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19 April 2021 afternoon

2021 - Second part-session Print sitting

Sitting video(s) 1 / 1

Opening of sitting No 9

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:02:47

Dear Colleagues,

All here physically present in the hemicycle and on your screens remotely,

Madame Secretary General,

Colleagues and ambassadors,

Allow me to welcome her excellency the President of Moldova, Ms Maia SANDU.

Welcome to our Assembly chamber. We are very honoured to have you among us in what we tend to call Europe's house of democracy. We are very pleased that you found time in your busy agenda to address the Assembly and exchange views with our parliamentarians.

As you know, we have a small rule that, please, allow our colleagues in the hemicycle and remotely to be able to ask you some questions. We have one full hour, so if we could distribute the time a little bit.

Allow me also to congratulate you on your election being the first female president of the Republic of Moldova I've been told. It is a very welcoming development as regards that more women leaders and more balanced representation of women in politics in our member states. I am keen on that.

I also would like to commend you on the priorities of your mandate: the fight against corruption, the promotion of transparency in elections, and reform of the justice sector, all of which are very important issues for the functioning of democratic societies.

The importance of partnership and dialogue between us the, Parliamentary Assembly, and our member states is obviously very important. We do play a key role as an Assembly in advancing political parliamentary dialogue on a pan-European level, more specifically in this case with your country. We look forward to hearing your views on the current political developments, progress and challenges with regards to upholding and strengthening human rights, fundamental freedoms and the functioning of democratic institutions in your country.

As we know, this is a bit complicated for the moment, but we will hear from you and, of course, as well as about the advancement of European integration. Without due delay, Madame President, it is my pleasure and my honour to give you the floor.

Please take the floor.

Address by Ms Maia SANDU, President of the Republic of Moldova

Ms Maia SANDU

President of the Republic of Moldova

16:04:58

Dear Mr President,

Dear Ms Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Dear Ms Secretary General of PACE,

Dear Mr Deputy Secretary General,

Dear Members of the Parliamentary Assembly, Excellencies,

Thank you for the invitation to address you here today at Palais de l’Europe. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet you in person and I also warmly greet the audience and the Parliamentary Assembly’s delegates who have joined online. I stand here today to acknowledge the role of the Council of Europe in establishing and upholding the values and standards that define European nations today, in promoting democratic consolidation, stability, and providing a place for dialogue on the continent.

Moldova is a small European nation of kind and hard-working people, who will celebrate 30 years of independence this August. It’s a country which has all the ingredients for success. I am honoured to be elected the president of this country. In truth, recent presidential elections united Moldovans of all ethnicities around a core demand for an accountable, responsive government, which will pursue national, not personal, interests.

This shared goal created an unprecedented wave of unity and purpose, and this is my key message today – the will to reform the country comes from the Moldovan people. Moldovans of different ages, of different political preferences, came together as one nation to demand far-reaching internal transformations, including a serious fight against corruption, justice sector reforms, and a clean government which works for the people. And I have this message to all Moldovans - I will do what you have told me to do. You generated the momentum for reforms, and it must now be sustained by real actions. Words and promises, nice documents of which the Moldovans have had so many, will not be enough.

Thirty years ago, Moldova chose the path of building its own democracy. We adopted a constitution, voted laws and established institutions inspired by the best European and international practices. We did many things right, but a lot remained on paper. Despite prolonged reforms, despite increasingly sophisticated legislation, many of our institutions remain vulnerable to undue influence and are prone to abuse.

State institutions today are often unable to deliver quality public services. The economy suffers from monopolies. Some people lose hope in the day of tomorrow, and choose to leave the country in search of a better future.

People voted for serious change. But what exactly does change mean for Moldovans? It means that Moldovans want justice. We want better standards of living, access to quality education and healthcare, and better infrastructure. We want a country with a real economy, where foreign and domestic investments feel secure, where there are jobs for all. We want our people to choose to return and live in Moldova – not because they have to, but because they want to.

Change means that Moldovans will trust their state. People’s vision for a better future is built on several key elements: genuine fight against corruption, functioning laws, an accountable and independent judiciary, a good business climate, a better environment, developed infrastructure and good education and healthcare systems. These are my strategic priorities.

The first priority is to put an end to pervasive corruption. Corruption arrests democracy, erodes the public sector and state-owned enterprises. Public officials are not held accountable for their actions. And those who should stop abuses – judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officials – are in many cases the offenders. As a result, we see growing distrust between the state and citizens.

According to international assessments, Moldova faces close to 1 billion dollars per year in illicit financial flows through corruption, money laundering and smuggling. This is a huge amount for my country. Only a fraction of this money would be enough to double the salaries of teachers or repair most roads in the country.

Moldovans are hard-working people. The money that Moldovans earn should go to increase the benefits of all, not construct mansions for corrupt officials. Moldova’s key challenge today is to create an efficient, democratic state, where everyone would know that their hard work pays off for them personally and contributes to the welfare of all. The people of Moldova elected me their President with a strong mandate to fight corruption and open the doors to fundamental transformations inside the country, and this is my first and most important priority.

This task cannot be achieved by just one institution, no matter how determined it is. There has to be a common sense of purpose in fighting corruption between the Presidency, the Parliament and the Government. Early parliamentary elections, which will take place soon in Moldova, will open the doors to this change of political personalities who are running the country. The forthcoming elections will give us a unique opportunity to pursue a serious reform agenda, to step again on the path towards democracy and restore trust between the people and the state.

Second, we must reform justice. It is a foundation for increasing investments in Moldova’s economy, both local and international, and bolstering the efficiency of the public sector. Everybody in Moldova must be treated equally. For too long, the few have had it all from the state and the many have had very little: an entrepreneur who has been constructing a strong business during his or her whole life, only to see it taken away by those from high-level offices because they wanted the profits that the business generates; courts that adjudicate cases in favour of those with power and money and treat people without connections unfairly, or support a corrupt official who snatches government property through affiliated companies in front of everyone’s eyes; judges who close their eyes to cases of flagrant corruption and absolve high-placed criminals from responsibility.

We must change that. The business person is the backbone of Moldova’s economic growth, and he or she should have exactly the same treatment as the powerful national officials. Everyone in Moldova must know that the state and its justice system will treat them fairly. This is the goal of our justice sector reform, which will increase citizens’ trust in government institutions.

Third, a less corrupt state and an impartial, independent judiciary will create a strong foundation for a functional economy and economic growth. This, in turn, will generate budget revenues to rebuild Moldova’s crippling infrastructure. But most importantly, this national revenue that will be taken away from regional criminal networks and corrupt officials will allow a cleaner Moldovan government to do what it should have been doing over these 30 years of independence – investing in Moldova’s key national asset: the human capital. We must significantly increase our investment in better education and quality healthcare, and we must guarantee decent social support for the Moldovan people.

This is in a few words the vision for the country and the programme of reforms which all Moldovans want, no matter whether they speak Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, Gagauz or Bulgarian. This is the common purpose and the core agenda which has united all Moldovans.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This hall has seen many speeches – visionary, inspiring messages of hope, unity, progress and peace. My message today is different. The Moldovan people want the Presidency to join forces with a new parliament and a new government to clean the country of the vices that are holding it back, and they ask for your support in doing so. And this time, Moldovan politicians should not fail the people.

Rebuilding trust between the state and the citizens is not an easy task, but it must be accomplished as a fundamental precondition for a happier, more prosperous nation.

While distrust may be a global phenomenon in today’s world – worsened by the pandemic and competing narratives – the key to fixing the fabric of Moldovan society is in Moldova. By tackling corruption, reforming justice, creating accountability in our public sector and investing in education, healthcare and social protection, we can reconnect our institutions with our people.

The power of institutions doesn’t lie only in the words of the law that describe their attributions and competences. Their power lies in the dedication with which their employees choose to do their work every day. It resides in the quality of the services provided to the citizen; in the professionalism of the clerk at the counter; in the clarity of the procedures; in the behaviour of the patrol policeman on the road; in the stubbornness with which a prosecutor defends the public good from the actions of an immoral official; in the strength with which a judge chooses not to answer the phone if someone influential is calling to intervene in a case.

Public servants need to know that they are in the service of the people.

What we set out to do requires courage and continued, sustained effort. The drive for reforms must continue to come from the people, no matter what obstacles may block the road. And there are many obstacles. Corrupt forces will fight back, because they stand to lose not only their illicit revenues, but also their freedom. But people are determined to fight for change, and count on the support of Moldova’s partners in the Council of Europe.

In the past 26 years, the Council of Europe played a crucial role in helping Moldova transition to a more democratic system of governance. The Council of Europe and its institutions – the Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Ministers, the Venice Commission, the Congress of Local Authorities, and others – stood beside Moldova in good and bad times. Thank you for all the support you have given our country in our difficult moments.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I put restoring citizens’ trust in the state and the fight against corruption at the centre of my address today because they are key to ensuring stability and security in our broader region. Corruption is a security issue, and it does not stop at Moldova’s borders. Smuggling, money laundering, hybrid threats are all transnational threats. We see that many countries in Eastern Europe are also struggling with weak rule of law and weak institutions. This increases our collective insecurity in the region.

I understand that there is fatigue in Europe over prolonged democratic transformations.

People in my country are also tired of hearing about never ending reforms and failed attempts at better life for all. Genuine transformations require a strong political will. And this political will to reform is present in Moldova today. If we plant the seeds, we will provide for a better future for our children. And we could focus more on what really matters for our future: strengthening environmental and climate resilience, supporting digital transformation, enhancing connectivity and promoting a fair and inclusive society – our common European priorities.

Today, my country needs help. The Moldovan people are determined to bring it back on track and make it work for them. The Moldovan people want to be able to say with pride – this is our state.

This may seem difficult to do. But Moldovans, as a people, can do and have done impossible things. We may be a young and fragile democracy, but we’ve always been a diverse, open, resourceful and fair nation. Despite previous setbacks, we can turn our fate around and make our country prosperous.

Where there is popular will, there is change. Where there is political will, there is genuine reform. It is time for Moldovans to have a decent life at home. And we will achieve this together – as a nation, as a country. And as a family of nations, united in our desire for democracy and rule of law here, in this key European forum – the Council of Europe.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:21:12

Thank you Madam President.

We have 35 minutes and even more for questions.

Thank you for that, because all our members are very eager to ask some questions to you.

Just for everyone to know, we will take five questions at a time, after which, Madame President you will have the occasion of answering.

The more concise the questions and the answers are, the more colleagues we can have on board in order to put these questions to you.

We will start with the representatives of the political groups. These are five. After these five, Madam President, you will have the floor to answer. Then we will go five by five.

So its one by one with the group leaders.

So we will do that.

As opposed to what I was just telling you, the group leaders will make a question that you will have to answer because otherwise they will get mixed apparently.

Let's start off with the Socialist Group. We've got Mr Stefan SCHENNACH.

Stefan, you are in the room I think.

You have the floor.

One minute.

 

Questions to Ms Maia SANDU, President of the Republic of Moldova

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

16:22:13

Madam President, it's good to see you're here and not only many times in Chișinău.

Congratulation on your speech. I will not ask you regarding the next movement of your constitutional court, which gives you the power to call a new election. I'm not asking you about the children without parents on the street, nor about the pandemic of corruption, which you named so many times. I'm the last one who chaired on the Council of Europe the talks between Transnistria and Moldova in January 2018. The atmosphere was so good that I want to ask you what is happening now in the relation between Transnistria and Moldova? Are you ready to enter into a federation? The last question: what you will do so that the rights of the Gagauz minority will be greater in your Constitution?

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:23:15

Thank you, Madame President, you have the floor. 

Ms Maia SANDU

President of the Republic of Moldova

16:23:19

Thank you.

I don't know what steps you were referring to back in 2018, but I can tell you that we are doing our best to improve the lives of our citizens on the Left Bank.

Unfortunately people on the Right Bank and on the Left Bank face similar poverty issues and corruption issues.

In addition to that people on the Left Bank face additional problems. There is not an immediate solution to the conflict in Transnistria but there is a need for us to do whatever it takes to provide for good living conditions and to ensure the respect for human rights. This is one of the concerns that we have, one of the main concerns that we have now with respect to our citizens in the Transnistrian region.

I can tell you that we've been concerned and we've been doing whatever we can, including during the pandemic, to provide for the vaccine. Every time we will secure some vaccines, because this has been pretty difficult for Moldova, every time we will donate vaccines for the Left Bank.

You know that we don't have a functional government and for more specific and more serious steps to be taken we do need to have a functional government and a majority in the parliament which will support these actions.

We have been discussing, including with the OSCE, about these issues. We have been discussing to have in the second half of the year the next meeting of the five plus two, which is the format where we approach and where we discuss the main issues. But again, the security, the human rights, the problems of the people on the Left Bank have been on our agenda. When we have more political stability I think we'll have a better chance to advance on these issues.

About the minorities, you mean the Gagauz problems, again Gagauzia is part of Moldova and everything we do with respect to our citizens is also with respect to the citizens of Gagauzia.

I can tell you that we are currently working, the office of the presidency, on a programme to improve the studying of the Gagauz language together with improving the studying of the Romanian language for the people in Gagauzia. This is a specific issue that we're trying to address now.

Otherwise of course we're discussing other issues related to the problems in the region, but this is going pretty well.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:26:21

Thank you, Madame President.

We now move to the question for EPP, which is Ms Inese LĪBIŅA-EGNERE. Inese, remotely, please request the floor.

Has this happened?

Inese, you have the floor.

We're trying to get Ms Inese LĪBIŅA-EGNERE on board. Excuse us, Madame President, the hiccups of the remote meetings.

So, we will go now... No, Ms Inese LĪBIŅA-EGNERE is there. If we have got the screen. Voilá, Inese you've got the floor. 

Ms Inese LĪBIŅA-EGNERE

Latvia, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

16:27:18

Excuse me.

I really can't understand the technical problems.

Your Excellency, Madam Maia SANDU, your election as the President of Moldova signals the willingness of the majority of the people to continue with the pro-European reforms.

We support your reform agenda and Moldova's efforts on the European path.

In your view, Madam President, what should be the most essential steps to be made now to deal with that cute socio-economic and healthcare challenges in the country while taking into account also the current legal and political situation?

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:27:57

Thank you, Ms Inese LĪBIŅA-EGNERE.

Madam President.

Ms Maia SANDU

President of the Republic of Moldova

16:27:59

Thank you.

Of course, there is a sanitary crisis and, as I have said, the biggest challenge for us has been getting access to the vaccine. It is not easy for a small country to be able to buy. I am not even talking about donations, though we are very grateful for the donations that we have received, but this has been the main challenge: getting the access to the vaccine, and we are still trying to solve this issue because this will also help economically. Unfortunately, the government has not been providing economic support, especially small and medium enterprises have been affected dramatically. I personally have suggested several policy actions, including establishing a fund to guarantee credits for small and medium businesses, but this has not been supported by the current parliament. So, our businesses are on their own. The sooner we solve the political crisis and the sooner we have a new parliament, then we can count on a government which is going to help.

Moreover, unfortunately, the current parliament has done everything to block the external funding. The decisions, the laws, that the current parliament has voted against, I mean after the presidential elections, went against all the commitments that we have with respect to the IMF, to the EU, to the World Bank. In this difficult situation the country cannot access almost any external funding. You can imagine how bad this is for local businesses, because when you do not have this external funding, you cannot help poor people, and you cannot help the economy. So I hope that we will be able to solve the political situation, that the parliamentary elections are going to happen soon enough. Then the new government is going to restore the access to external funding and is going to come up with specific programmes to both support the economy but also the poor people, affected by the pandemic.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:30:18

Thank you, Madam President.

We now move to the question for Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, which is Mr Hovhannes IGITYAN.

I think, Mr Hovhannes IGITYAN, you are in the room.

You have the floor.

Mr Hovhannes IGITYAN

Armenia, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

16:30:35

Does it work now?

Your Excellency, Madam President, welcome to the cradle of democracy and human rights.

As you see, we are, of course, following the processes in Moldova and in Transnistria, the dialogue called 5+2. We consider both your statement on the activation and functionality of this process very and your adherence to an exclusively peaceful settlement of this issue very important. As you said, there are some political components, but also there are a lot of everyday legal humanitarian and social aspects. 

One of the key principles of the Council of Europe is that all our values, conventions and resolutions should be available to everyone who lives in any part of its borders. It is why I have two short questions: what can we do together to make our values and principles work fully also in the territory of Transnistria and how can we make sure that people living there do not feel unrelated to the Council of Europe processes?

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:31:53

Thank you, Alice.

Madam President.

Ms Maia SANDU

President of the Republic of Moldova

16:31:56

Thank you.

Indeed, the peaceful settlement of the conflict is the main principle of looking and searching for the solution. And, by the way, I wanted to comment on the previous question that the federalization is not a solution that we support. We are looking for a solution and all the political forces have come together to work on this solution. In the meantime there are urgent issues that need to be tackled. And I mentioned one of them: it is the human rights issues on the territory of the Transnistria region. And this is one of the areas where we haven't been very successful in tackling the problem and we do need the support of the International Community.

On the other areas we do have successful cases. For instance the Transnistria region benefits from the free trade regime with the EU and this has proved to be a very beneficial development. And we have a lot of the trade by Transnistria going with the EU, but when it comes to more sensitive issues, as I said, for instance the issue of human rights, then here we do need the support of the Council of Europe and the support of OECD, of course, would be much appreciated.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:33:27

Thank you, Madame President.

We now move to the question for the European Conservatives, remotely, Mr John HOWELL.

John, I see you now.

John, you've got the floor.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

16:33:37

Thank you very much, Mr President. Madam President, that was a brilliant speech.

Moldova may be a small country but it has an important geopolitical position. Has your election and your orientation towards the West and and to curing the country from corruption caused a problem with the Russian Federation? And do you think that the election of a pro-Western group of MPs that follow your line is going to cause further problems with the Russian Federation?

Ms Maia SANDU

President of the Republic of Moldova

16:34:21

Thank you very much.

I want to say that my elections have been causing problems in the relations with the Russian Federation. Of course we have a pretty serious agenda to solve which is about trade, which is about Transnistria, the weapons, the Russian army. This agenda is still there. It's not an easy agenda, but I wouldn't say that there have been serious changes.

I do want to say that we are concerned with the developments in the region, and I do want to say that we would like to have the chance to focus on our internal reforms. I just spoke about the tremendous challenges that we're facing in the country and we would like to have the opportunity to focus on our internal reforms and enjoy an environment in the region which would be conducive to these reforms.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:35:23

Thank you Madame President.

We now move to UEL. I think Mr Tiny KOX is in the room. Tiny, you've got the floor.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

16:35:33

Madam President, it's good to see you here. We often talk about big countries, but the smaller member states of the Council of Europe are as relevant as as these bigger ones.

You said, Madam President, that since your election five months ago Moldova does not have a functioning government. As far as I can see the candidate that you want to form a government has been rejected twice by the majority of Parliament and the candidate that the Parliament proposed was rejected by you. And now you have dissolved Parliament, that went counter to the advice of the Venice Commission, but your Constitutional Court supported you, so you will have elections.

But what, Madam President, if the result of these parliamentary elections again creates a situation that you are the president but there is not a majority in the parliament? Is this becoming a big battle between a presidential system and a parliamentary system in your country? As far as I know, your Constitution says that you are a parliamentary democracy. Could you elaborate on that? How can we in the end solve the problem instead of creating it time and again and dissolving the parliament again and again?

Thank you

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:36:46

Thank you Mr Tiny KOX.

Madam President.

Ms Maia SANDU

President of the Republic of Moldova

16:36:48

Thank you.

It's our task to offer the people the chance to elect a new parliament. If you look at the polls, it's more than 70% of the people in Moldova who want the snap parliamentary elections. It's been all the political parties who have been saying that we need to have snap parliamentary elections. They did say that before the presidential elections, they continue to say that at the consultations that I had after I became president. So, there is no question about the need to have the parliamentary elections. Of course, it's up to the people to decide who is going to represent them in the new parliament, and I will work according to the constitution with the new parliament. But the vote that we had in last fall, as I said, was a vote against corruption and was a vote for justice sector reforms. I would like to believe that this vote will continue with the parliamentary elections. Moldova badly needs political will, badly needs the cooperation of all state institutions to tackle corruption and to reform justice because this is important for the people to believe in their state, not to leave the country. This is important for people to have economic opportunities at home. So, there is this strong support from people for the reform. I hope the strong commitment for justice sector reform from the people is going to translate into clean parliamentarians, into members of the parliament who are not afraid of independent justice and who will vote for the reforms that we need to be voted to do the reforms. But, of course, it's up to the people.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:38:41

Thank you, Madame President.

We now move to five questions at a time. In order, we will have Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN, Mr Bernard FOURNIER, Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO, Ms Petra BAYR and Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND. We start with Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN. Titus, you have the floor. I think you are in the room.

Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN

Romania, SOC

16:39:00

Yes Mr President.

Bun venit la Strasbourg doamnă președintă

Madam President, because the issue of the management of the Transnistrian file was already raised I will switch to a distinct question related to the the issue of national identity in the Republic of Moldova which is an essential issue for the development of your country.

My question is the following one. Don't you think that any decision of the Constitutional Court in a rule of law state should be fully implemented? For instance, a decision of the Constitutional Court that established a number of years ago that looking at the declaration of independence of August 27 1991, looking at the Constitution and at the position of the economy of the Republic of Moldova and the historical truth and the cultural identity, the state official language of the Republic of Moldova is the Romanian language reflecting the national identity.

Should this decision that was not implemented by the previous governments be implemented by the parliament and the future government in a rule of law state?

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:40:05

Thank you, we'll now move on to a second question from Mr. Bernard FOURNIER, who is in the Chamber I think.

 

Mr Bernard FOURNIER

France, EPP/CD

16:40:14

President, Madam President, colleagues,

Enhancing the campaign against corruption was one of the commitments in your election campaign, Madam President. 

You reiterated this in your statement this afternoon and I was delighted to hear it.

How does this actually stand up in the current context, Madam President, given that you do not have a majority in parliament - as has already been mentioned this afternoon?

Thank you, Madam President.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:40:45

Merci, Bernard.

We now move to Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO.

You have the floor.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

16:41:04

Your Excellency Madam President, first of all thanks that your first visit as the president was to Ukraine, to Kiev.

My question is next. You already mentioned the massive violation of human rights in the occupied by Russian Federation Transnistria. My question is how we can solve this problem? What can be done for this? And who in general is responsible for the respect of Human Rights there? Moldova or the state occupant?

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:41:33

Thank you, Oleksii.

We now move to the question by Ms Petra BAYR who is in the room.

Petra, you have the floor.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC

16:41:40

Thank you very much.

Eight years ago I have been invited by UNDP to Chișinău, to give workshops with parliamentarians and with civil society organizations about things like quotas, gender representation, how to handle quotas and also gender budgeting. I would like to know which of these things you already mentioned to implement in Moldova. I also know that in 2017 Moldova signed the Istanbul Convention. What are the further plans? When will you ratify it?

Thank you very much

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:42:12

Thank you, Petra.

We now move to Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND, he is here remotely.

You have the floor.

Maybe we can eliminate not in a bad way Mr John HOWELL, who is still hanging out there.

You have the floor.

Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND

Hungary, EC/DA

16:42:31

Thank you, Mister Chair, Madam President.

The positive experiences of autonomous regions have been widely recognized and the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution on this matter. My question is: what is your opinion about the future prospects of the autonomous territorial unit of Gagauzia in light of the unionist movement in the Republic of Moldova?

Thank you very much

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:42:51

Thank you very much.

We had the five questions.

Apparently, the President did not hear you very well. Could you repeat, please, the last sentence?

Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND

Hungary, EC/DA

16:43:10

My question is: what is your opinion, Madam President, about the future prospects of the autonomous territorial unit of Gagauzia in light of the unionist movement in the Republic of Moldova?

Tthank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:43:26

Thank you, Madam President.

You have the floor for these five questions.

Ms Maia SANDU

President of the Republic of Moldova

16:43:31

Yes. Thank you very much.

The first question on the Romanian language, which has been stated by the Constitutional Court and its decision, is still called "Moldovan" in the Constitution. The question is to the parliament because the parliament is the one to adjust the article in the Constitution. Until now there have not been enough parliamentarians who would want to support the changing of the Constitution and to have the proper name of our language in the Constitution. As soon as we have a parliament that would be ready and would be committed to changing things in the Constitution, then the problem will be solved. In the meantime, of course, what we have to do -and what I have started to work on- is to have programmes for people to be able to study the Romanian language to use it. Of course, we are committed in supporting training programmes for the languages of the Gagauz community and of the Ukrainians and any others. We are trying to go hand-in-hand with such programmes. Otherwise, it is for the parliament to change that article in the Constitution.

The second question: how do we fight corruption if we do not have support in the parliament. As I have said already, the Constitutional Court just issued a decision a few days ago, which allows me to dissolve the parliament, which means we are going to have snap parliamentary elections. My hope is that this time, we will have at least the majority of parliamentarians who support the anti-corruption agenda because this is not my anti-corruption agenda. This is the anti-corruption agenda of the people of Moldova, and we saw this in the presidential elections.

On the human rights issues in Transitia, as I said, this is a big issue. We have not been successful on tackling this issue. We have not been successful in identifying the ways -the leverages- to defend the rights of the people there. So, we still need to work on it.

On the gender issue, I will not be able to tell exactly where we are in terms of the gender budgeting, but I can tell you that things are changing slowly. I was the Prime Minister of the first government in Moldova which included more women ministers than men ministers. We have more women running for the position of mayors. It is not easy. Hate speech is a very big issue, and it is bigger one for the male politicians. However, the change is there. We have a lot of courageous women. The big problem that the country is facing is, of course, violence against women. As you said, the government has signed the Istanbul Convention but the current Parliament does not seem to have enough votes to ratify the Convention and will apparently have to wait until the next Parliament to have the Convention ratified. Then, it is more than about the ratification. It is about measures that have to be put in place to make women's lives safe. Then, of course, we have to work on reducing the gap, on getting rid of the pay gap for men and women. There have been some changes. We have we had to fight for our rights, but there is still a lot to be done.

On the future of Gagauzia and the Unionist movement, I have to tell you that the Unionists movements have been there since the independence of the country, so there is nothing that has changed, and there are no threats and dangers to the future of the Gagauz autonomy. What I have been trying to do, and I have been trying to do this in the campaign period, and I am continuing this now, is to try to find common objectives and to unite the society around these common objectives. At the elections, I received votes from Russian-speaking people, maybe fewer from Gagauz. I still have to work on that. I would like our society to unite around the common objectives, and there are many of them. I am sure that we can do that.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:48:28

Thank you very much.

We do have room for the next five questions. I do apologise to the other colleagues. But, as you know, we're always limited in time. Nevertheless we will take five more questions if you allow me to do so, Madam President.

I think you have maybe a few minutes to go over time.

We have in the following order Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ, Mr Ahmet YILDIZ, Mr Yury OLEINIKOV, Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV and Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ.

So, without delay, remotely we now have Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ.

You have the floor.

Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ

Lithuania, EPP/CD

16:49:06

Thank you very much, Mister President, Madam President.

Madam Maia SANDU, what a wonderful speech! Congratulations. Many questions have been already asked, so in order not to repeat them, I would like to ask you how you describe your relations with the Russian Federation.

We all are aware of the tensions around Ukraine. It's in your closest neighborhood. Do you feel safe or do you experience any unwanted influence from Russia?

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:49:42

Thank you, Laima.

We now have Mr Ahmet YILDIZ, who is in the room. You have the floor.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Turkey, NR

16:49:48

Madam President, thank you very much.

As you know, Turkey values very much the success of Moldova and tries to help in any way possible.

When I visited your country I came to the conclusion that Gagauzia's success is very important for the prosperity and peace of the country. I appreciated that two draft laws were passed on upgrading the autonomy, but the third one is prepared but is still not legislated. It was prepared on the recommendation of the OSCE High Commissioner. What do you see about the future of this third draft law?

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:50:28

Thank you very much, Ahmet.

We now have our colleague, Mr Yury OLEINIKOV, on remote base. Yury, you have the floor.

Yury, we don't hear you. Please unmute. And he is gone.

Please, request the floor again.

Ok, we will go now to Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV. Rafael, you have the floor.

And we'll come back to Mr Yury OLEINIKOV afterwards.

Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV

Azerbaijan, ALDE

16:51:15

Thank you Chair.

Moldova has been always known as a land of peaceful coexistence for people of different ethnicities and backgrounds. Today many communities live side-by-side and in mutual respect.

Madam President, from your perspective do you see any major challenge and threats to such peaceful coexistence inside Moldova and do you see any specific policies to move further on these matters?

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:51:43

Thank you, Rafael.

I still don't see Mr Yury OLEINIKOV coming back. So we will go to Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:51:48

We'll go to Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ, I think he's in the room.

Pierre-Alain, you have the floor.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:51:53

Please contact Mr Yury OLEINIKOV in order for him to connect again.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ, the floor is yours.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC

16:52:02

Madam President,

We are aware of your intention to hold early parliamentary elections in order to implement the ambitious programme that you have set out this afternoon, to put an end to corruption, for a reliable justice system and to ensure that socio-economic recovery can take place in this very polarised political situation, "at the crossroads of worlds", to quote Josette Durrieu, you have just obtained a green light from the Constitutional Court. But there is another problem: the Covid-19 pandemic and the declaration of a state of emergency by the parliamentary majority, which may be extended.

Madam President, in this context, what is your assessment of the possibility and advisability of organising the elections you want as soon as possible?

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:52:46

Merci, Pierre-Alain.

Let's see if we can have Mr Yury OLEINIKOV online. Is there someone who can help us to get our Russian colleague online? It's coming apparently. I'm looking to my left. Oops, there we go.

Yury, you got the floor, but you need to unmute. Yes, there you go. You got the floor, please.

Mr Yury OLEINIKOV

Russian Federation, NR

16:53:12

Good afternoon Madam President.

I would like to wish you success, Madam, in your activities.

My question is as follows.

During the elections last year you spoke to your electorate in Russian. More than 80% of Moldovans know Russian and a third of the population considers themselves Russian speaking. But when you worked in the education ministry you reduced the status of the Russian language. This is unfortunately continuing today.

Do you agree that the more languages someone knows, the better he is able to take interest in cultural exchange. Do you think that seeking to diminish the status of the Russian language is a good way to promote democracy in Moldova?

Thank you.

 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

16:54:06

Thank you, that settles our five questions.

Madam President, you've got the floor.

Ms Maia SANDU

President of the Republic of Moldova

16:54:12

Thank you very much.

On the relations with Russia. We are interested in having good relations with all countries and we are interested in having good relations with Russia. Of course we are concerned with the developments in the region and we very much hope that peace is going to be the solution. We do have a big agenda, as I said, with the Russian Federation, we do want to recover our trade preferences, the trade regime, which we had before signing the free-trade regime with the EU, and we have been working on that and we have been talking to the authorities in Moscow. We do have many Moldovans working in Russia and we are concerned and we want to make sure that they have good living and working conditions. We hope to be able to sign a social security agreement with Russia and there are many other things that we need to solve and for that we need to have a dialogue and we are interested in this dialogue.

On the second issue, on the third law, that was mentioned here, for Gagauzia, I have to tell you that even though there has been a working group established in the parliament to develop the legislation, some political forces in the parliament did not wait until this work was completed in the Parliament and they decided to put for vote these laws before the work of the group was finalised, including with support from the international community, from those donors who are involved in this issue, and because of this, because something which could have got general support from all the political parties in the parliament, was used politically, and the process was cut, the result is not the best but of course there is willingness to talk about this, that is willingness from all the political parties. We want everyone to feel secure, everyone to feel good in our country.

And then next question was about peaceful coexistence, and I do support this, and I have been working on this in my society, in my country, politicians – irresponsible politicians – have been trying to divide people again and again because this has helped them to secure votes, but this has been going against the interests of the people. As I said, there are differences – of course – in any society, there are differences among people, but there are also common goals, and I think, my nation – our people – are getting to the point to understand that there are more common goals than the differences and that will help us unite around the meaningful agenda to transform the country and to get rid of the corrupt politicians who have been dividing the country. I do have respect for all the ethnic groups in my country and I will continue to work to show this respect and to promote specific measures for the people to feel respected and secure no matter what language they speak.

On the state of emergency. The state of emergency has been imposed by the politicians who do not want to have snap parliamentary elections but they will not be able to prolong this forever. It is not that we are going to be in the state of emergency forever and it is especially clear to the people because the measures that the government has taken after the state of emergency has been approved are not different to the measures that the government has taken to deal with the pandemic before the state of the emergency. So there are clear signs of the real meaning before the decision to impose the state of emergency and we will see what the Constitutional court is going to say because some members of the Moldovan parliament went to the court asking for the court to cancel it. But, as I said, the snap elections are going to happen and the Moldovan people will have the right to elect a new parliament in free and fair elections.

Ms Maia SANDU

President of the Republic of Moldova

16:59:05

As regard to Russian, you said that when I was education minster, I drafted a law to reduce the status of the Russian language. I would say that is not true. This law which we enacted was designed to ensure that children and their parents could choose the language with which they were educated in school. And Russian was one of the available languages of instruction that the parents could choose for their children. It is a choice that is not against anyone. The point is simply that parents should be able to chose what is best for their children. And once again, all the conditions are there to ensure that children can study in Russian. The teachers are available. The conditions are there. And I think the more languages our children know the better for our country.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:00:18

Thank you very much Madam President.

This concludes our Q&A as they say.

We would love to have you many more hours to still shoot, or not shoot, I mean shoot questions. Don't get that wrong, right? Don't get that wrong.

We're very pleased that you have been now the first president that allows us to reboot our activities. So you're the first president of a country, of Moldova in this case, who is physically present. I'm very proud and honoured by that.

Thank you very much and I hope that we will see each other in the near future.

Thank you Madam President.

Thank you all dear colleagues for being present.

This concludes this Q&A.

Debate: Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee (continued)

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:05:06

The next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee, Document 15263 and Addenda 1 and 2.

We should be finished with this debate by 5.30 p.m. That is why I ask you to start now. I will have to interrupt the list of speakers at about 5.25 p.m.

I remind you that the time limit for speakers is 3 minutes, and I call Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER for the Conservatives.

Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

17:05:51

We just heard from the Moldovan President about what progress can and should be made in countries which need our help probably more than anywhere else. But I would say that we ourselves actually have to make progress.

Over the last few months we have actually seen the Council of Europe slipping back in my view. We have countries leaving the Convention. We have countries blatantly looking at aggression in other countries. We have countries that have ignored, dare I say, democracy. Part of it due to the pandemic I accept, but also so many people are actually using this as an excuse.

Are we in a better place? Have we made progress since we met a year ago this time last year? The answer is I don't think we have. We must and actually need to do more.

Where we have agreements, be they gentlemanly or they in statue, we should stick to them. If we don't stick to them you must expect a backlash, Ms Nicole TRISSE. Because people and human nature is like that. Where you leave a vacuum as we know, and we have seen it many times in the past, something will fill it. I'm concerned in areas, including the EU, and we've just had an interesting time with the European Union, coming and joining us in the Court of Human Rights and being part of PACE.

Is that the right thing to do? Is that progress? I would argue possibly not. Progress is about what you can achieve using the resources to make sure that you make it better, in our case for democracy and also for human rights. I don't think that that is happening at the moment. I have seen times like this as we all have over our years. I'm 62. We've seen it. But I just wonder whether we need to do better.

Our President's trip to both Turkey and to Russia I think was fine as they went, but we could have done better. Now that's not the fault of the President, it is the fault of all of us. We are here collectively.

But I would say this. That it's all very well for anybody to go to any country but if that country then says, well we're going to do whatever we want anyway, then you must question it, question it closely.

The situation in Vani is a prime example. Who wrote the rule of law in our world and in our lives should be everything. That I think is where we perhaps differ – I differ with colleagues. That actually that is the most important thing: bringing us together in that sense of unity, in that sense of understanding.

Ms Nicole TRISSE it doesn't matter if you're from France or the United Kingdom. The common goal must be the rule of law and order, the upholding of democracy, the understanding of people's rights, both civic and corporate. But also making sure that we push forward our agenda which is to bring people in that needed. I think the Moldovan President was right. We need to do more.

Thank you Ms Nicole TRISSE.

Thank you very much.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:09:00

Thank you. I now call Mr Georgios KATROUGKALOS for the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr Georgios KATROUGKALOS

Greece, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

17:09:18

I fully agree with the report, that in some matters we have done a good job, this much. We adapted to dire circumstances and continued working with functionality. So we kept promoting the strategic priorities of the Council of Europe as we are going to discuss later in this session in the framework of the report by Mr Tiny COX.

Despite the ominous prognostics or even the wishful thinking and hidden aspirations by some. Still, we have challenges ahead.

To all effects of a so far convention-based system, including also the respect of judgments of the European Court. And we should always have in mind that the convention is intended to guarantee not rights that are theoretical, but rights that are practical and effective. And that there is no watertight division separating between different spheres. The rule of law for instance, or political rights and individual freedoms.

This is clearly shown by the recent developments in Turkey. We have to react to a range of problematic situations. Beginning by challenges to parliamentary democracy, such as the threat of the banning of the HDP, the People's Democratic Party, but also to the undermining of women's rights by the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention and the non-implementation of the Kavala and Demirtaş judgments. The immediate release of the latter must be a priority for all of us. It is not just a matter of non-compliance of a state with its obligations, but a symbolic fight for both democracy and parliamentarians in our continent.

Our reaction to Covid was adequate. We have discussed how democracies should face Covid-19, as many governments have seen the pandemic as an opportunity for curtailing rights and freedoms, but we have also reacted to threats by private power, discussing the freedom of expression, but also the reaction of Big Pharma to the pandemic. We have said loud and clear that the vaccines should be a global public good. Our voted resolution was both to ensure vaccine equity and to check the profiteering practices of multinational pharmaceutical companies. And we haven't forgotten social justice. Covid has been characterised as the inequality virus, as it has exacerbated inequalities. We have tried to promote tax fairness and equity by supporting OECD efforts for a new digital tax by means of a corporate tax worldwide. We should keep working for democracy and human rights.

Many thanks, Madam President.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:12:07

Thank you, gentlemen.

We continue with Mr. Antonio GUTIÉRREZ for Spain, please.

Mr Antonio GUTIÉRREZ

Spain, SOC

17:12:17

Good afternoon, Dear Colleagues,

I would like to begin by warmly greeting all the delegations on behalf of the Spanish delegation. This is a difficult time for all of us in our respective countries because of this pandemic. 

Dear Colleagues,

Last week in the Spanish parliament an act was adopted: the law on childhood and adolescence, which is aimed at protecting minors and young people, a particularly vulnerable group of people during the pandemic. There are other vulnerable groups: the elderly, the disabled, and women, also.

The social rights committee has put forward a report on disability and employability in Spain and amongst other things, there is a reference to the labour situation of this group of people. Only 25% of disabled people in Spain have employment. We have looked at the recommendations with great interest. It is a very important topic for the Spanish delegation. We organised a day of work between the Spanish parliament and a number of experts from the Council of Europe, including our President, Mr Rick DAEMS.

Disabled people become marginalised, they become invisible, and they are not getting enough support during this pandemic. After we emerge from this pandemic, we are going to see an increase in economic crisis. The situation for these people is going to worsen. We need to address the needs of this group of the population. I think we need to draw up a clear-cut report on disability. It is very important that we also identify abuses against these people but also good practices that we are seeing, so that we can have a common set of references that can be used by all.

What we need to do is not only emerge from the economic crisis after this pandemic. We must make sure we leave no one behind, including the most vulnerable segments of our population, and in particular, the disabled. 

Thank you. 

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:14:45

Thank you. I now give the floor to Mr. Ruben RUBINYAN, from Armenia. Is he here? I can't see him. No?

In that case I give the floor to Mrs Laura CASTEL from Spain. Mrs Castel?

Ms Laura CASTEL

Spain, NR

17:15:04

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I think it is important to draw your attention about the mechanism or boosting or endorsing mechanism to solve political problems through political dialogue. So by promoting and launching dialogue. But not only between countries, but also inside the countries, inside the member states. We are all aware that the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly are the relevant or important forums and perfect forums to do that as the organizations in charge of promoting, caring and protecting human rights, the rule of law, and democracy.

Thank you very much.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:16:04

Thank you, Madam.

Mr Edmon MARUKYAN, from Armenia, you have the floor, sir.

Mr Edmon MARUKYAN

Armenia, ALDE

17:16:16

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I would like to touch an issue that just a week ago in Azerbaijan happened which is a really disgusting event.

So, the public TV in Azerbaijan broadcasted an hour-long program inaugurating a new Museum in Baku to celebrate the victory in the 44th day in Nagorno-Karabakh. In this show of terror, the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev was seen proudly walking around in a military uniform showing off the Armenian military equipment and the life-size installation of the mannequin figures parodying the Armenian soldiers.

The centerpiece of the so-called "Park of the Trophies" was a long pathway made from the helmets of killed and captured Armenian soldiers. You can see in this photo, which is a really disgusting thing. All of this took place, not in an unknown state, but in one of the member states of the Council of Europe: Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is the country that continues to illegally hold more than 200 Armenian prisoners of war.

Please, take a minute. I want to show some other photos. Those are not photos from the past, it's nowadays, when Azerbaijan considers normal to chain people and present human degrading treatment and torture as a regular attitude towards prisoners of war. Now you can see Azerbaijani children playing with Armenian soldier mannequins. It's a disgusting show in the 21st century, in a modern state, in a member state of the Council of Europe.

We can see chained soldiers wounded. They're showing their children, the people are in line to visit this disgusting park, which I think must be closed.

You saw that in one of the photos an Azerbaijani child is playing innocently with a racist caricature of an Armenian soldier who is currently languishing and likely being tortured in an Azerbaijani jail. The opening of such a park clearly confirms that in Azerbaijan there is institutional hatred towards Armenia and Armenians.

By this action, president Aliyev joined the list of such dictators as Hitler and Saddam Hussein.

In the meanwhile, what is going on in Azerbaijan now reminded me of Iraq in the late 1980s, when another dictator utilized 5 000 Iranian helmets of the killed soldiers extracted from the battlefield to complete the monument that he called the Victory Arch. That man was Saddam Hussein. Like Hussein, Aliyev thinks that this is what will help him to glorify the strength of the ISIS type Army that Azerbaijan has. Like Hussein, Aliyev decided to not return the prisoners of war from Azerbaijan to Armenia.

This park is clearly showing the aggressive identity of Azerbaijani authorities and their real face. They promote racial hatred, consider ill treatment and torture normal behavior to be presented and shown to the next generations and the entire world.

Dear colleagues, history has proven that if necessary steps are not taken on time to stop dictators and their aggressions it usually stops being a local issue and spreads all over the world.

I do call on all of you. This park must be closed and I wait for your condemnation and critics.

Thank you so much.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:19:52

Thank you.

I now give the floor to Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, from Hungary, please. Go ahead.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA

17:20:02

Thank you Madam.

Congratulations to the rapporteur Mr Aleksander POCIEJ for the Progress Report.

All of us in Europe are fighting the coronavirus. I'm very glad that our President was so insistent on coming to Strasbourg and that we could meet again after one and a half years. We are probably in the last phase of this fight against the virus – that is called the mass vaccination phase of our fight. I'm convinced that all of us are trying to focus our activities on the most effective method for this mass vaccination. In Hungary we have reached around 25% of the total population with a broad variety of vaccines that we are employing. Probably this is the most important matter I like to address at this stage: that there is no ideological or geopolitical reason not to concentrate our efforts on saving lives. This is not an ideological question, nor a political one, but this is about saving lives. I would like to suggest that we analyse the experience that we are having.

The other issue which I would like to mention to you shortly is that we are preparing for taking over the Committee of Ministers presidency. Hungary will start its activity from May until November. We have defined our priorities. Very shortly we will try to focus on national minorities and interreligious dialogue, and youth and child and family matters, on cyber questions and on the environmental dimension of human rights, which is a favourite of mine actually.

You may have also been aware that my party Fidesz has had to leave the European People's Party unfortunately and we have joined the European Conservatives, but this fact is not going to influence, I'm convinced, the successful implementation of the plan of the Hungarian presidency of the Committee of Ministers, and that dimension which falls into the capacity of the Parliamentary Assembly.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:22:49

Thank you.

I now give the floor to Mr Kamal JAFAROV of Azerbaijan.

Mr Kamal JAFAROV

Azerbaijan, NR

17:22:58

Merci, Madame la Présidente.

Even though the title of this report suggests the progress has been achieved since January, I am not entirely sure about that. It is not because of something we have done, it is because of the things we have not done.

Recently, just a few days ago the Chair of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ, expressed deep concern over the rising death toll from the mines planted by Armenia in Karabakh. Since, through lateral statement, land mines killed 20 Azerbaijani civilians in the liberated territories. This is another war crime by Armenia and this very Assembly failed to politically force the government of Armenia to hand over the mine maps in time. Yes, it is true, the mines are also killing in the peacetime. After hearing disrespectful accusations by MARUKYAN, I see that he's having a hard time to accept the terms of the new reality created by President Aliyev. It is because they are brainwashed. It is because he was not prepared psychologically for this. It is because they believed in their own invented fake history. After hearing the hate speech by Marukyan, too many of you may think peace is impossible, it is unreal, but that is a dangerous defeated belief endorsed by the government of Armenia. Peace is attainable. Even though we will never forget the crimes committed against us Azerbaijanis, we have to look into the future. We are not referring to an absolute, an infinite concept of peace, but we are referring to an attainable practical peace.

And yes, surely there could be quarrels or conflicts, such as there are between the families and neighbours, and from here I address to Armenian originals living in Khankendi, Aghdara, Khojavend, where the Russian peacekeeping contingent is temporarily deployed, we consider those Armenians as our citizens. Reintegration is a matter of time. It is inevitable and it will happen. Right now, we are in the first stage of great reconstruction in Karabakh. Different formats, cooperation formats, are created. Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:26:08

Thank you.

The last speaker for the progress report, I call Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK, from Poland.

Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK, from Poland, please.

Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK

Poland, EC/DA

17:26:26

Madam President,

I would like to thank the rapporteur for this introduction to the report on the activities of the Bureau of the Assembly and the Standing Committee.

I would like to refer only to Document 15263 on the Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights. The Committee recommends that the Assembly reject the Polish list of candidates for procedural reasons.

Even before interviewing them, each day they were invited and were waiting for it during the meeting of the Committee.

I would like to strongly underline that the national selection procedure fulfils all standards in the prescribing guidelines of the Committee of Ministers dated March 2012.

It is also worth noting that the advisory panel was duly consulted by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the national selection procedure applied by the Polish authorities satisfied all the requirements of fairness and transparency defined by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

In neutral I would like to inform you that the national procedure included inter alia and invitation to submit candidatures was published in several nationwide newspapers, information on the website of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and letters with information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the selection procedure indicating the possibility of submitting candidates was addressed to several hundred entities including presidents of courts, deans of universities, law faculties, legal advisors and advocates and NGOs dealing with the protection of human rights.

Thanks to the information published on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs the public had the opportunity to follow the course of the national selection procedure of candidates for the post of the judge to the ECHR.

Honourable members, I assure you that we have made every effort to carry out this election procedure in line with the standards of the Council of Europe. I'm convinced that all Polish candidates are of high moral character and possess the qualifications required for an appointment to the post of judge. Their education and professional experience guarantee that they can be considered for this position. Moreover, the list of candidates is based on the principle of balance between men and women and most of the candidates are women.

I ask you, honourable members, to allow the candidates to be interviewed and to let the Committee on the Election of Judges to make a decision again. This time after the meeting with the candidates I believe that such procedure will be more transparent. The higher degree of transparency and respect for candidates will ensure that the procedure is in line with the standards of the Council of Europe as an organisation whose objective is the protection of human rights.

I kindly ask you to support our motion for the return of the list to the Committee.

Thank you Madam President.

Thank you dear colleagues.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:29:36

Thank you.

I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speakers registered and present in the hemicycle or participating remotely who have not been able to speak can submit their typed speech to the Table Office in the next four hours for publication in the minutes. Those participating remotely must demonstrate that they were actually attending at the close of the debate. This submission must be made electronically.

Rapporteur, you have three minutes to reply to the debate.

Mr Aleksander POCIEJ

Poland, EPP/CD, Rapporteur

17:30:17

Thank you so much to all of you.

All subjects raised, I think they are very important.

I would like only to go back to what Ms Petra BAYR said about the Istanbul Convention. Sometimes there are arguments coming from some countries by saying that we have better protection under our national laws, so we don't need this.

I strongly believe that even if this is the truth, we have to show others, those who do not have such a good national law, that we stick to these rules. We stick to this principles and we are going to promote and fight against any discrimination against women.

Withdrawing from Istanbul convention is very bad signal. I hope that we are going to speak more about this. I hope that those who are saying, "We don't need this because anyway we have a perfect law" will not give a bad example to others who don not have such good protection.

Thank you very much.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Turkey, NR

20:00:15

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear Colleagues,

Firstly, I would like to thank the rapporteur for the progress report on the activities of the Bureau and the Standing Committee.

I believe Mr Daems’ visit to Turkey was very fruitful for all sides. He met high-level personalities in our country and he was informed from first hand. I believe that such contacts are very valuable in the sense that the parties can understand each other better.

On this occasion, I would like to invite also the Co-rapporteurs to Turkey to pay a working visit and get in touch with Turkish authorities. Hearings held during the Monitoring Committee meetings are very useful in terms of building mutual insights without any hesitation; however, direct contacts would enable us with better understanding of the positions.

I firmly believe that ongoing reform process in Turkey deserves to receive more attention with its precious components, namely the judicial reform Strategy of 2019 and the Human Right Action Plan of this year. Best way to make a meaningful progress is to construct a better and positive dialogue, which is free from prejudices.

I should confess that the more dialogue we have the better I understand that most of the allegations/accusation on Turkey stem from either misinformation or misunderstandings. You would agree with me that we are living in a period where fake disinformation is gaining dominance over facts and reality, and orchestrated campaigns on social media are spreading untruths. This is why I am once again inviting our Co-rapporteurs to Turkey to have the chance to receive undistorted information from the Turkish authorities including senior government officials.

Thank you.

Mr Mehmet Mehdi EKER

Turkey, NR

20:01:02

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear Colleagues,

Firstly, I would like to thank the rapporteur for informing us about the activities of the Bureau and the Standing Committee and preparing this report.

It is very important to know what happened during the sessions because it enables us with a future projection. Additionally, I want to express my pleasure for having Mr President of the Assembly in Turkey and for having opportunities for opening new dialogue channels between the parties. No one can deny that close and uninterrupted relations are the key elements of building better understanding of each other. Therefore, I believe that our interlocutors in the PACE should pay more visits to Turkey in order to be purified from groundless biases.

In paragraph 4, HDP closure case was mentioned with a very inappropriate wording of “threat”. That is not a “threat”, that is actually an ongoing judicial process. On this occasion, I would like to provide you some factual information regarding the situation of HDP. In conformity with the Constitution and the Law on Political Parties, Chief Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation filed a case on 17 March 2021 before the Constitutional Court requesting the dissolution of HDP. The request was made on the grounds of statements and actions that are not in line with the democratic and universal principles of law, acting together with the PKK terrorist organization and its affiliated organizations, and engaging in activities as an extension of the PKK.

The Constitutional Court however has returned the file to the Chief Prosecutor for serious discrepancies regarding the substance and the form of the file. The judicial process will continue in accordance with the Constitution and the laws.

I would like to remind you there are other measures foreseen in the laws than the closure of a party, such as the cutting of public funds. I am sure the judicial process on this and other related issues will be based on solid legal ground.

Thank you.

Ms Naira ZOHRABYAN

Armenia, EC/DA

20:02:40

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

Ms Nigar ARPADARAI

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

20:04:42

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear colleagues,

I would like to draw your attention to a very challenging situation that Azerbaijan faces today. It is the problem of return of IDPs and refugees to the recently liberated territories, that have been under Armenian occupation for 3 decades. May I remind you that Azerbaijan has the largest refugee and IDP to overall population ratio in whole of Council of Europe space. Around 1mln out of 8mln people of those times were ethnically cleansed from their homes. Relevant decisions by UNDP, OSCE, CoE all well documented the problem, but the international community failed to step in and fix it.

Azerbaijan managed to liberate the territories from the Armenia’s occupying forces. And we have an absolutely different situation today. The new situation contains a huge potential for sustainable peace and cooperation in the region. But the problem of our refugees is not over yet! People who have been kicked out of their homes 30 years ago, now see the prospects of going back. But can they?!

For an Azerbaijani IDP visiting the homes of their ancestors is a deadly risk. People step on the minefields and die, because Armenia’s leadership does not bother to provide Azerbaijan with maps of minefields. Only within the last 3 months, more than 20 lives were lost, 80 people were seriously wounded, among them military and civilians.

Moreover, In an absolute majority of cases there are no homes to return to. Most of the villages and towns simply do not exist. All of the civil infrastructure, including roads, communications, schools, hospitals, administrative services, everything is destroyed. We have to rehabilitate those lands, We also have to create jobs, so that people who come back have sources of income to maintain themselves.

There was a coherent and total destruction of Azerbaijani cultural heritage. The level of destruction allows us to claim that the goal of the occupying forces was to destroy any signs of the presence of Azerbaijanis in the occupied territories.

Azerbaijan so far has been able to solve its problems itself, and I am confident that we will manage to do it this time as well. But, in my humble, but firm opinion, as the large human rights and rule of law platform, Council of Europe should step in this time and fix mistakes of the past. As Safe return of IPDs, their human rights, is directly mission of CoE .

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:32:13

Thank you.

The debate is closed.

The Bureau has decided to propose the references to committees in Document 15263 and Addendum 1 for ratification by the Assembly.

Is that agreed to? In that case, the references are ratified.

We will now proceed to vote on the other decisions of the Bureau contained in its progress report, Document 15263 and Addendum 1 and 2. Are there any objections to the adoption of these decisions? 

Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK

Poland, EC/DA

17:33:01

Thank you.

I have an objection to Document No. 15 26 3 concerning the questioning of the Polish list for electing judges to the European Court of Human Rights.

I said before that I would like to strongly underline that the national selection procedure fulfills all standards described in the guidelines of the Committee of Ministers dated March 2012.

Our procedure was the same as in 2012. Reviewing many different countries like Germany, Austria or Spain, all the candidates, I'm convinced, have high moral character and possess the qualifications required for an appointment to the post of judge. So, I kindly ask you all colleagues from all delegations to support my motion for the tone of the list of the committee.

Thank you very much.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:34:08

Mr MULARCZYK said that he opposed the recommendation of the Committee on the Election of Judges to reject the list of candidates in respect of Poland and to ask the Polish authorities to submit a new list of candidates for the post of judge to the European Court of Human Rights.

Does anyone wish to speak against this proposal?

Does anyone wish to speak against the proposal? Mr ULLRICH, Chairman of the Committee on the Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights, perhaps? Is that agreed to?

Mr POCIEJ? Ah, no, Mr KOX. We'll get there. You have the floor.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

17:35:07

Thank you very much Madam President.

I do not think that we should support this proposal from Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK.

Our committee on the election of judges has done its work at our request and it has taken this decision. Therefore I think we should not undermine the authority of that committee and now oppose the rejection of Poland's list. The Polish authorities know what to do and they have to come up with a new list that meets the criteria, and as I remember, it was important that the procedures followed in Poland were not the right procedures. So I ask the Assembly not to follow the proposal of Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK and to accept the proposal of the Bureau.

Thank you very much.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:36:00

So we will have to vote. Before calling for the vote, I remind you that the proposal of Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK is to return the list of candidates in respect of Poland to the Committee for the election of judges to the European Court of Human Rights.

We will vote by a simple majority. I remind the Assembly that, for the sake of clarity, those who support Mr MULARCZYK's objection should vote in favour; those who support the recommendation of the Committee on the Election of Judges to reject the list in respect of Poland should vote against. I think I have made myself clear. We can now begin the voting.

The vote is open in the Chamber and from a distance.

The objection is rejected by 54 votes to 28.

The Polish authorities will therefore be asked to submit a new list of candidates. Are there any further objection?

Mr De BRABANDERE, you seem to have an objection as well? I am listening.

Mr Bob De BRABANDERE

Belgium, EC/DA

17:38:09

I want to ask the Assembly to vote about rejecting the list of candidates for the European Court of Human Rights put forward by Belgium.

My reasons are the following. None of the candidates are magistrates. On top of that, one of them, Ms Maïté De Rue, is currently active in the Open Society Justice Initiative of George Soros, which has been trying to influence this decision and has lobbied with the Court on other cases as well. We need to avoid conflicts of interest like this. Knowing this, we can't vote in good conscience about these candidates tomorrow, so please put this through the votes. We need to reject this list of candidates.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:38:43

Mr Bob De BRABANDERE, I have heard your request to reject the list of judges submitted by the Belgian authorities, but I cannot accept it because it is not admissible. Indeed, according to the procedure for the election of judges, only the Committee on the Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights has the power to propose the rejection of a list of candidates to the Assembly.

Your request is therefore inadmissible and will not be put to a vote in the Assembly, so we will continue our discussion.

Yes? Is there a point of order? Yes, please.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Turkey, NR

17:39:31

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Indeed on the paragraph item 4 the rapporteur described a case, a legal judicial case against a party in Turkey as a threat of banning.

This is a judicial case, the file of which having been returned to the prosecutor general by the constitutional court with serious discrepancies.

It is a judicial process. Describing it as a threat is not proper.

This my objection in the Bureau of the Assembly and President Mr Rik DAEMS gave me right for it to be corrected. Yet it stands uncorrected in the text. I urge the rapporteur to correct this.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:40:17

Mr. Rapporteur, are you informed? Or is there someone who objects to this objection?

Mr POCIEJ?

Mr Aleksander POCIEJ

Poland, EPP/CD, Rapporteur

17:40:35

Unfortunately, I'm sorry. I saw this very late.

No, I'm against it.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:40:56

I have heard Mr Ahmet YILDIZ's request and Mr Aleksander POCIEJ's reply. I think that we will continue.

The next item of business this morning is the debate on the report on "Preserving national minorities in Europe" presented by Mrs Elvira KOVÁCS on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-discrimination. I call Mrs KOVÁCS on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

I remind the Assembly that the sitting is to be adjourned at 7.30 p.m., so we must interrupt the debate at about 7.20 p.m. to allow time for the reply from the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination and for the vote on the draft resolution and draft recommendation. The rapporteur has seven minutes in which to present her report and three minutes in which to reply to speakers at the end of the general debate.

I call Mrs Elvira KOVÁCS.

Debate: Preserving national minorities in Europe

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, Rapporteur

17:41:59

Distinguished Chair, Dear colleagues,

23 years after the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities entered into force, give us the opportunity to go back to fundamentals: to human dignity, inclusion, respect and recognition of minority rights in a changing environment, and to examine how an understanding of equality and non-discrimination may interact with the overall minority discourse.

Minorities enrich the societies of each and every country in the world. By working towards guaranteeing minority rights, our main aims must be that no one is afraid of expressing self-identity as a member of a minority, fearing disadvantage might come out of such a decision; that the existence and identity of persons belonging to minorities will be guaranteed; and that they will benefit from the principles of effective participation and non-discrimination.

It is time to reaffirm that respect for linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity is a cornerstone of the human rights protection system in Europe, and that the core value of the Framework Convention is based on the shared understanding that preserving stability, democratic security and peace in Europe requires the protection of national minorities.

However, a number of challenges are, unfortunately, currently reducing the capacity to protect minority rights through the tools developed over the last three decades. In particular, the stability of both States and European institutions has been shaken in recent years by intra- and interstate tensions, and at times, by conflicts. Migration flows have also had a profound impact, both directly and indirectly, on persons belonging to national minorities and on the implementation of minority rights as set out in the Framework Convention.

In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the vulnerability of persons belonging to national minorities as they have frequently faced discrimination, hate speech, stigma, lack of information in minority languages and unequal access to education following the suspension of classes in schools and of pre-school education during lockdowns.

The Report in front of us, “Preserving national minorities in Europe”, examines major challenges to minority rights that have emerged in recent years:

1. Formally bringing domestic legislation into line with the Framework Convention is not sufficient at ensuring the effective implementation of minority rights;

2. There is a clear trend towards the re-securitisation of minority issues;

3. Minority groups, as the most vulnerable ones, are the most targeted by hate speech, hate crime, attacks based on their ethnic origin, denial of citizenship and restriction of access to education in minority language;

4. Insufficient media production in minority languages can prompt persons belonging to national minorities to seek alternative information sources, resulting in a divided media landscape;

5. A lack of effective, permanent and sufficiently representative consultation mechanisms in place, in which minorities can participate substantially and in which they have confidence.

In the course of my work on this Report, I have had the opportunity to examine three specific situations (Latvia, Ukraine, and Wales) in depth, which are of particular current interest in this field. The main focus of all of these situations were language rights - an area closely linked to minority identities, and equality, an area that has caused an increase in tensions in a number of States in recent years.

Efforts to promote the State language – which mostly pursue the legitimate aim of promoting integration and societal cohesion – may at times overstep the bounds of proportionality. Stringent proficiency requirements in the State language in order to have access to certain professions or to the civil service, a decrease in the provision of teaching in and of minority languages, and restrictions of the right to sit school exams in these languages, have all given rise to concerns over recent years.

The report “Preserving national minorities in Europe” has been prepared with the aim of:

1. Presenting the legal and institutional framework for respecting and protecting minorities and consequently notice the main difficulties experienced in the implementation of the Framework Convention, and how the Assembly can contribute to addressing these challenges;

2. Ensuring a more consistent implementation of the legal and institutional framework for respecting and protecting human rights of persons belonging to minorities, which is essential to peace and stability in Europe, and preserving the linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity of the continent;

3. Identifying the main trends at the European level in order to shed more light on different national situations;

4. Highlighting existing good practices that could be applied in other countries and their compliance with the principle of non-discrimination, especially with regard to the over-bridging of a gap between the legal state and the rule of law, and between what is legal and what is just;

5. Securing the Convention’s potential to serve as a “living instrument” if we know that it requires both institutional commitment from the Council of Europe, but also political will from the member states.

So, 23 years after the Framework Convention for the protection of national minorities entered into force, give us the opportunity to look back and use the experience to plan and strategise for the future by discussing its implementation.

Dear colleagues, I'm extremely sorry that I cannot be physically present in Strasbourg with all of you. But I am looking forward to a fruitful debate.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:48:34

Thank you, Madam Rapporteur.

I now open the general debate.

We begin with the speakers on behalf of the political groups.

We begin with Mrs Yelyzaveta YASKO, for the Group of the European People's Party .

Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

17:48:58

Good afternoon to everyone.

I would like to start with complimenting the report and saying that it's so good that we have this discussion. However, at the same time I can say that I'm very sad that in 21st century in Europe we are still having this conversation whether ethnic minorities are protected enough.

Unfortunately, the reality that we have in Europe shows that there are many challenges that different ethnic minorities currently suffer, starting from access to health, COVID vaccine vaccination, and ending with severe violence, aggression and intolerance. Something that makes me very happy when I see this report is that there are many language issues and challenges that are reported. However, other challenges such as hate speech and the spread of fake news about the ethnic minorities is not mentioned and analyzed enough. Unfortunately, what we see is that some member States can really become a parasite and use the justification to protect national minorities as justification to intervene into other state affairs, which is very alarming, which happened in Ukraine, and which happens in different states.

I believe that when we talk about protection of ethnic minorities, we should always separate the political part and the real human rights situation. We shouldn't lie about what some member States are doing simply to justify they aggression.

Another thing that I want to mention, although I wish it were mentioned more in the report, is the protection of Roma minority rights. As we know, COVID-19 and the situation that happened in Europe undermined the human rights situation within Roma communities and their access to the health education and to jobs. Many Roma people lost their jobs, and this is very very alarming.

To conclude, I would like to stress that I believe that there is only one solution that we all can do together, which is to promote more and more education on tolerance, about  inclusion and about respect towards each other. I would really like for us one day not to have to have this discussion where something is not being done well enough and for us to have the Europe that we are dreaming about and that it will enjoy peace and mutual respect.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:52:00

Thank you, Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA .

I now give the floor to Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA

Ukraine, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

17:52:08

Dear Colleagues,

First of all, I want to thank the rapporteur for her work regarding these important issues.

Preserving national minorities in Europe, multilingualism, multiculturalism, and unity in diversity are among the core values of the Council of Europe, which are democracy, human rights and rule of law.

These fundamentals must be ensured for all societies, for all citizens majority or minority nationals. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is strongly committed to the insurance, enhancing and defending our common core values including equality, non-discrimination, social justice, inclusive and open debate. National minorities are equal citizens who deserve to be treated with respect and sensitivity. Their contributions to cultural diversity should be appreciated.

We welcome the draft resolution and recommendation as the intent to reform Council of Europe members to the framework Conventions for the protection of national minorities and encourage those States which haven't ratified it.

Respecting and protecting national minorities is associated with preserving stability, democratic security and peace in Europe, as well as related to the climate of tolerance and dialogue. Legislative and policy measures are very important, therefore, in particular, to ensure that a person belonging to a national minority can exercise participation meaningfully in cultural, social and economic life, and in public affairs in the country in which they live. It is what researchers in immigration study call "acculturation" or "integration".

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

The issue of national minorities has been and will be discussed numerous times in this Assembly. But what is crucial today is not to let this topic be manipulated for it to become an instrument of hybrid conflicts. I want to add that in the resolution, the report doesn't take into account that language can be used as an instrument in hybrid politics which goes beyond national minority policies or intention of cultural preservation.

After all, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe condemns, stigmatisation, discrimination and violence against national minorities and calls to combat hate speech in media and in political speeches. We call to strengthen multilateral dialogue and to more multifaceted cooperation with civil society and acknowledge to the value of minorities in the intellectual development of Europe.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:55:02

Thank you.

I call Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, who will speak on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

17:55:18

I congratulate Ms Elvira KOVÁCS who had a very unique and important job. Congratulations to her. I would like to wish her successful continuation of her activity. I would also draw your attention to a very long tradition inside the Council of Europe in the field of the protection of national minorities going back to the early 1990s when the 1201 Recommendation was adopted, or in the early 2000s when the Report of Andreas Gross on minority autonomies was adopted, and also the so-called Kalmár Report in 2014, and the Hoffman Report in 2018. This report fits into this long tradition.

I find it very important that we are talking about national minorities. "The preservation of national minorities" is a very good title for the report. The national minorities are a very particular group to be protected. They cannot be mingled with other types of minorities. All of them require a special approach; sexual minorities, migrant communities, but to realise that there is the autochthonous traditional national minority which is the basic value of Europe. Just inside the European Union their number is over 50 million. If we add the whole of Europe it is even higher than this number. We have to realise that this is a very particular field of human rights protection.

The Council of Europe, yes, has played an important role with two conventions, The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. We need to continue deepening our system. I would like to congratulate the initiative of the rapporteur that a new online platform is being established in order to follow the different minority-related human rights abuses and problems.

I think it is a very good idea. I'm curious to see in what kind of institutional character it can be created. So welcome Ms Rapporteur in this regard. I hope that the Council of Europe is going to be able to implement this good idea. The Hungarian presidency will do its utmost to continue the efforts in this direction.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:58:20

Thank you sir.

I give the floor Mr Antón GÓMEZ-REINO, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr Antón GÓMEZ-REINO

Spain, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

17:58:34

Good evening, thank you Madam.

Firstly, I would like to express my thanks to the rapporteur of the work done and all the efforts, we look at it most favourably.

Beyond that, I think that it is obvious that the situation of national minorities in Europe is going through a very difficult moment with many challenges that we have to address immediately. On one hand, and I think we are aware of this, there are a number of mechanisms when it comes to legislation which have not been exhausted by the various member states. Once more, this relates to the way we treat minorities and we are witnessing a movement to recentralisation which makes all the more difficult the reality of these national minorities.

On the other hand, and I think we have to be very clear and contempt with this and say it quite resolutely, there are some expressions from the political right and authoritarian sides of the spectrum which today threaten the plurality, democracy, human rights and rights of minorities in Europe. Let me say this quite clearly, because it is clear that some voices from the extreme right call for a certain national reality, but let me point out that any national identity, which defends the rights of a minority to the detriment of another is not working in a positive way to defend democracy.

Finally, I think it is also necessary to recall that when we talk about expanding the focus, let's not fall back into a kind of Eurocentrism. There are huge numbers of citizens in Europe that were not originally from Europe, they came as refugees from different countries of Asia, Africa or America, and we have to remember their reality, acknowledge that their rights as national minorities should also be respected in our different countries. We need to acknowledge that refugees and migrants also have the same rights. 

Finally, and in conclusion, since I come from Galicia, in the north-west of Spain, so I am also from a national minority, I would simply like to point out our concern, my concern in particular and that of an important part of Galician civil society, about the way in which the regional government in particular fails to comply as it should do with charters and treaties related to language and many other issues. We think this is a huge challenge we have before us related to national minorities and we still have a lot of work ahead of us. I want to thank the rapporteur for her splendid work. Thank you. 

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:01:35

Thank you.

I give the floor again to Mr. Boriss CILEVIČS to close the political group speakers and for the Socialist Group.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

18:01:48

I congratulate the rapporteur Ms Elvira KOVÁCS for this very important report.

Back in the 1990s the Council of Europe and our Assembly in particular played a key role in establishing a modern framework for minority protection. Indeed it was our resolution which triggered the adoption of the first-ever legally binding instrument on minority rights: the framework convention.

For years, the Council of Europe played a leading role both in the standard setting, monitoring and promotion of the proper implementation of these standards. Most importantly, the framework convention declared that minority rights are not a security issue, but an integral part of fundamental human rights.

Regrettably, in recent years, we've witnessed major backsliding in minority protection. Let's call a spade a spade. This is visible in many areas and notably in the most crucial one: education.

The use of minority languages in public and even private schools is curtailed in different degrees of severity in a number of member states, including unfortunately my country, Latvia.

A number of relevant complaints have been submitted in particular to the European Court of Human Rights and some of them have already been communicated to respective governments.

Maybe an even more alarming trend is that some member states refer to the protection of minority rights to justify aggressive behaviour. Such a misuse of minority rights is even more detrimental: the nationalists neglect them, as it may discredit the very idea, as has already happened in recent European history.

The report by Ms Elvira KOVÁCS and the resolution we are going to adopt today is a step towards reversing these deplorable trends. The Assembly should remind us that respect for minority rights is the only effective way to ensure both the right to equality and the right to the preservation of identity. How to achieve genuine social cohesion - not by assimilation of minorities.

The restrictions of minority rights as a response to wrongdoings by the European states may only further aggravate security. Cultural diversity is one of the fundamental values of modern Europe. Peace and stability are all impossible without due respect to minority rights.

On behalf of the Socialist group I fully support the report by Ms Elvira KOVÁCS, and call upon all colleagues to vote for the resolution.

Thank you Madam President.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:04:44

Thank you.

We continue with the list of speakers in the general debate.

I call Mr Oleg VOLOSHYN for Ukraine.

Mr Oleg VOLOSHYN

Ukraine, SOC

18:04:55

Thank you.

First I would like to join those who have congratulated Ms Elvira KOVÁCS on her really brilliant work on this really deep and comprehensive and unbiased report.

I'm happy to see that in this report the challenges to national minority rights in my own country, Ukraine, are really reflected. It's no wonder, I believe, that Ms Elvira KOVÁCS made a study visit to Ukraine and possibly these were the findings of those visits that allowed her to be one of the first, if not the first, in this honourable Assembly who supported my call for a current affairs debate on challenges to national minorities in Ukraine as a specific issue.

I fully agree that there is always the need to find a balance between the legitimate right to promote the state language, and an even not less, or even more legitimate obligation of every nation state to protect the weak, thus to protect the minorities.

In 2017, in Kiev, the Eurovision Song Contest was held under the slogan 'Celebrate Diversity'. Brilliant, a very modern and very cute slogan, but unfortunately one that has very little to do with the reality on the ground, because it's not diversity that, already for eight years, one after another government and our country has tried to celebrate, but unification and assimilation. They try to build a form of society where in the public domain everyone speaks one language and professes one ideology, namely the nationalist ideology.

From our opponents we often hear that no one in Ukraine prohibits anyone from speaking Hungarian or Romanian or Russian in private, but the very notion is discrimination in itself. Can you imagine supporting the policy of any government that would say that it's okay if in private someone is Muslim, a woman, LGBT, a Jew, etc. etc.

The protection of national minorities is precisely about the opportunity for them to speak their language and freely use their language in the public domain.

I can give you just one small example. In this honourable plenary room, we all see that Russian is a working language. However, it doesn't preclude the Assembly from very often being critical of this or those policies of Russia. So I can enjoy the ride (I can speak in Russian here at the Assembly), but unfortunately I don't have the right to do that back in my own parliament in Kiev. Every time I try to speak Russian in Parliament, the speaker switches off the microphone under the pressure of nationalist groups. The language of my vote is a language that almost everyone in Ukraine knows, or at least every second [person] believes to be the native one. So why is Russian ok in Strasbourg and not ok in Kiev?

I would like also to stress that, definitely, there is already a proven tradition of Ukrainian government to ignore the conclusions of the Venice Commission and the recommendations enshrined in the resolutions consequently adopted in this honourable Assembly in defence of national minority languages and other national minority rights in my country.

That needs to be stopped. I think that we should be a showcase, as a country, where national minorities enjoy all rights.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:08:22

Thank you. I now call Mr Viorel-Riceard BADEA from Romania.

 

Mr Viorel-Riceard BADEA

Romania, EPP/CD

18:08:28

Thank you, Mister President,

 

First of all I would like to congratulate her on her excellent report and, above all, on all her activity for the benefit of the Parliamentary Assembly so far.

I would first like to emphasise the role of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which is an instrument born of the ideals of peace and freedom of the European nations, and which is extremely important for the unity of the European continent, for the creation of a democratic and inclusive society. Irreversible progress has been made towards living together in a safe, free and democratic place.

The rapprochement of European states around the values promoted by the Council of Europe by its Parliamentary Assembly has made possible the appearance of concrete mechanisms that have enabled people belonging to national minorities to enjoy the right to free association, freedom of thought, expression, conscience and religion, to be protected from hostility and violence, and to be able to take part in the economic, social and cultural life of their country.

The methods of joining the Council of Europe and the European Union have helped the states that have wished to take the status of members to meet the standards in what concerns the rights of minorities. Once the hurdles have been overcome and the mutual benefits of an inclusive democratic society have been seen, it is only natural to continue to strengthen this path. We need, subsequently, to respond to the current provocations and to ensure that the law is protected equally for all citizens, who are equal before the law.

On the other hand, I am convinced that examples of good coexistence and good practice are very important, and Romania can be considered an example to follow with regard to the problem of minority rights.

The Democratic Union, for example, of the Magyars of Romania is a constant participant both in government decisions when it is part of the government coalition, as is still the case now, and in parliamentary debates as an opposition parliamentary group. At the level of regional and local administrations the Magyar minority is very well represented and controls about 70% of the decisions of provincial and local councils where Magyar citizens are in the majority. However, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities contains the recognition of their right to education in their mother tongue and access to education at all levels.

Next, I would like to highlight two very recent resolutions.

The first one is the resolution of the Committee of Ministers of 2021 concerning the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities which refers to Bulgaria, from 13 January 2021, through which the Bulgarian authorities are called upon to promote mother tongue education with the cooperation of groups and minorities through the introduction of this at primary and secondary level, a measure which all friends of this country should enjoy.

The second resolution of the Council of Ministers concerns the implementation of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities concerning Hungary of February 2021, which emphasises the need to develop an extensive plan to revitalise and promote the use of minority languages in the Hungarian space.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:12:12

Thank you very much, Mr Viorel-Riceard BADEA.

Could I ask you please to respect speaking times. I know that there are quite a few speakers on the list who have asked to speak and it would be a great pity for those further down the list not to be able to take part in this session just because we are not strict enough on speaking time. So please, stick to your speaking time.

I call now Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY from the Russian Federation.

Apparently we do not have Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY with us right now, so we shall move on to the next speaker.

I now give the floor to Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK from Ukraine, please.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

18:12:59

Thank you.

Dear Colleagues, 

Dear Ms KOVÁCS,

First of all, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur on her draft Resolution and the draft Recommendation centred on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, which Ukraine fully accessed in 1998. Without a doubt, the Convention is the instrument of international law bringing the implementation of its standards closer to people.

I have to underline that the Ukrainian authorities are very much aware of the diverse issues and concerns related to minorities. Because of that, the State Service for Ethnic Policy and Freedom of Conscience was established earlier last year. Also, I would like to underline that we are preparing new legislation on national minorities in Ukraine. We hope to adopt the law at least in the first region this year, and it will be widely discussed with representatives of national minorities in Ukraine. 

The recently sharpened seven-year ongoing armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and the illegal occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, all together, has completely shifted Ukraine's landscape since 2014.

Also, to understand minority issues: there are 48,000 displaced people from Crimea. We now have more than 100 Ukrainian citizens who are political prisoners [being] detained by the occupying authorities; most of them are Crimean Tatars. 

In practice, the level of education in Crimean Tatar language in occupied Crimea is decreasing. In practice, schools in Crimea are left without the Ukrainian language of education. By the way, the Crimean Tatars are indigenous people of Crimea.

Thank you Ms KOVÁCS, I will support the Resolution.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:14:55

Thank you very much.

I understand that Mr. Leonid SLUTSKIY has been able to connect to the meeting, so I shall give him the floor again. Mr. Leonid SLUTSKIY for the Russian Federation, please.

Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY

Russian Federation, NR

18:15:11

Good afternoon.

Madam President, I do apologise. I had some technical problems.

First of all I would like to greet you from the Duma in Moscow.

I would like to thank the rapporteur Ms Elvira KOVÁCS for her excellent report, and I would like to really agree with everything said by Mr Boriss CILEVIČS as well as Mr Oleg VOLOSHYN.

I agree, there have been breeches to this framework Convention for the protection of national minorities as well as the Charter for regional languages. In particular, in connection to the Russian language which is subject to discriminatory legislation in the field of education.

We understand that very few subjects are in fact taught in the Russian language as things stand. In some regions, 100% of the population is actually Russian speaking. Therefore we are talking about the rights of Russian speaking minorities.

I would also like to come back to what Mr Oleg VOLOSHYN said earlier on. Congratulations colleague.

I would also like to agree with him when he talks about the legislation in Ukraine concerning the state language in Ukraine that was adopted two years ago.

I wanted to pick up on that and also the law on education that was adopted a little bit earlier by the Verkhovna Rada.

In Russia, in my own country, we have legislation. This legislation deals specifically with respect for languages spoken by national minorities in our country. And as was pointed out by Mr Oleg VOLOSHYN in Ukraine, when it comes to all the minority languages, national minority languages, they are all set aside if you like. Teaching in the Russian language is on the brink of disappearance. It may well disappear.

Furthermore, according to the census, we know that the Russian speaking population is the largest national minority in Ukraine. I think it represents something like 17%. Also of course Russian is also the most widely spoken minority language in Ukraine. You can look at the opinions drawn up by the Venice Commission concerning legislation in Ukraine. They found that the legislation actually breaches a number of legal instruments and international legal texts. In fact some of the parts of these texts were in contradiction with the constitution of Ukraine.

According to the Ukrainian constitution, one is free to speak freely and to speak freely in Russian. That's what the constitution says. So there's a discriminatory approach vis-à-vis Russian but also vis-à-vis other minority languages.

If I may I would like to take this opportunity to commend Ms Elvira KOVÁCS on her work. For all those of you who are keenly interested in this subject please keep a watchful eye on developments. We have a situation in Ukraine. We know what happened with the Jewish population. We know also what led up to the Second World War. We know about the millions of people who died as a consequence of all of that and we therefore have to really be vigilant and defend the rights of national minorities.

Thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:18:50

Thank you.

I now give the floor to Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND from Hungary, also online.

Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND

Hungary, EC/DA

18:19:00

Thank you, Chair,

Dear Colleagues,

The Hungarian delegation is always sensitive to any report dealing with the issue of national minorities since our nation has been living as a minority in seven countries during the last 100 years.

We welcome the report of Ms Elvira KOVÁCS since the topic of national minorities in Europe is one of the key issues which should be kept on the agenda. I would like to congratulate Ms Elvira KOVÁCS for her excellent and important report.

As a result of frequent border changes in European history, many national communities became minorities who are autochthonous on the territory where they have been present for centuries. Lessons from the history of the last century show that national minority rights are essential to ensure peace and stability on the continent.

We fully support the rapporteur’s view in the sense that the rights of national minorities constitute an integral part of human rights and are necessary to preserve political stability and to promote the diversity of cultures in Europe.

Hungary greatly appreciates the role of the Framework Convention and the importance of the overall multilateral structure in harmonising national legislation on minorities with international norms and standards and its activity in periodical supervision. However, we also attach particular importance to the regular bilateral dialogue, as we feel responsible for the situation of minorities in the neighbouring countries. We are convinced that the multilateral and bilateral mechanisms reinforce each other.

As regards to the general principle of national minority protection, we consider it important to preserve both the individual and collective identity of national minorities, to prevent their assimilation.

The Council of Europe is the most important European institution dealing with the protection of national minorities since the European Commission has recently decided to reject the Minority SafePack Initiative. With the decision, the Commission ignored the wish of 1.2 million European citizens. 

The Commission has now let down approximately 50 million citizens of the Union who belong to national and linguistic minorities. Millions of them live in a situation of inequality in their own country already, now the European Commission, which is supposed to be the guardian of democracy, the rule of law, dignity and justice, is also turning its back on them.

European institutions currently show more openness for the new challenges, like illegal migration, and they seem to have forgotten the old ones even if these problems are not solved yet. And unfortunately we do see cases where national minorities are suffering discrimination. Here I would like to mention that the violent attacks and intimidation against national minorities are increasing in Ukraine, minorities are not allowed to use their language in schools and public spaces.

Dear Colleagues,

Rights of national minorities require further attention and a comprehensive European legal framework, therefore I support this report. Thank you for your attention.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:22:01

Thank you very much Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND.

I now call the next speaker, Mr Sos AVETISYAN from Armenia.

Mr Sos AVETISYAN

Armenia, SOC

18:22:07

Thank you very much, Madam Chair,

I also want to thank the rapporteur Ms Elvira KOVÁCS for her excellent work because this is a topic that is very important in the Council of Europe, regardless of the fact that we have been discussing this since 1968, when the Framework Convention was accepted.

On this matter, I want to take the opportunity and draw everybody's attention to what is happening or what has been happening in Azerbaijan. I want this dialogue to be constructive. What we have witnessed when Mr Edmon MARUKYAN was demonstrating before us is not just a museum. It is not just a momentary lapse of thinking that Hannah Arendt has defined in her work The Banality of Evil. It is something that we have seen before, that we have seen everywhere on this continent as well, but which we were not able to overcome. Why do I want to underline this? Because I think that our bodies especially the ECRI - the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance - should be carefully monitoring the situation's development. Because it is not the first time, it is not just a momentary thing, it is something that has been registered in the ECRI report of 2016. A group of researchers registered what is happening in Azerbaijan. I want to retaliate to what my Azerbaijani colleague said: when your president is calling Armenians dogs, infidels, when there is a hatred basically industrialised by the state, it is hard to achieve peace.

We really want to have peace, we want to be constructive, but in this kind of an environment, when you have children taken to the trophy museum, it is hard to imagine. I want every parliamentarian to go back to their home, talk to their diplomats and say, "is that normal?" Is it normal to keep hostages in an ISIS-style manner? I don't think so. I think that the work of the ECRI should be strengthened. It should be reporting not only case by case when it has its timetable, but it should be reporting on specific cases when there is a flagrant violation of human rights.

On the topic of the mines that our Azerbaijani colleague has presented, Armenia has a demining project with the OSCE and the OSCE office was closed down in Yerevan through the effort of Azerbaijan. There was a demining project in Artsakh which was again undermined by our Azerbaijani colleagues. Azerbaijan has never requested those maps and this is just a gimmick to withdraw our attention from the real issue of the prisoners of war in Azerbaijan.

Lastly, as a people which survived a genocide 160 years ago, we value peace. We value it with all our heart. At the same time without dignity, human empathy and justice, peace is hard to achieve. And when a child is taken to the trophy museum to see a mannequin of a deceased soldier, that is not going to help those generations to find peace.

Thank you very much Ms Elvira KOVÁCS for your work. I think this direction should be strengthened. I think equality should be strengthened. I think also that the monitoring of the National Minorities Committee should be strengthened.

Thank you. 

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:25:33

Thank you, Sir.

I now call Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ from Hungary, who is online.

Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ

Hungary, EPP/CD

18:25:44

Thank you Madam Chair, I would like to congratulate Ms Elvira KOVÁCS for this excellent report.

The Council of Europe’s Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, along with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, are cornerstones in the architecture of preserving national and autochthonous minorities in Europe. These legally binding international legal instruments are among the greatest achievements of our pan-European organisation of 47 member countries.

More regrettable is, however, that, on the other hand, the European Union has not dedicated much attention and efforts to this pressing topic. One of the clear evidence of its deplorable negligence is the recent rejection of the European Citizens’ Initiative called Minority SafePack, which called on the EU to adopt a set of legal acts to improve the protection of persons belonging to national and linguistic minorities and strengthen cultural and linguistic diversity in Europe. In the European Union, although in 1994 the EU set forth the ‘Copenhagen Criteria’, a wealth of diverse requirements as prerequisites for candidate countries in the accession process to the EU, including also standards and norms on the protection of national minorities, yet, so far no mechanism has been constituted to put this issue on the EU policy agenda. In addition, the European Commission even seems to impede incentives originating from its citizens thus enhancing distrust in EU institutions as well as deepening the confidence crisis in the EU as a whole.

The present report touches upon a highly topical and relevant issue; safeguarding national minority rights in a meaningful and effective way should not be interpreted and portrayed as a threat to national minorities, and countries should foster to create a level playing field in terms of national minority rights as well as contributing to a Europe united in diversity. For this very reason it is of paramount importance to give fresh impetus to the convergence of the EU to the Council of Europe, particularly with regard to the accession of the latter to the European Convention on Human Rights. Such a major step forward could equip the EU with means which are imperative to live up to its responsibilities and commitments enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, principally in Articles 21 on non-discrimination and 22 on cultural, religious and linguistic diversity.

This is one of the crucial points where the priorities of the current German and the incoming Hungarian Chairmanships could enhance their fruitful cooperation and where we all could benefit from the synergies of the two organisations.

Thank you very much indeed.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:28:48

Thank you very much.

I now call Mr Roberto RAMPI from Italy.

Apparently he is not with us... oh I am sorry, I spoke too soon. Mr RAMPI, please.

Mr Roberto RAMPI

Italy, SOC

18:29:02

I'm sorry, I was confused about the microphones.

Yes, I believe that this report is very important. A few years ago in Italy I had the good fortune and the opportunity to take part in the celebrations of a special day, that of the mother tongue, which was born at a particular moment in history, which is that linked to one of the, perhaps the only, very great murders of people in defence of their language. It happened in Bangladesh. These young students, these young people defended the possibility of speaking their own language and for this they died, they gave up their lives.

So, the reflection on the mother tongue is a reflection that goes through us. I am currently speaking in Italian. At the beginning of my participation in this assembly I did not do it. It seemed right to me to try to use an international language so that everybody could understand me immediately. But then I reasoned that the nuances in which we try to represent our ideas and words are so important that they cannot be translated by us, they must be translated by those who do it professionally, with competence, with culture, like the people who are translating what I want to tell you at this moment.

Therefore, in the work of protecting minorities and in the importance of the stories that we have heard in the speeches of these few minutes, I believe that it is truly important for the Council of Europe to return to the issue of languages, to return to the issue of the right of everyone to recognise their own identity, which varies and changes.

Our identities mix, they have a life, as do our languages, and so I am against defined borders, I am for a world that is increasingly open. Perhaps this would resolve many conflicts.

In the meantime, however, we must guarantee that all minorities in every country can fully express their beliefs, their religion, their culture and their language. Not least because, and I will conclude, that is what democracy is all about. Democracy is that place where the minority can live, can continue to exist, because the majority is no longer in the right of the minority, it is just a matter of occasionally finding itself in greater numbers, but it has no more reason to be more important than the others.

 

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:31:34

Thank you.

I now call Mr Bernard FOURNIER, from France.

Mr Bernard FOURNIER

France, EPP/CD

18:31:40

Thank you very much Madam President,

Dear colleagues,

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities was opened for signature some years ago. It was not so much a question of defining national minority, it was a question of protecting the ethnic, linguistic, cultural or religious minorities who reside on the territory of the member states of our Organisation. Indeed, borders have been drawn and redrawn between several States over time. That is why we have minorities within our States. Sometimes these minorities have been resident there for centuries without necessarily assimilating into the majority community. I am thinking here in particular of the Roma community with its own cultural and linguistic specificities, and these shall be respected. Their integration is essential if we are to guarantee social stability and peace.

That said, the definition of "national minority" is still problematic. We need to define the criteria that allows you to conclude that a particular group is a national minority. Now, we have a French view on this, and I would argue that in France we don't have national minorities, because the Republic transcends the particular characteristics of different communities. I remind you of of the first article of the French Constitution which states that: "France is a Republic, indivisible, secular, democratic, social and it will guarantee equality before the law for all citizens, without any distinction based on origin, race or religion." That is Article 1 of our constitution. That is why France has not signed up to this Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. According to the opinion of the [French] Council of State, this Convention would actually challenge the constitutional principles we have in France.

In addition to that, the Convention talks about the right to use minority languages in your relationships with the administration. Again, the French Constitution does not allow for that. Article 2 is clear: French is the language of the Republic.

Over and beyond these legal considerations, if you were to make distinctions on the basis of ethnic or religious criteria, you're actually dividing the population rather than bringing people together. When it comes to immigrant communities they should not be seen as national minorities, because their role is to integrate and their role is to form part of the country to which they have arrived.

Therefore our constitution guarantees rights which are equal; equality for all, in a framework where the rule of law is respected, in particular thanks to our judicial institutions.

And finally, when it comes to the teaching of regional languages, this has been developed, rolled out. We have recently adopted a bill on the protection of regional languages and the promotion of regional languages as part of our heritage. The purposes and aims of the Convention therefore have been met in my country.

I thank you.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:34:40

Thank you.

I now call Mr Halil ÖZŞAVLI from Turkey. Is he online?

Then we'll go to Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN, from Ireland.

 

Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN

Ireland, ALDE

18:35:26

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I wish to commend the rapporteur for her report on preserving minority rights, which warns of rising hate speech, insufficient levels of communication and education in minority languages, and how states need to consult with minority groups to inform policies and legislation. And I want to whole-heartedly endorse and support the recommendations that she makes on behalf of the Irish delegation.

As we know, the Framework Convention, which was adopted in 1994, sets out rights enjoyed by persons belonging to national minorities as well as obligations to be respected by the state parties and that was something that my own country adopted in 1999.

We must all continue to call on all of our member states to respect, protect and promote the human rights of persons belonging to minorities such as national, ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities in international fora.

Human right dialogues are also a key instrument for EU bilateral agreements and the EU of course uses these dialogues to regularly promote the rights of persons belonging to minorities. Ireland also uses its voice at multilateral fora to promote and protect the rights of persons belonging to minority groups.

For example, in 2020 Ireland made recommendations to Bulgaria under the universal periodic review mechanism at the UN Human Rights Council and encouraged Bulgaria to continue to strengthen and implement legislation that would protect vulnerable members of society, including those belonging to minority and Roma communities. And additionally Irland co-sponsored resolutions on the rights of persons belonging to minority groups at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in March 2020 and at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2019.

The Irish Anti-Racism Committee is an independent committee established by government in June 2020 to develop a national action plan against racism for Ireland and only last week my government has introduced hate crime legislation, as we were a complete outlier within Europe in not having this. Of course the Committee's work is also informed by the EU action plan again racism.

At the 2019 iteration of the UN Forum on minority issues, Ireland's nominee Anastasia Crickley co-chaired the Forum which focused on education, language and the human rights of minorities.

We continue to support all of these very important issues and I look forward to working with the rapporteur in terms of the way forward.

Thank you, Chair.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:38:48

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