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Opening of the sitting No. 6

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

15:35:12

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Dear colleagues,

May I ask you to sit down, please?

Ambassadors, you must lead by example. I'm tough, you know that.

The siting is now open. We will now listen to the statement of Mrs Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

This communication will be followed, dear colleagues, by questions from members of the Assembly.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

15:35:45

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Madam Secretary General,

Welcome to the Assembly for your first annual communication.

Since your election in June last year, the Assembly has had excellent relations with you, and we are grateful for your support for the work on the complementary joint procedure with the Committee of Ministers.

As I said in my inaugural speech, we have moved from dialogue to trialogue. Today, we have the opportunity to strengthen this new model of co-operation between the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers and yourself. Further, I believe that, by working together, we can achieve real results.

I think that we are at a turning point.

We have the opportunity to address one of the most pressing challenges of modern times: climate change and its impact on human rights, building upon the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and the emerging judicial practice of national courts of 47 member states.

We have the opportunity to strengthen our common legal framework by focusing on the national implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights and more than 220 European conventions. Many of these are ground-breaking and cutting-edge instruments that exist nowhere else in the world.

We have the opportunity, Madam Secretary General, to make our democratic institutions stronger for the benefit of all European citizens by effectively supporting our member states in the implementation of our standards.

Madam Secretary General, to repeat, we have the opportunity today to use the synergy of our triangular institutional cooperation for the benefit of our member states and its citizens. We must seize it to make the Council of Europe stronger, more visible and more effective, by continuing the ongoing reform process.

Therefore, we are eagerly looking forward to listening to your vision for the organisation and to contribute to its implementation.

Madam Secretary General, you have the floor.

 

Address by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe 

15:37:39

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Thank you very much, President of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Members of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a real pleasure to be here for my first January address to this distinguished body of the Council of Europe.

Let me begin by paying tribute to your outgoing and our former President, Liliane MAURY-PASQUIER. It was a great pleasure for me to work with Liliane, more closely, of course, in recent months. Like so many people in this Chamber, and outside it, I have been so greatly appreciative of her dedication and authority and also the way she chaired proceedings with skill and her determination really was excellent. She has worked for better, safer and more inclusive politics, not least through her championing of the Not In My Parliament initiative. She has played an important and constructive role in the search for a solution to the recent crisis that gripped our organisation. We wish her well, just as we have the pleasure of welcoming and congratulating you, Mr DAEMS, on your election on Monday. Your commitment and support for the Parliamentary Assembly are well-known and long-standing, and I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead. Certainly, you are taking office at an important and interesting time for our organisation and for Europe as a whole.

As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, now is a good moment to reflect on the positive progress that our continent has made over the course of the past seven decades. The decline of authoritarian governments and the end of the Cold War have brought greater political freedom and ensured greater European unity. Individuals have more opportunity and prosperity has spread, including to those parts of Europe that had least in the post-war era. And, of course, the ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights by the 47 countries that are now members of the Council of Europe has created an unprecedented common legal space in Europe: a space in which human rights take precedence over states’ interests, with a European Court of Human Rights to which every individual has the ultimate right of appeal. Europe has come a long way in a relatively short period of time.

But each of us here today is aware that there are still significant challenges to human rights, democracy and the rule of law in our societies. That it is incumbent upon this organisation to take a leading role in helping national authorities to address thi. Over recent years, some of our member states have witnessed the rise of populist and extreme nationalist politics. This narrative often runs counter to multilateralism and the rule of international law. It can result in direct challenges to the authority of this organisation whether through rhetoric, referendums, domestic legislation or other means. Unchecked, this puts human rights at risk.

The rule of law and democratic institutions are also vulnerable to erosion in some countries. Rampant corruption, ineffective public administration and efforts to undermine the checks and balances required in any healthy democracy: all of these can be found in Europe today, with the loss of judicial independence, the intimidation and restriction of the media, and the shrinkage of civil society space as prominent symptoms of the sickness. Other issues abound: hate speech, discrimination against minorities and the prevalence of violence against women. 

The human rights implications of artificial intelligence, the continued and appalling practice of human trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation and the struggle to ensure access to social rights for every European. All of these require progress.

It is right also to point out the growing awareness of the human rights implications of climate change. This issue is a priority for the current Georgian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, and for you, personally, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, and for many people here in this house and throughout our member states. It cannot be ignored.

In each of these areas, we have the responsibility to act. And we do so. At our Ministerial Session in Helsinki, foreign ministers restated their commitment to our Convention system and the primary role of human rights in international law. Discussions on EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, restarted in November, will continue in the coming days and are expected to result in a first formal round of negotiations in the future. This is an important demonstration of will on both the Council of Europe and the European Union sides: paving the way to greater coherence in the protection of European human rights.

Marking closer co-operation between this and other international organisations, which I have been clear, is a priority for me. There still exists in Europe the will to overcome populist politics and to ensure a functioning, multilateral system that upholds peoples’ rights. I am determined that, together, we will sail with that wind.

Within member states themselves, we are working hard to help governments overcome the problems they face. On corruption and poor public administration, we have a range of tools that raise standards, including work by our anti-corruption body GRECO, the Šibenik Network of Corruption Prevention Authorities that operates across borders, and tailor-made joint action plans, funded by record levels of voluntary contributions from member states, often accompanied by national field offices.

When it comes to the independence of the judiciary, we have Strasbourg Court judgements, the Venice Commission, the Consultative Councils of European Judges and Prosecutors, GRECO, and the Commissioner for Human Rights. All of these identify shortcomings in national judiciaries and proposed reforms, and point the way to overcoming them in line with European standards. This continues, as does the important attention paid to these matters by the Parliamentary Assembly, as clearly demonstrated by your debate yesterday.

Regarding the media, I have been clear that freedom of expression is also a priority for me. This right is a cornerstone of a democratic and pluralistic society and, as the Strasbourg Court has confirmed, the media have a unique role to play as a watchdog. I deplore what concurring reports confirm and what the Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists has also found: namely, that violent attacks on journalists and media actors continue to rise in number, often with impunity and spreading a chilling effect throughout the profession.

Last month I met all of the Platform’s partner organisations and it is my intention to raise relevant issues with the Committee of Ministers (CM) on a regular basis. But this is an area in which all bodies of our organisation have an important role to play. Again, the Parliamentary Assembly’s vigilance is vital and I know that you debated your own report on this subject yesterday. The CM is clear on the urgency of the issue and will hold a ministerial conference in May that should provide impetus for more work. And, crucially, we must all continue to help member states apply Article 10 of the European Convention and the case law of the Strasbourg Court, so that their media environments are freer to prosper.

On hate speech, ours is the first and only intergovernmental organisation to adopt an official definition of the problem. And charters, guidelines and recommendations have been issued by all three of the CM, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Parliamentary Assembly to prevent and mitigate its impact, as well as to support its victims. In addition, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance published a 2015 General Policy Recommendation on combating hate speech, which is designed to help national authorities to tackle this problem, online and offline alike. Given the ever-growing prominence of social media in our societies – and the vitriol that is applied there – it is more and more important that these tools be put to use.

Discrimination against minorities also remains a problem that we equip member states to address. The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, for example, seeks to preserve and develop culture, religion, language and traditions. The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages provides important protection for minority language speakers specifically. On these issues the Venice Commission has remained active and continues to issue opinions. These should be followed because Europe’s minorities must be able to live in security and with opportunities equal to others who live alongside them. It is by following the law and upholding rights that member states can prevent the anguish that can so easily spread where minorities feel under threat.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe 

15:49:16

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And now, in French.

Threat is still the daily lot of millions of women in Europe. Our Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence is designed to break this cycle. It obliges its member states to take measures to prevent violence against women, protect victims and prosecute the perpetrators of such violence.

Misconceptions are spread to undermine support for the Istanbul Convention, but our recent work to better inform the debate, legal analysis, including from the Venice Commission, and, above all, the experience of the 34 member states, which have ratified the treaty, are helping to dispel misconceptions and concerns.

Last month I had the pleasure to welcome the decision of the Republic of Moldova to submit this important convention to parliamentary ratification. This is a positive step forward and I hope that progress will continue so that more women can live their lives in safety.

Since I last spoke to you in October 2019, our ad hoc committee on artificial intelligence has begun its work. It is currently examining the feasibility and potential elements of a legal framework for the development, design and application of artificial intelligence.

Algorithms can potentially perpetuate notes or discriminate against specific groups: women, LGBTI people, ethnic religious minorities and have a disproportionate impact on the work of minorities. As we move forward, we must ensure that these technologies do not weaken our common standards but rather support them. I therefore await with great interest the proposals that the ad hoc committee will make in the coming months. We are also making progress on the issue of trafficking for labour exploitation.

In November, I published a roadmap for the way forward. Our Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, GRETA, is currently preparing a compendium of good practices and drafting a guidance note. The final version of these documents will be presented at the GRETA plenary session in July. On this basis, the Committee of Ministers may formulate a recommendation to member states. In this perspective, the Assembly's work on the issue will - of course - enrich this process.

Indeed, thanks to our common enterprise, we are best placed to eradicate the infamy of the trade in human beings in 21st century Europe. We are also making progress in the area of social rights. Our Human Rights Steering Committee has conducted an analysis of the existing legal framework and identified good practices and proposals at the national level. For their part, governments are currently considering possible additional measures to improve the protection of social rights and the functioning of the European Social Charter system.

As far as the environment is concerned, we must - quite rightly - ask ourselves whether and how we can do better. The Council of Europe does not currently have a comprehensive and legally binding instrument for the protection of the environment. It is true that the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to life and the right to private and family life, including the home.

The European Social Charter guarantees the right to health protection. In a landmark decision last month, the Dutch Supreme Court confirmed that the state has an obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It based its decision on the Convention. In addition to this text, there are other treaties related to the environment, notably the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats and the European Landscape Convention.

That is why I look forward to the high-level conference on environmental protection and human rights to be organised in February by the Georgian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. May it provide us with new thoughts and ideas on what our role might be in the future and how we might work with other international organizations. Our intergovernmental committees rightly ask the same questions.

Dear members of the Parliamentary Assembly, this list is already very long, but it is far from exhaustive. Indeed, while our rights are clear, our societies are changing, new challenges are emerging and we must be there to defend the standards we believe in and that are enshrined in law. However, in order to carry out this mission effectively, to improve our capacity to act in these complex times, our organization must be equal to these objectives.

I am pleased that last November the Committee of Ministers accepted my proposal for a programme and budget based on zero real growth. This decision puts an end to the practice of real annual cuts in the budget of the Council of Europe, including that of the Parliamentary Assembly. This decision is an important step towards stabilizing the organization's funding, which will allow us to maintain our ability to carry out our important mandate.

The Committee of Ministers took this decision with a clear indication that we should undertake further reforms, and I am making clear to delegations my commitment to make changes that will improve our effectiveness and efficiency. I am therefore looking forward to the ambassadors being able to deepen their ideas at the retreat to which I have invited them next month. We will discuss, among other things, the priorities that we should set in a longer-term strategic framework. All this will provide food for thought for specific proposals that I will present in due course. I expect these proposals to bear fruit, as does the process of reforming the European Court of Human Rights, which has taken ten years to complete. In addition to a simplification of processes and a welcome sharp reduction in the backlog of cases, there has also been an increase in the number of judgments executed, under the supervision of the Committee of Ministers.

Governments are now assessing the effectiveness of this reform process to see if further changes are needed. This is a process, which has undoubtedly had an effect so far. It is an example of what we can achieve when the different entities in the organization are all pulling in the same direction. This is very important.

If the Council of Europe is to maintain its coherence, credibility and reputation, we must exploit the different roles and competences of our statutory bodies to put them at the service of our shared objectives: a Council of Europe, in which each member state participates fully, and with equal obligations, in order to ensure equality in the application of our common standards of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, throughout our continent and in the interests of all those who live there.

I find it encouraging to see the positive spirit in which the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly have joined forces for a joint mechanism with the Secretary General which can be triggered in the event of a serious violation of the Statute by a member state. This measure cannot be implemented lightly, but neither should it be hesitated to resort to it if extraordinary circumstances so require. This mechanism will have to be activated wisely and equitably.

Over the past four months, I have worked with many people throughout the organization. I was impressed as well as inspired by their commitment. In the coming months and years, I know that I will be working with many more interlocutors, including a number of you in this House.

It is my privilege to have the opportunity to bring you together to share our ideas and capabilities and to move forward. For it is by working together and combining our talents that we can make the greatest contribution to ensuring that the peoples of Europe, all the peoples of our continent, have the future they deserve. A future in which peace and security are based on our fundamental rights, rights that are protected by our legal texts and systems.

Thank you. 

 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:01:22

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Thank you, Madame Secretary General.

Now we get into the questions. I remind all of you that questions must be limited to 30 seconds and please let it be questions and not speeches.

So let's go into the list. The first speaker of the day is Mr Frédéric REISS from EPP.

You have the floor.

Mr Frédéric REISS

France, EPP/CD 

16:01:42

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Madam Secretary General,

Thank you for your presentation and allow me to underline your exemplary nature by speaking in English and French, the two official languages of the Council of Europe.

In your first speech as Secretary General, you said that you wanted to act in such a way as to ensure the Council of Europe's capacity for action, in particular as regards the execution by member states of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. Can you tell us what the most important bottlenecks are in this area and how you intend to overcome them?

Thank you.

 

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe 

16:02:19

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Thank you very much for your question and for greeting both languages. I think I made it very clear from the beginning that I will do it, so I'm trying to do it, but sometimes it's not easy because I'm more used to using English, so I insist.

With regard to your question on how to improve the execution of the Court's judgments, I mentioned in my speech that we are already seeing, in this process, reforms that have been made by the Court, by the Council of Europe, since the Interlaken conference. We can clearly see the progress, the backlog that has been cut, and so on. The Court is working on this, and a great deal has already been done by asking, as I also mentioned, whether we should continue in the same way. This is one of the things that we need to reflect on because a lot has been done and I believe that through the protocols that have been prepared, ratified or are in the process of being ratified, I believe that all of this has enabled the Court to work better.

Once the Court has given its judgments, it is the prerogative of the Committee of Ministers, under Article 64, to monitor the implementation and execution of the Court's judgments. All our member states, when they became members of the Council of Europe, acceded to the Convention on Human Rights. Consequently, the execution of judgments is the primary responsibility of the Member States.

Of course, we know that the Committee of Ministers is working on this, there is a specific formation of the Committee of Ministers which meets several times a year and, together with the States, passes one judgment after another which are not executed. In this context, the Committee of Ministers is doing a great deal of work.

On behalf of the Secretary General, I can only support the work of the Committee of Ministers, of all the people who work in the Secretariat. But I believe that there is first, and I would like to stress this, the obligation of the State in question to execute the Court's judgments.

Some people wonder whether the European Court of Human Rights and the Court's judgments are in conformity with their constitution. I made a communication with the Committee of Ministers last week, in which I stressed that, at national level, we may have different systems, but at the end of the road, there is the obligation to execute the Court's judgments. Ultimately, therefore, the responsibility for enforcement lies with the State. I will insist that this be done and I know that the Committee of Ministers, in this framework where it meets several times a year, is making a great deal of effort.

Finally, we advocate communication, since one of the roles of the Secretary General, but also of the different bodies of the Council of Europe, is to assist and support member states in the execution of their obligations, including the execution of the Court's judgments. I think it should also be stressed that the Council of Europe is doing its utmost, where there are real problems of execution, to help, on the basis of the experience gained over time, the execution of the Court's judgments by member states.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:07:33

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Thank you.

I'm calling on M. Piero FASSINO for his question on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Mr Piero FASSINO

Italy, SOC, Spokesperson for the group 

16:07:43

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Thank you, Secretary General. No, I want to ask you a question that is linked to the events that most closely affect the Mediterranean.

From Libya to Iraq, we are faced with conflicts and crises that have many critical points, one of which directly affects us as the Council of Europe. I am referring to the humanitarian consequences on human civil rights that these crises produce: from millions of refugees to the harassment of women and children, to prisoners who are tortured and summarily executed.

So how, in your opinion, can the Council of Europe help to ensure that fundamental human and civil rights can be protected and respected in such a dramatic scenario?

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:08:36

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I'm afraid that you will have to repeat your question because, apparently, there has not been an English translation.

Of course, for all the members here present, do nothing that you get twice 30 seconds...

Mr Piero FASSINO

Italy, SOC, Spokesperson for the group 

16:08:46

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I'll be shorter, to facilitate our work.

From Libya to Iraq, as you know, there is a very complex conflict and crisis situation. All these crises also have the humanitarian consequences of heavy civil rights violations. Millions of refugees, conditions of abuse on hundreds of thousands of women, children growing up in war and suffering, prisoners tortured and summarily killed.

So all this brings up the great issue of the protection of civil rights, it concerns us, and therefore: how can the Council of Europe act to ensure that fundamental civil and human rights are respected and protected?

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:09:39

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If I may say something to all colleagues in the assembly, please in the future keep yourself to 30 seconds. Maybe do the question before coming here because in the future I will be forced to cut at 30 seconds. I do apologize to do this because otherwise you're taking away time from other colleagues who now cannot have their question. So, please, all colleagues, in the future 30 seconds and that's it. Madam Secretary General, you have the floor.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe 

16:10:05

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Well, you know the region you are talking about is our neighborhood, but they are not members of the Council of Europe. So this organization is primarily concentrated on the 47 member states and protection of human rights, democracy, and rule of law in the remit of our work.

However, we do cooperate with this region through our South program and through our neighborhood program, and indeed with that we have good programs with Tunisia, some with Morocco, and we also have some work in the Middle East.

But actually, far from that, I think that our action can come when refugees come on the soil of our member states and there we must do everything possible to guarantee the protection of human rights for these people, because there are international treaties, but there is a European convention on human rights where we also need to protect.

When it comes to refugees we are particularly attentive to children and vulnerable refugees. And in that respect act we have developed quite a lot as to how to treat children when they are in this very difficult situation, and in particular when they are unaccompanied by an adult or parent with them.

So the Council of Europe does work in some areas that you mentioned, but mainly when there is such a situation on our soil. There is also I think the case law that was before the court where also when our citizens of the member states of the Council of Europe are outside of the Council of Europe they are also deemed to respect the convention provisions regarding human rights. So this is how we can help that.

I know that the Parliamentary Assembly is attentive to this situation, that there is or will be the debate this week also on the situation of children who are coming back from this region and coming from the families that were from the terrorists origin. So all that is the concern for us, but primarily once we have this on our territory.

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:13:08

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Thank you.

Now we have Mr Martin POLIAČIK for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mr Martin POLIAČIK

Slovak Republic, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group 

16:13:13

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Thank you very much.

I only have two short questions, Mr President.

Madam Secretary General, I'm glad to hear about reforms that are meant to make the Council of Europe more effective. But before you became Secretary General, you talked about the need to prevent and fight corruption inside and around the Council of Europe. Where the any concrete steps taken?

And the second, are you prepared to seize the Venice Commission over the proposal in Russia which might put internal law over the international one and was proposed by Mr Putin?

Thank you very much.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe 

16:13:48

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Sorry, can you repeat the second one?

Mr Martin POLIAČIK

Slovak Republic, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group 

16:13:51

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Are you prepared to seize the Venice Commission, to ask the Venice Commission over the proposal in Russia, thanks to which there might be the internal law put over the international one, like Mr PUTIN proposed last week?

I was trying to be as fast as possible.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:14:11

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Madame Secretary General.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe 

16:14:13

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Thank you very much.

Well, thank you for raising the reforms because as I mentioned in my speech reforms are really, really very important. They are ongoing and I think apart from doing new things, what is very important is to continue implementing what was already decided and what needs time to take place for. So in general for reforms this is my stance: do everything which hasn't being tackled yet regarding, among other things, also efficiency of our work, and how we organise our work internally, but also to implement the reforms that are in course.

For corruption. Yes, corruption was a very, very important theme during last year of the campaign. I know that especially this Assembly, but the organisation as a whole, has suffered for the corruption that happened and that took a while to be investigated. And I know also that there was a back report which clearly put some duties on Secretariat to investigate but also, and in particular, I will insist on that, in the Parliamentary Assembly, GRECO gave - if I'm not mistaken - 10 or 11 recommendations, which are in line, according to what I remember, quite much in our national legislations what we do, so it is important to see also how much we followed this.

But let me first tackle what was done on the level of the Secretariat of the house, which is primarily my role. Since that has been happening there is a lot that has been done, from e-learning of what fraud may be, to recognise a certain situation, or the corruption. The ethic officer was included and actually our, I think, one of the members of GRECO Secretariat also can be a person who can be seized to ask advice whether there is a corruptive case or something like that.

So there are things that have been made and recently we discussed on the level of the Secretariat, high-level meetings that we have every two weeks, that because at the beginning of each year all the staff needs to pass to this e-learning, including myself. So I did it when I came in and I did it again in January. And it's a really very serious tool to make you aware of and understand what can be the situation in which you can recognise the fraud or you can report the fraud or corruption and so on.

Inside the organisation, we have also the department for internal oversight. So they are reporting to the Secretary General but also to the Committee of Ministers. So they are doing really very serious job and we are expanding. And my colleagues, when we talked about this e-learning obligation - because it takes at least 30 minutes to go through if you are very fast, up to more than that - and it doesn't let you move unless you do it, so it's really done in a very serious way. And it seems that really it pushed staff to think about these things more and to ask for advice where they think if they found themselves in this situation. Of course if there is corruption or fraud, there is enough evidence to pursue that. There are different parts of the organisation including the DIO that can work on that. This is on the level of the organisation.

For the Assembly itself, of course, the Assembly has its own rules and procedures and I think that on the level of the Assembly would be good to see whether a code of ethics or something similar can be introduced. The cases that were in the Parliamentary Assembly showed that on the level of organisation, we don't have a body to deal with that, if I can compare to, for instance, the European Union that has OLAF. So we don't have that and I'm not sure that we could afford to have that or that we would need because OLAF deals with much more complex and bigger issues but still I think we should reflect how to forward, how to think, how to link what we have in national level. If we talk about this Assembly, you all come from national parliaments, so your primary responsibility for this, I think, lies within your national parliaments, but of course, it can be reflected upon more, whether we should do more inside this house or in particular when it concerns this Assembly.

Now for your question for the Venice Commission. My information, but I was not all the time able because of other meetings, I was not at all times here... I understood that the Parliamentary Assembly already asked, or decided to ask, the opinion of the Venice Commission, so one part of the organisation is enough to ask for that. I think it is good and I come back to what I reply in my first answer. I did, in my communication to the Committee of Ministers, in larger terms expressed my concern and warning over this issue because it's not only one country that sometimes has this questioning of supremacy of international law and our court judgements and the European Convention of Human Rights over the national. So I think it was the right time but also because of the issue announced.

Of course, for Russia, we don't know what that will entail, it's only announced so it will be preempted to react on that but I think it would be good to seize and as Parliamentary Assembly body has decided, I think it is a good way to proceed, but in general there is a clearer obligation of all member states and there is a clear provision in Vienna Convention of 1969, where it's clearly said that the national treaties are above the national legislation when they are ratified by national parliaments. Thank you. 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:21:51

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Thank you.

Lord Alexander DUNDEE for the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

Lord Alexander DUNDEE

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group 

16:21:57

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During the United Kingdom's chairmanship of the Council of Europe a few years ago, local democracy and cross-border cooperation formed key priorities. The Council of Europe's international conventions remain key facilitators.

Commercial and cultural partnerships between different cities and regions are increasing. Currently I'm assisting proposals for these which within the United Kingdom involve the city and region of Inverness and the city of Dundee. And within Croatia, the cities and region of Zadar and Dubrovnik.

Madam Secretary General would you support such actions to enhance local democracy and prosperity in Europe through direct cross-border partnerships between different cities and regions within Council of Europe states?

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe 

16:22:47

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Thank you. Well, you know that we very often talk about the Committee of Ministers and Parliamentary Assembly, not so often about the Congress of Regions and Local Authorities. I think there is a body within our system that really sums up and deals with the implementation of the Charter of Local and Self-Government. I think that we have a really perfect body. Very seldom organizations of our kind do have that. Or at least I don't know that others do have that at all. So we have this congress that really does  excellent work because, as meant in your plea for doing more in the Council of Europe, democracy starts at local level.

Certainly, we are well equipped with the Congress, supporting the Congress. We also made some, you know, when we were discussing the budget, there was a particular, because when people participate in the work of the Congress, they sometimes cannot use all of our official languages. There was pressure for us to allow the budget for the Congress to also encompass as many people as possible to come.

We made an effort. I personally did it to engage on that to really allow more people to come here from the local level to work with us on implementation. Of course, the Committee of Ministers on its side are also very attentive to the work that is done on implementation of the Charter of Local and Self-government. They assure that this is actually put into practice.

On different levels in the organization we certainly do care that the Charter is properly implemented and that our Congress can have a role. We really, as was mentioned for different bodies, and also our Congress goes when, for instance, local elections are in question. They do go there and if they are asked, they monitor. I think they bring really very important information to us. They also equip us with the possibility to engage with the member states if their assessment is that local level elections were not done properly.

So my answer is we need to do more and engage with the Congress through the Committee of Ministers but also as a secretary general I would be prepared to do that.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:25:39

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Mr Petter EIDE for the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr Petter EIDE

Norway, UEL, Spokesperson for the group 

16:25:43

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Thank you very much, Mr President.

Secretary General, you took over us as Secretary General after a very critical historical time, after five years of conflict with Russia.

My question to you actually is what kind of concrete steps would you take to normalise the work of the of the Assembly? Because this conflict has taken a lot of attention from our work.

And what kind of concrete steps would you also take to bridge this conflict between the member states?

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:26:16

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Secretary General.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe 

16:26:18

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I think I said it but I will repeat.

For me it's very important that this Assembly meeting has all 47 delegations present here. I think this is already showing that here we are discussing together and have ensured that rights and obligations of all our member states are fully accepted.

If you ask me from my side, because part of this crisis was also of financial nature and there was a delay or non-payment from the Russian Federation partly for 2017, 2018 and 2019, I can now inform you that all what was due as annual contributions was paid. However, the interests of late payments remain, which amounts to 8.8 million euros. Of course, according to our regulation this is due and this is indisputable. It needs to be paid as well. But I think the fact that these annual contributions were paid really allowed the Committee of Ministers to, among other things, that was not the only thing of course,not to do further cutting. Because as the director of financing would say, during the last couple of years we had reached the bone. There was nothing more to cut. If we had needed to continue to cut, that would have seriously endangered the work of the organisation and we would certainly have needed to fire people. Even without this, we lost 15% of our budget because of zero nominal growth and, I think, up to 15% of our staff over last 10 years. Imagine in an organisation where we have expertise, people, actually knowledge, who are the main assets and the main source that we have, if you lose 15% that's quite a lot, not to mention that in the last 5 years we haven't been recruiting new people. That will also be visible in the future because some generation now will be just not there because we didn't recruit.

There are different ways. I think that together at the table together discussing we can better do our job. Our job is to ensure peace, as our statute says, through dialogue and the work. I like what the President of the Assembly said in his introductory speech referring to somebody else's speech. Do we want a perfect Europe or a better Europe? I think we are here to make a better Europe. We are not perfect, even not for some things in our most advanced countries.

We are together here. The Council of Europe is primarily there to assist countries in meeting their standards. Some have bigger problems. Some have almost no problems but everyone has some. I think that together here we can really work better for that because it was a good reason why this organisation organization that celebrated its 70th anniversary last year was created after the Second World War.

We are here to work together through dialogue and I think that can be best done if all 47 of us are around the table discussing things.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:30:44

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Thank you Madam Secretary General.

It's 16:31. Unfortunately we have to close the questions.

I do wish to share with all of our members that I will look into the working methods in order to in the future try to find a way for more colleagues to be able to put their questions via to the Secretary General or other people addressing the Assembly.

Thank you very much, Madam Secretary General. We now must conclude the questions that we had on her behalf.

Thank you very much.

Colleagues,

The next item of business this afternoon is the debate on report titled Complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations. Document 15024 presented by Mr Frank SCHWABE, I don't see him yet, n behalf of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy.

So where is Mr Frank SCHWABE?

Could anyone who sees Mr Frank SCHWABE...  I see him now.

Thank you Mr Frank SCHWABE for joining us.

Debate: Complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:32:33

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As my French colleague Mr REISS had told the Secretary-General, it is good to speak in both languages. There is a beautiful expression in French that says "Le beau monde se fait attendre."

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:32:44

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Thank you, Mr Frank SCHWABE for being here.

It will be presented by Mr Frank SCHWABE on behalf of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy.

In order to finish at 18:45, it was 18:30 but we got a lot of amendments, so we'll extended to 18:45, unfortunately, I will interrupt the list of speakers at about 17:50 to allow time for the reply and the vote.

If colleagues who intervene would please stick to 3 minutes or even little bit less, that will allow more people at least to express their opinion on the report.

Now I call on Mr Frank SCHWABE the rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between the presentation of the report and the reply to the debate.

Mr Frank SCHWABE, you've got the floor.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Rapporteur 

16:33:32

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Distinguished President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is not easy if you sit there to reach this area here, but I'm here.

The Council of Europe faces a lot of challenges, but it's not the Council of Europe alone.

There are a lot of international organisations who have a lot of problems due to what we call a crisis of multilateralism. I think what we should always know is that it's not a crisis of the institutions. It's a crisis of some countries who would like to be members of an institution but don't want to follow the rules and don't want to stay with the values of the organisation. It doesn't mean make sense to discuss it for very long. We have to find answers in our organisation. I think we are on the way to finding those answers and to create those answers.

On the surface, but just on the surface, there was a debate about Russia and aggression of Russia towards another country or other countries. But in the end it's more. It's about more. It's a general question on how to deal with some countries who don't act in line with our values and our rules in this organisation.

The report we are debating today is a result of a process which started two years ago when the Assembly's ad hoc Committee on the role and mission, chaired by Mr Michele NICOLETTI bringing together all heads of national delegations, chairpersons of committees and political group leaders, concluded that it was necessary to develop synergies and provide for joint action by the two statutory organs in situations where a member state violates the statutory obligations. Joint action by the two statutory organs and the Secretary General of the organisation rather than unilateral decisions can strengthen the organisation's ability to react more effectively in such situations and increase the credibility and impact of any decisions and measures to be taken. This will be done without prejudice to each organ's separate powers and responsibilities. As you know, and a lot of you know, we have discussions about it. How we deal in the future with all the sanctions we have. Now we have, I think, a quite balanced report, and it's very clear what we discussed and what we decide today is complementary to what we have already.

We designed the main idea about a joint response procedure last April when we adopted the report on the role and mission of the Assembly prepared by Mr Tiny KOX. The Helsinki ministerial decision one month later gave the necessary political impetus and set the basis for further talks between us, parliamentarians and representatives of our governments in different formats and different levels under the Finnish and then the French presidencies. We finally started talking to each other much more frequently than in the past. This allowed us to arrive today with proposals which, to a large extent, coincide with those being discussed and so far largely agreed by the minister's deputies. Really we create, we use it and sometimes crises are quite good to use it and to develop the organisation. We have a much better spirit now of collaboration between the different bodies and organs of the organisation. We should keep on going and using this.

While there have always been possibilities for our Assembly and the Committee of Ministers to act separately in cases of serious violations by member states of their statutory obligations, the new procedure will create, for the first time, historically, a framework for joint action to address such situations. There's agreement on two fundamental issues: Initiation and decision. The Assembly will have new powers as it will be able to initiate a process which can ultimately lead to a decision by the Committee of Ministers to suspend or exclude a state from the Council of Europe. I always would say we have already more possibilities and more power as an Assembly in this organisation, the Council of Europe, than in any other organisation where you have a parliamentary part. We strengthen our position more, for sure, with this process.

The Committee of Ministers will have the last say. This clear as well. Right from the beginning they'll have the last say on taking such a decision under Article 8 of the Statute.

The report serves two main purposes. On the one hand it draws the basic principles and the various steps of the joint procedure. In so doing it follows closely the draft decision by the Committee of Ministers as the ultimate aim is to reach a common agreement between the two statutory organs. The procedure aims at ensuring compliance by the member state concerned. Compliance with the obligations and principles of the organisation through constructive dialogue and cooperation. It is designed to be of an exceptional nature complementary to existing rules and procedures applying only to the most serious violations of the Statute. We had a discussion in the Committee about it. It means Article 3 and its preamble, without being necessary to make a specific list of such possible violations. It can be initiated by any of the two statutory organs or the Secretary General. It requires the active involvement of the member states concerned in all stages of the process and provides for a strict time frame fixed for each step.

The Secretary General has also a significant role to play. In particular, in drawing up a road map providing for concrete actions by the member state within the agreed deadlines. On the other hand, if the report defines the internal procedure the Assembly will apply it to initiate the joint complimentary procedure. In this respect it wants to avoid any attempt to manipulate the initiation of the procedure on political grounds and provides for a high threshold for tabling a motion for this purpose. To strengthen the legitimacy of the decision by the Assembly to initiate the procedure, as this decision will also engage the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General interaction, and will also have consequences for the state concerned, it proposes a double majority. The relevant recommendation will have to be adapted by a majority of two-thirds of the votes cast and a number of votes in favour equivalent to at least one-third of the total number of members of the Assembly authorised to vote.

The report tries to draw a fair balance to show that the Assembly is taking its responsibilities under the new procedure very seriously without making it practically impossible to ever use it. We have to really know that we get new power but we have to act in a responsible, in the most responsible way with this new power.

I think the report is quite balanced and I think it shows a lot of consensus with the Committee of Ministers. It was hard work to reach this. Because of this I already would like to say that I don't accept amendments that would try to change the balance in this report and who I think are normal in line with the position of the Committee of Ministers. On the other hand, if we adopt this report today, I don't see any reason why the Committee of Ministers has foreseen, should not decide very soon as well, so that we finish our plan to have this procedure prepared very fast and very soon.

I would like to thank, for sure, all those who have worked on this report, CHATZIVASSILIOU Despina responsible SMSs and messages we have to use to prepare this. I would like to ask all the delegates, all the different delegations especially those from Ukraine and Russia, I know it's a very different situation and it means a lot to you. In the end it was difficult but inthe end I think we made it. With a minimum of respect for each other and respecting the mechanisms we have and how we deal things here in this room and this hemicycle all together. I would like to ask the ambassadors for a very fruitful dialogue and, for sure, the presidency of Finland, of France and now of Georgia to work on it. I look very forward to the debate.

Thank you very much.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:42:27

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Thank you Mr Frank SCHWABE. You've got four minutes and four seconds left.

Let's get into the debate. I recall all of you it's three minutes maximum. If you could do with faster that would be good because then we could allow more people to intervene.

First on the list is Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO for European Conservatives Group.  You've got the floor.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group 

16:42:46

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Thank you very much. Thank you very much, Mr President.

Extremely important moment, extremely important report. I feel that our organisation is on the absolutely wrong track now and we can change it now during this report hearing. Why am I saying that we are on the absolutely wrong track? Just several examples. We commemorate the victims of the Holocaust, and at the same time and at the same day, well elect an anti-Semitic Vice President of the Assembly.

We questioned the democracy in Poland and we don't question the democracy in Russia. We say that we are adopting their procedure in response to a serious violation by a member state of its statutory obligations and at the same time, we're making these procedures so difficult that it's more real to hear how the statues in the park around our building are speaking then to fulfil all these mechanisms. Just to start, the first motion should be signed by more than 120 people. How many of us are there now in the hemicycle? How many? How can more than 120 signatures be collected? It's only the beginning. All this procedure will take more than nine months. Sorry, in this time, a person can give a birth to a child. More than nine months! If we have a real crisis in Europe, what will we do with this mechanism?

So it's a hypocrisy when we like to say that our organisation is a watchdog for democracy, human rights and rule of law. Sorry, who needs a watchdog which cannot bite, which cannot bite, but can only lick? It's not called a room dog, it's a room dog. By the way, PUTIN likes room dogs and we know this. But I don't want our Assembly to be a room dog of any dictator, including of PUTIN's. I want to see our Assembly as the nightmare of any person who is against democracy, rule of law and human rights.

One hundred and two years ago, in 1918, on this day, 400 Ukrainian students came to struggle for Kiev in the fight near Kruty against the Russian army, which was coming. They weren't 4 000, they were 400, and they fought to the death because they fought for values. People gave up their lives for values. People are giving their lives today for values and our organisation, we should defend these values. Now we are just selling it. Selling it for dirty money. So I ask all of you, let's change this mechanism. Let's make it real. Real mechanisms for us to punish those who are aggressors. Impeachment of aggressors doesn't work. History taught us about this.

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:45:47

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We will now go to the second speaker. Mr Tiny KOX for the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, Spokesperson for the group 

16:45:54

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Yes, sorry to say Mr President, but let me first say that I'm disappointed that if this is the position of the European Conservatives, I'm quite shocked because also the European Conservatives were involved in this process. I never heard that this was the position but Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO speaks to us on behalf of the group. I hope that we get some clarification on that because this is the uniqueness of the proposal now made by our colleague, Mr Frank SCHWABE. This is a process in which we finally co-operated in the Parliamentary Assembly and with the Committee of Ministers, with the national governments, and therefore I want to thank Mr Frank SCHWABE and also the Political Affairs Committee. I also want to thank the Committee of Ministers, the Chairs of the Committee of Ministers from Finland, from France, from Georgia and the Deputy Ministers, how they were involved in this process to overcome an almost existential crisis that lamed this organisation.

I have the idea that we are successful. I want to thank Mr Michele NICOLETTI. He was the one who introduced the need that welcomes synergy between the governmental part and the parliamentary part. I want to praise our former President Liliane MAURY-PASQUIER, who showed wisdom and courage to take this Assembly by the hand and to say we have to overcome our problems and we have to do it together with the Committee of Ministers.

I do not have, Mr President, much to add to what our rapporteur Mr Frank SCHWABE said because this is an ongoing process. When I originally proposed this joint new mechanism in April, the Assembly adopted it with 3/4 majority. That was a good start but the start needed also a finish. I think in the report by Mr Frank SCHWABE there is a mechanism that really can work. For the first time ever, let us realise that, colleagues, for the first time ever, the Committee of Ministers trusts the Parliamentary Assembly to hand over some of its power to us. For the first time, this Assembly will be able, in case of a blatant violation of the statute by a member state, to trigger the procedure that could eventually lead to the exclusion of a member state. Let us cherish the fact fact that the Committee of Ministers was prepared to do that and that the Assembly was able to take that responsibility. What it will bring in the future? Let's wait and see. As the rapporteur made it clear in his report, the goal of the new mechanism is not to get rid of member states, the goal of the mechanism is to get member states back on track so that they deliver on their obligations and commitments.

Once again I'm most happy that today we will, hopefully, decide with a large majority to accept the proposal made by our colleague Mr Frank SCHWABE. Then we need still some consent from the Rules Committee and, of course, of the Committee of Ministers. I hope that they will be able to decide in the same line as we are now proposed to decide on the proposal of Mr Frank SCHWABE.

Once again compliments to the rapporteur. Compliments to the Assembly.

Thank you very much.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:49:13

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Thank you.

Now we go to Mr Aleksander POCIEJ for the Group of the European People's Party.

Mr Aleksander POCIEJ

Poland, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group 

16:49:22

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Thank you, Mr Speaker,

Let me say a few words in French. I was speaking from the bottom of my heart, and it is quite rare for one Group Chairman to speak publicly in favour of another, but I wanted, from the bottom of my heart, to pay tribute to the work done by Mr SCHWABE.

I acknowledge that he really wanted to make his report, this mechanism. He contributed a lot. He wanted to do something that would work well. I have no doubt that Mr SCHWABE is acting in good faith with regard to what he has just proposed.

Mr Aleksander POCIEJ

Poland, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group 

16:50:24

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Let me switch to English because now I'm going to speak about different things.

I do not share the uncritical enthusiasm towards this mechanism of Mr Tiny KOX.

The road that has led us to this report, this proposal, was very long and painful. The new procedure currently on the table is a fruit of the biggest crisis that this Assembly has gone through in its 70 years of history. Was that proposal somehow a screen to hide behind, or the price to get the majority and to give to that majority the reason to unlock the gate of this Assembly for one delegation? In my opinion, yes. Is this procedure the way to strengthening our Assembly? I must answer, yes.

So, if you disconnect this new mechanism from its tricky origins, you can welcome the initiative. You may doubt if a poisoned tree can bear the healthy fruit. It seems to me that, in this particular proposal, this is possible.

For some time, there has been neither cooperation or understanding between the three organs of the Council of Europe. Since a long time the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly have found themselves taking contradictory positions. Since we started working on this new mechanism we started communicating between our two organs.

Sure, I cannot tell you, dear friends, whether this mechanism is going function or not. I have some doubts. But at least we have, for the first time, a possibility to start a joint action. Since this complementary decision keeps all the possibilities that we use to have in the past, I must welcome this initiative.

Thank you

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:52:58

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Thank you. Next speaker on the list is Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE for the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Spokesperson for the group 

16:53:04

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Thank you, Mr President.

Dear Colleagues, 

We are clearly at times of change and such times do require that institutions take steps to govern that change. Institutions are nothing but a set of rules that define incentives. When incentives change, so do outcomes. And this joint procedure is exactly such an attempt. It attempts to change the incentives so that the outcome that we've so far observed actually changes. Hence, I think it deserves enthusiasm, with caution, but definite enthusiasm. An effective incentive structure that protects and promotes our core principles is much needed, it's in our mandate. Our current menu of instruments has shown to have its limitations. Clearly, we have to complement and extend our existing instruments to enhance the effectiveness and to enhance the credibility of our own institution.

As such, I commend the effort and the complementary nature of this joint procedure. The ultimate aim of the instrument is to ensure we keep our democracy, rule of law and human rights family strong and growing. More and more states are slipping away from these core principles. As an institution that represents the people of our member states, it is of critical value of an of utmost duty to give the people the voice and the power they deserve when we are dealing with the outcomes of decisions of the ruling elites in our member states. This is about giving voice to the people by making it a joint procedure. Therefore, I commend the report and the effort.

At a time when unilateralism is rising, reaching out to each other saves the very valuable multilateralism which has brought peace to our continent. I commend this nature of the effort we are putting forth. This mechanism is not about members leaving. To the contrary, it is about keeping our family united. Not just to have dialogue around a table, but rather to have a constructive dialogue that's going to change the outcome of being a member here when it comes to bringing back member states who violate their statutory obligations. The mechanism takes these into account and is meticulously designed. The high thresholds necessary to initiate the process will ensure there is large consensus, it will ensure political gaming doesn't override values. Having a set timetable will enhance enforceability and foreseeability, that's credibility. A clear road map would create accountability as well as ownership. And we are the ones who will decide what to make of this mechanism. Therefore, whether or not to be enthusiastic will depend on what we do in setting the precedences. So, I strongly commend the effort and I congratulate the rapporteur, and anybody who was part of this, to putting multilateralism before unilateralism, rules before discretion, institutions before individuals, people before the rulers and content before political gaming.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:56:18

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Thank you. We'll now have Mr Michael Aastrup JENSE on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mr Michael Aastrup JENSEN

Denmark, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group 

16:56:23

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Thank you, Mr President.

On behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group this is also a very important time where we now have a chance to end a year-long debate, and especially to give us an instrument to handle a case as severe as the one we've been debating for years. Namely, that a country goes in and attacks and occupies a part of another member state. But also to give us an instrument where we will not only be solo in our sanctions, but also in line with both what the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General as well could do.

Therefore, we think it's important to also highlight some issues that we believe are important. Firstly, that our Assembly should be as involved as possible in this process. We believe it's important that there also be a transparency perspective. That is also important, meaning that when there is a vote in the Committee of Ministers, it should of course be completely open for everyone to see how the ambassadors have voted. Also, this process should be up and running as soon as possible.

I'm glad that the rapporteur also stated this today. Why is this important? It is very important because in the last 48 hours one member country, meaning Russia, has tried now to put the grain in the machine and try to postpone the instrument to take place. They are now travelling around European capitals and trying to steer up support that we should postpone this instrument from taking effect. They're now showing their true face. I've been in so many meetings where we have been guaranteed but every member country that now we should have something up and running, now the time for action should take place. And what does Russia do 48 hours before we have this debate? They go the complete opposite way. This is not in line with the promises that have been made also from Russia's side and we from this assembly should say a complete no to this circus that they are playing right now.

We should also make sure that we also have an instrument that we as members of parliament back home should be able to have a debate with our foreign ministers before the debate takes place in the Committee of Ministers. That would give us a chance to also have the debate with our colleagues back home as well. That's also very important. And then, the process should also re-inforce the trialogue between the Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of Ministers, and the Secretary General.

So all in all, if we can send the strongest possible signal today, but also at the joint Committee meeting tomorrow, that we will not accept any more hesitation from Russia, then we could be as strong as possible, and therefore we still could have some action from our side. I hope we can all stand united.

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

16:59:34

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Thank you.

Now, if you wish Mr Frank SCHWABE rapporteur, if you wish to reply you can do so at this stage but I recall you've got 4.04 minutes and you can only take four minutes, so that will leave you with four seconds. I think that's probably not enough at the end of the debate.

So now we will call on the speakers who are inscribed. First on my list is Ms Ingjerd SCHOU from Group of the European People's Party. You've got the floor. Three minutes please.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD 

17:00:03

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Thank you Chair.

Dear colleagues,

After years of internal difficulties which have prevented us from focusing on our mandate, monitoring and safeguarding the human rights of 800 million citizens in the Council of Europe's member states, it has been reassuring to follow the Assembly's good work on this complementary joint procedure. The discussions and deliberations have been held in a constructive tone.

I encourage everybody to continue along this line, also in today's debate.

I am equally pleased to note the good cooperation between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly in this process. The principles and the practical arrangements, as outlined in the draft resolution, show the two statutory organ's respect for each other's role and mission.

I would like to commend both our President, the current and previous chair of the Committee of Ministers, and the two secretariats for their efforts.

Years of internal struggles have taken a toll on our organisation, and it is now important that we take steps to rebuild the efficiency and credibility of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe.

Adopting Mr Frank SCHWABE's well written report and draft resolution is an important step in this regard, and I encourage you all to vote in favour of the resolution.

By doing this we will enable the two statutory bodies of the Council of Europe to have a better and more coordinated response in situations where member states don't fulfil their obligations.

President, I do recognise, and understand, that some members are critical and still have doubts.

That being said, I don't think it is possible to achieve a perfect or flawless procedure. If we are to make this new procedure a valuable and efficient tool, we depend on political will, and a constructive approach.

I would like to end by thanking Mr Frank SCHWABE for his efforts, and by encouraging you all to make sure we continue this important process. An important step on the way to rebuilding the efficiency and credibility of the Council of Europe.

Thank you.

Ms Lise CHRISTOFFERSEN

Norway, SOC 

17:02:53

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Mr President, dear colleagues,

In June 2018, this Assembly discussed the Nicoletti report, prepared on the background of a changing European landscape, unfortunately not to the better. On the contrary, we faced severe geo-political confrontations, even war between member states of the Council of Europe, and a growing lack of political will to respect and implement the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights, both among newer, as well as founding member states of this organisation.

Three months later, we discussed the final report of our former colleague, Ms Petra DE SUTTER. One part of the discussion was the need to harmonise the rules and improve the cooperation between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly, not in order to challenge each other's competences, but in order to make the Council of Europe more efficient in protecting human rights. We should never lose sight of that. That is why we are here.

In this perspective the report of Mr Frank SCHWABE ought to be hearty welcomed and approved by all members of this Assembly. The primary aim of the suggested step-by-step procedure, in which both the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Secretary General, as well as the member state in question, are going to take part, is to establish a constructive dialogue in situations when member states seriously violate their obligations and commitments to human rights, democracy and rule of law. The purpose of such a dialogue is to restore the respect for human rights, avoiding sanctions if possible.

From time to time, the use of sanctions has been a subject of debate in this Assembly. We have seldom agreed, and instead ended up in not very fruitful debates. This way we risk the danger of escalating the conflicts instead of solving them. Our primary task is to protect our citizens, and I believe dialogue, not sanctions, is the best way to do this.

Membership of the Council of Europe is voluntary. However, it is not a menu from which member states can pick and choose, according to their own wishes. Member states do undertake certain obligations. Therefore, it is regrettable that some member countries are still under monitoring procedure after approximately 20 years of membership. Two member states have even gone in the wrong direction, back under monitoring. Let us hope this new joint procedure in the future will help all of us move in the right direction.

Thank you. 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:05:38

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Thank you.

I now call on Mr José CEPEDA, you've got the floor.

I do not see Mr José CEPEDA.

May I recall that if you're not in the room when it's your turn I will not give you the floor afterwards.

Then we call on Mr Edmon MARUKYAN, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mr Edmon MARUKYAN

Armenia, ALDE 

17:05:55

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Thank you.

Dear colleagues,

I will begin my speech with the statute of the Council of Europe Article 1: "The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress. This aim shall be pursued through the organs of the Council by discussion of questions of common concern and by agreements and common action in economic, social, cultural, scientific, legal and administrative matters and in the maintenance and further realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms", end of quote.

I emphasise a common joint action. The joint response procedure is based on the most fundamental principles of the Council of Europe. Violation of statutory obligations, failure to comply with the fundamental principles and values of the Council is a blow to the entire Council of Europe system. So, the answer to such action should have a more solid legal basis. Credibility, effect, significance, validity and synergy. These can only be achieved with the involvement of the entire system of the Council of Europe, namely PACE, the Committee of Ministers and Secretary General. It's obvious that the new mechanism should think out the smallest detail in order to exclude the possibility that it will become an instrument for solving narrow political problems or for dealing with undesirable delegations, which at some point became such.

In general, I believe that the proposal and recommendations from the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy are of compromise and objective nature for all participating countries. I am sure that the two-party response procedure is the most effective way to ensure adherence to the Statute and Principles of the Council of Europe in a spirit of cooperation and compromise.

So, dear colleagues, I would like to end my speech with the words of Martin Luther King slightly changing them, "we must learn to act together as brothers or perish together as fools."

Thank you so much.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:08:01

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Thank you very much.

Now I call on Ms Dzhema GROZDANOVA. Is she in the room?

No.

Then we move on to Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND. Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND?

You have the floor.

Mr Claude KERN

France, ALDE 

17:13:43

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Thank you, President.

Dear colleagues,

I would like to thank our colleague Mr Frank SCHWABE for the quality of his very comprehensive report on the complimentary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in the case of a serious violation by a member state of its statutory obligations. I would like in particular to welcome the proposals he makes with regards to the internal procedure in our Assembly with the view to triggering a joint procedure.

I approve of his wish to appoint once and for all the Committee that will be in charge of triggering the procedure in order to provide for stability and a reliable doctrine. This is clearly in line with our will to ensure the credibility and enforceability of this procedure.

The option of entrusting this task to the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy also seems a natural choice given its mandate but also given its composition and, in particular, the fact that all the group leaders are ex officio members of it.

I share his analysis with regard to the need of making a clear distinction between the new joint procedure, which will be exceptional and limited to the most serious violations, and the monitoring procedure which should not be jeopardised. We should not be weakening existing instruments which operate well.

I also approve of the fact of ruling out the possibility of an urgent procedure debate and also the idea of providing for a double majority. I think that all of these features will contribute to making the launching of this procedure credible and indisputable. The same concern applies for the preparation and adoption of the road map describing the steps to be followed. This two-fold credibility regarding the triggering of the procedure and the content of the road map should enable us to entertain a constructive dialogue with the state concerned with the view of avoiding a negative outcome for that state, for our organisations and for the values we defend.

I will therefore be voting in favour of this resolution.

Thank you.

 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:15:51

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I now call Mr ZINGERIS.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD 

17:16:01

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Thank you, Chairman.

And I would also like to thank Mr SCHWABE for the incredible work he has done so well in recent years. Mr Tiny KOX's work was a first step towards improvement to have what we are discussing today.

I think I have been in the Council of Europe in this room almost more than 20 years. I remember, ladies and gentlemen, Mr SCHWABE, when we began a dialogue with the European Union and with the European Parliament, and we would like to be heard in Brussels and for our reports to be incorporated there, and that did not happen; more or less, we made an effort. It was a huge effort right from the start.

Now, as I have already emphasised, there is an improvement thanks to Mr SCHWABE. But in the beginning it was to bring our parliamentary voice together with the executive, the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General. This connection is most astonishing, and there is no way to compare where there is such a thing as a parliamentary assembly being linked to the executive and becoming a super-executive power like the secretary general. I don't know of any example in history since Jefferson where we are linking the parliamentary voice to an executive side. That is this tendency, and Mr SCHWABE, would you like to say here that it has now become softer? It's a recommendation, it's not as binding but I expect that.

I do not know why we are doing all this; in an emergency, when there is a major war or God knows what, which should not be in Europe, then our parliamentary voice would first have to be voted on; here in this Chamber. Our first voice, and later an executive, should be audible, and I am not so sure I want to support that direction. There is a big mistake in the amendments, and it is astonishing that we have not agreed to this, where in many cases colleagues have agreed, including Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO, and others too. I see they're not accepted by the Committee on Political Affairs. In any case, Mr SCHWABE, I thank you for your work, but the direction is very, very wrong.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:19:35

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Now I call on Madam Thorhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR. You have the floor. Thank you.

Ms Thorhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC 

17:19:44

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Let me begin in German: I would like to thank the rapporteur most sincerely for his excellent work on this report, which is very, very important.

 

Let me say from the start that, of course, there is more work behind it. Tiny KOX was mentioned here but we must also mention, of course, our previous President Liliane Maury PASQUIER and also the previous Chairmen of the Committee of Ministers and others to whom one should be very grateful for this report and their work.

Anyway, thank you very much, Mr. SCHWABE, I am 100% behind it.

Ms Thorhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC 

17:20:31

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In terms of what this report actually means for our organisation, I think it is a fundamental, a foundational step for us. One step of many that we need to take so that the organs of this organisation can work more in unison, can have better cohesion, can work as one, together for our common values which are democracy, the rule of law and human rights. I think only that standing together other and creating this kind of combined procedure that we can all work on together, we can truly be represented outwardly as one. Therefore, it will strengthen the impact that our measures have on the world and on our member states.

I would like to briefly address, perhaps, the strongest criticism that I have heard of a procedural or technical nature regarding this proposed procedure, and that has to do with the time limit or the length of time, that we foreseen in taking this procedure, let's say, to its full fruition. And to that, I would simply like to respond that it is a huge step once we would decide if we were to decide to eject a member state and I think that does deserve time, contemplation and, in particular, it does deserve the attitude that, of course, from the beginning, from the outset, we expect our member states to want to redeem themselves, should this process be started. We have to have that as our starting point. I understand how we could have suspicions that some member states do not want to repair the functioning of their institutions, do not want to remedy the problems that they have, but we cannot from the outset, with this procedure, start with a starting point, where we say, you have no time to fix your problems. I think therefore it's very important that we keep this time limit in. I think it's quite important that we give some time for debate but also that we give the member state involved plenty of time to really come back to us and to really remedy what needs to be remedied.

So, I thank you all for your attention. I ask you to support this report and I hope that this will be one step of many for a stronger Council of Europe for all of us. 

Thank you. 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:22:52

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Thank you.

We now pass onto Mr Samad SEYIDOV.

Ok, there you are.

Sorry.

Mr Samad SEYIDOV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA 

17:23:00

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Mr President, thank you very much.

Mr Frank SCHWABE, usually we have different attitudes to some questions. But in this case Mr Frank SCHWABE I want to express my gratitude for your approach to this real very important problem, and I think crucial problem. Everybody knows in this organisation that we are within the crisis.

At the same time let me remind you that with this approach to the report we have to come to a moment which could either unite or divide us more. What do I mean? Representing itself as a protector of the European values, the Council of Europe sometimes threw all our members into turmoil of re-evaluating the role of the states within the organisation, which brought in the long-run suspicions of the efficacy of the organisation itself.

In every state there seems to emerge a movement of political force which tries to shape international relations of the country within its own values and national interests. We all are full-fledged members of the Council of Europe, and as a members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe which should think about the future of this organisation. But the overwhelming majority of the political forces within our countries prefer the national interest rather than international issues. It happens because instead of attractiveness, cooperation, dialogue and mutual understanding, new terminology of sanctions, pressure, humiliation and even insults have become a part of narratives.

History doesn't know an example of an international organisation which both exists for the states and undermines them. We saw a lot of treaties, blocks and organisations which vanished from the international stage when those who became their members have been disappointed by membership. That's why we should do our best for new, adequate, acceptable for all member states, procedures and create the rules which will bring us closer to each other. Sanctions, pressure, speeches that are undermining the states could lead us to the collapse rather than to find an appropriate way out from this crisis where we all are in.

Thank you very much.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:26:04

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Thank you, Mr Samad SEYIDOV. I call on Mr Andrej HUNKO.

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL 

17:26:07

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Thank you very much, Mr President.

Mr President, I too would like to thank the rapporteur, Frank Schwabe, for this excellent report.

I would also like to thank, once again — as some people have already done, but I think it is important — those who have been involved in the process, starting with Mr Nicoletti, who started this brainstorming process two years ago, when we were considering how to get out of the situation. Also Mrs Maury PASQUIER and the others who were involved.

I believe that the current draft is really a good solution.

I myself am now celebrating my 10th anniversary as a member of this Assembly. In January 2010 I attended a meeting here, for the first time. For more than five of these ten years we have been dealing with the crisis caused by the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Perhaps, the still inadequate mechanisms of the Council of Europe, led to the fact that we, here in the Assembly, had no dialogue at parliamentary level, and at ministerial level the work simply continued as before. This imbalance — there should actually be the other way round, yes; parliamentarians should be in dialogue much more than, perhaps, the government in some situations —, this imbalance had to be resolved, and I believe that the mechanism that has now been introduced with this report, by Frank SCHWABE, is a good one.

We actually have two things to resolve in this matter. On the one hand, we want to be the home, as it were, for all 47 member states. I hope that, at some point, perhaps all 48 member states will be able to discuss, to exchange views, where the exchange takes place. On the other hand, of course, we need mechanisms to make sure our debates here are serious: in the event of serious violations of human rights, in the event of serious violations of the Council of Europe's statutes. I believe that the report sums up both quite well.

Let me conclude by saying that I still believe in what Mikhail GORBATSHEV said here on June 1989: The perspective of a common house is Europe; a house, ultimately with Russia, with the EU states, with all member states. I believe that we should hold on to this perspective, and I believe that the solution that has brought us out of this crisis also maintains this perspective.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:29:24

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I call on Mr Roberto RAMPI. Mr Roberto RAMPI? No? Okay, there.

Mr Roberto RAMPI

Italy, SOC 

17:29:38

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I apologize, Mr President, but I was working with a colleague and I was out of place.

No, I believe that the debate that we are trying to hold in these hours, in these minutes, is fundamental to the future of the Council of Europe. We've been over this several times already. I personally have been here for just over a year and this is already the third time that we have tried to reflect, in fact, on what our nature is, and consequently on what rules we must give ourselves to respond to our nature.

It has been said in the debate by several people, and I believe that the proposals that are being made are very effective from a practical point of view. But I think so and I make this assessment because I am convinced of the nature of this assembly. The nature of this assembly is not that of the teacher who has to draw the line of the good and the bad on the blackboard, also because if the day we drew the line of the good and the bad and wrote someone on the side of the bad, the bad, let's suppose, remained bad even the next day, then we would not achieve any result.

Instead, the function of this assembly is to create opportunities, moments of discussion, and we must decide whether we believe that the discussion serves any purpose. We are all parliamentarians and this is a parliamentary assembly, it is also the uniqueness of this international institution, of being an assembly of parliamentarians, who, while they remain in office in their countries and carry out the legislative function in their countries, find occasions, sessions in which they can confront each other.

Do we believe that parliament still has a function? Do we think parliamentary democracies have a function? Well, the function of parliaments is to debate, to confront each other and to bring out of that debate, out of that confrontation something new, that before the confrontation was not there. And that's what we have to do in this place. The contamination also occurs between the different Members of Parliament.

I said in a meeting with my group, quoting a great Italian politician from the past, he was an MEP, Marco PANNELLA, he was a visionary, a transnationalist, who needs to be convinced and not won. These were the words of Marco PANNELLA: "when someone wins, no one ever wins, when they convince, they win together, that is they all win."

And that is the strategy in my view that is contained in this proposal and the reason why I am convinced that we should all support it.

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:32:32

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Thank you. I call on Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY.

Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY

Russian Federation, NR 

17:32:37

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Thank you, President, 

President, 

Distinguished colleagues, 

I have here, in my hand, a decision taken by the Committee of Ministers on 17 May and this involved a way out of the systemic crisis that overwhelmed our organisation. Now, we know, that what happened then, was a situation which had arisen because of a completely illegitimate restriction of the rights of the delegation of the Russian Federation to participate in this Assembly. And you know what happened in this very Chamber? You know that we found a way out of the sanctions that had been opposed upon us and you know that as a result of that the credentials of the Russian Federation and its powers to participate in this body were fully restored. And here we are once again in this Parliamentary Assembly, which is a pan-European parliamentary structure and is the appropriate place for us to discuss issues together. We are now talking about a complementary joint procedure that would be used in response to serious violation of a member state of its statutory obligations and I want to remind you of Article 7 of our statutes, which again provides for certain provisions that can be taken against a state that is in such as situation. 

Sadly, however, thinking about the decision that was arrived at in the Helsinki Conference, we see that things have now been somewhat watered down in the text that is before us now. For that reason we have a number of amendments that we have put forward, I am very sad to say, that they were not endorsed by Mr Frank SCHWABE in the Committee. But I do believe that we have to find some way of thinking about what is involved in moving away from the decision taken in Helsinki because that it is the golden mean, that is the way that can take us all forward if we want to keep the Council of Europe as it is, that is to say, able to play the role, that is its rightful role, as we move into this new century. 

We know that this is a very significant report. This complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly must become the one and only mechanism that can be used in response to serious violation by a member state of its statutory obligations. The Assembly is shouldering an enormous responsibility as it seeks to ensure that we are able to go down that path, and sadly, this report does not fully comply with what had been achieved at Helsinki in that regard. 

For that reason, the Russian delegation cannot support this report. We, at the conclusion of our discussion, will submit an official statement from the Russian delegation and we believe that what is most important in our work is to grapple with these issues in the proper way and recognise that the place and the role of the Council of Europe in the future architecture of our continent in the 21st century must be preserved.

Thank you. 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:35:49

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I now call Mr Jacques LE NAY.

Mr Jacques LE NAY

France, ALDE 

17:35:59

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Mr Speaker, Ladies and gentlemen,

I want to thank our excellent colleague Mr Schwabe for the quality of his very comprehensive report on the joint complementary procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in the event of a serious violation by a member state of its statutory obligations.

This subject has undergone major developments during the French Presidency of the Committee of Ministers and I am delighted that the French Secretary of State was able to transmit to President MAURY-PASQUIER last November a draft decision by the Ministers' Deputies which met with very broad agreement within the Committee.

As stressed last year in Resolution 2277 and Recommendation 2153 on the role and mission of the Assembly, there is an urgent need to create synergies and organise joint actions between the two statutory organs, in order to strengthen the organisation's capacity to act more effectively when a member state fails to fulfil its statutory obligations or does not respect the fundamental values and principles upheld by the Council of Europe. This instrument should make an important contribution to this and I welcome it.

The credibility and predictability of the new procedure will be key to its success. For my part, I would like to stress the need for responsiveness and the notion of reversibility, which are equally important. Of course, we will have to have a procedure that allows sufficient time for an in-depth dialogue with the Member State concerned, but we must not lose sight of the issue of effectiveness. These must be serious exchanges and not delaying tactics.

As regards reversibility, its principle is consubstantial with the objective of this procedure. It is not intended to sanction a state, but to ensure respect for the values and principles we share. Monitoring of the implementation of the road map defined following the joint high-level mission will therefore be essential and must involve all the bodies concerned: the Committee of Ministers, which will be responsible for the exit decision, but also the Secretary General and the Parliamentary Assembly. I am therefore sensitive to our rapporteur's suggestion that the eventual exit decision should be taken after consultations with them.

I shall therefore vote in favour of this resolution, which I believe will establish a balanced and effective procedure.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:38:37

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I call on Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS.

Mr Egidijus VAREIKIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD 

17:38:46

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Thank you, Mr Chairman.

We are talking about the complementary joint procedure. I have to say to Mr Frank SCHWABE my congratulations. It's a very nice paper, a very nice document. It's really the masterpiece of manipulation of different legal things.

So we created really a very nice thing, a very nice mechanism. We are all saying it will be very much applicable for the future but I have doubts. I think it will never work. It will never work for two reasons. One reason because it's too complicated practically. Another reason is that we really don't need any mechanism.

I sometimes have the idea that the Council of Europe is an organisation which is working according to rules. Sometimes, maybe, yes. But when the rules are violated in a very serious manner, we are saying, 'Okay, let's change the rules'. I think we have enough means, enough instruments to solve our problems. But instead of solving our problems, we decided to invent new rules, a very complicated and very nice mechanism. We think that it will be okay. The last very interesting discussion we had yesterday.

When we are dealing with the countries under monitoring procedures, very often we are saying if you don't know how to behave, go to the Venice Commission. They are very clever people, they will say. In the case of Russian credentials, we also decided to refer to the Venice Commission, and the Venice Commission sent a very serious paper saying, but really there is a serious reason not to ratify the Russian credential. When we raised this problem in the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, I heard, sorry, this young man. This is a political decision. We understand. But the Venice Commission is only, only, only, only, only a consultative organ. We have the political decision.

We always have the opportunity to say what is the political decision. Next time when something wrong happens, maybe we will decide again to invent a mechanism, but it's a more simple procedure to say it's the political decision stupid. So I am stupid. I know what the political decision and this mechanism is, of course, very nice. Let's approve it if you want. It will be only a decoration over there on the shelf of the Council of Europe.

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:41:42

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I call on Ms Christiana EROTOKRITOU.

Ms Christiana EROTOKRITOU

Cyprus, SOC 

17:41:47

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Thank you, Mister President.

Dear colleagues,

I would like, first, to thank the rapporteur, Mr Frank SCHWABE, for this well-written report that lays down a step-by-step process aiming at bringing in line, through the adoption of a common mechanism, a member state that has breached its statutory obligations.

Without prejudice to the competences of the Secretary General, the Parliamentary Assembly, and the Council of Ministers, which all have their own code of conduct and procedure, agreeing to a common approach in order to effectively manage and bring a member state back in line is in theory a very good exercise as it requires extensive consultation, solid recommendation, and concerted action.

However, and as we have already witnessed in the near past, in practice this exercise is much more difficult and is always dependent on the political dynamics in place at a particular point in time.

We all want to avoid the situation in which the Parliamentary Assembly is fundamentally at odds with the Committee of Ministers. Equally important is to consider at all stages the repercussions of a breach of fundamental principles and values of this organization's credibility and future mission, although there may be different interpretations among the statutory organs as to how best to react to a particular situation.

Let us not forget that reaching a consensus is in itself a particularly difficult task among 47 member states with diverging views and interests. I believe we already have at our disposal the monitoring procedures in this assembly that is crucial in this respect. Over-regulating this process is indeed the most worrisome consequence we may face in adopting this report and establishing a common mechanism.

Luckily, an exit strategy for the member state concerned is envisaged at every stage of this process and this is extremely important. I suggest we insist on flexibility and continue to work on simple and quick procedures without complicated and difficult to achieve prerequisites and procedural impediments.

Depending on the political context it may be preferable to allow time for additional dialogue and reflection. Setting the machine in operation may exert unnecessary pressure on the member state concerned and this may jeopardize further whatever political process is already underway.

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:44:05

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Thank you.

I call on Mr Serhii SOBOLEV.

Mr Serhii SOBOLEV

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

17:44:10

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Thank you, Mr President,

I only can understand the feelings and senses of Mr Frank SCHWABE when he opened the Helsinki document of the Committee of Ministers and our rules and procedures. How we can unite on this? And all our discussion about this? It's not a discussion about sanctions because if a country is not a member of this organisation, it's excluded from this organisation. What sanctions can you do towards this country? It's more about how to divide the process of excluding a country and the process of how to do everything in order to return this country to democratic values and the values of this organisation.

When we analyse all resolutions and all amendments we can divide them into pieces. If nine months, you can count this very easily. We'll start it at the beginning to the process of excluding of the country, even for the most horrible things. Europe can be conquered in this nine months. So, I think that all propositions, the different delegations proposed to do this process more realistically, is very important. As well we can open the main propositions of the Russian delegation. We will never finish this process even in 10 years. But it's not the main one. The main one is that they proposed not using this mechanism for everything that worked, even yesterday. So, forget everything.

I think that we need to find some middle and I propose how to do this. Amendment 17 just divided two main things: Article 7, Article 8, Article 9, please read the Helsinki document of the Committee of Ministers. It's not according to this procedure. Article 10, 11 also are another procedure. All the others belong to this special procedure. We will not have a problem about how to divide in future. For example, the death penalty is a serious violation, of course. It's a serious violation because it's just in our statute. For example, aggression against other countries, is it a serious violation or not? It's a question for our votes, so I think that we need to do the main work, to divide the main things. How should we do this process? Because to read, what is the name of this declaration? It's really a special procedure. It's not usual. We can't use this for some political meaning. So please, watch this once more, and if we can divide this, I think it will be some real progress on this report.

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:47:23

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Thank you.

I call on Mr Giorgi KANDELAKI.

Then I call on Mr Tibor BANA.

Mr Tibor BANA

Hungary, NR 

17:47:39

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Thank you, Mr Chairman.

Dear colleagues,

I had a speech at the Cossack meeting in December about the rule of law mechanism. In that speech I have set out several points which I'm very pleased to see in this report. At this moment there are very few tools available for the European Union and the Council of Europe to deal with cases where a member state fails to fulfil its obligations or deviates from our common values.

Our process is too slow, bureaucratic and unpredictable. An important aspect is that punishing a member state by withdrawing resources from them is not the solution. As I said earlier, it is in our common interest for our member states to develop, to have a strong economy and social welfare. This is the only way we can remain competitive in the global space. Fortunately, this aspect is repeated in the report and is an important element of it.

I'm also pleased to see that there is a strong emphasis on deadlines and the so-called road map would also be introduced. All of these greatly contribute to the predictability and planability for both the institutions and the member states which can increase the likelihood of a consensus on different issues.

However, there's one thing that we don't talk about but I think it's worth mentioning. This is the responsibility of the political groups. In my opinion, when a governing party in a member state deviates from the values of our community and seriously violates EU standards and European standards, we need to remedy this situation. In the past few years our community has faced many challenges and this will increase in number in the coming years. Global climate change will bring us unpredictable challenges and many experts are predicting an economic crisis as well. For all these reasons it is inevitable that we have the tools that will deliver results in the foreseeable future which are transparent and can be applied fairly. We cannot allow our internal debate to weaken us.

Thank you for your work, Mr Frank SCHWABE, and thank you for your attention, dear colleagues.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:49:50

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Thank you, dear colleagues.

Now we will interrupt the list of speakers.

The speeches of members on the speaker's list who have been present during the debate, but have not been able to speak, may be given to the table officer publication in the official report.

I remind colleagues that typewritten text can be submitted electronically, if possible, even desirable, but no later than 4 hours after the list of speakers is interrupted. So, the list of speakers is concluded.

Now, I call on Mr Frank SCHWABE, who has 4.04 minutes to respond.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Rapporteur 

17:50:25

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Merci, Monsieur le President.

Vielen Dank and thank you very much.

For sure, I would like to thank all of you who contributed to the discussion for all your comments.

Maybe I'm not allowed to say it, because it was on camera, but nobody acted against the recommendation of the Venice Commission because Mr VARAIKIS mentioned it. I just wanted to clarify that.

For sure, we are not in easy times and what you describe is the reality of Europe and the reality we have to face. And we are in a situation where we have to take this reality and have to try to find the next steps to deal with the situation. And, for sure, I would like to thank -- and you mentioned it several times -- those who take responsibility in this situation. Because to sit down and to just to watch and to do nothing is not an alternative.

You mentioned Mr Michele NICOLETTI, you mentioned Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER, and some governments and some ambassadors who take action and bring us at the end to the result of this day today, where I hope that the broad majority -- a big majority -- will support this report. Because it would be an important signal as well, and to the Committee of Ministers to follow us in a few days.

Again, I think we should not overestimate our organisation. For sure not. We know we have limitations; we have restrictions. In some of our countries, most people don't really know our institution. On the other hand, I think we give a little bit of an example to other international organisations, that we can try to do something to overcome a crisis, at a minimum, to deal with a crisis: to find new answers, to find new ways when you are in a kind of dead-end and you don't know how to get out of this.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS, you spoke about the question, 'How can we act in the future?' Again, it's complimentary. I understand that even the Russian specialist delegation doesn't like it, and I have concerns if it's useful it the end. It questions credentials on substantive grounds. I always thought about what it will bring us, but we have it still with this report. And when we decide on this report and follow my recommendations on how to deal with the amendments, you still have this possibility.

But we saw in the last months and years that it was not really successful if one part of this organisation acts in a way, maybe the other part of the organisation in the majority doesn't like it. And it brings us into a kind of institutional crisis. And when would we like to be successful? And for sure it's more difficult maybe to get a kind of agreement; the majority is to act.

But if you would like to have an impact, and if you would like to have an impact on the country, and to say 'Yes, we would like to discuss. We would like to find solutions with you', but we are an organisation of values, and when we don't act anymore on the same basis of values, then we have to show you a way to find out of the situation or we have to say one day, 'Sorry, you cannot be a member of this organisation anymore because you undermined the values so much that, at the end, those values are not really valuable for the other countries'.

And there we are, and we try just to find such a procedure in an imperfect world and we will not change everything overnight. But let's try to address these challenges we have.

I hope that everybody understands, some mentioned countries, that this is kind of a bridge. For sure, to have new answers for the future, but it's a bridge as well for some countries, and please use this bridge. And I will be one of the first who asked for this new procedure to use it if I have the feeling that some countries don't take it seriously. And 'serious' means to fulfill the judgment of the court. And to take it seriously means to let rapporteurs into the country, to be open to all our institutions and follow all those rules.

Again, I would be very happy -- not because my name is nice -- but I'm just representing others who worked on it. But I think it would be a very good signal for the future of the Council of Europe, for the future of this PACE, and we would like to give -- I think we should give a strong signal to the Committee of Ministers.

Thank you very much.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:55:49

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Thank you.

Does the Chair of the Committee wish to speak?

You have the floor. Three minutes.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, Chairperson of the committee on Political Affairs and Democracy 

17:55:55

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Mr President.

Dear colleagues, thank you very much. I do not want to go into the details of the report but I want just to remind us once again about the starting point, about the objectives and about what we have been able to achieve.

I think we committed to build a more robust mechanism that would enable us to act in conjunction between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in cases of severe violations of core principles of the Council of Europe. We wanted to do this together. We wanted to bring our institution together and we wanted to deliver that on a very ambitious timetable.

I think a lot of people in April, when we discussed the Cox report or in the context of the Helsinki decision of the Committee of Ministers, doubted that we would achieve that in the timetable that we had set ourselves to get here by January 2020.

I can only say that we're here today. We have a report that hopefully will be supported not only by strong majority not only in the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy but also in the Assembly as such and with that being reflected in the decision making of the Committee of Ministers.

I think this has the potential to strengthen our institution and it has the potential to be used effectively in the future. If we remind ourselves about the key objectives, the objectives of some may be that there should be a shortcut to sanctions. The ambition by others may be that this should be almost impossible to ever trigger. I think both of them are unrealistic. I think we created something very balanced that is serious that should only be used in serious circumstances but that has the potential to be effective. It is not designed as a shortcut to sanctions but it is mainly intended as an objective to solve the problems and bring all member states back into compliance with the principles of this organisation. I want to thank all those involved starting with the Tiny Cox report, with the De Sutter report in June, with what was done in the Committee of Ministers and in conjunction between its bureau and leaders of our political groups and the president.

I can only modestly say that we as the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy accompanied this process very constructively. We were only called upon in November to a meeting in Berlin to finalise that report. Thanks to Mr Frank SCHWABE and other's work who were able to approve that already in the December meeting in Paris and deal with all the amendments this week.

I think we have delivered our part as the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy for this. As you may appreciate this mechanism also puts the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy in a key position of this process going forward as one of the bodies in the Assembly to take main responsibility if we approve that. We are prepared to do that and we will procure that as swiftly and efficiently as we have dealt with this report.

Many thanks.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:58:54

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Thank you, dear colleagues.

Now we'll move to the amendments. The Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy have presented a draft resolution, to which 32 amendments have been tabled. They will be taken in the order in which they appear in the compendium. May I remind you that speeches on amendments are strictly limited to 30 seconds.

I call now on Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO to support Amendment 21. You have 30 seconds.

Mr Akif Çağatay KILIÇ

Turkey, NR 

20:27:28

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(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

"Debate: Complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations"

Dear President,

Dear Colleagues,

The complementary procedure is of utmost importance for the legitimacy and credibility of the Council of Europe. Therefore, it should be designed to ensure that no one can cast a single doubt over the impartiality of the procedure. In this context, I would like to thank the Rapporteur for addressing this important matter in a comprehensive manner.

First of all, the new procedure should be used as a last resort, after every possible mechanism in the Council of Europe is exhausted. This will guarantee that the mechanism is not misused to exert undue pressure on the concerned country. As seen from previous well-known examples, the Council of Europe’s purpose – and even existence – would be compromised if the dialogue with a member state is suspended due to unwarranted pressure.

Secondly, the complementary procedure should not be based on perceptions fabricated by seemingly powerful actors in the Assembly. This is a must for preventing the Assembly from becoming captive to ill-intentioned circles, thus turning the Assembly into a forum for their bilateral contentions with other Member States. To that end, I welcome and support the provision that renders it impossible to initiate complementary procedure under urgent procedure. Furthermore, I appreciate the requirement of a double majority, which will ensure the legitimacy and credibility of the procedure.

The establishment of complementary procedure is essential for addressing what happens if a member state does not comply with the fundamental values of the Council of Europe. As members of this august body, we should treat this subject with commensurate diligence and a sense of responsibility. We must ensure the robustness of the procedure as well as its impartiality, without compromising even an inch on either ends.

Last but not least, I hope the complementary procedure will help to restore mutual trust between member states by means of a transparent and democratic process, in which all parties are heard and all concerns are seriously considered.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

20:27:28

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(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

"Debate: Complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations"

Dear President,

Dear Vice Presidents,

Dear honorable delegates!

Recently, statements about the need to reform the international institutions that were created after World War II have been growing. Much time has passed, the world has changed, the balance in international relations has changed, and these changes continue. The Council of Europe, set up in 1949 as a stronghold of democracy, rule of law and the protection of human rights, cannot stay out of these processes. In particular, the Parliamentary Assembly, on which we are currently located, has evolved from a consultative body to a serious international institution, with an activity that is considered worldwide and has acquired some tools to address current issues in the areas identified in Article 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe.

I want to thank the rapporteur who mentioned that it’s a complementary procedure to all existing procedures. We are open to a real discussion with strong arguments. We not only have to be kind-hearted but also brave. We ASK TO SUPPORT, at least, technical amendments 17 and 18.

We are all united in one goal: to keep Europe democratic, free and strong, where human rights and the rule of law are the most important and strict commandments for everyone. The recent Assembly decisions, unfortunately, show otherwise. Together we must find a solution to the current situation to prevent the destruction of Winston Churchill's idea: 'We cannot aim at anything less than the Union of Europe as a whole, and we look forward with confidence to the day when that Union will be achieved,' said Father of Europe, Winston Churchill.

Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia: this is the incomplete list of countries that, like no others, understand the importance of revising the European social compact concluded between peoples in the 20th century. Our Assembly needs to seriously consider what we do, what rules we set, and what punishment would be most appropriate for those who agreed to these rules, but knowingly or not knowingly violate it.

Let's call a spade a spade. Member states that attack common values, commit acts of aggression or crimes against humanity, these states grossly violate common order, destroy faith and confidence in future security for you. Let's think about our decisions; money does not stink, but a guilty conscience is a self-accuser.

Let's make Europe strong again!

Vote: Complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations

Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

17:59:25

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Dear colleagues, thank you.

On behalf of Ukrainian delegation I want to stress that we are here to defend the statute of the Council of Europe so in the amendment that we propose, number 22, I'm asking to insert the following words, "as enshrined in the Statute of the Council of Europe". Because we believe that all the procedures should go in the spirit of the Statute of the Council of Europe.

Thank you. 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

17:59:54

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Thank you.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, Chairperson of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy 

18:00:02

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Against by a large majority.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:00:04

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I shall now put the amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

We will now see the result. Rejected.

I now call Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY to support Amendment No 4. You have 30 seconds

Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY

Russian Federation, NR 

18:00:35

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Thank you, Mister President.

Bearing in mind that in the Committee of Political Affairs, Mr Frank SCHWABE refused to support any of the amendments tabled by the Russian Federation, we withdraw all our amendments: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15. All of these amendments are withdrawn.

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:01:13

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Does anyone wish to support amendment 4? Although this was withdrawn.

No? Then it is withdrawn. 

I call Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY to support amendment 5.

This was also withdrawn. I wasn't listening to the Russian. I do apologise; I was busy looking into my text. So it is withdrawn.

I call him Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY to support amendment 15. Is this on the table?

You have the floor, Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY.

Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY

Russian Federation, NR 

18:01:38

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I will continue in French to explain it to you once again: we are going to cancel all the amendments of the Russian delegation.

Amendments Nos 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15: all amendments are deleted.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:02:02

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Thank you very much, Mr. SLUTSKIY. This will allow us to work a little faster, that's very nice.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:02:11

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Amendment number 15 is withdrawn.

The next one is also, amendment number 6 is withdrawn.

Then I call on Madame Yelyzaveta YASKO to support amendment 22.

Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO.

Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

18:02:26

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Yes, dear colleagues, we propose to delete the following words and avoid imposing sanctions as we believe that keeping it into the text would provide a potential perpetrator with a feeling of impunity. Therefore we call to delete this from the text.

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:02:45

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Does anyone wish to speak against? No.

The opinion of the Committee?

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, Chairperson of the committee on Political Affairs and Democracy 

18:02:49

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Against with a large majority.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:02:51

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The vote is open.

The vote is closed

May I see the result?

Not carried, rejected.

I call him an Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO to support Amendment number 24.

Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

18:03:18

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Yes, thank you.

We propose to delete the following words of an exceptional nature because there is no explanation of what an exceptional nature means. What cases? We don't have an explanation, so we believe it's dangerous to keep it there.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:03:34

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Does anyone wish to speak against?

Committee?

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD,  

18:03:39

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Against with a large majority. 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:03:40

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I put it to the vote.

The vote is closed.

Not carried. Rejected.

I call on Mr Serhii SOBOLEV to support his amendment number 17.

Mr Serhii SOBOLEV

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

18:04:05

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The advantages of this amendment that I call to support on my speech. Why? Because this amendment gives us just the same as in the Helsinki session of Committee of Ministers. It's in the first item that we can't use in the political meaning such serious procedure as excluding of the country from the Council of Europe. So, we want to say just directly what we can do and what we can't do.

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:04:37

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Does anyone wish to speak against?

Opinion of the Committee?

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD,  

18:04:42

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Against by large majority.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:04:44

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The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

Results.

Not carried. Rejected.

I call on Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO to support his amendment number 23.

Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

18:05:00

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Yes, thank you.

This is again a technical amendment. We propose to include "the Statute of the Council of Europe" because we believe it's important to stress the Statute of the Council of Europe in every amendment. Thank you. 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:05:14

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Anywone wish to speak against?

Mr Frank SCHWABE?

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC 

18:05:19

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Okay, I don't want to make it too long. Just to use the opportunity to say that, most of the amendments, really don't change very much.

But I think that, to keep the balance, and what we discussed with the Committee of Ministers, we voted against.

Later, a little bit later, we come to some substantial amendments and then I would like to speak.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:05:41

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The opinion of the Committee?

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD 

18:05:43

Video EN | OV
Print intervention

Against by a large majority.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:05:45

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Open the vote.

The vote is closed.

Results: not carried, rejected.

So, I call on Ms Lesia VASYLENKO to support amendment 31.

Ms Lesia VASYLENKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

18:06:02

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Most of the amendments which are proposed by the Ukrainian delegations are actually intended to limit ambiguity, ambiguous reading of the new complementary procedure.

This procedure is complementary, thus it should not impeach on any of the existing procedures, and there's already a comprehensive list of remedies and instruments which can be used. They are prescribed in the statutory documents and these should be listed in this resolution if this new complimentary procedure is to be applied and is to be a working procedure.

Thank you.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:06:37

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Anyone against? Committee?

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD 

18:06:40

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Against by a large majority.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:06:42

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Vote open.

Vote closed.

Results: not carried, rejected. 

Ms Lesia VASYLENKO, for Amendment 30.

Ms Lesia VASYLENKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

18:06:56

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So again, similarly to the last one, the point of the new complementary procedure is to improve the efficiency of the organisation and this is why it is crucial that the NCP shall fall strictly in line with the letter and spirit of the Statute of the Council of Europe. And also the statutory organs should not have their mandate in any way diminished. Thus, we call for clarifications as in all of our previous amendments and this is why we insist on this amendment as well. Thank you. 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:07:25

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Anyone against? Committee?

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD 

18:07:27

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Against by a large majority. 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:07:28

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Vote is open.

Closed.

Result: not carried, rejected.

Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY's amendment is withdrawn. Number 7. Okay this falls.

I call on Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO to support Amendment number 25.

Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

18:07:52

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This amendment specifies, but doesn't limit to which violation shall the procedure apply, and it also clarifies when this procedure can be used, in what situations. In the past, in the present and in the future.

We ask to support this amendment. Thank you. 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:08:07

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Anyone against? Mr Frank SCHWABE.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC 

18:08:11

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There was an amendment before, it was drawn from Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY, and it was about the definition as well, when we should use this procedure.

I can imagine about what we speak, about the illegal annexation of Crimea, but I think we will never find a hundred per cent definition on what we refer to. We will always have a concrete debate about the question of what is the concerned situation, so I think we should not try to give a kind of definition now.

We will see case by case what we have to do, so I'm against it.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD 

18:08:51

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Against by a large majority.

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:08:53

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Vote is open.

Closed.

Result not carried, rejected. 

I call Ms Lesia VASYLENKO to support amendment number 29. 

Ms Lesia VASYLENKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD 

18:09:07

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Colleagues,

Wording is very important in documents of such nature and the wording used "resolving the situation" is too much of a broad term, which can lead to further violations rather than the rectification of a situation. For example, if one country gets annexed by another country, there is no need to look for creative and new solutions to the situation. All that is needed is that the situation be returned to the status quo and that the true legitimate authority be re-established. I really must insist that the wording be used as precisely as possible so that no ambiguity, again, and no abuse of this new complimentary procedure may take place. Thank you. 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:09:48

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Thank you. Against? Committee?

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD 

18:09:50

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Against by a large majority. 

Mr Hendrik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly 

18:09:52

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