is so important.

Madame Chair, I see a number of delegates from the Russian Federation on the speakers' list after me, that's good. I was one of those who voted against the re-entrance of the Russian Federation on the Council of Europe, but now that you're here, you have much to answer for, because what I'm not interested in hearing are evasive explanations or dashing out with arms declining total innocence or false accusation.

But what I am interested in to hear is what measures and initiatives the delegates of the Russian delegation will take to prevent this from happening again, to allow their citizens to express their freedom of speech and human rights. The very fundament, or cornerstone if you like, of the Council of Europe. So I'm very interested in response of Russian delegations because we want real measures taken to allow freedom of opinion, real legislative changes.Thank you. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

15:59:53

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The next speaker is Ms CHRISTENSEN.

Ms Jette CHRISTENSEN

Norway, SOC 

15:59:58

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Thank you very much, Madam President.

It has been said during the debate that this debate is about Russia. Is it? I thought this debate was about freedom of speech and free elections. God knows there are other countries that also have situations to answer for in this regard.

We are here to protect the inhabitants of the countries. That is the reason we are here. We are here to protect Human Rights and freedom of speech. Those are values that are threatened in many of our member countries. So it's not about being pro or con Russia as a concept. It's about being for Human Rights and for freedom of speech and for local elections.

In Norway, we just had a local election. There the problem was that almost 60% of people didn't use their right to vote. So, witnessing our neighbour country trying to have people not to vote, is kind of weird.

I am very happy that we're having this debate, because this might give us a chance to raise this question: how to secure free elections in every member state. Because every member state doesn't have free elections, every member state doesn't have freedom of speech, and every member state doesn't have the ability to organise freely. As we all know, civil society space is shrinking. This is a very important debate, but please colleagues, don't link it to one single country.

The reason why we are here is that we are supporting these rights together. We know that human rights violations are happening in every country, also Norway, also the country of the colleague that raised this debate.

So, I am so happy that we are having this debate, but I would love to hear initiatives on how to make every election free, how to make freedom of speech count in every member state, and how to open the shrinking space of civil society in Europe because we really need it.

Thank you very much for raising this debate. I hope it's not going to be a debate on whether Russia should be in this Assembly or not, because that decision has been made. I would like to welcome Russia here. I've been happy to work with Russian colleagues in the Committee. That question is closed. Let's look forward and let's talk about freedom of speech and free elections.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:02:40

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The next speaker is Mr TOLSTOY.

Mr Petr TOLSTOI

Russian Federation, NR 

16:02:47

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Madame President.

Dear colleagues,

I am pleased that today there is a chance in this Assembly for Russia to respond against the accusations levelled against us.

Now you can see what happens in the cradle of democracy.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:03:13

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Wait, Mr. TOLSTOY,

You must respect the rules of this House. Mr. TOLSTOY is a member.

I ask you to leave the gallery.

I ask you to leave the gallery.

You have to go out. You have to go out.

He who calls for the respect of the rules, begins by respecting them himself.

We resume our work and I give the floor to Mr. TOLSTOY.

Mr Petr TOLSTOI

Russian Federation, NR 

16:04:25

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Thank you Madame President.

It seems to me that that is a fairly graphic illustration of how in recent years there has been a dissemination of clichés about our country, and how alarming this situation is.

We're not here to be given homework. We're here to tell you about the facts that you are not acknowledging.

When the Moscow authorities are accused of using force on demonstrators, you seem to be closing your eyes to other cases in other countries. But since we're talking about Russia today, I'll dwell on some facts. Rejection of registration. There were some 400 candidates which had not complied with the legislation. 39 gave false signatures of dead people, and that was established by the electoral commission.

As regards unauthorised protests, and you know we allow any protest, but you have to respect public order. That is the case in every country including France, Germany or Italy you have the same legislation as in Russia. Unauthorised protests which were indeed instigated by foreign forces... 2700 where arrested, and 2085 of them were released, after just three hours, by the police.

So what sort of repression are you talking about colleagues? Russia is not using special means against the demonstrators as is the case in other countries. We are not using rubber bullets. We certainly don't have people wounded, let alone killed as a result of clashes with the police.

The names that have been mentioned... The people who have been convicted and imprisoned attacked policemen.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to remind you that in Italy the law provides for five years imprisonment. In France it's three years, and five years in Germany for attacking police. In Russia we also have a law that protects the police against such attacks. There should be no double standards.

Colleagues, let us proceed from a common understanding on Human Rights, of the right for everyone to a free opinion. Let's put an end to the clichés of the Cold War. We are constantly being reminded of the Soviet Union. There is no more Soviet Union dear friends. If you didn't know, I am quick to tell you that that is the case. Unlike many countries, Russia abides by the law. As Mr. Macron said from this podium, we are still working and we will continue to work with you on a safety and security doctrine and the upholding of public order in our country.

Thank you for cooperating.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:07:49

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Mr BALFE, you have the floor.

Lord Richard BALFE

United Kingdom, EC 

16:07:57

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Thank you, Madame President. 

Can I associate myself also with the condolences to the French government on the dreadful attack today.

I voted for Russia to return to this Assembly. I welcome them back, but most of all, I welcome the fact that they wish to join us. They know what this Assembly stands for and the very thoughtful speech by Madame CHRISTENSEN, I thought came very close to where we should be. We need to look carefully at each other but not in a condemnatory way, but in a helpful way because we must like to think, at least, we all share the same values and we must have dialogue in order to make them a reality.

The first lesson of any democracy is the acid test of a democracy, is when you can lose an election, not when you can win one. That's why I greatly welcomed the result in Istanbul because I was beginning rather to despair of some aspects of Turkey, but the fact that the mere reality of Istanbul changed gave me a little more faith that maybe all is not lost in that country either. Because the peaceful transfer of power is the fundamental value, to my mind, of the Council of Europe and what it stands for. It stands for dialogue, sharing, and that is one of the reasons why our member states are obliged to put forward delegations representing the whole of their parliament — not just the governing party, but the whole of the parliament.

And, as Madame CHRISTENSEN said, Russia is not the only place with defective elections. This year is only the 90th anniversary of universal suffrage in the United Kingdom. Until 1929, everybody didn't have the vote on the same basis. So looking at the particular subject under debate, I would certainly invite the Russian delegates to look into and maybe ponder on the need for change; ponder on the fact that whatever the intentions may be, the reality has come over as being a rather heavy-handed approach.

But, as my colleague Nigel EVANS said, these people not the enemies of the state because they oppose. And we shouldn't look at people who want to stand in elections as enemies of the state, but we should remember that we are in an age of increasing authoritarianism, that Mr Putin is not a communist and Russia is trying with democracy. Our job is to guide, to help, to advise, to criticise, but at the end of the day we are all in the democratic cauldron together and we must somehow make it work.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:11:05

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The next speaker is Mr BEN CHIKHA.

Mr Fourat BEN CHIKHA

Belgium, SOC 

16:11:11

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Madam Chair, dear colleagues.

I would like to state that, what should have been a democratic high day in Russia, became a breach of trust in our democracy. Approximately 5,000 elections on the local and regional level were held in Russia in September, and, as well, we all know that the local election of Moscow was one that was closely monitored. I say this because elections have been in breach of trust and democracy, because around 2,500 people were arrested while protesting against the current government.

A government that blocked any opposition during the Moscow election campaign. Several of those protesters are now facing prison sentences. A government shows weakness when it cannot guarantee citizen's right to political participation.

Political participation should, at the least, include procedural and competitive participation. This is the right to free and honest elections, and the right for citizens to form an opposition that can engage in elections. The violent reaction of the Russian police in the past and during these protests, are a direct violation to the procedural and competitive rights of citizens.

A democracy can only grow stronger when a state allows its citizens to express themselves. It’s for that reason that we, the Assembly, should not turn a blind eye and neglect of this basic concept of democracy in Russia. If we cannot allow free elections, we should not call ourselves a democratic society. Every member state that doesn’t speak out to this is part of the problem.

Yet, today, we’re presented with the opportunity to be a part of the solution. I suggest we act upon this.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:13:13

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Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr KISLYAK.

Mr Sergey KISLYAK

Russian Federation, NR 

16:13:19

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Thank you very much, Madame President.

As you know, I am listening to this particular discussion, and I am quite surprised because here we are in the house of democracy, but democracy requires the rule of law, friends. And I feel that there are very few here... no democracy can function without the rule of law. You have to respect the law and you, of course, have to meet the obligations of the law.

First of all, respect for elections is absolutely necessary. And over these couple of days, there were elections not only in Moscow but throughout the Moscow Federation. It is a piece of legislation that is applicable throughout the country. Now, the particularities of the Moscow election, there were elections in Moscow that took place in 2015 and they have always taken place peacefully.

The percent of registrations in Moscow was the very very lowest in the country, but the country, of course, is the same throughout the country as far as allowing all candidates, be they from the opposition, the ruling party or simple quotidian people — the man on the street. Anyway, the law is applicable to everybody. And if you want to change the law you have to do this through a legal procedure. Once again, a legal procedure has to be implemented.

You have presented a group of individuals as heroes here. Now, what was going on with these lists of candidates that went with hundreds and with the signatures of people who simply don’t exist  — they had no passport or they had some sort of dubious passport as well. Half of those people that were signed on those registration lists, they didn’t present any sort of document — they had nothing. And it is required by legislation that some sort of clear document be there as far as signatories to this particular list. This is applicable for all parties. So one odd one has some sort of liberties, and others do not have any particular liberty as far as this issue. No, it is clear that all have to follow the particular laws as far as the lists and the signatures.

Now, what I want to say is that the particular protest followed a course that was illegal in nature. It was quite clear that there were certain signatures that were not valid. And of course, if there is any sort of protest with regard to that, that protest has to take place in a peaceful fashion. But these particular protests that involved blocking major thoroughfares of the street, blocking certain administrative buildings, blocking the office of the mayor and so on and so forth, you can imagine. And I know what would happen in the countries you are all from as well.

So, I think it is quite clear that there has to be law, that law has to be respected and that is the essence of the rule of law.

 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:16:52

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Please respect the speaking time.

If you do not, we will not be able to allow all the speakers to take the floor.

Mr SAAR, you have the floor.

Mr Indrek SAAR

Estonia, SOC 

16:17:04

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Madam President,

Dear colleagues,

Throughout this Assembly, in many ceremonial statements, we loudly heard vowing to the fundamental principles of this organisation. That is to democracy, rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, peaceful international cooperation and shared responsibilities for our common European home and its future. We also restored our faith that this organisation is not only about geographical Europe, but it is also about the centuries-old European ideas. Against this background, I must state, that today we cannot celebrate the 70 years of peace in Europe, nor the adherence to the aforementioned principles. In this regard the current affairs debate is very timely.

Throughout the summer, we have witnessed that the Russian authorities have maximised their efforts to suppress the democratic processes in their own country. After the opposition candidates were hindered to participate in the local elections, people came to the streets in Moscow, as well as in many other cities, to peacefully protest against such undemocratic action. Massive and deliberate arrests took place, to preclude and frighten people to stand for the rights. On many occasions, we have witnessed that also persons not participating in these events were arrested and sentenced. Whereas the rights to present adequate proof to the court were denied.

I especially would like to mention the 23 year old actor Pavel Ustinov, who was sentenced for three and a half years imprisonment with a faulty accusation. He was successful in standing for his rights only because his friends and fellow actors publicly protested against this severe judicial misconduct. But there are many more cases like this which still need to be made just.

Before these very recent developments in Russia, on June 25, the Assembly of the Council of Europe voted to reinstate Russia as a full voting member within the Assembly. To remind you, the Russian Federation was stripped of its voting power in 2014 after the illegal annexation of Crimea, and for supporting the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine. This has not ended yet.

Also, in Georgia, we witnessed the tensions orchestrated by Russia. We of course strongly condemn the recent illegal elections held in Abkhazia, the borderisation in Tskhinvali region, as well as ethnic discrimination of Georgians in both regions. I reaffirm the full Estonian support for the sovereignty and territorial Integrity of both the Ukraine and Georgia. We do not recognise the elections held in these illegally annexed regions. To summarise, this Assembly shall strongly condemn this disregard by the Russian authorities to the principles of the Council of Europe.

I call on the Russian authorities to fully follow our European values, and I call on our Russian colleagues, here today, to make the strongest and first efforts to convey this message to their leaders, fellow politicians and state officials. I hope that we stand together for a democratic Russia and its democratic future, based on our true European values.

Thank you

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:20:23

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I call Mr SLUTSKIY.

Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY

Russian Federation, NR 

16:20:25

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Thank you very much, Madam President.

I would first like to address my colleagues from the French delegation, to express my deepest condolences on the tragic situation that took place in Paris today.

Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY

Russian Federation, NR 

16:20:41

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My most heartfelt condolences with respect to the tragic events in Paris.

Dear colleagues,

With respect to the issue of today's debate. First of all, I would like to say to Mr Martin POLIAČIK, my Slovak colleague, that he has given a very politicised and partial picture. Russia has fulfilled all the obligations that it undertook when it joined this organisation as regards the elections of the Moscow city council. Of course, the whipping up of passions around that election was completely artificial.

On 3 August, on the website of the US State Department, there was a map posted of problematic places appealing to people to riot, with the map of Russia depicted. On 27 July, there was a similar appeal from Deutsche Welle, which is a state holding of Germany. All of this is not very pretty, and it is being used to exploit the elections to the Moscow City Council and whip up negative passions against my country in Europe.

Today, unfortunately, we're seeing very few colleagues in the room. I can understand that because we well understand that this issue is an artificial one. In many countries of the Council of Europe, legislation on mass demonstrations is far more stringent than Russia's. On Monday, the bureau of our Assembly rejected a proposal to have an urgent debate, so we are here taking part in a current affairs debate.

Dear colleagues, it's time we stop the practice of artificial persecution of countries in the Council of Europe on trumped-up grounds.

The Moscow City Council had completely democratic and free elections and no Russian opposition can deny that. Moscow has always been a democratic city. As regards the police legislation in the United States in such situations, the policeman is allowed to shoot. That is an observer state in the Council of Europe. We need to be objective. We should think about such artificial debates taking place in this Assembly, hopefully for the last time.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:23:40

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The next speaker is Mr ÇEVİKÖZ.

Mr Ahmet Ünal ÇEVİKÖZ

Turkey, SOC 

16:23:47

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President,

The debate we are having today is not only about a specific country or a specific event. The debate we are having today is taking place at a time when we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of this organisation. It is therefore also about the common values that we all share in this common house of ours that we call Europe.

It is about democracy, it is about freedom of speech, of expression, of opinion, of media. It is about the separation of powers that we all value. It's about human rights. It's about the right for demonstration. It's about avoidance of politicisation of the judiciary, it is about the rule of law. In some, it is about our values. If we lose touch of our values to anything in our daily lives, then we also lose the common cause of this organisation which unites us.

Therefore, the fact that we are having this discussion today is very appropriate. When President Macron addressed all of us in the hemicycle on Tuesday, he underlined that the principles and values that unite us are not only threatened by our divisions but challenged by the major transformations we are experiencing. Many transformations are happening in many countries.

In my country, for example, on the one hand, the judiciary power is being used politically to cancel the legitimate result of elections in Istanbul. On the other hand, it is also being politicised to victimise Ms Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the Istanbul provincial leader of the political party, due to her tweets, which were tweeted seven years ago, in spite of the fact that some of those tweets were never tweeted at all.

Elected mayors in cities like Diyarbakır, Mardin and Van are being dismissed by the decision of the Minister of the Interior without any court decision, hence politically but not judicially. In other words, transformations we are experiencing are challenging our values and deepening our divisions. Our strength to face global challenges, global change, is not weakening but is in defending our rights and freedoms.

It is true that Europe is shaped by its divisions, by its traumas but we tend to forget that controversies are essential and it is profoundly democratic. Constant controversy is not weakening but rather an asset of democracy and the rule of law.

Democracy aspires for the good and the better, no matter what kind of a challenge we face in our countries, as long as there is hope, democracy will continue to flourish. In the re-run of elections in Istanbul, the already elected legitimate mayor of Istanbul Ekrem İmamoğlu won overwhelmingly with a difference of 800 000 votes. If people are standing for democracy and if this is beginning to happen in Turkey, it can happen anywhere.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:26:17

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I give the floor to Ms ZHUROVA.

Ms Svetlana ZHUROVA

Russian Federation, NR 

16:26:23

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Colleagues,

I too would like to express. first of all, my condolences, my condolences indeed. But I didn't imagine that the question would arise that I would have to respond to, on the issue of young children in demonstrations. Now I'd like to point out that children participate in peaceful meetings, yes, but in this particular situation we had non-sanctioned meetings, where there may be problems. It is absolutely a totally insecure situation, and that is why there was this particular situation that developed, as far as people with children are concerned.

There are numerous different things that can take place at a meeting that hasn't been sanctioned, or in a congregation of people. So now, children and heroism are the hype of participating in this type of thing. This kind of thing is disseminated across the internet as well. But we have to take into consideration the psychological consequences, the reverberations of these particular types of meetings, particularly on children. And, the tragic, tragic events, what happened with these particular children, that in their early youth participated in non-sanctioned meetings? As a mother of two children I'm very concerned about this issue.

And I feel that this is something, of course, that is applicable in your countries as well. The way things are as far as your countries are concerned, in Russia as well. So, you are parents, you are grandfathers, grandmothers, and, of course, it is clear that bringing children to a meeting of this nature is totally unacceptable. Now there is always that editing.

A child climbs a two-metre column and then is taken down from the column by the police. Now, and of course, it could be presented as a way of protecting that particular child, or it can be presented in a different fashion. These particular children, that were hanging from these columns, two-metre columns or higher than that, this was very, very dangerous. The police was bringing these people down from these columns.

So, I think that this particular topic today, of criticism regarding the particular way that these demonstrations were dealt with, non-sanctioned meetings that were illegal, that had not been approved by the authorities —you are intelligent people, you are people with everything, with knowledge, education— so I think you would understand this is an issue of common sense.

Thank you very much.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:29:21

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The next speaker is Mr VAREIKIS.

Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD 

16:29:27

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Thank you, Madam Chairperson.

I have a question here for my Russian colleagues. Why are we talking, and talking, and talking about Russia and the problems about Russian democracy? The answer is simple. Because we are an institution of democracy.

I have to remind you that today we have a very interesting holiday. It is the day of the unification of Germany. If you don't remember, I'll remind you. Some decades ago, Germany was united. When I was a child at school, I asked why Germany had two countries. Why one part is democratic and the other is non-democratic. The answer was that the non-democratic part, is so because the Soviet Union won the war. I asked why my country was not on the map. The answer was, because the Soviet Union won the war. The Soviet Union was very polite for saying "of course, order in Europe is like that because we won the war, it's a consequence of the war".

So, the spirit of the Soviet Union is still here, because this summer the Russian representatives came here and said "there's no problem, we won the war, we won Crimea, we won Donbass, we won Transnistria, we won Abkhazia, we won South Ossetia, we won the war." It's okay. So, this is the spirit of the Soviet Union, Mr Piotr TOLSTOY. This is the spirit of the Soviet Union. Consequences of war are legitimate. What I now hear in Moscow is that the administration is "winning" the people.

It's a consequence of the conflict. People think "what is democracy?" Democracy is when you are not winning the war, but when you are making peace. Democracy is when you are not beating the demonstrators, but when you are friendly, discussing and helping them. This is democracy. I already felt in June here, that my wish is to really have a lovely, friendly and beautiful Russia.

I have a dream. I'm not like Martin Luther King, but I have a dream, that one day we will say that we are solving all the geopolitical problems with the help of Russia, but not taking them into account for inventing different procedures and instrument on how to hide some problem, and how to avoid others. This is, maybe, not very difficult, but please, forget the spirit of the Soviet Union. Victory in war is not the best way of life. Peace with your neighbours is the best way of life. Peace in Europe. Europe is built on peace. Peace with your people, Moscovites. This is a very nice idea. Why suppress them? People are asking. There's no need to suppress. They are nice people. They can reshape Russia. Be friendly with them.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:32:32

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The next speaker is Mr ANDERSON.

Lord Donald ANDERSON

United Kingdom, SOC 

16:32:35

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Madame President,

At the start of this debate, we had a protest from certain members in the public gallery. I could not help reflecting as to what might happen to those people had they made a similar protest in the Russian Federation. I shall listen very carefully, and have listened, to that which is said by our Russian colleagues, who are now back in the Assembly. I've tried to discern any chink of difference between them in respect of what happened during the Moscow elections; any understanding of the fact that people were prevented from standing; any understanding of the repression of those who were demonstrating; any protest against the fact that offices throughout Russia were raided as a result of following the demonstrations. Chink, there was none, alas, there was almost a crazed-eyed Stalinist monolith, and really our Russian colleagues must learn to dissent and to value dissent, which is an essential part of democracy. There was now no such dissent, which I see in virtually all other delegations. We must show that they value our fundamental values, which we hold dearly: the value of a set free Assembly, the value of free elections, and that has clearly not happened on this occasion.

The facts are clear — and there is no need to reiterate them here — that the local elections, many prominent figures were prevented from taking part in the local elections, many demonstrators were imprisoned. Some have tried to draw parallels with Turkey. Of course, there are serious concerns about what is happening in Turkey. No one doubts that but, at least in the Turkish public, many of the key cities including, of course, Istanbul and Ankara, are now headed by members of the opposition.

This, of course, in Russia is part of a wider problem. The debate about membership of Russia in the Assembly is over for a while. We decided to receive Russia back in the fold, in spite of many, many doubts. But there is a question of credibility of this Assembly and there must be question marks about the commitment of our Russian colleagues to the real values of democracy. That is, are there any limits to what before a state can no longer find itself in this home of democracy.

I end with two reflections. First, now Russia is back in the fold, we must hold the feet of our Russian colleagues to the fire and not hesitate to criticise Russia but, equally to ourselves, that when we criticise Russia and others, we must do so from a position of moral strength and give a good example of conduct ourselves. 

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:35:54

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The next speaker is Mr ŠEŠELJ.

Mr Aleksandar ŠEŠELJ

Serbia, NR 

16:36:00

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Thank you,

All the debates in recent years to do with Russia have been a testament to hypocrisy. Today, an attempt is being made to condemn the Russian Government for alleged violations of the right to protest in Moscow. The protests weren't peaceful, but violent, and the police responded in accordance with the law. The police upholds peace, and doesn't breach anyone's right to peaceful protest if there is no violent threat to other citizens.

I would like to ask when the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly will discuss the violation of the rights of French citizens during the gilet jaunes, yellow vest protests. During those protests, 11 people have been killed in battles with the police. Where are their rights? This is hypocrisy.

An aggressive minority funded from abroad is protesting in Moscow. In France, it was the entire country protesting. And to criticise someone, one has first to put one's own house in order. The political west, first and foremost, the United States, must cease their attempts to trigger colour revolutions and regime change all over the globe.

In my country, that has been happening ever since the 4th of October 2000. Colour revolutions do not respect either the rights of citizens nor democracy.

Thank you.

Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN

Russian Federation, NR 

16:38:02

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First of all, on this solemn occasion, I'd like to express my condolences.

All states have to guarantee freedom, peace and liberty, of course, for all citizens. The state is the guarantor of that. What we are speaking about is not of a political nature, this is a legal issue. I think indeed that the initiator of this particular discussion mixed a number of things together that are not to be together.

So, first of all, we have the protests. The protests, however, resulted in great turbulence on the streets and disorder as well. And I think I'd like to draw your attention now to what took place in the gallery here. Why do some people have the right to express themselves and others don't have that particular right to express themselves? And the president had these people removed from this chamber because there is a rule, there are rules and there are other types of expressions of protest which do not fall within the rules or are not permitted or sanctioned.

So why were those people removed? Because these people are acting outside the framework of the rules that we have here. I think it is quite clear we have to have objective information.  And Article 33 of the Russian Constitution states quite clearly that the right of congregation and protest does exist — excuse me, Article 31. According to 538, as well, all types of expression of protest have to be within the framework of some sort of sanctioned process. In other words, there has to be approved and the particular event has to be approved. Why? Because non-sanctioned protest simply leads to chaos in the city or in a particular place.

We have the issue of public transportation; people have to be able to circulate effectively. And for that particular reason, protests have to be sanctioned. There are also other issues, for example, environmental issues, which also have to be taken into consideration. Protest is extremely important but once again, it has to take place in a sanctioned environment and under that type of regime. Otherwise, ladies and gentlemen, it results in disorder once again.

So what took place in Moscow involved indeed just that: it was a non-sanctioned demonstration, and the result was what we saw. We are mature individuals, we are citizens that live within a state where laws are applicable and we have to meet the requirements of these particular laws. So I think it is absolutely necessary to understand that this is the spirit within which we functioned. And we want to work in cooperation and in concert with you now having returned to the....

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:41:19

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I call the last speaker on the list, Mr Aleksei KONDRATEV.

Mr Aleksei KONDRATEV

Russian Federation, NR 

16:41:24

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Dear Colleagues,

I'm the last to speak, and I would like to lead you to a number of specific points.

I have a very clear understanding of the fact that Mr Martin POLIAČIK's report is based on inventions or deliberately trumped up information. I'd like to give you all the information about everything between July 6th and December 8th. I've never had such a request, even though this is an elementary feature of modern democracy.

When Lord Donald ANDERSON kept talking about 13 people... Where did you get that information from? That's just an example of the disinformation.

Look at the situation with Ukraine. When Mr. Sentsov was mentioned, I kept quite about it. He met the President. He's been here. Now look at the result. What happened with him? He was convicted to nine years for terrorist offences. He hasn't appealed his sentence to the Russian courts or the European Court of Human Rights.

What about educating Ukrainians about peaceful protests in Ukraine? They've been met with rubber bullets. Look at Mr. Vyshynsky, who was illegally arrested and held for several months in a Ukrainian prison on trumped up charges. That investigation is continuing. But I, and other colleagues, have pointed out that he has been put away for 12 to 15 years, when you can be sentenced to only 10 years for killing someone in Ukraine. And then, Zhukov, who was convicted for three years. But if he were now to throw molotov cocktails, now everybody in response to that action would respond. We saw what happened in Crimea.

Another question, Mr. Ustinov. The court revised the judgment of the initial court, and his criminal sentence was repealed. When my colleagues from Estonia talk about examples in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in 2008, it was clearly stated in this very same hall, that it was aggression by Georgia to those republics.

I would like us all to, perhaps, stand in memory of the French colleagues that were killed.

That would be a worthy remembrance of those individuals.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:44:46

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That brings us to the end of the list of speakers.

I remind you that at the end of the current affairs debate, the Assembly is not called to vote.

Of course, this debate has allowed for an exchange, animated - as you have seen - between the members of the Assembly. The Bureau may at a later stage propose that the subject matter be referred to the Committee responsible for report.

The next order of the day is the presentation and discussion of the report by Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN, on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, on Obstetric and Gynecological Violence. We will have to finish the examination of this text, including the vote, at 5:50 p.m.

We will, therefore, have to interrupt the list of speakers at around 5:35 p.m. so that we can hear the reply of the Committee and proceed to the necessary vote.

Madame Rapporteur, you have a total of 13 minutes speaking time to allocate to your convenience, between the presentation of your report and the response to the speakers. As soon as you have been able to take your seat, Madam Rapporteur, I will give you the floor.

Debate: Obstetrical and gynaecological violence

Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN

France, SOC, Rapporteur 

16:46:40

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Madam President,

My dear colleagues.

My report complements the list of previous reports on violence against women.

It addresses a theme not yet addressed by our Assembly. It is a subject that for too long has been concealed and, for that reason, for too long misunderstood.

Why such silence? Because pregnancy and childbirth are private moments, which should be times of joy and happiness. To tarnish these moments by evoking the suffering experienced is not customary in our society. Do not we say, "giving birth will be painful"?

If I believe, my dear colleagues, the reaction of the members of the Committee for Equality during the hearings, I can assure you that the it was worth the Assembly drawing up this report, which is an evaluation on violence against women. It has been a revelation for many of our colleagues.

In addition to the hearings and testimonies, we made a visit to Croatia, in Zagreb, the largest city. I met all the medical teams of the maternity and neonatal service of the biggest teaching hospital of this country. I can only congratulate them on their professionalism and their willingness to let the future mother choose what seems best for her. I was able to talk to them freely and they recognise how lucky they are to be able to give birth in such an establishment, which is unfortunately not the case in more rural areas and especially in the islands, where the lack of equipment, medicines, suitable premises and professionals makes the care of women more problematic.

And we talked to a parliamentarian who spoke about the urgent curettage without anesthesia she had to undergo. She also told us of her suffering and that she remembered the utterly devestated look of the doctor who was treating her.

I also had a discussion with Ms Dubravka Šimonović, United Nations Special Rapporteur, who is scheduled to present her report on the same subject tomorrow in New York to the United Nations General Assembly. And, ladies and gentlemen, without revealing her report, I must say that our observations and recommendations are similar.

I remind you that the subject was referred to the WHO in 2014. It already denounced the non-respectful and abusive treatment of women. She made recommendations that are now starting to bear fruit: the rate of caesareans and episiotomies has decreased, but some professional practices that it has forbidden, such as abdominal expression, unnecessary episiotomies and vaginal touching without consent are still in effect.

It will be necessary to wait for the effect of the years 2017-2018, just recently, following the liberation of discourse, via the campaigns you know on social media, highlighting of these problems. Press articles, books and reports shed light on the violence that women suffer during gynaecological examinations or during pregnancy and childbirth, all over the world.

In France, the High Council for Equality prepared a report in 2017, at the government's request, and the professional authorities – most of them men – did the same and started to react. The title of the HCR report and of my report, "Gynaecological and obstetric violence: lifting the taboo" certainly caused a reaction and may have shocked the professionals.

My dear colleagues, you will find the definition of such violence in the introduction to the report. A French researcher defines it as follows: "It is not the intentionality of the practitioner in his actions or his words that authorises the characterisation, but the feeling and the consequences for the one who undergoes them".

I also immersed myself in the history of childbirth, in France of course. As in all countries, I think, it was for a long time women's business, with female midwifes and men were excluded. It was not until the end of the 16th century that men, the barber surgeons, entered these birthing rooms with their instruments and gradually chased out the midwives. In doing so, they took control of women's bodies, their sexuality and their ability to give birth.

As for pain relief, it only came later, it was necessary to wait for Queen Victoria for the development of sedation using chloroform. In a recent TV documentary on ARTE titled, "You'll be in pain," a midwife explained, "We're no longer teaching midwifery students to accompany a birth without an epidural. The physiological childbirth has become a struggle".

The over-medicalisation of childbirth favours the use of more invasive means: I read in a medical journal, to prepare this report, that "the global trend is the frequent use of obstetric interventions, while the majority of births are low risk". It's fairly paradoxical.

The purpose of this report is not to stigmatise a profession, but to measure the reality of the accusations and the improvements made in order to recommend certain good practices, within the framework of the Council of Europe's values, to combat all forms of violence against women, to respect their fundamental rights and dignity.

The very first midwife I met here in Strasboug told me something that struck me and that reflects the spirit of the profession, I quote: "We teach carers how to do, not how to be. We reproduce what we have learned". According to her, violence towards patients is the daily life in many maternity wards for structural, cultural and sociological reasons.

I draw your attention to the difficult working conditions of these professionals who, let us not forget, can also be victims of violence from families and even patients: I have had testimonials to this effect. Lack of staff which leads to overwork, sometimes dilapidated premises, poorly adapted to confidential and privacy and the lack of financial resources increase the tensions in caring for women giving birth in the best conditions.

What stands out – this is the crux of the problem – is the relationship of inequality, between professionals (often men) and future mothers; the practices are deeply rooted in the health system, superiority of the doctor over the patient. It is a patriarchal culture that is perpetuated. It must be said that the position of the woman, legs apart in stirrups during a gynaecological examination, aggravates her feeling of inferiority. A Croatian parliamentarian and doctor told me. He himself had to undergo an intimate and invasive examination, he had trouble accepting it and he told me he understood the feelings of women. I quote also Martin Winckler, doctor and author: "I entered the room where I conducted abortions, I closed the door and I lay on the examination table, with my legs in the stirrups, it has changed my way of seeing things and my way of working".

It is difficult for the woman to question the professional on the choice of care that is given to her, it is difficult to stand up to a doctor. The information given is sometimes dripfed, and often is difficult to understand. In many countries, however, there is a charter of patients' rights with the right to information about one's health, the treatment choices concerning them, consent, respect for privacy and integrity.

I must say that this research and listening work deeply affect me as a woman and mother and convinced me of the need and urgency to act as a parliamentarian. In return, I heard testimonies from women who, after reading this report, were led to think about how these moments happened for them. It is a raising of awareness that will, I hope, help to remove taboos.

I thank the whole Committee, which is here represented by Petra BAYR, and all my colleagues for the monitoring and their continued support throughout this delicate and intimate report, and I thank, of course, the secretariat, and especially Elodie, for all their work.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

16:58:26

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Thank you, Madam Rapporteur.

You will have a minute and a half to respond to the interventions of the various speakers.

I now give the floor to Ms FRESKO-ROLFO, for the ALDE Group.

Ms Béatrice FRESKO-ROLFO

Monaco, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group 

16:58:40

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Thank you, Madam President.

I can not begin without quoting at least a few sentences from the Hippocratic oath: "I will inform the patients of the decisions envisaged, of their reason and their consequences. I will never betray their trust and will not exploit the power inherent to the circumstances to force knowledge."

Madam Rapporteur, the ALDE Group would like to thank you for your work and your engagement on a difficult subject. You tackle an unspoken taboo, since unequivocal discomfort accompanies this matter, which deals with the female genital and reproductive system.

You have opened our eyes to a little-known subject. One certainty: women do not talk about it, or very little, probably due to the shame of not being able to anticipate inappropriate actions.

This report, Madam, you drew it up it with your heart.

You have listed behaviours which, just by mentioning them, cannot leave any of us indifferent. Whether we are a woman or a man.

How not to be scandalised that forced sterilisations can take place in our modern societies in the 21st century? What about clinics that practice female genital mutilation? What can one think when these constraints affect the minorities of a country, making them supposedly morally acceptable when they are condemned by most of the legislations of our countries and by the Istanbul Convention?

You know, Madam, how important this convention is to me, and I know that it is just as important to you. You mentioned the triggers of deliveries without consent, abdominal expression, the "husband's stitch"; these are extremely shocking practices.

You have not forgotten the infantilisation of the parturient, sexist remarks during a medical appointment, discrimination against LGBTI and against the Roma. I will talk about judgment, refusal to act, discrimination against young mothers.

But let's not fall into systematic criticism. There are many practitioners who practice their profession with passion, respect and compassion. It is not wrong to say that certain actions are not malicious, they do not come from a desire to mistreat, they are the result of inadequate training, and a lack of time making the medical profession expeditious.

This report was necessary not – and you pointed this out – to attack a profession but to show that the medical care of 50% of the population deserves to have the financial means and infrastructure and for practitioner training to include a human dimension and education on respect.

Thank you.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Switzerland, SOC, President of the Assembly 

17:01:28

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Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr JALLOW, for the Unified European Left Group.

Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW

Sweden, UEL, Spokesperson for the group 

17:01:40

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Thank you very much, Madam President.

This is an extremely important report. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights reports that one in three women in Europe are a victim of gender-based violence. This violence is manifested in so many different ways, at so many different levels, with devastating and life-changing consequences.

Obstetrical and gynaecological violence is one of the less known and unspoken forms of gender-based violence, that deserves more attention. This form of gender-based violence, just like the rest of them, takes place in spaces that are supposed to be safe for women. In this case, in the privacy of a medical consultation or child birth.

Madam President, an act in which they are totally at the mercy of the doctors or the medical practitioners. This is nothing but a despicable act, and a violation of human dignity. Not even when women are in these supposedly professional environments are they spared from being systematically subjected to inappropriate or non-consensual acts, such as vaginal palpation —that is mentioned in the report— or painful interventions without anaesthesia. Or, as mentioned earlier on, forced sterilisation. This is nothing but sexist behaviour and a direct violation of human rights and dignity.

Madam President, a manifestation of primitive, patriarchal behaviour and gender discrimination, which has long-term and life-changing consequences on the lives of the victims. No area is spared from this scourge of despicable patriarchy and sexist behaviour.

It makes a lot of sense that we, in our work against gender violence, take a victim's perspective. But I submit to this Assembly that it is as important to focus on the perpetrator of the crime. Men are more than often the perpetrators of gender-based violence. And it is equally important to create policy and programs, with the intention of both sensitising them, but also holding them accountable for their behaviour.

Madam President, I thank the rapporteur for this very important report, because it challenges us all in this Assembly to talk about the problem. This violence reflects a patriarchal culture, that is still dominant in society, and not even the medical field is an exception.

Madam President, I'm very much aware of the work and commitment of healthcare personnel, and strongly acknowledge and celebrate the importance of their contribution, in spite of some of the difficulties and stress situations that they face, that lead to some of these problems. Nevertheless, we must openly and firmly reaffirm our commitment to promote gender equality in all areas, which will make it possible to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:04:46

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Thank you.

I call Ms TRASTOUR-ISNART, for the EPP.

Ms Laurence TRASTOUR-ISNART

France, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group 

17:04:52

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Thank you, Madam President.

Madam Rapporteur,

Dear colleagues,

Because this concerns the intimate sphere, the woman's body, obstetric and gynecological violence have too often been overshadowed, too often brushed under the carpet. Yet this violence, these disrespectful acts exist. Women should not have to endure violent or disrespectful childbirth or gynecological examinations, sometimes associated with infantilising, sexist, violent acts performed without consent.

The phenomenon is still unknown and is poorly apprehended by society and perhaps not even the victims themselves, for whom, it may be difficult to reveal facts, which are too often trivialised and perceived as normal.

All these acts that assault women's bodies during medical care can cause psychological disturbances similar to a post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects nearly 5% of women. This is why it is important for public authorities to seize this issue to sensitise women and medical professionals. We must break the silence surrounding this subject. This violence must be recognised, prevented, and we must facilitate reporting procedures and implement better legislation.

This is the ambition of this report by my colleague Ms BLONDIN which proposes relevant recommendations. The EPP would like to insist on strengthening the training of medical and paramedical professionals as a powerful means of combating this violence.

Gynecologists, obstetricians, doctors, midwives, nurses must be trained in the prevention of such violence. The concepts of informed and free consent, of good treatment and benevolence must have a specific place in education.

To date, medical training is centered on technology — sometimes to the detriment of human relations. These two elements must not be antithetical, they must be complementary. In addition, health facilities must be adequately funded to ensure optimal reception and working conditions. Caring for patients with respect and kindness must be the sole objective of the services, not economic profitability. We are fully aware that health professionals do demanding and indispensable work in often difficult working conditions. Caregivers need to be helped, and this includes appropriate funding.

Finally, we believe that national laws must deal with consent in obstetric, gynecological and — more broadly — medical acts. As this report rightly proposes, it is necessary to encourage states that have not yet done so to adopt a law on patients' informed consent and their right to information at the different stages of medical procedures.

We are convinced that the Council of Europe must encourage states to implement them. It is a question of protecting human rights, it is a question of respect for the dignity of the human person, it is a question of promoting equality between men and women.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:08:03

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Thank you.

The next speaker is Ms SAYEK BÖKE, for the Socialist Group.

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Spokesperson for the group 

17:08:09

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Thank you, Madame President.

This is a report that takes us to the privacy of the medical consultation room of childbirth. If nothing, this report takes the huge step of making the invisible seen: the women in those rooms. Therefore, I congratulate Madame BLONDIN, not only for raising the awareness, but also for outlining a road map.

The main question we face is, what turns the privacy of the obstetrical and gynaecological consultation or childbirth into a risky environment for women? Are these incidences non-systematic? Are they are random in nature? Or are they the outcome of the system and the structure? Are these incidences non-systemic –in one sense– individual incidences? Or are they systemic, ones that we observe across the system?

The answers to these questions actually point out a common answer. These are violences that are not random. They are not individual. They are quite systemic. And they are across the board. They are also systematic. They are the result of the structure. A structure that was built by us, the people. Therefore, structures that could change by change in policy.

And this is what this report does. Not only does it support conventions that protect women, but it also aims to change the structure that is indeed leading to the need for protection. There are two pillars of the structure that we have to tackle. One, as we mentioned here, is the patriarchy in the society. Second, is the economic framework. Both should change. The patriarchy can only be changed by equality, by equality in all dimensions: gender, race, ethnicity, beliefs, social class, and this is exactly why we need to hold on dearly to the Istanbul Convention. We have to protect all the grounds that have been gained in terms of women's rights in this convention and we have to invite all our member states who have not yet ratified and signed the Convention to do so.

We also need to change the economic structure. The economic structure that has privatised health care, that has indeed turned a public right and a public good into a private service and a private good to be bought and sold. The heavy privatisation has not only increased the vulnerability of the care seekers but it has also led to a strong deterioration of the work environment for the health care service providers.

In short, we need to reverse the structure of the system. It is not one where we only need protection for women. We need a strong welfare state. We need one where healthcare is indeed a public right and a public service, where health care providers are not under the pressure of sheer market performance.

One caution is necessary. To better formulate policies, we need data. However, as democracy erodes, personal data is becoming an abusive instrument in the hands of authoritarianism, seeking terrorists and lists of women who had abortions. Let's protect women but more so let's protect our rights and the Istanbul Convention.

I congratulate the rapporteur. 

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:11:29

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Thank you.

I call Ms GILLAN, for the Conservative Group.

Dame Cheryl GILLAN

United Kingdom, EC, Spokesperson for the group 

17:11:34

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Madame President,

Can I, on behalf of the European Conservative Group, offer my congratulations to Madame BLONDIN, on what I think is a well-balanced, frank and sensitively expressed report.

We often discuss gender-based violence and female genital mutilation but, as pointed out in her report, rarely has specific, obstetric and gynaecological violence been given priority in any of our member states. I think the real horror of this report is that the perpetrators are often members of the medical profession, and as a woman, I can attest to the increased vulnerability, particularly of women when undergoing gynaecological examinations or obstetric procedures. You naturally place your total trust in your doctor or your midwife or your carer, only — in the many, and can I say well-researched examples presented by the rapporteur — to have that trust totally betrayed. This is a gender inequality that is only relatively received any attention.

The UK, in line with the recommendations, is currently exploring the evidence on prevalence, and has commissioned international research on this area, and found that there are many types of abuse that can occur during labour and birth, ranging from verbal abuse and humiliation to life-changing physical assault. We also found that non-confidential care is likely to be one of the most common forms of violence, particularly patient characteristics also raise the risk of violence, including HIV status, sexuality, race, ethnicity and disability. And when accessing healthcare, these groups increase in number for those at risk of violence and include sex workers, and drug users, and transgender women, and we must never forget that.

Reproductive coercion is also a big issue, globally, and coerced sterilisation still occurs for certain population groups, and that demands attention. I now hope that when this excellent resolution is on our Council of Europe records, that all member states will follow its recommendations and bring an end to this horrifying and often hidden abuse. So, indeed, all people requiring obstetric and gynaecological interventions have the highest calibre of treatment within all our medical services across the 47 countries of Council of Europe.

My congratulations to the rapporteur.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:14:17

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Thank you.

Shall we continue with the general debate list or do you want to talk?

Okay, let's continue.

The next speaker is Ms HETTO-GAASCH, from Luxembourg.

Ms Françoise HETTO-GAASCH

Luxembourg, EPP/CD 

17:14:33

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Thank you, Madame President.

Dear colleagues,

First of all, let me thank Maryvonne BLONDIN wholeheartedly for her report, which deals with a topic that is not only delicate and sensitive but also shocking.

I admit that I was particularly shocked by the mention of the husband's point of view. I cannot imagine that a man could consciously ask a doctor to call for an extra intervention on his wife, during childbirth, to increasing his own satisfaction during sexual intercourse, causing unimaginable pain for the woman throughout the rest of her life.

Any violence is a violation against human rights, whether it is not respecting privacy, informed consent, interventions or aesthetics, or budgetary constraints. All this is simply unacceptable.

In Luxembourg, we have some 6 000 births in one year. I asked one of the gynecologists in Luxembourg who works in maternity obstetrics in Luxembourg City, where some 3 000 - half of the births per year - take place. Approximately nine midwives work on 24-hour shifts to provide adequate and quality supervision for 10 pregnant women who are about to give birth. A midwife, in addition, is responsible for cesarean section. Proper suppor for the doctor and the midwife is in the interest of the woman and the baby.

Midwives and nurses receive, during their training, the necessary instructions to be able to provide quality work, namely: respect, sensitivity, information before any act and discretion. Each woman also has an interview with an anesthesiologist before birth in case a surgical procedure becomes necessary. Thus, they are in a state of awareness of possible problems, acts, and consequences. There is also a sort of charter for the delivery room.

I am of the opinion that the care provided at home and elsewhere must always be the most efficient. Each inappropriate act can have harmful consequences for the whole of life.

In March of this year, a public petition was filed, and this petition called for a regulatory framework to stop the excesses of caesarean practices without argument. The petition was closed due to a lack of signatures. The threshold of 4 500 had not been reached; there were 270 of them. And yet, these 270 signatures prove that there are also women among us who have experienced obstetrical violence. That's why, during the month of November, these women will gather at the maternity ward to plant a rose to raise awareness.

I am calling for a code of ethics for medical staff, quality supervision, a welcoming environment, optimal and caring care, and trained and sensitive staff, as well as a reception room to care for women and a place to submit claims.

Mutual trust plays an important role. We need doctors with whom women have a relationship of trust, since the doctor sometimes has to make emergency decisions in the interest of the health of the mother and the baby. It must, I believe, also be accepted that a birth plan may not be feasible due to exceptional circumstances. 

The budgetary means granted and devoted to safeguarding lived must be appropriate and in relation to their ultimate goal: the health of the mother and the baby.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:18:12

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Thank you.

The next speaker is Ms RIZZOTTI from Italy.

Microphone.

 

Ms Maria RIZZOTTI

Italy, EPP/CD 

17:18:24

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There are many international instruments to combat violence against women, but few specifically mention obstetric and gynecological violence; only Article 39 of the Istanbul Convention deals specifically with forced abortion and forced sterilisation.

Why is it so difficult to recognise obstetric violence for the same women who suffer it? The concept of obstetric violence, above all, is not very well known except for the actions and individual campaigns carried out by some women's associations. It can be defined in a generic way as a set of incorrect behaviors that have to do with women's reproductive and sexual health.

These are deeply representative attitudes of gender inequality, as explained by the World Health Organization in 2014 in a document entitled "The prevention and elimination of abuse and lack of respect during childbirth assistance at hospital facilities". It is said that throughout the world many women during hospital birth experience disrespectful and abusive treatments. There is talk of physical and direct abuse, verbal abuse, coercive or non-consented medical procedures, lack of confidentiality, often lacking a real informed consent and refusal to offer adequate therapy for pain, as well as serious violations of privacy.

In Italy, starting back in 1972, some women's associations promoted the Basta tacere campaign in which tens of thousands of women participated. In April 2016, that campaign was re-launched with the support of dozens of associations. From this recent campaign, the Obstetric Violence Observatory (OVOItalia) was born with the aim of collecting data and stories, and to make visible a phenomenon that is not well known and recognised by the women themselves. At the Observatory's request, the national survey Doxa "Women and childbirth" was conducted, which provided the opportunity to collect very significant data.

Therefore, the intention of this report is to adopt legislative or other measures necessary to guarantee that, for example, performing an abortion on a woman without her informed prior consent is absolutely forbidden; performing surgery that has the purpose or effect of interrupting her reproductive capacity must be absolutely prohibited.

In December 2018, a Commission of Inquiry was established at the French National Assembly to examine cases of sterilisation or forced abortion in the Île de la Réunion in the 1960s and 70s. In April 2019, the Commission for Equality and Non-Discrimination held a joint hearing with the Parliamentary Women Free from Violence Network on the specific issue of forced sterilisation of Roma women. In June 2019, a British judge ordered an abortion on a pregnant woman with a developmental disability, despite the opposition of the woman and her mother.

In Italy, even if we have epidurals in the delivery room for the essential levels of assistance that our State gives to its citizens, we have a regulation stating that Italian women, as various surveys reflect, are satisfied with their experience.

As a woman, as a doctor and as a parliamentarian, I thank the rapporteur and the Committee for this important resolution.

Thanks.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:21:51

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Thank you Madame.

The next speaker is Ms WONNER. 

Ms Martine WONNER

France, ALDE 

17:21:57

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Thank you, Madame President.

Madame Rapporteur,

Madame BLONDIN,

Dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to acknowledge your commitment to the defense of women's rights, and I thank you for the quality of this report.

My attention was particularly on point 5.1. entitled Discrimination against lesbian women.

This is an important subject in my opinion –as your whole report, by the way– but particularly relevant in the light of the bioethics law that the French Parliament is currently looking at in the national assembly.

As a member of this special Committee on bioethics set up as part of this review, I welcome the work done and, in particular, the opening in France of the PMA to all women, since the PMA was up to then banned in France for lesbian couples and single women, while this practice is allowed in several other countries of the European Union.

I myself invested a lot in the writing of this law.

I am well aware that health professionals may have a biased perception of these women's sexual habits. The latter also lack information and are often victims of clichés that persist. The sexual health of lesbian women seems to be considered as separate and stigmatized by the medical community with the consequences that we imagine and highlight in your report.

Unfortunately, the medical profession seems not to be spared by this lack of information on the sexuality of lesbian women, communities to which researchers and doctors have contributed to the construction of a feeling of immunity within them, especially through of a reductive conception of female sexuality.

This ignorance of medical staff has the effect of driving lesbian or bisexual women away from the health system because of inappropriate reactions or many bad experiences.

Reading the information that appears in your report, and so that these women, in particular, can benefit from better monitoring, especially during and after pregnancy, it is up to us to be particularly vigilant about access to care.

What, according to you,are the paths to follow in order to avoid unequal treatment against homosexuals or single women, especially during the pre and post-natal monitoring? How to fight against the presumption of heterosexuality that these women often face? Are there experiences, practices in European countries by which other countries, including France, could be inspired?

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:24:48

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Thank you.

I call Ms GHERMAN from the Republic of Moldova.

Ms Doina GHERMAN

Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD 

17:24:54

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Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

I must confess that I can't just stand aside regarding the issue of obstetrical violence. I'm the Chair of the Committee on Human Rights in the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova. I am a woman, I am a mother of a girl, and I can't blame enough those who dare to mistreat a woman in vulnerable situations, such as pregnancy, during childbirth and even during basic gynaecological consultations.

It is utterly unacceptable that these periods, for so many women, become associated with suffering, verbal and physical humiliation, and even death. Obviously, women's sexual and reproductive health is an integral part of women's rights, and any form of violence against women is a violation of human rights in general.

I agree that measures need to be taken to ensure that women are treated with respect, that their bodies, health, and their decisions are being treated with respect. That is why it is necessary to speak out about this issue because, as far as we can see, it is a systemic problem. We must stand in solidarity, discuss about gynaecological and obstetrical violence, draw attention to it in order to ensure respectful medical care for women.

That is why I strongly support this report, and I highly appreciate the hard work, commitment, and the invaluable contributions of Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN to promoting women's human rights in the context of gynaecological and obstetrical violence. Thank you very much and remember that together we can stop violence against women in all its forms.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:27:03

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Thank you.

I call Ms RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ from Spain.

Ms Melisa RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ

Spain, ALDE 

17:27:09

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Colleagues,

We have discussed on different occasions in this chamber about violence, violence against women, domestic violence, feminine genital mutilation, but we have never spoken about obstetrical and gynaecological violence. For that reason, I would like to express my thanks to Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN, for having brought this to the forefront.

It's very difficult for us to know how many victims there are. How many women are victims of this particular situation. For two basic reasons:

- On the one hand, there is a lack of knowledge, there is no data, there is no information out there. And, as a result, many women might not even know themselves that they have been victims of obstetrical violence.

- Also, there is the stigma element, and there is the shame that goes along with that as well. Of course, that would have reverberations for their family, and in society as well.

Now, in a number of different countries, Iceland, Germany and others, a number of different campaigns have been imitated in order to break this wall of silence, in order to disseminate information about this particular phenomenon. It is absolutely key for us to have information. Many people, once again, don't know anything about this, or don't understand the nature of this, also because of the medical terminology.

People feel inhibited as well. So this is something that curtails the rights of women, it is a serious violation of fundamental human rights. This type of violence, this type of aggression, at a moment of great vulnerability, at the maximum vulnerability under which one can be, for a woman —forced abortion, forced sterilisation. We are vulnerable, we are very vulnerable in this medical environment, and I think, indeed, this has to be understood very clearly.

I think we have to move forward, fighting for the rights of women, and fighting against this particular scourge as well. This form of aggression, this form of violence. But to do so, there has to be some sort of agreement between healthcare professionals and the relevant or competent authorities. There has to be some sort of concerted effort, in other words, bringing together the different forces, in order to eradicate this type of problem. Lets also mention, quite clearly, that there are certain medical activities, and certain medical procedures, which are not authorised, and they are being conducted without the consent of women.

And, once again, I simply wanted to thank Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN for this report, because this type of report helps us to break once again through the wall of violence, and become aware and be sensitised about a very serious issue. Quite clearly, if we do not speak about a reality, we cannot fight it.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:30:20

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Thank you.

Ms BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR, from Iceland, has the floor.

Ms Rósa Björk BRYNJÓLFSDÓTTIR

Iceland, UEL 

17:30:25

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President,

I would like to congratulate the rapporteur on this important report. Gender-based violence is rarely discussed. Increasing attention is being given to inherent gender bias in healthcare. Women and girls have different medical needs, and even different biological representation of diseases, than men and boys. This has long been a neglected area of research, resulting in women receiving less qualified health care than men, resulting in traumatic experiences for women and girls, with increased chances of continued health problems for women that mean lowering the quality of women's lives and increased cost for societies.

It is important to remember that childbirth is one of the most dangerous events in a woman's life. It can create a dire life-and-death situation, and it is important to keep this in mind when we discuss the issue of obstetric and gynaecological violence.

All medical intervention must be based on best practice and the most current science. Routine episiotomies, for example, should be abolished, as this is an outdated practice shown to make women more harm than what can be justified by its limited benefits during childbirth.

Any type of intervention that is justified with the comfort of the hospital staff, rather than the best interest of the patient, is morally and medically wrong. Those people who still, in 2019, believe that childbirth should always be painful, no matter what, and deny women available pain relief on that ground, should not be part of the health care system.

For the most part, those practices exist because hospital staff are strapped for resources, overworked and have limited time. Often, they are not properly trained. I believe we must address these systematic problems and insist on a health care system that, wherever possible, secures patient informed consent for all interventions.

Proper communication is the lacking ingredient in many stories of obstetrical violence. Condescending and sexist remarks should never occur in health care, and are especially reprehensible when women are at their most vulnerable, as during childbirth or examination. Sexism is a function of our society, but we can only combat this by continuing to fight patriarchal values that view women as secondary to men. This is a fight that we must continue on all fronts, the health system included.

We need to strengthen laws requiring the informed consent of patients, whenever possible. Human rights and human dignity need to be safeguarded, not least during an already traumatic experience, as giving birth is. This may require us to increase funding and training in health care, but also to up our gender eyeglasses at every aspect of our society.

I want to thank the rapporteur, again, on this report.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:33:37

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Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr RAVALIA from Canada.

Mr Mohamed-Iqbal RAVALIA

Canada 

17:33:43

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Madame President,

Let me begin by thanking rapporteur Maryvonne BLONDIN and her colleagues for their important study on obstetrical and gynaecological violence.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that, across the globe, certain women experience disrespectful and abusive treatment, especially during childbirth when they are at a particularly vulnerable moment in their life. Adolescents, unmarried women, women of low socio-economic status, indigenous women, women from ethnic minorities, migrant women and women living with HIV, are the most likely to experience abusive treatment.

As a family physician, and now parliamentarian, I find this situation deplorable. It goes against the fundamentals of our practice as health care providers and against the Hippocratic Oath. It breaks the trust between physicians and their patients. The prospect of disrespectful and abusive treatment can deter people from seeking any medical care, which can have direct long-term adverse public health consequences. The right to health is the right to dignified, respectful health care, which includes freedom from non-consensual medical treatment, such as forced sterilisation or cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment.

This is reflected in Article 12(2) of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which obligates state parties to ensure appropriate services to women in connection with pregnancy, childbirth, postnatal care and gynaecological procedures. While Canada ratified this Convention in 1981, there are still instances of obstetrical and gynaecological violence in my country.

For example, this year, the Canadian Senate Committee on Human Rights has heard from witnesses that forced and coerced sterilisation is not confined to the past and is still a horrible practice experienced today by some of Canada’s most vulnerable groups today. Along with indigenous women, other vulnerable and marginalised groups who are affected are women with disabilities, racialised women, intersex children and institutionalised persons.

As parliamentarians, in the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada, we are pushing for legislative and policy changes related to violence against women. The Canadian Indigenous Services Minister stated in December 2018 that forced and coerced sterilisation is a human rights violation, and the Government of Canada is “working with provinces and territories as well as health care providers and medical associations to make sure that the concept of informed consent is well understood and that culturally safe care is also well taught.”

I urge all of us to keep our governments to account on this issue. Eliminating violence against women remains a priority for Canada, both at home and abroad.

Thank you. 

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:36:47

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The next speaker is Mr RAMÍREZ BARBA from Mexico.

Mr Éctor Jaime RAMÍREZ BARBA

Mexico 

17:36:53

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With your permission President.

In recent years in my country, where there are more than two million births annually, we have had rampant violence against women. This has existed for many centuries here. There has been a lack of information and this is something, of course, that has spread to the Internet as well, and to social media. There are numerous different cases of violence against women and, more specifically, women who are seeking medical care from their obstetrician and gynaecologist.

This takes place under those conditions as well. Over the last five years, 33% of women who gave birth between 15 and 40 years of age underwent some form of obstetrical violence. What we have to do is look at the causes of this type of violence against women, which takes place particularly during pregnancy and during childbirth.

We need a kind of adjustment of the system, an adjustment of the healthcare system so as to provide the necessary care and necessary sensitivity to women when they are giving birth, in addition to providing the necessary social and psychological support as well. And we ought also to take into consideration the danger of the moment when women give birth. Many many women die. And its absolutely clear that we have to have a clear stance against the system as it exists.

So, indeed, a number of different recommendations, 39 of 2007 was issued by the United Nations, a  resolution against obstetrical and gynaecological violence. But as a representative of the Mexican Parliament, I would like first of all to thank the rapporteur for this excellent report. And indeed I think this ought to serve as a kind of launching point for a broader effort in order to fight this kind of obstetric and gynaecological violence.

A number of different lawmakers in the Parliament in Mexico have been made aware of this problem. Efforts are being made to initiate a campaign against any sort of abuse that takes place in this very sensitive environment but, of course, we have to recognise that much has to be done still. It has to be done in a concerted fashion with other organisations as well, as for example with this Committee.

So it is very important for us to work together and to state our very clear position and the need to move forward to take action on the issue of fighting obstetrical and gynaecological violence.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:39:57

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We must now interrupt the list of speakers.

Speakers who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may transmit their typed intervention to the Table Office within four hours for publication in the minutes.

I remind you that this text must not exceed 400 words and must be transmitted electronically.

I now call on the rapporteur. 

Madame Rapporteur, you have 1 minute 30 seconds left.

You have the floor.

Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN

France, SOC, Rapporteur 

17:40:30

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Yes, I do not have much time left. I spoke a little too slowly but it's such a fascinating subject.

I would like to thank you, each and every one of you, ladies and gentlemen, for speaking because you have to voice your concerns here, certainly, but in your parliaments as well. And that's important.

You mentioned it, Sir, the legislation is going to evolve and I hope it will be the case everywhere.

An update on the complaint mechanism: I think that it is also something that will have to be made easier and more tailored, in order to bring the complaint of the patient to the attention of the medical profession.

Medical research is also important because it has been done since the dawn of time — since the beginning — with men, male bodies, which are much different from women's bodies.

The patient's consent, you mentioned it.

So, I sincerely thank you all for the work we have done together and that we will continue to do together.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:41:50

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Thank you.

Ms Petra BAYR, do you have anything to say on behalf of the Committee?

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC 

17:41:57

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It is common knowledge that every third European woman is a survivor of violence. It's an inconvenient truth of course but it's a fact. It's a known fact and it's evidence-based and because of that we can react. You can act. We can decide about laws or measures that tackle the issue. For instance, implementing this simple Convention.

For many of us, this resolution was really an eye-opener. Thank you once again very much for that because many of us were not aware that also in the field of obstetrics and gynaecology, violence is widespread. It's a reality for many women. It is clandestine and it is hidden, and it is very often ignored.

What is not clandestine, what is not hidden, are the root causes. Nevertheless, they are known and they are often ignored as well. The root causes for every form of gender-based violence, the basis of all of that, are patriarchal structures, lack of equality, weak social status of women, less resources, less respect, less dignity, less self-determination, less independence, less freedom and in some cases even fewer rights for women.

We have to eradicate all these root causes of gender-based violence including in the field of obstetrics and gynaecological violence. We have to encourage women to talk about their respective experiences and destigmatise the disclosure of this human rights violation. We have to protect and support the survivors and avoid that they undergo double discrimination and stigmatisation. We have to prosecute the perpetrators even if they are medical doctors or medical personnel. Especially important from a political point of view is to secure equal rights, equal social status, equal resources and equal dignity for women under all circumstances and everywhere.

I also once more want to thank Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN for this wonderful report, which really was for many of us the first time that we were confronted with this problem. I think it's really worth it to, with a broad majority, adopt this resolution and the amendments.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:44:45

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Thank you.

The general debate is closed.

The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination has tabled a draft resolution to which six amendments have been tabled.

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee and Ms Petra BAYR, of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, would like to propose to the Assembly that Amendment No. 3, which has been adopted in unanimously by the Committee, is adopted by the Assembly.

Is that so?

Any objection? No, there is no objection.

I declare that Amendment No. 3 of the draft resolution is, therefore, adopted.

We are going to discuss other amendments. They will be called in the order in which they apply to the text as published in the compendium of amendments.

Ladies and gentlemen, I remind you that the speaking time for each amendment is 30 seconds.

Amendment No. 1, Ms Maria RIZZOTTI has the floor to support this amendment.

Ms Maria RIZZOTTI

Italy, EPP/CD 

17:45:45

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Withdrawn. Thanks.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:45:48

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It has been withdrawn.

Does anyone else wish to support the amendment?

No.

In that case, we will move on to Amendment No. 2.

Ms Maria RIZZOTTI?

Ms Maria RIZZOTTI

Italy, EPP/CD 

17:46:01

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Withdrawn as well because of the content of Amendment No. 3, which has been inserted in the text now. Thanks.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:46:08

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Okay.

Does anyone else want to say something about this?

No.

Okay, so we move on to Amendment No. 3, which has been adopted unanimously. Do you want to introduce it? No.

Let's move on to Amendment No. 5.

I call Ms Violeta TOMIĆ to support Amendment No. 5.

She is not here. Does anyone else want to support Amendment No. 5? If it is not supported, we will not put it to the vote either.

Amendment No. 6. I think that Ms Violeta TOMIĆ is still not there.

Does anyone want to support it?

Amendment No. 4, Ms RIZZOTTI.

Ms Maria RIZZOTTI

Italy, EPP/CD 

17:46:56

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Thank you.

Although not related to obstetric violence, I would like to mention that the worst act of gynecological violence is female genital mutilation, which still takes place in our countries and that we must never stop keeping in the spotlight.

This is why I believe that centres could be created, as was done with the Breast Units, in addition to European legislation for reconstruction following genital mutilation. A new European crusade must, therefore, be pursued to give these girls and women the best chance of regaining functionality and well-being, because often the women who have suffered it are not aware of the fact that reconstruction can be done.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:47:34

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Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

Madame Rapporteur?

Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN

France, SOC, Rapporteur 

17:47:43

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Madam President, yes, this is an important subject, but, as Ms RIZZOTTI said, that is not at all the context of our report and she may be able, another time, to prepare another report on the subject.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:48:00

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Is this the opinion of the Committee?

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC 

17:48:06

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Rejected with a vast majority.

Ms Vanessa D'AMBROSIO

San Marino, SOC 

21:04:51

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Speech not pronounced (Rules of Procedure, Art. 31.2), only available in Italian

Ms Hilkka KEMPPI

Finland, ALDE 

21:05:11

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(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Madam President, dear colleagues,

Thank you Ms Blondin for this excellent report. This is a difficult subject because it is a personal experience with many dimensions. However, I welcome that we can openly talk about childbirth-related pain, fears and traumas in this Assembly. Unfortunately, obstetric violence is an often-overlooked type of violence against women.

I would like to raise my own views in this matter, because this is an important issue for people in Finland as well. In some European countries # me too during childbirth campaigns have recently been organized. The initial idea came from # metoo. Finland was one of these countries. Some medical staff felt that this campaign in a way questioned their expertise. As I see it, it was more about a need of some women to process their experiences. In want to point out that, the professional expertise in Finland is at a high level and these issues are part of staff training.

Through the campaign women wanted to raise awareness on bad treatment that they had experienced during childbirth, and I was surprised by the many stories that were told in the public.

Grievances still happen. For example, a friend of mine, who travelled from Finland to Malta experienced a miscarriage and had to see a doctor. Miscarriages can be frightening and traumatizing as they include difficult feelings and a great loss. In fear of an infection, my friend had appropriately asked the doctor in Malta to remove the fetus, but the Maltese doctor refused based on religious belief. My friend was left alone fearing an infection caused by the complication. The doctors in Finland recommended her to urgently seek medical treatment, but the doctors in Malta refused.

This is not right! Not even in the worst circumstances should a woman have to fear for her own health. We must have autonomy over our bodies. In the 21st century Europe, the right to proper treatment cannot be up to the country, where you happen to be. The Istanbul Convention condemns all forms of violence against women and all member states have an obligation to protect women from this kind of violence.

Thank you

Vote: Obstetrical and gynaecological violence

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:48:08

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We will vote on the amendment.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

Amendment No. 4 was rejected by 36 votes to 19. It was therefore not adopted.

We will vote on the draft resolution, which requires a simple majority. We will proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 14965.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

The result displayed is: adopted by a large majority. Thank you very much, the resolution is adopted, and congratulations.

We will move on to the next debate.

The next item of business is the debate and presentation of the report entitled "A legal status for climate refugees" by Ms Marie-Christine Verdier-JOUCLAS on behalf of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. 

We must be done with the examination of this text, including the vote, at 7:25 p.m. We will have to interrupt the list of speakers around 6:50 p.m. so that we can hear the reply from the Committee and proceed to vote.

Madam Rapporteur, you have a total of 13 minutes speaking time, which you can divide at your convenience.

Yes, please, is this a point of order?

Debate: A legal status for "climate refugees"

Mr Martin GRAF

Austria, NR 

17:51:33

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Dear Madam Chairman,

I have a point of order.

I would like to request for the document 14955 to be referred back off to the Committee, and I would like to give a short justification: we are dealing here with a matter that would require a great deal of legal definitions. And this document was only discussed in the Committee on Migration, not in the Legal Committee. This document strongly interferes with national legislation, in particular with regard to the closure of legal loopholes, which are obviously prevalent, and there is no corresponding opinion from the Legal Committee.

I therefore request for this document to be referred back, so that it can be adequately dealt with in the committees.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:52:34

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Therefore, in the case of a point of order, only the proposer of the motion, one speaker against and the rapporteur or the chairman of the Committee in question may be heard.

You have raised the motion. Does anyone want to speak against this motion? Against referral back to Committee? Madame ÆVARSDÓTTIR? Yes.

Ms Thorhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC 

17:53:02

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Thank you, Madame President. 

As Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee, I have no objection to the fact that this was not sent to our Committee. The Bureau decides on these things. It did so at the relevant time. We have had plenty of time to object the procedure. There were plenty of opportunities to bring forth these kinds of objections. This is not the appropriate time. It should remain where it is on the floor for this important discussion that we are having now. You have no objections from the Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee that we were not requested of an opinion on this report. 

Thank you. 

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:53:40

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What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC 

17:53:43

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Madam President,

It is clear that the problem was not raised, was not discussed.

I take note that the chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs also considers that there is no objection. From our point of view, it is above all, indeed, a political issue of taking things into account and the legal aspect does not seem to me to be a priority. So we want to debate; of course, it is the plenary that decides.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:54:13

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The Assembly will now take a simple majority decision on the motion to refer this back to the Committee.

I remind you that those who wish to support the motion should vote yes, and those who wish to reject this motion should vote no.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

Can I ask for the result to be displayed? Referral to Committee was not approved.

We shall, therefore, continue with the debate. As I was saying, Madame Rapporteur, you have a total of 13 minutes to speak, which you may divide as you see fit between the presentation of your report and the reply to the debate.

You now have the floor.

Ms Marie-Christine VERDIER-JOUCLAS

France, ALDE, Rapporteur 

17:55:10

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Thank you, Madam President.

Mr President of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

First of all, let me just express my solidarity with the police officers of the police headquarters in Paris, following the attack they have suffered.

We have something in common, in each of our countries and for many months: a youth that is expressing itself and pushing us to our limits. Young people, our children, our grandchildren.

This young tells us one thing: "You, who are responsible for big decisions, you do not go fast enough".

And for good reason, we are not meeting our requirements and the objectives that we have set ourselves in the fight against global warming and preservation of biodiversity.

Yet, we have everything we need to respond to these challenges in an unprecedented way.

First, we have the knowledge. Science has never been so mobilised to be able to classify the challenges we face and to see how to respond to these contemporary ills. We have the funding, it is not lacking across the planet to prepare for the ecological transition and strengthen the resilience of our countries. And we have multilateral or regional frameworks, like this, where for the peoples we represent are supposed to work for the common good and to prepare for the future of humanity.

When are we missing? What is missing, as our President Emmanuel Macron emphasised during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, is "courage": the courage to know how to build peace and the courage of responsibility.

The courage to build peace, first of all, because we will need it when by 2050, if we continue to fail to meet our goals in the fight against global warming, 200 million people will be displaced on a global level because of environmental factors. We will then need this courage to go beyond the defence of our primary interests or the temptation of national withdrawal, in a world where resources will be more scarce than today and the competition to obtain these even more fierce.

The courage of responsibility, meanwhile, to say that Europe does not have to accept all the misery of the world but must in good faith take its share, because we are partly responsible for the climate change that is to take place and of which other people will suffer the consequences. It is the economically strong countries that cause the most global warming and it is the populations of the poorest countries who are the first victims.

In this context, France will take its responsibilities. We have already stopped all new hydrocarbon exploration on French soil, and the last coal plants will have closed before 2022. Regarding our commercial and economic agenda, we do not want it to be in contradiction with our climate agenda. As our President of the Republic has mentioned, there will be no further opening of trade negotiations with countries that are in contradiction with the Paris Agreement, which do not respect the Paris Agreement.

This courage of responsibility is also knowing how to face the facts. The fact that the number of migrants has been divided by five in Europe since 2015, but at the same time, asylum applications have increased in some of our countries. This increase in the demands of protection which is explained, largely part, by the transfer of migration flows from economic reasons to asylum.

It is a "false good idea" to open refugee status to environmentally displaced people, because we must first harmonise the conditions for asylum, and carry out a reform of the Dublin Regulation, which retains the principle of the responsibility for examining the asylum application of the country of entry, but organises European solidarity in the management of external borders.

The facts are also that most people displaced by natural disasters and climate change are internally displaced. The problem therefore lies more in the ability of states to manage natural disasters and ensure people's security and resilience.

The challenge of this motion for a resolution is fundamental: reconcile agendas linked to the fight against climate change with those related to migration, humanitarian action and development aid.

This motion for a resolution therefore calls for specific measures at local, national and international level to improve legal protection in the context of environmental migration.

The obligation to protect internally displaced persons for environmental reasons must be considered the first level of legal protection in the legislation of each member state.

National law should stipulate that the victims of natural disasters are to be accepted on the territory of member states, in particular by granting a temporary residence permit.

In legislation terms, in France we have already tabled a law proposal, aimed at better anticipating the movements of populations victims of climate change and loss of biodiversity. We are starting, we are setting an example, other countries must follow.

Steps need to be taken: measures to raise the resilience threshold of local communities, measures to improve disaster preparedness at the local level, targeting especially vulnerable populations, such as children and people with disabilities, improve disaster response and management capacity at the national level.

Thresholds and triggers for displacement should be investigated further, recognising the multiple causes. We need to deepen our understanding of the interactions between climate change and conflict and/or violence.

Finally, steps must be taken to improve coordination and funding.

The creation of an international solidarity fund to ensure the protection of people forced to emigrate as a result of climate disasters should be studied. In addition, co-operation with the Council of Europe Development Bank could be envisaged in a joint effort to implement the fundamental right of the present and future generations to live in a healthy environment.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

Ten years ago, the only role of politicians was to be whistle-nlowers against global warming. Five years ago, they began to develop action plans without taking action. Today we are in the immediacy and we must take concrete and real action, we have no choice. It's not because some people did not want to see – and I'll quote Jacques Chirac to whom we have paid tribute: "our house burns and we look elsewhere" – that we do not need, here today, to act. We are rightly asked to make decisions that apply immediately.

Let's have the courage to make them.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:02:54

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Thank you, Rapporteur.

You will have 5 minutes and 30 seconds to answer the speakers later.

In the general debate, the floor is now for the spokespersons of the political groups.

I call Mr FAMELLOS for the UEL, please.

Mr Sokratis FAMELLOS

Greece, UEL, Spokesperson for the group 

18:03:14

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Thank you, Mr Chairman,

Dear colleagues,

The climate crisis is rapidly evolving. There are commitments, but no true action. We are not moving as fast as we can to stop or deal with the changes that are happening to the Earth's ecosystems.

The report on the legal status for climate refugees is based on solid research, and reaches a balanced position with which we agree, and we congratulate the rapporteur.

But we must remember that the climate crisis is here. We are dealing with a violent transition. This transition will affect countries, regions, economies, livelihoods and will claim human lives. Additionally, we face negative developments, as, for example, the recent Amazon fires.

We need time for the ecological transformation of our societies and economies, for resilience. But time is what we do not have. Unfortunately, it is not evident to all, that we need to change our development model. Because it is this paradigm which has led us to this climate crisis. We should not limit climate resilience only to the Sustainable Development Goal 11. It is the entire SDG agenda that is relevant. Access to affordable energy, water and sanitation, consumption and production, inequalities and poverty are connected with the problem of climate crisis.

Our principle is clear: no-one should be left behind. This is the cornerstone for climate policy and for addressing climate migration.

The Mediterranean region is an especially vulnerable hotspot for the climate crisis. But Europe, also, must prepare for new migration flows, unfortunately, caused by climate change.

The violent transition will widen the gap between the south and the north. Within our countries, we also have the threat of new inequalities. And a just transition is a right for the inhabitants of areas that are connected with carbon and fossil fuels.

Thus, I would like to stress the following:

1. Climate mitigation requires effort from all countries, a new sustainable development model, very different from today. More fair to the people and to nature, with reallocation of resources, not only in the form of financing.

2. Building climate resilience requires cooperation for the development of climate-proof infrastructure, transfer of technology, of funds to other countries, to developing countries, of know-how cooperation. For example, for civil protection in the whole Mediterranean area, the initiatives that the former government of Greece already implemented in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

3. Unfortunately, we are not yet ready to address all legal issues associated with the displacement or migration of persons for environmental or climate reasons. We need to further develop the framework, procedures and infrastructure at local, national and international level.

And I agree with your proposal. But we are still facing the same question: are we doing enough, as fast as we could? The answer, unfortunately, is "no, not yet!" And young people, from all nations, expect more from all of us!

Thank you. 

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:06:43

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Thank you.

Given the time, I would like to stick to the three minute limit, if that's possible.

I give the floor to Mr KÖCK on behalf of the EPP Group.

Mr Eduard KÖCK

Austria, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group 

18:06:55

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Madam President,

Dear rapporteur,

Dear Colleagues,

Climate change is one of the key issues we will be discussing over the next few years. And the young people on the streets, show this to us very clearly. We need to find answers, especially for those most affected by this in the regions concerned, that are to lose their means of subsistence.

On the other hand, we also have to change our way of living. We need to change the way we produce energy, how we consume it, and how we use our resources. We should also invest more in development aid in the future. This is also in this report. Surely, we will have to do a lot more, even if it hurts our budgets here and there, if we do not want people to flee their countries. Of course, it is important to pay attention to how these funds are transferred to these countries. Mostly because there are people in the governments, who are very corrupt, and often misappropriate this money.

We also have to work —I think— to prevent trafficking. Because trafficking is currently moving more money out of Africa than what is getting in through development aid. I believe that is also a fact we must definitely tackle in the near future.

But we should also distinguish: there are natural disasters, that make people suddenly fall into circumstances where they need help; and we have to help fast. But there is also climate change, climate change is slow. People are beginning to realize that, where they are now, they have no future, and will slowly have to find other areas to live. Here circumstances might not move as fast, but we must react. Overall, this is a very, very good report.

I thank all who have worked on it. I cannot fully share the report in Item 532, which seeks to give climate refugees protection status in the legislations of our countries. That, I mean, would be going too far. We had an interesting discussion this morning, where we are still working on how to deal with the refugee crisis that started in 2015. Countries that are affected, these are the Mediterranean countries, or the countries of destination, want a little less pressure from this crisis; and other countries that are not affected do not want to have anything to do with it.

There is very, very little solidarity. And if we now give the sign that we want to bring more people, then we also do the work of advertising for traffickers; they could use this again to recruit young people, in order to cross the Mediterranean, and possibly drown there again. So I would say the report is a very good, without this point.

But I cannot support it with this point.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:10:29

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Thank you Mr KÖCK.

I give the floor to Ms ÆVARSDÓTTIR for the Socialist Group.

Ms Thorhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC, Spokesperson for the group 

18:10:37

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Thank you Madam, dear colleagues.

Let me first extend my deepest condolences to France for today's atrocities.

Climate change requires politics that don't exist at the moment, and tackling climate change requires technology that doesn't exist appropriately today. These are words paraphrased from Greta Thunberg, as she spoke them in New York, where I was honoured to see her (give an) address a few days ago.

We are confronted by a global problem that does not respect territorial sovereignty, global borders or any of the man-made constructs that we have used to separate nations into borders, into countries, that some have access to and others do not. We come from a continent that has a huge, huge guilt to deal with when it comes to climate change. We are, by and large, heavily responsible for the position that the global universe is set in today. And yet, we choose to continue to look the other way, which is to continue to think that some negotiations, maybe fixing one or the other wording of one or the other treaty, may help solve a problem that is catastrophic, and so immense that we do not really comprehend the size of the problem yet.

I would like to refer to the words of the French President Emmanuel Macron, who encouraged us at the 70th anniversary celebration to dare to dream, and to dare to offer the peoples of Europe hope.

Now, I commend the rapporteur's report. It gives us a comprehensive overview of the status quo today. Of the stalemate that we are in. Of the unwillingness of every single leader in Europe, to truly offer a solution that respects the fact that this is a global problem that needs a global solution. One that is not focused constantly on territorial sovereignty, protecting our borders from people whose problems we have caused. I think we should dare to dream a much bigger solution than changing the Dublin Regulation, sorry to say.

I agree that we shouldn't change the Refugee Convention, but we need to come up with a global agreement on how to deal with climate change in its entirety. I would, finally, also like to underline the conclusions of my committee, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which two days ago expressed its deep concern about the effects that climate change would have on the rule of law, democracy and human rights. This is something we should all be concerned about and we should be a lot more mobilised than we are right now.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:13:55

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Thank you, Madame.

I call Mr DUNDEE for the Conservatives.

Lord Alexander DUNDEE

United Kingdom, EC, Spokesperson for the group 

18:14:02

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Madame President.

For this debate, we're very fortunate to have the excellent report written by Ms Marie-Christine VERDIER-JOUCLAS. Briefly today, I'll comment upon three anomalies which she implies. In the first place, insufficient preparedness to anticipate and deal with the problem, some explanations for this inadequacy, then misleading semantics undermining the legal status of climate refugees.

In 2005, as the rapporteur observes, shortly after the ocean tsunami, over 168 governments pledged to implement the advice of the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015. They agreed to adopt measures to reduce the risk of disaster. These would become part of existing sustainable development programmes. Accordingly, they undertook to strengthen and adapt their relevant institutions, mechanisms and capacities as well.

Since then, however, hardly any of these steps have been taken and we're now 14 years later in 2019. We look at the unsatisfactory level of what is in place. It might almost seem to us as if the same governments had completely forgotten their commitments at the time, let alone their need to prepare for many other natural disasters.

Nevertheless, in view of the strong probability of these, along with the effect of global warming, it's estimated that, within the world, 200 million people will be displaced by 2050. This apparent international amnesia may partially emanate from the debate about global warming itself. For if, as is held by some —which it is — that global warming is not a real threat at all, allegedly, being instead an incorrect assessment. It follows, of course, that there would be many fewer climate refugees. That, at least, is a logical point of view.

Another opinion also attempts to defend the lack of action. This begins by conceding that global warming probably is a real threat. It goes on to assert that, in any case, other types of refugees require more immediate and urgent attention now than do climate refugees, who are more into the future.

Yet both these arguments are specious. Firstly, on global warming. Almost certainly this is a real threat, therefore, it's far wiser to bear its consequences, even if those turn out to be milder than currently assessed. And secondly, it is not very wise at all to fail to prepare for 200 million displaced refugees just because at the moment other types of refugees need to take up our immediate attention, which they obviously do.

Then some confused semantics within the Geneva Convention, the description of disadvantaged people as "climate refugees" affords less legal protections if the same group of people were to be called instead "environmentally displaced persons". To achieve this better status, therefore, they should be described accordingly.

In summary, strongly urged by the Council of Europe, and as advocated by the support, specific measures to address this issue must now be properly taken at local, national and international levels.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:17:06

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I call Ms RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ for the ALDE Group.

Ms Melisa RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ

Spain, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group 

18:17:13

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Thank you very much to my colleague for this report, and thank you for addressing this issue, which I think will be of utmost importance for the next century or so.

I would like to, if I may, give you a couple of examples from my country, from Spain. We've had floods, and we have had really heavy rainfall, which has led to loss of life. This happens more and more frequently.

In the Canary Islands, eight percent of the Gran Canaria island has been affected, recently, by extreme weather. That can lead to a lot of problems. We've had very heavy storms, rainfall, and that can have an impact on people of course. This climate has an impact on all of us. It seems, almost, mission impossible to deal with it.

There are those who are in complete denial. I think it's important for those people to look at reality as it is. Look at what's happening around the planet. The European Agency for Environment has mentioned that there is a serious economic impact around Europe, because all the disasters caused by climate have cost 453 million euros.

Many of the people affected by this have been deprived of everything, and have not been compensated in any way. In this report, we need to mention that as well, because I don't think it's in there right now.

If we have a lot of extreme weather causing a lot of disasters, more and more frequently, we need to be aware that it will lead to inequality between people, increasing the societal gap.

We talk a lot about how to mitigate the effects of climate change, but that's one thing. We also need to talk about how to adapt, of course. Even with an optimistic point of view, thinking that the temperature will only increase by 1.5 degrees, that could still create a rise in the displacement of population, or have a very negative impact by reducing our coastal areas and affecting the people living there. Sea levels rising will affect our island and coastal regions. Many of our countries will be affected by that.

We need to look for solutions, and we need to pay closer attention to adaptation.

I think it is also important for us to create a common legal framework to respond to displacements, as this situation will only worsen if we don't do anything about it. On behalf of the liberal group, I would like to just add one comment. We don't believe it's adequate to talk about a typology of refugees we might be dealing with.

Aside from that, we believe we need to do more. We need to have a global change to respond to these displacements. If we fail to do that, an increasing number of people will be affected. And if we don't commit to our planet, we might not have a future.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:20:27

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Madam rapporteur, do we continue the discussion or do you want to reply?

Okay.

Ms Marie-Christine VERDIER-JOUCLAS

France, ALDE, Rapporteur 

18:20:35

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Quickly, I would like to thank the speakers for their comments and support towards this draft resolution, and just to provide some answers.

Mrs ÆVARSDÓTTIR, I agree completely, regarding the change in what we call the Dublin process.

I think it is clear that, beyond the desire to have a European agreement, we should aim for a global agreement, which would be much better than anything that could be done at a European level. But let's start at the level of Europe.

Mr KÖCK, just in relation to point 5.3.2, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this part, this article, is relevant to internally displaced persons. I believe that each Member State must first do the right thing, within each country, to protect their people. So I do not see why that would prevent you from supporting the resolution.

And Mrs. RODRÍGUEZ. Yes, I hear what you tell me about insurance. This is, indeed, a point that could have been raised.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:21:45

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Thank you, Madam Rapporteur.

We will continue now with the general discussion.

I will give the floor to Ms HOPKINS, from Ireland.

She is not there? No.

In that case, I give the floor to Ms PAVIĆEVIĆ, from Montenegro

Ms Sanja PAVIĆEVIĆ

Montenegro, SOC 

18:22:03

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Thank you, Madam Chair.

Dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to thank the rapporteur for the very well prepared document. I can certainly tell that an incredible amount of time and effort was put into creating this report, which outlines all relevant documents on migration policies, climate change and disaster risk reduction (DRR).

I am very well aware of the complexity of these topics, as I have more than 15 years’ experience in the climate change field, including as national focal point of Montenegro for IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), UNFCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) and also expert for DRR.

My country, Montenegro, adopted in 2016, the National Sustainable Development Strategy for 2030.

Through that Strategy, Montenegro became one of the first countries which fully accepted and integrated the UN requirements into its national system.

Our strategic goals, and measures for managing national resources, through a four-dimensional development concept are based on: human, social, natural and economic resources.

Related to the topic "Legal Status of Climate Refugees" I have to say that our Strategy addresses migration only through the concept of Human Resources, while migration due to environmental or climate change is not specifically identified yet.

Over the last few years, Montenegro has been witnessing more intense internal migration, in the form of displacement from less developed parts of the northern region towards the central and coastal regions, where the living conditions are economically and climatically more favourable.

These migrations have led to a trend in growth of the population in urban areas, which increased the pressure on natural resources and affected the microclimate.

As a response to these trends, we have established a strategic and normative framework, as well as an institutional structure, to effectively manage internal and external migration.

Moreover, Montenegro conducts two equally important and complementary sets of activities, taking into account national circumstances and our capacities as a developing country.

1) The first relates to international multilateral agreements.

2) The second relates to the EU accession process.

Ms Marie-Christine VERDIER-JOUCLAS. I strongly believe and agree with you that disaster preparedness strategies, should include measures to protect people affected by climate change-induced disasters, that force displacement, particularly in the case of vulnerable groups.

All those measures must be implemented in line with the Sendai Framework of Disaster Risk Reduction, the UN Global Platform for DRR, as well as the UN Agenda 2030.

In view of the multiplication of climate-risk hazards, climate change adaptation measures must be central to building resilience in people, nature and socioeconomic systems.

Dear colleagues, we are all aware of the complexity of this topic. However, I believe that all of our countries should do their best to strengthen all relevant policies, and improve national disaster response and management capacities.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:25:36

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Thank you.

If we could stay within three minutes, because we're going to have to stop the speakers anyway, and that's a shame.

I now give the floor to Mr COAKER, from the United Kingdom.

Mr Vernon COAKER

United Kingdom, SOC 

18:25:55

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There are many reasons why people might migrate or move. Poverty, war, famine, all of those things. But this specifically deals with climate change. My message to my own government, and to the world really, and to Europe, is that we need to get our move on and we need to wake up a little bit.

How many times are we going to debate this? How many times are we going to discuss this? It's incredible!

When you read on the front of the document here, that global warming is a concern shared by all nations. It is estimated that 200 million people will be displaced globally by 2050, because of climate change. First of all, there will be an argument as to whether that figure is scaremongering, whether that figure is right. Well, that figure is actually meaningful. And yet, here we have statistics which tell us the threat that faces us. But it's a concern. Surely, when we see our children and grandchildren, it should be more than a concern. It should be something that actually demands that we do something, and we do something quickly.

I regularly meet schools in my own area, and just in the last few months I've met a secondary school, Calton le Willows, and some young children in junior school, Priory Junior School, Netherfield Primary School, Parkdale Primary School, Porchester Junior School. These schools, these young children say to me: what are you doing? What are you doing?

It will be our own children and grandchildren saying that to us. And we say, well it's very difficult, if you only understood, if you only realised.

I tell you if we don't wake up to this, whatever the reality that people think, we are going all to face a catastrophic future.

My own government gives us a briefing when we come here, Madam Chair. It says "we do not recognise the term climate refugee or climate migrant". And then goes on to qualify it, because other people move for lots of reasons. Well, I get that.

Can I make this prediction to my own government? They may not recognise it now, but it's not going to be long before they recognise it. This Council of Europe debate, this discussion here, should act as a wake-up call. Not as an interesting debate and discussion, but as a wake-up call to Europe and beyond, because that catastrophe is coming.

People, one day, in a few years, are going to say: what did you do about it?

I want us to be able to say that we recognised it was a problem, and we acted with the urgency that it deserves.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:29:07

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Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr LE NAY, from France.

Mr Jacques LE NAY

France, ALDE 

18:29:12

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Madam President,

My dear colleagues,

Four years ago the Paris Climate Agreement was signed, which aimed to contain the rise in global average temperature significantly below 2 degrees compared the pre-industrial era, and to continue the actions to limit it to 1.5 degrees. This agreement is clearly in line with sustainable development of our planet and the fight against poverty. Some developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the adverse consequences of climate change.

This agreement is important and I am pleased that Russia announced its ratification last week. At a minimum, each state must keep its commitments and, if possible, go beyond them.

The French Parliament has just adopted finally, last week, a draft law allowing France to engage in a process aimed at carbon neutrality by 2050.

I thank our colleague Marie-Christine VERDIER-JOUCLAS for putting a special emphasis on the issue of the legal status of climate refugees. This is not the first time our organisation has been interested in this topic since, as early as 2008, a report entitled "Migration and environmental displacement: a challenge for the 21st century" was presented. The Assembly then re-examined these issues in 2016.

In 11 years, the subject has grown in intensity. The recent IPCC Special Report on the Oceans and the Cryosphere emphasises that rising sea levels could ultimately lead to declining fish stocks and increased cyclones, with direct consequences for people living on the shorelines.

Although displacements linked to natural disasters and climate change today occur most often within a country, these migrations can lead to political turmoil. And tomorrow, migration linked to climate change could also have an impact on Europe and on its political cohesion. The management of migration flows in the Mediterranean cruelly shows us this.

Our colleague's report recalls that today there is no agreement on a definition of "climate refugees" and stresses the urgent need to preserve the status of refugees and the right of asylum. This is a fundamental point.

It seems important to me that states prepare for this issue of migration linked to climate change and that risk reduction be integrated into sustainable development and development policies, in order to increase the threshold of resilience of local communities.

It seems to me desirable that states adopt clear strategies for populations suffering from climate disruption. The Kampala Convention on Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Africa, which urges states to include in their legislation the provision of care for IDPs, seems to me to be a useful method, along with strengthening international solidarity actions.