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28 January 2021 morning

2021 - First part-session Print sitting

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Opening of the sitting num 7

Debate: Challenge, on substantive grounds, of the still unratified credentials of the parliamentary delegation of the Russian Federation

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:02:19

Good morning, everyone.

May I ask everyone to take his or her respective seat?

If you wish to engage in discussions amongst members, as I have said before, I would invite you to take it outside of the hemicycle.

The first item of business this morning is a debate on the report from the Monitoring Committee regarding the challenge to credentials on substantive grounds under Rule 8.

I remind you that the members whose credentials are challenged may sit provisionally with the same rights as other Assembly members.

The report is titled "Challenge, on substantive grounds, of the still unratified credentials of the parliamentary delegation of the Russian Federation", which is Document 15216 presented by Mr Stefan SCHENNACH on behalf of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee), with an opinion in Document 15218 presented by Ms Ingjerd SCHOU on behalf of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs.

In order to finish by 10:45, I will interrupt the list of speakers at about 10:05 to allow time for the reply and the vote.

I also wish to remind each and every member of this Assembly that we do have rules in this house, and we also have rules of conduct.  Any breach of these rules of conduct will be conveyed to the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs to be looked into. Why am I saying this? Because my attention has been drawn to conduct that might fall under these rules. Therefore, I have seized the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs and will seize the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs if the code of conduct, as it is foreseen in our rules, may seem to have been breached. So let that be clear.

This is a house of rules. We cannot expect any others to respect rules if we do not respect our own rules.

Having said this, I now call Mr SCHENNACH, rapporteur, to present the report. You have 10 minutes to represent the report Mister SCHENNACH, and at the end of the debate you will have three minutes to reply to the debate.

Without any do delay, Mister SCHENNACH, you have the floor.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

09:05:06

Thank you very much, Mister President. Good morning to you all from Vienna. I'm in the parliament. We have a parliament meeting and so I will be very clear and very brief.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

09:05:18

When I was given the task of making this resolution, I remembered the work of the previous Presidents of the Assembly, Mr Michele NICOLETTI, Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER, and our current President and also the spirit that reigned over this work of more than two years. This spirit was called dialogue, talking together instead of talking about someone, being together and talking together, even if it is not always easy.

If you really read my memorandum carefully, you will see that I have made a number of criticisms here. Yet, I come to the conclusion that we should ratify the credentials, the credentials of the Russian delegation, that we must continue along this path of communication and that the Russian side must also give us answers and insights.

At the same time, it is a prerequisite for the work of Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN, Mr Axel SCHÄFER, Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS, Mr Philipp MARR, Ms Thorhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, so that they can do their work. It is written in the report - all relevant rapporteurs of the Assembly - so that the green light and the way is clear for all rapporteurs, rapporteurs of the Assembly to do their work. That is one of the important preconditions.

Secondly, however, it is also a prerequisite for our Commissioner for Human Rights to be able to continue her mission in Crimea and, if the situation permits, to finally be able to start it. These are all important preconditions, where we are not talking about a country, but with a country. It also offers the possibility for millions of citizens of the Russian Federation to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. We do not want to close this door, nor should we. On the contrary, we should devote all our energies in the Committee of Ministers, our Secretary General, and Assembly to ensuring that the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights can be implemented.

In this sense, I appeal to the Assembly. I know there are some in the Assembly who would like to see it as a triumph or a success at home if the credentials were not ratified. But that is not in an overall social and institutional responsibility. Just these days the dialogue between President BIDEN and President PUTIN has started again. This is important. In the OSCE this dialogue is working. There are rather other countries which are questionable. This means that we should continue this dialogue at the institutional level in the House of Human Rights, in the House of the Rule of Law, in the House of Democracy Development. The certification of the credentials is an important prerequisite for this. I can only appeal to you all here, let us not fall back into an institutional crisis, but let us go down this road together, this road of dialogue, this road of reporting, this road of implementation. Let us continue to enable access to the European Court of Human Rights for the Russian people. Let us enable all our rapporteurs and the Commissioner for Human Rights to continue their work. It is in this spirit that I appeal for this resolution to be adopted.

Thank you very much for listening to me.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:09:48

Thank you, Mister Rapporteur.

As you know, there is an opinion by the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs.

Therefore, I now call Ms Ingjerd SCHOU, who I think is in the room.

She's not in the room, but we would have liked her to be in the room.

I call Ms SCHOU, rapporteur of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs to present the Committee's opinion.

Madam SCHOU you have the floor. You have three minutes.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, Rapporteur

09:10:29

Misterr President and Dear Colleagues,

Monday morning the credentials of the Russian delegation were challenged on substantive grounds. In accordance with Rule 8 of the rules of procedure, the matter has been referred to the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs for opinion.

The Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee) decided to propose that the Assembly ratify the credentials or the members of the Russian delegation. I call the Russian delegation to implement, in return, a number of actions. The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs is asked to consider the compatibility of this decision with the rules of procedure, in particular through it, as well with the Statute of the Council of Europe.

In its previous opinions the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs expressed its concern that any procedure to challenge credentials should be based on a substantial request.

The reasons involved in plenary in support of the challenge of credentials of the Russians Delegation constitute a serious and substantive ground able to form under the scope of Article 8 that they contain a presentation or the facts and circumstances leading to support the assumption of persisting grave violations of Article 3 of the Statute and on Russia's accession commitments to the organisation.

The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs has a clear mandate. It is not its task to enter into substantive considerations. The analysis of substantial grounds fall under the scrutiny of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee) according to the terms of reference.

It shall be noted that the report of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee) includes a detailed description of facts leading the Committee to support a proposal to confirm the ratification of the Russian delegation's credentials.

The opinion presented by the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs concludes that the recommendation of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee) to the Assembly is in full compliance with the rules of procedure.

The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs would like the seize the opportunity of the debate to inform the Assembly about its recent work and reflections on the occasion of previous challenges on substantive grounds to the credentials of the Russian delegation between 2019 and January 2020.

The Committee discussed the implication which the composition of a delegation may have the challenge of credentials on substantive grounds with regard to the presence in the delegation of members against whom the European Union has implemented restrictive measures, and members elected in our national constituencies which include and illegally annexed territory.

With regard to the first issue, the Assembly would be fully justified in taking into account these systems of the European Union's restrictive measures in so far as we relate the first to a serious violation of the fundamental principles enshrined in the Preamble and Article 3 of the Statute and these restrictive measures were adopted by the European Union in response to such a serious violation.

The Council of Europe and the European Union share the same values and principles. Although the Assembly does not explicitly have to take into account the restrictive measures adopted by the European Union, the EU decision is expected to be taken into consideration because it highlights the existence of the violations to international law.

I think, Mister President, that you can see two items that will have an opinion from the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:14:41

Thank you very much, dear colleagues. We are now coming to the list of speakers. We first have the representative of the political groups, after which we have other speakers.

We have 19 plus 5 on our list, so I suppose we will not be able to have all of them taking the floor. As I recalled in the beginning, I will have to suspend the speaker's list at 10:05. Those remaining on the list, obviously, have the right to submit their opinion, questions, remarks to the Table Office.

First on my list on behalf of the European Conservatives Group is Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

09:15:22

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

It is a big honor to speak first on behalf of the European Conservative Group on this extremely important issue. We are now discussing a very important topic. I want to thank rapporteur Mr Stefan SCHENNACH for the really great work which was done by him.

But I can't understand one thing: if you read all his report, at the end it should read "not ratify credentials". It's a logical conclusion of what is written in the report. It looks very strange for me that in the end we see the opposite thing.

Yes, I've heard a lot about dialogue. We need a dialogue, we need a dialogue.

I just want to give you some examples of dialogue from Russian side.

Today in Donetsk, in Ukrainian Donetsk which is now occupied by the Russian Federation, there will be a Russian Donbass forum, with the presentation of Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russia Today, a propagandist channel. This is a Russian State channel and they're holding a Russian Donbass forum in Ukrainian Donetsk.

Do you see a dialogue in this? What will be next? Russian Baku? Russian Vilnius? Russian Warsaw? Or maybe Russian Strasbourg? That's a dialogue?

Now once again, about conduct, Mr Petr TOLSTOI, like always, is trying to interrupt me. This man, Mr TOLSTOI, yesterday after our meeting, on Russian TV, said, "Ukraine is a fake state".

It's a dialogue. It's proof of a good conduct.

Mister President, dear President, I am addressing you. Mister President, Mister General Secretary. I'm sorry, Mister President, Mister DAEMS, I just want you to hear me. Now this man is suspending the rules. He's interrupting me. This man, Mr TOLSTOI, said on Russian TV yesterday that Ukraine is a fake state.

Then before that, he said that Ukraine and Georgia are ugly gnomes. He just said that publicly. You can see: this is a dialogue. All the dialogue is a Russian Donbass forum in Ukrainian Donetsk. Oh, this is a dialogue.

If we're saying that we are a watchdog, a watchdog of values, tell me please what is the watchdog which couldn't bite but can only lick.

This is a not a watchdog. This is kind of a puppet dog. A house dog for Putin and all around him. That's why I don't want us to be like this. I really think that we should be watchdogs of values, of values of democracy, rule of law, human rights. If there are, we need to punish those who are absolutely against these values. Today out of 47 countries, there is one country which is spitting on this values.

Unfortunately for me and for all of us, this is the Russian Federation under Putin. That's the truth.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:18:22

Thank you.

The next on my list on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left is Mr Tiny KOX.

Three minutes.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

09:18:33

Thank you, Mister President.

I think we should not call this Assembly a "puppet dog".

It is a meeting of the national parliaments of 47 Member States. I think we should pay respect to the essence of the Assembly.

Mister President, our rules allow members to challenge credentials of a national delegation at the beginning of each year, but having this right does not say that you always have to use it. Challenging credentials should serve a concrete goal. The right ought not be used time and again if there is not a clear goal.

In the past, the Assembly did lack effective means to act in case of possible violation of the statute and the conventions by a Member State. The challenging of credentials was often seen as the only possible means. But, Mister President, we have to realize that since Tuesday afternoon this Assembly has given itself an important new means in case of violation of the statute or the ECHR or commitments of a Member State.

We now have a joint complimentary procedure in which the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General work together with this Assembly in case of blatant violation of the statute and the convention. For the first time ever the Committee of Ministers has given us the real right to act in case things go horribly wrong in one or more Member States.

That is something that we have to realize: we now have a better means than challenging credentials.

My third remark, Mister President, the Assembly decided last year to prepare a full-fledged monitoring report on the situation in the Russian Federation, on its obligations and commitments, and on the way how the Russian Federation delivers on these obligations and commitments. We asked Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN and Mr Axel SCHÄFER, as the co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee, to deliver at the earliest convenience a full-fledged report on the situation in Russia. That would be the factual basis for this Assembly to really discuss the situation in that biggest member state of us.

I would urge the Assembly: please let our co-rapporteurs who we appointed ourselves, let them do their work, let them produce their report at their earliest convenience, and let's then have a serious debate on the developments in our biggest Member State. I think that is the way how we should work.

My group of UEL supports the resolution proposed by rapporteur Mr Stefan SCHENNACH completely.

We do reject all the amendments proposed because they are not helpful, except for the amendment of the rules committee, which, again, we support.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:21:36

We now come to the representative of the Socialist Group, which is Mr Frank SCHWABE.

Frank, you have the floor for 3 minutes.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

09:21:49

Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I will continue in German.

I am reminded of the film Groundhog Day. Sort of the same theme over and over again and the same attempt to deal with it. At some point one would have to consider whether this is the right way, if the majorities are the way they are, or whether there are not other ways of dealing with the issue. And I want to stress this again, because it was also the subject of yesterday's debate here: despite all the difficulties, all the upset, all the, yes, personal humiliations that one may have to suffer – even as someone who comes from certain countries that are affected – personal insults do not help us at all and are not a sign of politics, but rather the opposite of it.

No one, at least not the absolutely overwhelming majority of those who are here and want to give credentials right away,  think that Crimea, that South Ossetia or Abkhazia belong to Russia – on the contrary. And I want to say it again here and we will also make it clear again in a moment in the resolution: Crimea belongs to Ukraine, South Ossetia and Abkhazia belong to Georgia. At any rate, that is how it is under international law.

But do we, as an Assembly, have the authority to enforce this? Quite obviously not. But the competence we do have that millions of people who live in these areas, who live in parts of Russia, in Chechnya, in Moscow and elsewhere, remain under the umbrella of the European Convention on Human Rights. We have seen the searches around Mr Navalny, which are absolutely unacceptable – that is also a case for the European Court of Human Rights.

In other words, the litmus test is whether the Russian Federation will allow the European Convention on Human Rights to protect its citizens accordingly. I want to say it again and I will keep emphasising it and everyone needs to understand that as well: this is our red line. The enforcement of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the possibility of monitoring; of access to the Russian Federation and to parts that are, so to speak, directly or indirectly controlled by Russia. And if, at the end of the day, you are of the opinion that Russia is not cooperating there, then there can only be the possibility of saying: all in or all out. Then it cannot be the case that Russia stays on the Committee of Ministers and does not cooperate here. We need a common approach, otherwise we will not be able to develop any strength as the Council of Europe together, so let us have the political debate here with our Russian colleagues as long as Russia is a member of the Council of Europe, and that is why I would like to thank Mr Stefan SCHENNACH for the very good report and thank him for having taken over this task, and I would ask you to ratify the credentials to the Russian delegation.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:24:47

Thank you, Mister Frank SCHWABE.

We now come to the representative of the Group of the European People's Party, Mr Andreas NICK.

You have the floor.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

09:24:58

Mr President, colleagues, anyone who has witnessed the debate in this house over the past few years will not be surprised to learn that there are differing views on this issue in the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats. I want to be frank about that right at the start.

However, I also want to make it clear that we in the Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats are largely in agreement. We largely agree that we believe that Russia is a great European country, an important neighbour and an important part of European civilisation. We agree that we want peaceful coexistence, good and constructive relations with Russia and the closest possible cooperation in solving global problems in various formats, particularly with regard to the people and civil society in Russia.

But precisely because this is the case, we are deeply pained by the current developments in Russia. I would like to thank Mr Stefan SCHENNACH. As rapporteur, he has given a comprehensive and accurate description of the problems and challenges in dealing with Russia in his report. We in my group are also largely in agreement on this.

The developments in Russian society are a source of deep concern to us, and we have discussed them at length in recent days, not least in our dealings with the Navalny issue and with other questions; this is set out in the report, and I do not need to repeat it all in detail. But I want to underline that again; this is not part of a geopolitical dispute, part of a power struggle. It is about the core of what we have committed ourselves to here as member states in the Council of Europe. It is about the core value of the protection of individual human rights, of the rule of law, of pluralistic democracy. And the Council of Europe has a decisive role to play in the concert of international organisations, alongside the United Nations and the OSCE, precisely with regard to these issues.

It has been mentioned, we are talking centrally about the question of compliance with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, whether it can provide this protective function for 140 million citizens of the Russian Federation. Mr Navalny has also referred to it on several occasions and has been proved right there; we are talking about the question of monitoring, where our rapporteurs should be able to complete this report.

In any case, the majority of my group want Russia to remain a member of this organisation with all its rights and obligations. But that is what Russia will have to be judged on. We do not consider the credentials to be the appropriate tool and we do not want a hasty decision from Monday to Thursday, but rather we want to assess these issues as a whole on the basis of the reports of our rapporteurs in an objective discussion, including with our Russian colleagues. And that time will come, and then we will also have to decide whether the results, whether what we receive as a response from the Russian Federation provides a sufficient basis for continuing to work or for triggering the Joint Procedure. We should work constructively together on this point, in the interest of the commitments we have all entered into together: as 47 member states in the Council of Europe.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:28:23

Thank you.

We now come to the representative of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group.

Madam Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI, you have the floor.

Ms Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI

Estonia, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

09:28:37

Mister President,

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe I want to express the opinion of the members of our political group on the text of the resolution that refers to the question of the credentials of the Russian delegation, and sadly, to the persistent violation of democracy and the principles of rule of law by our Member State.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe expresses great concern on the continued failure by the Russian delegation to hold its commitments and obligations as a Member State of the Council of Europe. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group also shares a grave concern about the increasing negative tendencies for democracy, the rule of law, and human rights in Russia.

It is not the first time in the past few years that were called to debate the issue of credentials of the Russian delegation. We do not take pleasure in this. The challenge of credentials is a tool we have at our disposal to send a very clear signal to our Russian colleagues. Progress must be made. We expect that.

Full cooperation with the Council of Europe and the Assembly is part of membership obligations. Access of rapporteurs and election observers is not negotiable. Individuals subjected to restrictive measures adopted by the European Union may not remain members of this House.

Tangible progress in democratic report must be demonstrated in the months to come. The proposal to challenge the credentials of the parliamentary delegation of the Russian delegation is also a signal to our colleagues that the latest event around arrest and detention of anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, the arrest of his peaceful supporters, and more in general the growing pressure against political opposition in the country, is not a way towards democracy. Quite the contrary.

The question is how should PACE react to this behaviour of a Member State.

We need to preserve the credit of trust and respect in our institution and we wish to see a democratic Russia. Should we continue our dialogue on the platform of PACE or should we finish this dialogue as it doesn't bring results?

Dear colleagues, for the time being all the members have different views on how to respond. What is very clear to us is that a lack of progress puts credentials at risk. Membership in a human rights organisation brings responsibilities and that we expect that these responsibilities should be taken.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:31:00

Thank you.

We now move to the speaker's list as such.

First on my list is Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO.

Oleksandr, you have the floor.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC

09:31:09

Thank you, Mister President,

Dear Colleagues,

A year ago when the decision, a mistaken one of course, was taken to let the Russian delegation back to PACE, it was expected that there would be some progress on the part of Russia, that Russia would change its ways and its attitude towards human rights. Now, a year after, we ask ourselves: where is the progress? The answer is, there is no progress. On the contrary, the situation with human rights in Russia has considerably deteriorated.

In the organization based on the principles of democracy, respect for human rights and rule of law, there shouldn't be place for a state which systematically violates human rights, commits war crimes and pursues the policy of aggression against its neighbors. Otherwise this state, Russia, takes its membership in the Council of Europe as an encouragement to continue its crimes.

Dear colleagues, I would like to raise here the issue of the secret Russian prison in Donbass, in the occupied Donetsk. This secret prison called "isolation" has its address in Donetsk. It is known for torture and ill treatment of prisoners, regardless of gender, age or health. The report of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights provides data on beatings, electric shocks, asphyxiation, sexual violence, torture, removal of body parts, nails and teeth, depravation of water, food, sleep or access to the toilet, imitation of execution, threats of violence of death, threats of harm to the family. This secret Russian prison in the occupied territory became a symbol of Russian war crimes and it became a symbol of Russia itself.

Dear colleagues, here I have heard many times the enigmatic word "dialogue" which is widely used to justify the state of Russia in PACE. The truth is that dialogue shouldn't turn into appeasement of the aggressor. There is no dialogue on the part of Russia and there will be no dialogue. Russia ostentatiously ignores resolutions of PACE and will do so in the future, let's not pretend to be naive. Therefore, we shouldn't ratify the credentials of the Russian delegation in PACE.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:33:29

Next on my list is Ms Inese LĪBIŅA-EGNERE.

Madam LĪBIŅA-EGNERE, you have the floor.

Could you ask for the floor, please, in order for us to enable you to have the floor?

Do we have Ms LĪBIŅA-EGNERE?

Ok, you have the floor. Three minutes. Put on the mic please.

Ms Inese LĪBIŅA-EGNERE

Latvia, EPP/CD

09:34:06

Honorable Mr President,

Dear Colleagues,

This week my country Latvia celebrated the 100th anniversary of the international recognition of Latvia. It was another important victory that was won together with our allies in Paris at that time, to quote Zigfrīds Anna Meierovics, the first Foreign Affairs minister of Latvia, “using a quill-pen and brains” instead of deadly weapons.

Today not only do we enjoy an unprecedented level of trust on the part of our allies, but we also contribute to the international community to the best of our abilities.

Therefore, it is my duty to draw your attention to the continued deterioration of the situation in the Russian Federation with regard to the rule of law and democracy.

I have to remind you, that before Russia was readmitted to PACE in 2019, we pointed to the fact that Russia is not a trusted partner. Last year we all witnessed how Russia continued to pursue an illegal and aggressive policy, brutally seeking to poison opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, against whom a blatant political persecution still continues.

I take this opportunity to condemn the actions of the Russian law enforcement authorities of 23 January this year against the members of the protests, who exercised their freedom of assembly and freedom of expression in a democratic way.

I watched reports of these protests with satisfaction, concluding that even temperatures of 50 degrees below zero were not an obstacle for people from Saint. Petersburg to Vladivostok, to speak out loudly and unambiguously voice their position on the lawlessness, which is depriving people of hope for a truly democratic Russia. At the same time, recalling Russian history, I also felt an internal worry about these and future protesters, and I therefore call on the Russian authorities to refrain from using disproportionate force against peaceful demonstrators and illegal detentions.

These latest developments are further proof that the renewal of Russia's voting rights in PACE was a flawed step that has allowed Russia to deliberately ignore the resolutions of PACE, but above all, to continue to undermine the image and fundamental values of this very important organisation.

Allow me also sincerely to remind you the recent judgment of European Court of Human Rights, proving that Russia has committed a series of human rights violations during its occupation war with Georgia in 2008.

To conclude, also on behalf of Latvia’s delegation, I urge you not to ratify the credentials of the Russian Federation delegation on substantive grounds under Rule 8 on account of a serious violation of Article 3 of the Preamble of the Statute, as well as Russia's failure to honour its obligations and commitments.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:36:41

Thank you.

We now come to our next speaker.

Mister Petr TOLSTOI, you have the floor for three minutes.

Mr Petr TOLSTOI

Russian Federation, NR

09:36:50

Mister President, 

Distinguished Members of the Assembly,

I would like to thank the rapporteur for the work that he has done and I'd like to tell you that as of today, this hall at the Council of Europe is the only forum for dialogue among European States and with it the very largest European country, namely the Russian Federation. Dialogue on the basis of an equal footing and mutual respect and no other principles. Now of course no sanctions, no limitations of our rights is something that we can never accept. If a decision is taken not to ratify our credentials then all members of our delegation will be forced to follow the example of 2014 to leave this hall and to stop the dialogue. But then, the discussion would be much less interesting because you won't have someone to criticise to the same extent that you do at the present time. 

Now, insofar as Ukraine and Georgia are concerned, their reactions are very understandable because the governments of those countries have used the army, have used force against their own people, and they have done that in territories that were under their control.

Now, Mister President, Mister Secretary General, distinguished members, I think that it is absolutely unacceptable in this hall that there are completely unacceptable words spoken against members of a delegation, against our State and against our president, Vladimir Putin. Now, unfortunately, this is something that we have heard from our colleagues Mr GONCHARENKO and a number of others. They have simply insulted our country and our president.

I would like to thank those who have worked to co-operate with us. We are very grateful for that. I put my trust in the wisdom of the majority of the members of this Assembly. Those people will understand that it is important to continue dialogue with the very largest country in Europe following the advice of Mr SCHWABE.

Thank you. 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:39:30

Thank you, Mister Petr TOLSTOI.

We now come to the next speaker, Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA.

I do apologise because these names are not always easy for me.

Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA

Ukraine, ALDE

09:39:43

Dear President,

Dear Assembly Members,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Council of Europe was established based on the idea and value of [Unintelligible] peace based upon justice and international cooperation as vital for the preservation of human society and civilisation.

Members of the Council of Europe have proved their devotion to the spiritual and moral values, which are the common heritage of their peoples and the source of individual freedom, political liability, and the rule of law. These are principles which form the basis of all genuine democracy.

We can find these ideas in the preamble to the Council of Europe, a statute which all members have to respect and  implement. That's what the Council of Europe was established for, since that's the essence of this existence and no one should be allowed to violate these fundamentals. Unfortunately, in the last six years we have observed the hybrid manipulative war also here in the Council of Europe.

The fundamental values and regulations of the Council of Europe as well as of international law have been grossly violated by the Russian Federation. The Council of Europe has rules and procedures for challenging the credentials of the members of the country delegations on substantive grounds, such as the serious violation of the basic principle of the Council of Europe, as mentioned in Article 3 of the Preamble of the Statute.

It has been happening again and again. The Russian Federation has been violating all these rules of international law and completely ignoring the regulation of the international organisation.

The violations go beyond the nation of boundaries. It was clearly described in two reports prepared by the Council of Europe: the report from the Monitoring Committee, and the report from the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs.

In spite of such evidence-based reports which prove that Russia broke the Council of Europe statute and international law, the conclusion is to ratify the credentials of the Russian Federation, and return to the assessment of progress made when a monitoring report is submitted later this year.

We would support the Assembly's continuous commitment and hopes to base the political dialogue on the Russian Federation's obligation to this statute of the Council of Europe.

The crucial issue is that dialogue is not possible when the other side is not committed to fulfilling its obligation and declaring action.

Dialogue is not possible when the other party neglects rules and obligations and is playing a hybrid game which is too far from the values of integrity, honesty, justice and democracy.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:42:27

Thank you.

We'll now go to our next speaker Ms Olena KHOMENKO.

Madam KHOMENKO, you have the floor.

Ms Olena KHOMENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

09:42:40

Mister Rapporteur,

Regretfully, the warnings in June 2019 do not allow the Russian Federation delegation to be back unconditionally without at least some improvements in the situation were ignored. The challenge of credential of the Russian Federation after numerous serious violations of democracy, rule of law and human rights were ratified in 2020. Today we are again considering ratifying credentials of the State persistently violating the fundamental values of the Council of Europe.

As was warned in this hemicycle last year, as soon as our passed resolutions remain to be unimplemented, this topic will come back to the agenda over and over again. It looks like this is happening now. This looks as if PACE is enjoying the process instead, on the contrary, of being focused on delivering results, struggling to protect democracy, rule of law and human rights. Let's look back in this year. Have there been any improvements in the Russian Federation with regard to this? Let us be honest, there have not.

Russia is the leader among other Member States in the number of applications pending before the European Court of Human Rights, with one quarter of applications coming from Russia. At the same time, the number of cases closed by the Russian Federation in 2019 was among the lowest. We call on the Assembly not to ratify credentials of the Russian Federation delegation.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:44:28

Thank you.

We now come to our next speaker, who is Mr Kakhaber KUTCHAVA.

You have the floor.

Mr Kakhaber KUTCHAVA

Georgia, SOC

09:44:39

Dear Colleagues,

When discussing ratification of the credentials of the Russian Federation delegation, let's bear in mind the recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on the case of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia. The court legally established the responsibility of the Russian Federation for the violation of fundamental norms of international law on human rights during the August 2008 war and in the subsequent period of the Russian occupation of Georgian territories.

I would like to underline: during the August 2008 war and in the subsequent period of the Russian occupation of Georgian territories, the Grand Chamber of 17 judges clearly ruled on the illegal occupation of the effective control of Georgia's sovereign territories by the Russian Federation. Russia violated fundamental human rights among those prohibition of torture, right of life, freedom of movement and the right to property.

Let me ask you: has anything changed since 2008? Does Russia fulfil ceasefire agreement of 12 August 2008? Do you see the changes in the attitude of behaviour towards the occupied Georgian territories or has it implemented recommendations of the Council of Europe? Of course, the answers to all these questions are "no".

In 2021, the situation is the same as it was in 2008: intensive ethnic discrimination of Georgians, depravation of their lives, cases of torture kidnapping and illegal detainment, restriction of freedom of movement, prohibition of education in the native language and violation of rights of IDPs and refugees to return to their homes. Not to mention Russia continues to violate the EU-mediated ceasefire agreement that makes moves towards de facto annexation to the occupied Georgian regions. Therefore, as long as we face such disregard to the fundamental norms of the international law on human rights, which are the main principles of the Council of Europe, we do not see any possibility to vote in favour of ratification of the credentials of the Russian parliamentary delegation to the Assembly.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:46:57

Thank you.

We now come to our next speaker, who is Mr Sergey KISLYAK.

You have the floor.

Mr Sergey KISLYAK

Russian Federation, NR

09:47:24

Thank you, President. 

Mister President, in one of your first statements at this session you stressed the fact that the values of this organisation must be above politics. In this resolution that we're discussing today, this is really evidence of how principles can be hostage to political manipulation. Principals are principles when they are based on honesty and when they are based on facts, and on a factual analysis. Principles really are principles when they are universally applied to all. When they are applied in a way that is respectful of individuals, of other nations and of other politicians even if they don't agree with you.

The present resolution is a clear indication of the attempt of the authors not to apply these principles based on the truth, on the facts that you referred to. I'm not surprised by this, we have seen how much effort is being put into a propaganda war against my country over the last few years, and that is really a shame. It is clearly regretful because that undermines the principles, and this seems to be in someone's political interest. Very often, there is this attempt to foment anti-Russian forces, this on the basis of double standards and half truths. Everything flies and everything is accepted provided it is anti-Russian. Now, the Russian people are not just a group of people from the opposition, of course they have the right to their own opinion. They have the right to express that provided they do this in a legal manner. But the great majority of voters have a different view.

Now, we have a constitutionally-enshrined principle to protect the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation. Show me some other country where in the constitution it is allowed to undermine your own territorial integrity. My colleagues from the delegation have stated on a number of occasions that all necessary medical care was provided to Navalny at a very high professional level. This is a fact; that's the way it was. This citizen of the Russian Federation on our territory was taken care of in the appropriate manner.

This, too, is a fact which must be taken into consideration. There is a lot that is simply invented, that is falsified. Let us look at the hard facts. Let us look at the violations of the law that take place in Ukraine, in the Baltic States and in Western European countries. We are prepared to work with the Assembly on difficult issues, but to do this on an equal footing that means that our credentials must be ratified to the same extent as is the case of all other delegations. So, I would really recommend that members take a look in the mirror.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:51:05

Thank you.

We now come to our next speaker, who is Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS.

Mister ZINGERIS, you have the floor.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD

09:51:17

Thank you, dear Chairman,

Thank you, dear Colleagues,

I have been in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly since 1993. I remember the joy of 1996 when a still democratic Russia - not the current Russia - joined our institution. I remember this same chamber, and I remember the obligations which were accepted by Russia.

For example, withdrawing the 14th Army from Moldova was one of the first obligations. Second, to compensating deportees to Stalin's gulags from the Baltic countries.

In front of me I have something like 20 official resolutions about Russia obliging them to fulfil their commitments; not one of those obligations was implemented. For that reason I would like to turn your attention to the challenge of the Russian delegation on very serious substantial grounds: for having geopolitical military aggressions again in neighbouring countries, taking their territories, such as Ukraine and Georgia.

From my point of view, these basic negative trends related to the recent amendments of the Russian constitution, and the upper level of declared Russian law against international law. We should turn our attention seriously to what happened with the implementation of our court decision.

We declare Mr Alexei Navalny innocent in seven cases.

The failure to investigate the last murder in front of the Kremlin, [Unintelligible] the failure to protect LGBT rights; and even declaring our Council of Europe NGOs, instead of Russia, as foreign agents and putting pressure on our Council of Europe institutions. Not one question was solved. In this case, we get a totally ironic, negative attitude from Russia Federation to our statements.

We are asking to free Mr Navalny immediately. Let him go. Let's free all political prisoners in Russia. In doing so, we will raise the question of how Russia looks to democracy inside of Russia, especially about the historical revisionism related to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, fully lying about the circumstances of invading Finland, the Baltic States and Poland in 1939 and the 1940s, and occupying those countries.

I would like to ask you to say that enough is enough.

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:54:49

Thank you.

We now come to our next speaker, who is Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN.

Kimmo, you have the floor.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC

09:54:58

Mister President, may I first say a great thanks to the rapporteur Mr Stefan Schennach for preparing this resolution.

At the same time I would also appreciate that the Monitoring Committee agrees to this draft resolution with a great majority. If you read it, the resolution text itself is very explicit.

We are here together in this assembly hall because we have common values which are clear for all of us: democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

The report of the resolution notes nevertheless with concern the fulfilment of the commitments and obligations of us by the Russian Federation. It's very explicitly noted here. If you read carefully we are worried about the changes introduced in the Constitution of Russian Federation. We obviously are asking seriously, concerning the implementation of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, how those have been implemented by Russia.

Obviously, the solution of the Crimean issue in line with international law still awaits. The question is still open.

There is pressure and there are restrictions against civic society, the extra parliamentary opposition, critical journalists and activist NGOs in Russia - these are all mentioned here, including, obviously, the Navalny case that we discussed yesterday.

Nevertheless, Mister President, I think that the conclusion of the resolution is very clear.

This Assembly is a place of dialogue. We are here to discuss. Yes, we have different opinions. We even have different opinions on how we are fulfilling our commitments. There are also many countries which are not fulfilling them in ideal terms. Let's discuss them openly. Now we are discussing Russia. We are highlighting the major problems; there are major problems.

When there are colleagues around us who are calling for sanctions and punishments on tough terms, I am not so sure. Sanctions are easy to put on the ground; how do you get rid of them? It's a big problem. It's also a problem that you are frequently punishing those who you would like to help, instead of instead of really improving the situation.

Mister President, my last question concerning sanctions is always: do you agree that isolation is the best way of improving the world, or is it actually better that we try to work together with the common values that we do have?

Thank you very much, Mister President.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:57:52

Thank you, Mister KILJUNEN.

We now turn to our next speaker, who is Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY, in the room I think.

You have the floor.

Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY

Russian Federation, NR

09:58:01

Thank you, thank you, Mister President,

I would also like to thank our rapporteur, Mr Stefan SCHENNACH, for the difficult work that he has done. I'd also like to thank the leaders of the three largest political groups of our Assembly, Mr Andreas NICK, Mr Tiny KOX, and Mr Frank SCHWABE, who, while stating certain critical things about our country, who, nevertheless, used a very positive tone. Thank you also to Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN for what he has just said. 

Colleagues, I would call for the following: in this hall, we need to speak the truth, and I said this yesterday. Alexei Navalny was not poisoned in Russia. He was saved in Russia. His life was saved in Russia and if the Charité clinic in Berlin could provide the Prosecutor-General of the Russian Federation with any evidence whatsoever concerning the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, then in this discussion we could have representatives of Ukraine, Latvia, and Georgia speaking in a completely different way. The same concerns the August 2008 Tskhinvali attack.

In 2009, it was clearly underscored that at a time of olympic peace, the then leader of Georgia attacked his own people on his own territory. I mean, let's not lie to one another, let's not manipulate. We shall always discuss things on the basis of truthful facts, whatever the subject we're discussing. In the statements of the leaders of the political groups today we have heard that the Russian Federation delegation does want to continue to work in this very largest of pan-European organisation, the Council of Europe, and its Parliamentary Assembly. We're prepared to work constructively on a whole series of issues in the fields of science, culture, sport and many others. Any other attempts to try to paint a mendacious picture of what is happening in the Russian Federation for propaganda purposes is simply not acceptable.

Today we can see in this hall, that most of the leaders of political groups are calling on us to be constructive. We are open to dialogue. We want to co-operate with the rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee. That is essential for our co-operation. Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO, today, compared himself to a dog. Let's be careful about those comparisons. I thank you, Mister President. In this hall we must not be insulting and offending one another and, in particular, offending and insulting the leader of a Member State of the organisation. So, please vote in the right way so that we can continue to co-operate.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:01:30

Thank you very much, Mister Oleksii GONCHARENKO.

Point of order.

May I recall to each and everyone in this hemicycle and outside what I have stated in the beginning of this meeting. We have rules of conduct in this meeting. Any issue that I consider potentially being in breach of this, will be transferred, and already has been transferred to the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs to be considered. It's not for me to judge that, but it will be transferred. This will be an orderly meeting.

Mr GONCHARENKO has asked for the floor for a point of order.

You have the floor.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

10:02:09

Thank you very much, Mister President.

I just want to stress the attention of everybody. When at the beginning you, Mister President, told us that there are rules of conduct here, of behaviour, I think you didn't mention that it's okay to say that one delegate is a dog. Everybody who is here, who understands the English language -maybe Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY doesn't understand - knows that I didn't say this.

I think you should say something to these... I don't know what to call them. In the Russian language there is a word "Gospodin, Gospoda or Commrades" for "Sirs". They should behave here, not like in the Federation Council and like in the State Duma. This is the Council of Europe. I will just add one word to them... 

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

10:03:00

You know, Mr SLUTSKIY, Mr TOLSTOI, back in Russia you are "Count Tolstoi" but here you are simple citizens. 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:03:12

Okay.

This being said, we now turn to our speakers list again.

Next on my list is Ms Lesia ZABURANNA.

You have the floor.

Ms Lesia ZABURANNA

Ukraine, ALDE

10:03:26

Thank you very much, Mister Chair, thank you.

We highly appreciate this discussion, first of all. Why? Because we follow the rules and procedures of this house.

We consider the fact that this discussion is already a victory. A victory, because I would like to emphasise that this is the only State, Russia, which was challenged for credentials and received a yellow card. Why? Because in the world, Russia is now one of the negative record holders of the restriction of human rights, the illegal annexation of foreign territories, and of course, aggression. It is a warning, then, that if this member country doesn't change its behaviour, action should be taken.

Dialogue can be possible if you are heard. But Russia doesn't hear and doesn't see any violation on either side. 

I would like the delegates to support the unratified credentials of the parliamentary delegation of the Russia Federation.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:04:42

Thank you very much.

As I stated in the beginning, when we go over 10:05, unfortunately, I will have to close the list of speakers, which I am doing at this instance.

Every speaker who wishes to make comments is allowed to transfer this to the Table Office.

I have seen you, sir, So you don't have to shout like that.

Ok. You have the floor for a point of order.

Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN

Russian Federation, NR

10:05:18

Thank you, Mister President.

I want to make a point of order because yesterday I already drew attention to the fact that I had been number three on the list. I applied very early on to be on the list and somehow overnight, I fell down very far towards the end of the list and I couldn't speak.

We can't vote. We can't speak against amendments. Let us at least have the opportunity to participate in the debate. When we have 13 speakers, most of them against the Russian Federation. I'm not calling anyone a dog, but I do think we should have the right to speak. 

Ms Lesia VASYLENKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD

13:19:41

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

I definitely agree with Frank Schwabe that for the last 2 years have been exactly like ground hog day. Where time and time again a small group of very concerned states is obstinately pointing out to violations by one single very big state.

Russia is the single major violator of the Convention and Statute. A country guilty of a whole list of international law breaches, which include aggression, war crimes and human rights crimes.

Representatives of this country here in the hemicycle blatantly and openly continue to insist that they do NO wrong. Their speeches are filled with PRIDE about the annexation of Crimea, occupation of Osetia, Abkhasia. And of course, they show no guilt or remorse about human rights violations the Russian President and Government is committing against their own people!

The dialogue with Russia is NO dialogue. It is empty talk, where 46 countries speak the language of human rights and one country replies in a language of terror and aggression.

This dialogue yields no result, no protection to the vulnerable victims of Russian aggression. This dialogue also carries great risk, sending one message to all the people of Europe: values can be violated. Violators will NOT be punished.

The truth is Russia will continue to violate, openly and blatantly. For the simple reason that the Council allows Russia to violate. And this simple truth shall continue to be spoken in this Assembly until the situation is rectified! Whether it causes groundhog day inconveniences or not.

As we all remember: the point of us gathering here is to ensure accountability for violations, prevent wars and aggression. Today we have failed at this, but have succeeded in appeasing the aggressors, who continue to aggress.

Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, United Kingdom. Victims. Belarus too. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia - potential victims? Perhaps? This list may even be expanded. As this Assembly condones in action the behavior it condemns in words!

The least this Assembly can do to avoid hypocrisy is to agree on a conditional ratification of the Russian Federation. A precise time-frame of 6 months should be sufficient for yet another unsuccessful attempt at a fruitless dialogue. Should Russia fail to show progress in meeting its obligations, firm action should be taken and ratification should be recalled.

With this I end and state strong disagreement with the conclusion of the honorable rapporteur, who with it wants to lock violations in a never-ending loop. A true Groundhog Day situation, indeed!

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA

Ukraine, EPP/CD

13:26:56

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Mr. President, dear colleagues,

While we are talking about "dialogue" and are afraid to offend one of the members of the Council of Europe, this country, in the occupied territories where it controls armed groups, supports the existence of an unforgiving phenomenon in the 21st century.

It is about the secret prison “Isolation” in Donetsk

The “Isolation” is a secret prison on the territory of a military base located at the following address: 3 Svitlyi Shlyakh St, the city of Donetsk. It was established after the forcible seizure in June 2014 of a former insulation material factory owned by the IZOLYATSIA Foundation. The secret prison includes eight cellars, two dungeons and two basements. It holds mostly civilian hostages, whom the so-called DPR Ministry of State Security suspected of disloyalty. As of October 2019, about 30% of prisoners were women and even the International Committee of the Red Cross has no access to them.

In December 2019, after 28 months in Isolation, Stanislav Aseyev, a journalist of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was released. He recalls that in the fall of 2019, the prison administration almost completely stopped feeding prisoners; people were told that the prison was unofficial, so no one was obliged to feed them.

The “Isolation” is known for torture and ill-treatment of prisoners, regardless of gender, age or health. The report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights provides data on beatings, electric shocks, asphyxiation (“wet” and “dry” methods), sexual violence, torture, removal of body parts (nails and teeth) imitation of the execution, threats of violence or death, threats of harm to the family.

The prison administration intentionally broadcast the torture in the basement via a monitor screen that was located on the same floor as the cells. Deaths of prisoners have been reported. The exact number of people who died in the “Isolation” is unknown. At least a few hundred people have passed through the prison over the years.

All this is out of the question in the 21st century and violates not only Article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights, but all possible moral principles and our common values.

I urge the Assembly, when you continue to have a dialogue with this country, to include this issue in the dialogue and to finally understand who they really are these people with whom we want to have a dialogue.

Thank you so much!!!

Mr Rustem UMEROV

Ukraine, EPP/CD

13:27:23

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

I want to focus on the issue of Kremlin political prisoners.

After the occupation of Crimea, Russia started detaining Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians only because they had a pro-Ukrainian position. During the period of temporary occupation of Crimea, at least 138 people were persecuted for political reasons, and 119 were imprisoned for various terms. Most of them, namely 93 people, are Crimean Tatars.

But it's not about statistics. It's about the tragedies of families.

For example, I want to tell you about the Omerov family. The Russian occupation authorities first detained a husband, then brother, and father of Fatma Ismailova.

Rustem Ismailov was detained in 2016 and is now illegally sentenced to 13 years and six months in a strict regime penal colony. Three minor children are waiting for him. The occupying authorities refused to inform the wife about her husband's whereabouts for a month.

Enver Omerov was arrested in 2019 when he and his daughter were going to the trial over his son-in-law, Rustem Ismailov. A 59-year-old man was sentenced to 18! years of imprisonment. He has serious health problems, including intercostal neuralgia, hypotension, joint disease, he needs medical surgery, but Russia deprived him of medical care.

Enver Omerov's son, Riza Omerov, was arrested on the same day as his father in 2019. Because of his arrest, his seventh-month pregnant wife was hospitalized. Riza worked as a sales representative. There are four minor children in the family. Riza Omerov was illegally sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Let me tell you about Server Mustafayev. After the occupation of Crimea, he became a citizen journalist and coordinator of the Crimean Solidarity movement, which focuses on legal and informational assistance to political prisoners and their families. He was arrested on trumped-up charges on May 21, 2018. The occupying authorities sentenced an innocent man to 14 years in a strict regime penal colony. Four young children, his wife, and his mother are waiting for him at home. The only thing Server wanted was to help his compatriots. He did not commit any illegal actions.

Russia has unjustifiably accused political prisoners of crimes under articles, that stipulate long terms of imprisonment, starting from 10 to 20 years.

I would like to draw your attention, dear colleagues, to the fact that this tragedy is happening right now, in Europe.

Hundreds of children of political prisoners are doomed to starvation, poverty, and lack of proper education, as these families have lost their main providers.

I believe that Russia, as a state that so brutally violates human rights, doesn’t have the right to participate in the work of the PACE.

Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN

Russian Federation, NR

13:28:44

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Lack of information distorts the truth. Let me focus on just one aspect of your claims - the Saturday protests. I understand that the indignation of many of you is sincere, but it is caused by not knowing the true situation.

Another reason for unfounded accusations voiced with regard to Russia is that a significant number of European politicians adhere to the principle of double standards in forming their position. Let's imagine the following situation. Try taking a walk in Strasbourg today after curfew. Try to gather a thousand people and block a city street. Even if you put forward demands to release Navalny, the French police will still disperse such a gathering and punish the participants.

Last Sunday in Eindhoven, its citizens protested against the quarantine. But the Dutch police brutally dispersed the demonstrators with water cannons and tear gas. On November 18 in Berlin, protesters also defended their rights. The German police acted the same way. Why? Because now is the time of the pandemic and mass actions in European countries are prohibited.

Russia is also facing the same pandemic. We also have people who get sick and die. We have imposed the same requirements of wearing masks and physical distancing. The government is also obliged to ensure public safety. On Saturday, the riots in Russia were stopped without anyone getting killed or injured, without applying tear gas and rubber bullets, that is without using the violence that we unfortunately see in Europe and the USA on an almost daily basis. The stories of thousands of those arrested are absolutely false. In Moscow 30 people remain under arrest. And not for expressing their opinion, but for using violence. Their actions will be given a legal assessment, no matter which side of the conflict they are on.

The systemic problem is of a different kind. It lies in the fact that, for example, a force operation in Germany is called protection of public security, whereas in Russia it is seen as police abuse.

Many of you know the saying of the ancient Romans "What is permissible to Jupiter is not permissible for a bull".

But PACE is not Jupiter, and Russia is not a bull.

If all countries in Europe are equal, then all our standards should be the same. This is what will allow us to achieve what we so ardently desire. Understanding each other and working together.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:06:06

Dear colleague,

I understand your and other colleagues' frustration, but as I stated in the beginning, we have rules.

Now the list of speakers is established specifically according to these rules. It does indeed prevents you at this instance to have your declaration, but it also prevents other colleagues to have their presentation.

So, I do apologize for the fact that a number of colleagues are not able to address this debate at this instance, but it is in full compliance with the rules. If these rules should be looked into again, I would welcome that because I do believe a number of our rules are not exactly ideal. But no rules in any parliament are ideal. So, please take on board that in your case, but in other colleagues' cases it is because we just very strictly follow the rules.

Having said this, we now come to the consideration of the amendments.

Before that we have our rapporteur, who, if he wishes to do so, can reply using three minutes.

Mister SCHENNACH, do you wish to reply?

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

10:07:46

Thank you Mr President,

I have listened very carefully to the debate and I am grateful for the many speeches. I can also understand that members from Georgia and Ukraine have a different opinion to mine, but nevertheless I am trying to continue along the path we have fought hard for over the last few years - the path of dialogue.

I think it was Mr Frank SCHWABE who mentioned the film Groundhog Day. I was also asked by a Russian journalist whether it is now customary that every January the Russian credentials are up for debate. And I said that is in the hands of the Russian delegation and in the hands of Russia. First of all, it is in their hands to allow all our Assembly rapporteurs and the Commissioner for Human Rights to come into the country and to comply with the judgments of the Human Rights Court. So that is largely in Russia's hands.

I think my report shows many downsides. In one paragraph I wrote: it does not sound so optimistic.

Nonetheless, there is no alternative to dialogue for all the problems we have with the Russian delegation. But I am trying, like the Monitoring Committee, to reach a very broad consensus so that we can continue this dialogue with rights and obligations.

With this in mind, I would like to thank you, as rapporteur, for the debate, which has been very emotional in parts, but in the end I hope that we will achieve a positive adoption of this resolution.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:10:14

Thank you, Mister Stefan SCHENNACH.

We now come to the consideration of the amendments. You have Document 15216, which is the draft resolution. It is presented with the amendments in the sideline, in the sidebar.

The Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee) has presented a draft resolution to which now 11 amendments have been tabled. The amendments will be taken in the order in which they appear in the compendium.

I remind you that speeches on amendments are strictly limited to one minute. I also remind you that members of the delegation of the Russian Federation whose credentials are challenged may sit provisionally with the same rights as other Assembly members until the Assembly has reached a decision. However, those members shall not vote in any proceedings relating to the examination of credentials which concerns them.  To put it very simply, those whose credentials are challenged, in this case the colleagues of the Russian delegation, cannot vote neither on amendments nor on the resolution itself.

We now move to the first amendment, which is Amendment 6.

I have been informed by the Chair that this amendment was rejected by the Committee with a two-thirds majority.

I see in my compendium that there is a number of these who have been rejected by a two-thirds majority. Rules provide that an objection requires the support of 10 members. Given the interventions I have heard it seems obvious that amendments will be asked to be tabled by 10 members or more, so I'm not going to go into voting all of that. I do request the approval of those here that we just move on all the amendments without losing any time. As a matter of fact, it also would allow any members to have their argumentation on the table. Is that okay? Then we will do so

We now come to Amendment 6.

I call Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS to support Amendment 6. You have one minute.

Vote: Challenge, on substantive grounds, of the still unratified credentials of the parliamentary delegation of the Russian Federation

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD

10:12:26

Yes, sir, that is about the commitments which should be mentioned. Just to have all commitments mentioned, not only those who are mentioned in the...

I would like to say a huge thank you so much for your contribution, Mister  Stefan SCHENNACH, but to include all commitments to all our resolutions adopted by Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly from 1996 and to have that as a catalogue of obligations of Russia, actually not fulfilled, sorry for that.

Thank you. 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:13:13

Thank you very much.

Does anyone wish to speak against?

Mister KOX, you have the floor.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

10:13:21

Thank you, Mister President.

As we discussed twice in the Monitoring Committee, it does not make sense to add all kinds of earlier decisions to the already very big report on these issues that our rapporteur made.

As the Monitoring Committee decided, this does not make sense, I propose not to accept this amendment.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:13:45

Thank you.

What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mister NÉMETH.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EPP/CD, Chairperson of Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

10:13:49

Thank you Mister Chairman, Mister Rik Daems,

Greetings from Mr Michael Aastrup JENSEN. Unfortunately, he has to be in Copenhagen; so, greetings from Budapest.

The committee has rejected the amendment with a two-thirds majority.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:14:05

The Committee is against.

We now put the amendment to the vote.

The vote is open. Please vote.

Those colleagues in the hemicycle please use the voting system of the hemicycle and not the Kudo system because you might mistakenly vote twice and that would complicate things. So, in the hemicycle, only the voting system of the hemicycle. Outside of the hemicycle, Kudo.

Please vote.

The vote is closed. Results.

Okay, so I've got different things down here.

The result is 38 in favour of the amendment, 97 against, 7 abstentions.

The amendment is rejected.

Now we go to Amendment 10.

The amendment has been rejected by two-thirds majority but as I said before, we will nevertheless give the floor to Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ to support Amendment 10.

You have one minute.

Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ

Lithuania, EPP/CD

10:15:36

Colleagues, I ask you to support my amendment, even though it was rejected by the Committee.

It speaks about Crimea and the amendment to the Russian constitution made last year.

I slightly change the wording and now it reads as follows:

"This amendment to the Russian Constitution not only ignores multiple demands of this Assembly with regard to the solution for the Crimea issue, but it is in a contradiction with the international commitments of the Russian Federation and international law."

That's it. So just to add to this, that Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine. All democratic countries are trying to help Ukraine in solving this issue.

Please support it.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:16:20

Thank you very much.

Who wishes to speak against?

Mister KOX?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

10:16:26

Thank you, Mister President.

I advise the Assembly not to accept this amendment.

There will be a better amendment regarding this issue later on from the Rules Committee. As the committee also did, I ask you to not to support this amendment.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:16:43

The opinion of the Committee?

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EPP/CD, Chairperson of Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

10:16:46

The committee has rejected it with a two thirds majority.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:16:49

Thank you.

Please vote. The vote is open.

Vote is closed.

Result please.

39 in favor, 93 against, 9 abstentions.

The amendment is rejected.

We now come to Amendment No. 2, also an amendment that has been rejected by two-thirds majority.

Nevertheless, I will give the floor.

I call Mr Rustem UMEROV to support Amendment No. 2.

You have one minute.

Mr Rustem UMEROV

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:17:49

Dear Colleagues,

As a representative of Crimea, of temporarily occupied Crimea and of indigenous people, I would like to support this amendment.

Why? Because people need a signal from the Assembly that they are on the right side. They are on the international side, and they need support.

As a people that is being suppressed at the moment and have lost 10%  of their population and became IDPs, I need this support to be seen in Crimea, as a Crimean Tatar, as a member of the Ukrainian Parliament. I jope you colleagues will support it.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:18:29

May I recall colleagues, because I just noticed, to keep your mask on when you speak? And to keep your mask in front of your noses?

Here and there I see some nice noses, but I shouldn't see them.

Okay. Does anyone wish to speak against?

Tiny.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

10:18:46

I, too, am looking forward to us being able to see each other's full faces, but we have to do it for the time being in this way.

The same argument that I used to object to the last amendment is useful here. We will have a better amendment later on in the procedure, so I suggest not accepting this.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:19:08

Opinion of the Committee?

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EPP/CD, Chairperson of Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

10:19:10

Rejected with a two-thirds majority.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:19:12

The Committee is against.

We now have the vote.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed. Results please.

40 votes in favour, 96 against, 6 abstentions. Therefore, the amendment is rejected.

We now come to Amendment 7, again rejected by two-thirds majority.

However, I will give the floor. I call on Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS to support Amendment 7.

You have one minute.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD

10:20:24

In the case of European Court of Human Rights, that means about European Court of Human Rights in the case of Navalny.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:20:32

Who wishes to speak against?

Mr Tiny KOX.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

10:20:36

Mister President,

We are now dealing with a resolution on the challenge of credentials of the Russian Federation. We will have a full-fledged report on the Navalny case prepared by our colleague Mr Jacques MAIRE. I think it's appropriate for us to wait for that report and not to include this paragraph here. I propose not to accept it.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:21:00

Thank you. Opinion of the Committee?

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EPP/CD, Chairperson of Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

10:21:03

The committee has rejected it with a two-thirds majority.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:21:06

Which is against.

Voting is open.

Vote is closed.

37 in favor, 103 against, 8 abstentions.

Therefore, the amendment is rejected.

We now come to Amendment No. 8, rejected by two-thirds majority in the Committee. However, I will give the floor.

I call Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS to support Amendment No. 8.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD

10:22:07

Dear Friends,

You voted in favour of Boris Nemtsov's report.

After new evidence was declared by Ms Anna Durytska in Kiev about the murder of Mr Nemtsov, I would like to invite you to reopen the case of Mr Nemtsov.

That's related to the basic issue of our Parliamentary Assembly.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:22:30

Thank you very much.

Who wishes to speak against?

Mr Tiny KOX.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

10:22:34

Mister President,

This Assembly indeed discussed the case of Mr Boris Nemtsov at an earlier moment. This is a report on the challenge of credentials. So, I do not think it's wise to include this here. Nemtsov is not a debate. We should now focus on credentials. I ask the Assembly not to accept this amendment.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:22:56

The Committee's opinion?

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EPP/CD, Chairperson of Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

10:22:58

The Committee rejected it with a two-thirds majority.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:23:01

The Committee is against.

The vote is open.

The vote  is closed.

Results please.

34 votes in favour, 112 against, 6 abstentions.

Therefore, the amendment is rejected.

We now come to Amendment 5, which is an amendment tabled by the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs. I call Ms Ingjerd SCHOU to support the amendment on behalf of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs.

You have one minute, Madam SCHOU.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, Chariperson of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs

10:24:02

Thank you, Mister President.

I have to say about that in its opinion the Rules Committee support in the proposals contained in the report of the Monitoring Committee to rectify the credentials of the Russian Federation delegation.

However, the Rules Committee wishes to emphasise that the ratification of the credentials of the Russian delegation would in no way constitute recognition, even implicit, of the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation.

Thank you, Mister President.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:24:38

Thank you.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

I don't see anyone.

I shall now put the amendment to the vote.

Vote open.

We still have six colleagues in the hemicycle logged in, but they have not voted. Please vote.

Vote closed.

110 votes in favour, 17 against, 17 abstentions.

Amendment 5 is accepted and added to the text.

We now come to Amendment 3.

Amendment 3 is an amendment that has been rejected by a two-thirds majority. However, I will give the floor to Mr Rustem UMEROV.

I call on Mr UMEROV to support Amendment 3.

[In reply to another member] I'm not giving you the floor,  Sir. You are not Mr UMEROV. Is Mr UMEROV here?

Does anyone wish to defend the amendment?

I suppose Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO.

You have the floor.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

10:26:21

Thank you very much. 

As I said in my speech, the report is really great. Thanks again to rapporteur or for all the work done. But the only word is absent there is a small word, "not", "not ratify".

Dear colleagues, I want to ask all of you to support it. It's about prinicples. You will see that in one or two years, you will see the results. You will say, "Yes, I should vote "not" at this moment".

II just want to tell you that we will challenge the credentials of the Russian delegation. You know the great speech by Winston Churchill: "[sic] We will challenge them in France. We will challenge them on the beaches. We will challenge them in the air. We will challenge them on hills, in fields, in streets, everywhere. We shall not surrender." We shall challenge them before this country is governed by such people, like Putin, all these thieves, corrupt officials, and killers around him.

Thank you. 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:27:21

Who wishes to speak against?

Mr Tiny KOX.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

10:27:29

As I said in my earlier remarks, it is the right of members to challenge credentials, but it's finally the decision of the assembly to take a decision on that and I urge colleagues not to support this amendment.

The Monitoring Committee was clear on the issue and I hope the Assembly will clear we need, as our colleague Mr Killion MUNYAMA has said, we need dialogue here in this assembly amongst 47 member states national delegations.

So I propose not to accept this amendment.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:27:59

Opinion of the Committee?

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EPP/CD, Chairperson of Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

10:28:01

The committee has rejected with a two thirds majority.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:28:04

The Committee has rejected with two thirds.

Vote is open.

Vote is closed.

Results: 37 in favour, 115 against, 7 abstentions.

The amendment is rejected.

We now come to Amendment 13.

I call Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ to support Amendment 11. You have one minute.

Does anyone else wish to support the amendment?

I don't see anyone?

Does anyone wish to speak against?

If there's no support for the amendments (you see, Wojciech always has to remind me of the details of the rules)... so if there's no support for the amendment it falls. But I do see a hand coming up now.

You have the floor in support of the amendment.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:29:50

Thank you, dear Chair.

It is very short. We add to the paragraph in the draft resolution at the beginning of paragraph 11. We suggest deleting the following two words: "in return". I think the draft resolution, the text of the document, was quite short. So, everyone could see the original text.

Merci.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:30:19

Thank you very much.

Any one wishes to speak against?

Yes, just a second. Mr SCHENNACH, you wanted to say something?

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

10:30:30

Yes, because there was no decision in the Committee.

I'm against this amendment because I'm in favour of the next one, Amendment 11.

For this amendment please vote no.

 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:30:45

Okay, we have an opinion in favour and one against.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed. We have to wait a bit, sorry. We're going too fast.

The vote is closed. Results.

33 votes in favour, 102 against, 8 abstentions.

Therefore, Amendment 11 is rejected.

We now come to Amendment 1.

I call on Mr Claude KERN to support the amendment.

Mr Claude KERN

France, ALDE

10:31:44

Thank you, Mister Speaker.

It is very simple. Through this amendment, we want to replace the word "in exchange" with the word "on this occasion" because we are not in the business of haggling.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:31:59

I understand the substance of the amendment is not to get into a quid pro quo, as they call it.

Does anyone wish to speak against?

I don't see anyone therefore I put the amendment to the vote.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

10:32:16

As the rapporteur, I'm in favour because there is no decision by the Committee.

I'm in favour.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:32:31

Does anyone wish to speak against?

I didn't see anyone.

Then put the amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

Results.

112 votes in favour, 17 against, 19 abstentions.

Therefore the amendment is accepted.

We now come to Amendment 9.

I call on Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS to support Amendment 9.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD

10:33:37

Yes, that's about political prisoners. You remember, in this Chamber, including a few years ago, we voted for a description of political prisoners. By one vote, we approved the description. It's about releasing all political prisoners in the Russian Federation declared by the Memorial Society and by other Helsinki groups inside and outside Russia to declare a release of political prisoners in the Russian Federation.

Thank you. Thank you so much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:34:10

Thank you.

Does anyone wish to speak against?

Mister KOX?

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

10:34:16

As rapporteur, can I speak?

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:34:18

Just a second, I have Mr Tiny KOX at this moment.

Mr KOX.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

10:34:24

The case of Mr Navalny is a very serious case which will be dealt with here in this Assembly by the report now and the preparation of our colleague Mr Jacques MAIRE. The question is too important now to include here, so I propose that we reject this amendment as a Committee did twice.

Thank you very much. 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:34:44

Thank you rapporteurs.

Since there is no opinion of the Committee...

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

10:34:47

Thank you.

There is no opinion of the Committee, but there is a very clear opinion of the rapporteur.

In the memorandum there are nine paragraphs on the Navalny case. Also about other prisoners. I do not want to undermine the competence of our rapporteur for political prisoners in the Russian Federation, Ms Thorhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR.

I'm against because this amendment has nothing to do with the credentials.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:35:18

Thank you.

Rapporteur is against.

Vote is open.

Vote is closed.

Results: 38 in favor, 111 against, 9 abstentions.

The amendment is rejected.

We now come to Amendment No. 4.

I call on Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER to support it.

Ian, you have floor.

Where is Ian?

Ian is not here, so we have someone else to support it.

You have the floor.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:36:23

Thank you chair.

As the co-author of this amendment I will present it. It is very simple. We do understand that the victory is already here. We have been discussing this document for a couple of hours already, but we would like to add a timeline, so that if all the commitments which are linked to the resolutions which we voted in this house and all other obligations of the Russian Federation are not fulfilled, we'll return back to this question by the third part-session which is June 2021 and see whether the commitments are in place.

Let's hope for the best and I call this house to support this amendment; to put the timeline of third part-session. Thank you. 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:37:16

Thank you.

Anyone wishes to speak against?

Mr Tiny KOX.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

10:37:23

Mister President,

This Assembly decided to have a full-fledged monitoring report on the situation in Russia and supported the very important report. We asked our co-rapporteurs Ms OOMEN-RUIJTEN and Mr SCHÄFER to present a report at his earliest convenience. I think we should leave the job to our co-operators. They will deliver a report as soon as possible. Then we will have the much needed report on what is happening in the Russian Federation and how it relates to our norms, our standards. I would propose not to accept this amendment at this moment.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:38:04

Thank you.

The opinion of the rapporteur.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

10:38:07

Thank you.

I remember one year ago we had a different voting regarding the credentials and there were different amendments to limitation, to make restriction – all of those amendments were rejected by a big majority. And also in this case, I'm following what the assembly did one year ago: no limitations and no other ways. We have mandates or we have not.

We have different reports in the line. But nothing now. So please to all who voted against, I think Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER knows exactly what happened one year ago and how many members of the Assembly voted against. Please also today.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:39:02

Thank you.

The rapporteur is against.

I wish to inform the Assembly that when I had a trip to Moscow and had to return, I had the formal agreement of the delegation and the authorities for our monitoring rapporteurs to be able to go to the country and to have their report done in a normal situation.

This is just information, not a position.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

Mr Petr TOLSTOI I see your nose. You should cover your nose.

Results: 38 votes in favour, 116 against, 7 abstentions. The amendment is rejected.

We now come to the...

Yes colleague, you have the floor.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC

10:40:24

I apologise, due to the lack of my concentration I used to press the red button all the time. I made mistake on Amendment 5 – I pressed the red; I was supposed to vote "Yes".

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

10:40:40

Thank you, Kimmo. It will be noted in the report.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 15216 [as amended].

Members present in the Chamber should use the hemicycle voting system. Members participating remotely should vote using the remote voting system.

I recall that those implied in this report have no right to vote on the report. Specifically this implicates the colleagues of the Russian delegation.

So the vote in the hemicycle and via remote voting is now open.

Please vote.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed: 107 in favour, 36 against, 24 abstentions.

Therefore, the draft resolution in Document 15216 [as amended] is adopted.

Thank you for this debate.

I recall to those who have made mention during this debate and before, that all elements relating to the own rules and regulations of how to conduct a debate have been transferred by myself, as will also obviously be the report of this session, to the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs for them to consider.

Before moving to the next item, I thank Mr Andreas NICK and all my other vice presidents who have replaced me, because I've got a lot of work to do aside from the plenary, so Andreas, thank you for replacing me once again, and I will be back before the end of the session.

Andreas.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:44:44

Dear colleagues, could you please take your seats so we can proceed with our debate?

Please, could you take your seats? Otherwise take your conversations outside the plenary please.

Before we open the next debate I have two requests to speak to clarify votings.

First speaker is Mr Dmytro LUBINETS.

Mr Dmytro LUBINETS

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:45:17

Dear chairman, the last vote in my voice is against the resolution. I made a mistake, please consider my vote as against the resolution.

Thank you very much.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:45:39

Next is Mr Vlad BATRINCEA.

Mr Vlad BATRINCEA

Republic of Moldova, SOC

10:45:44

I'm sorry I have a technical mistake: I'm pro-resolution for this resolution.

Thank you very much. I'm sorry.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:45:55

Thank you.

So at least in terms of the voting results that would balance each other out, but I understand that we will reflect that in the... Sorry? We have more questions from the floor?

Ms Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI

Estonia, ALDE

10:46:12

Dear colleagues,

The Estonian delegation had a technical problem. For example, one titular member, Mr Eerik-Niiles KROSS couldn't log in and couldn't vote. And a substantive member Mr Raivo TAMM could vote and I think we have some how to deal with this issue in technical problems because this questions the whole election system now.

Thank you. 

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:46:55

I'll give the floor to the Secretary General of the Assembly.

Mr Wojciech SAWICKI

Secretary General of the Assembly

10:46:58

Thank you, Chairman.

I think, well, if you follow the messaging system we explained to Mr Eerik-Niiles KROSS, he was connected twice with two different email addresses and we insisted that he clarify this matter. So he was trying to vote with an email being connected with email addresses which was not validated in our system. So on the technical side, from the side of the Assembly, everything worked well.

 

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:47:25

I understand that the declarations given in the Plenary will be recorded in the minutes, so members can make a reference to that as far as their own voting is concerned.

I think that we can also conclude that there was no reason at all that would put in question the overall result of the vote, so we proceed on that basis.

One more? Mr Axel SCHÄFER please.

Mr Axel SCHÄFER

Germany, SOC

10:47:57

Thank you Mr President.

I voted no on the final resolution by mistake. I meant to vote yes, of course.

I would ask that this be corrected.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:48:09

Here on this the same applies as mentioned before.

It will be reflected in the minutes.

Are we done with that? Okay.

The next item of business this morning is a current affairs debate on “Freedom of expression (Article 10 of the ECHR) under threat by "Big Tech" Companies.”

In order to allow time for the next debate, we will interrupt the speakers list for this debate at 11.35am. Speaking time is limited to 3 minutes for all members except the first speaker, Mr Bob de BRABANDERE, chosen by the Bureau, who is allowed 10 minutes.

In the debate I call first Mr de BRABANDERE. You have 10 minutes to speak.

Current affairs debate: Freedom of expression (Article 10 of the ECHR) under threat by "Big Tech" Companies

Mr Bob De BRABANDERE

Belgium, EC/DA

10:49:02

Thank you.

Distinguished colleagues, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that the European Convention on Human Rights, first drafted more than 70 years ago by the newly-formed Council of Europe, is definitely our handbook. In a manual all chapters are equally important, but personally I have to say that Article 10 is one that is very close to my heart and probably to the heart of many of you.

That Article 10 is about freedom of expression: freedom of expression is what distinguishes a democratic country from a dictatorship.

In a healthy democracy there is freedom of speech. But the reverse is also true. Freedom of speech is a prerequisite for that same democracy. It is therefore only logical that we hold freedom of speech in high esteem. It is only right that freedom of speech is enshrined in one form or another in all constitutions. It is only right that states where this very important right is infringed are reprimanded.

Freedom of expression is what makes our Europe Europe. Apart from inciting violence, of course, everything should be able to be said. Even things that are uncomfortable for some to hear. Things that may not always be politically correct, and things that might upset the status quo. After all, it wouldn't be the first time that what is an inconvenient truth today will be a generally accepted fact tomorrow.

Ladies and gentlemen, freedom of expression and the resulting clash of ideas is the reason why almost all of us are sitting here together. Aren't we all of us protected by the Council of Europe's immunities, even while saying things here in Strasbourg which may be uncomfortable for a governments back home.

Unfortunately I have to conclude that it is precisely this freedom of speech, this freedom of expression, that is under attack today, not only because of over zealous governments who out of misplaced political correctness are all too eager to label inconvenient truths as fake news. But mainly because there are new players on the field today. Those players are not bound by laws, and unlike governments, do not have to answer to voters. I'm talking about Big Tech: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Apple, Google, Amazon. Names that ring a bell with every European citizen. They are primarily American companies that have come to play a major role in our society today.

Social media platforms are now an inherent part of our daily lives. In exchange for our personal data they offer us a place where we can communicate with other citizens, and that more than ever perhaps during lockdown times, is an opportunity that many are grabbing with both hands.

To put some things in perspective, Facebook alone recorded more than 410 million monthly active users in the second quarter of 2020 and has a larger net income than the entire GDP of, for example, Serbia.

The Big Tech giants that run these virtual meeting spaces therefore have a huge responsibility. As mentioned before, unlike governments that can be punished by the voter, the same voter or citizen is now powerless against these Big Tech companies if he or she feels that his or her freedom of speech is threatened by these same companies.

It is a mistake to believe that these private companies act with any coherent ethical framework in mind while regulating this forum. While Apple has just been to the app Parler from its app store for violating its app store user terms, the company has also lobbied to water down provisions in a recent bill aimed at preventing forced labour in China.

Just recently, Facebook pages of Navalny and Khodorkovsky groups and supporters have been suspended in Russia.

The most famous recent example of all must be of course the swift removal of Donald Trump, at that time still president of the United States of America, from social media. We could all but observe a coordinated effort of these companies to swiftly and very effectively remove his presence on the internet. Regardless of who he is or what he represents, it is worrying that Big Tech giants have such power.

The Russian opposition leader Navalny rightly called it an unacceptable act of censorship. And in a way even worse: it's a precedent that can and will be exploited by the enemies of freedom of speech around the world. Steffen Seibert, Merkel's chief spokesman, reacted in a similar way, and I quote: "the right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance given that the Chancellor considers it problematic that the President's accounts have been permanently suspended."

All of this leads only to one logical conclusion: unregulated monopolistic tech platforms cannot and should not be trusted with such an important matter as protecting and guaranteeing free speech. The fact they have the power to simply remove a sitting president from social media and thereby cutting off an important means to communicate with the general public, for whatever reason, should set off alarm bells in Europe as well. By increasingly arbitrarily deleting messages and blocking accounts, by removing the Facebook and Twitter accounts of whoever they like, and without any possibility to appeal, they have demonstrated their immense power over public debate and therefore over our freedom of expression.

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights clearly stipulates that limitations to the freedom of speech are very restricted. And I quote: "The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to suc