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23 June 2021 morning

2021 - Third part-session Print sitting

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Opening of the sitting No. 19

Current affairs debate: The situation in Belarus: a threat to the whole of Europe

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:10:14

Good morning, colleagues.

We are 10 minutes late, so we have to start.

The first item of business this morning is a current affairs debate on “The situation in Belarus: a threat to the whole of Europe”.

The debate will last 1 hour, and speaking time is limited to 3 minutes for all members except the first speaker, chosen by the Bureau, who is allowed 7 minutes.

The debate will therefore end by 11:00 a.m. when we have the high-level panel and interactive debate on the Istanbul Convention.

In the debate I call first Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS, you have 7 minutes.

You have the floor.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD

10:11:30

Dear friends, can you hear me? Very good.

First of all, I would like to congratulate that all of you are safe after such a terrible pandemic. It is such a pleasure to see you all in the Chamber and outside. Secondly, coming to the subject, I would like to raise the questions related to Belarus and thank you for signing up to be speakers. Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, Belarus state terrorism has become a threat for the whole of Europe, and we neighbouring countries, do not know how to use all democratic opportunities to rebel against this threat by Alexander Lukashenko's illegal regime to the people of Belarus and to all of Europe.

I would like to say that we are considering how to defend our borders against illegally increased, artificially increased by Alexander Lukashenko's orders of illegal immigration, with all good heart to the poor people from Syria and Iraq, we are on their side. We are humane people but not artificially created situations on the borders with hundreds and hundreds illegal immigrants like a revenge for our support for democracy, revenge to Poland, revenge to Lithuania, so the end of civilisation of all Europe in the future with such acts. I just try to explain in my fraction that the Athens-Vilnius airplane was kidnapped, and Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega, two young, promising Europeans were kidnapped and tortured specially to change their views and show it on TV.

I think we should use the same measures used by against black colonels in Greece. We have recently received the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs in Lithuania and we discussed the measures and now the measures are declared yesterday by the European Union, sectorial sanctions and more than 80 personalities are under sanctions personally. This is only beginning.

The blue sky above Belarus is empty from the European Union side. I try now to tell you, all of you, just looking to all fractions and looking to our party system in Europe, help the party members, Social Democratic Party members, Mr Mikola Statkevich who is in jail, Christian Democratic Party members, Mr Vital Rymasheuski and other friends, I just try to ask Mr Aleksander POCIEJ, Mr Tiny KOX, Mr Frank SCHWABE, Mr Jacques MAIRE, to concentrate on the destruction of party system in Belarus and people who are now under tortures and 10 to 12 years in prison, can you imagine? Ten to 12 years in prison for Mr Mikola Statkevich, who is the leader of Social Democratic Party. It is unimaginable terror against women, the rape of women in jail. Do not apply the rules that people from neighbouring countries cannot speak, people from Poland and Lithuania, about Belarus. We have the right to speak when we are under clear attack by the Belarusian regime, supported actually by the Kremlin. We would like to ask you in the future, to try to call the early elections and make pressure on the Belarusian regime to call elections. Before I am going to say Žyvie Biełaruś, long live Belarusian Democratic people, I would like to ask you to have a report and rapporteurship in our house after Christos Pourgourides made a fantastic report about killed people, like Viktor Gonchar and other people in 2008. After this brilliant report by our Cypriot friend, we should have a real serious rapporteurship. I know that my Finnish friend is doing well preparing some basic remarks but we need to have a new, basic report about the new stage of repression and violence against nine million people in the middle of Europe called Belarus.

From my point of view, Lithuania, Poland and the European Union are supporting Ms Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya as the elected president. She is received, and she is welcomed in every capital like an elect president. We are all here on her side and that of Mr Franak Viačorka and on Mr Pavel Latushka's side, who is now residing in Poland. I would like to say we should have every session names declared women, children, men arrested by this most brutal regime in all history since Second World War and probably after this story of black colonels in Greece.

I would like to encourage you, dear friends, to focus attention and not let the Belarusian terror regime make an impression that we cannot influence through the borders this new concentration camp established in the middle of Europe. From our point of view, we need to remember that Polish minorities under terrorist threat, Polish minority leaders refused to go some of them to Poland. I would like to encourage you to say about basic framework of our set of values that is the Council of Europe, not only the European Union, not only the European Parliament but the Council of Europe is responsible for, even not in the member countries. Belarus is not a member country, but in the middle of Europe for all future stability of Europe and the sake of democratic future of the Belarusian people, who just apply to be democracy for the new elections in Belarus.

Thank you, Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, and that was my message.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:19:15

Thank you.

I next call on Mr Aleksander POCIEJ on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

You have three minutes.

Mr Aleksander POCIEJ, you have the floor.

Mr Aleksander POCIEJ

Poland, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

10:19:28

Thank you, Mister President.

The situation in Belarus has deteriorated steadily over the past few months,

The human rights situation in Belarus has continued to deteriorate in recent months. Thousands of people, members of the opposition, journalists and ordinary citizens have been beaten, arrested, tortured and sentenced to heavy prison terms or forced into exile. This brutal repression represents a further serious attack on the fundamental freedoms of the Belarusian people.

The regime had decided to attack minorities, in particular the Polish and Lithuanian minorities in Belarus, trying to make them an enemy in order to divert the attention of public opinion. The rights of Polish minorities in Belarus were being violated by the Belarusian authorities. The Lithuanian authorities have also pointed to the regime's complicity in the smuggling of migrants into the Schengen Area via the Lithuanian border, which poses a danger to the whole Schengen Area, to all of us.

On 23 May, the regime shocked the entire international community by hijacking an airliner flying from Athens to Vilnius, with the sole aim of arresting a political opponent, Roman Protassevich. This is an unacceptable act of air piracy, committed in defiance of all the rules of international law. For the first time, we are witnessing an unprecedented situation.

On 21 June, the leaders of the European Union agreed on individual and economic sanctions against the Belarusian regime. For the first time, Europe is showing itself to be united, without the divide between East and West, between North and South.

Our group has repeatedly taken a firm stand on the situation since the last elections in 2020. We Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Romanians, Bulgarians and the people of the former Yugoslavia have suffered in the past from dictatorship under the Communist regime. The regime's propaganda always tried to destroy the threats of the opposition, treating it as an enemy and a traitor in the pay of third countries, everywhere. With the help of the Western democracies, we managed to regain our freedom.

I am deeply convinced that very soon the Belarusians, as we all were thirty years ago, will also succeed in freeing themselves from dictatorship and establishing democracy in their country.

Thank you very much.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:22:53

Thank you.

The next speaker is Ms Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

You have the floor.

Ms Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI

Estonia, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

10:23:03

Honourable President,

Dear colleagues,

There is no question about it. We have to strongly condemn the act of the Belarusian authorities in forcing a passenger plane to land on the 23rd of May and detaining Mr Protasevich and Ms Sapega.

We cannot look past the violations of basic human rights and the use of violence. Not in this case nor in the previous incidents we have been observing for almost a year now.

Roman Protasevich was granted political asylum in Poland and therefore must be treated as a political refugee with all the protection that international law provides.

We're concerned about his treatment in detention where the use of torture by the security forces has been widely documented.

In the context of protecting basic human rights, this is the right to life, I would like to remind you that as of this year Belarus is the only country in Europe to still carry out the death penalty. This is not acceptable.

In our opinion, the call on all EU based carriers to avoid overflight of Belarus and the ban on Belarusian Airlines to use the EU airspace is a necessary measure. The safety of civilian air traffic is a question of international security. All restrictions for using the airspace are justified when it comes to a country that refuses to enforce all the necessary measures to provide safety within its borders.

The International Civil Aviation Organization must investigate the incident and give its judgment on the matter.

President Alexander Lukashenko has been manoeuvring between the European Union and Russia for 25 years now. I sincerely hope that this game will not end up with a North Korea type of country in the middle of Europe.

I cannot stress this enough. The people of Belarus need to have their basic rights and freedoms protected. They cannot be prosecuted, repressed and surveilled purely because of their political convictions.

At the same time we have to stand by the Belarusian people so that they could have the possibility to make their own decisions without any influences from abroad.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:25:18

Thank you very much. The next speaker is Mr Dmytro NATALUKHA on behalf of EC.

You have the floor.

Mr Dmytro NATALUKHA

Ukraine, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

10:25:32

Thank you very much.

Dear colleagues, on Sunday 23rd of May, the Ryanair flight, as you all know, travelling from Athens to Vilnius made an abrupt change of course over Belarus, some 10 kilometres from the Lithuanian border, and made a forced emergency landing in Minsk because of an alleged email bomb threat.

Now, if one analyses the Belarusian public communications in late May, he might discover the following version of events. So, an alleged member of Palestinian movement Hamas sent an email from Switzerland to Belarus demanding that Israel ceases fire in the Gaza Strip otherwise a Polish aircraft departing from Greece will explode over Lithuania. At the same time the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) came out with an alternative version: the forced landing of the aircraft may have contravened a core aviation treaty — the Chicago Convention —, which is part of the international order created after World War II, which might give grounds to consider the actions of Belarusian authorities as piracy.

The US and the EU condemned official Minsk actions, but not only them however.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum denied his organization had any knowledge or connection to the alleged bomb threat, while another senior member of Hamas, Dr Mousa Abu Marzouq, tweeted "the accusations of Belarusian Ministry of Transportation are baseless as well as false and absurd".

Now, Belarus is officially condemned by the US, the EU and Hamas. What a great time to be alive. A time of absolute folly that we, in a manner, unfortunately lead to unleash.

Ladies and gentlemen, the threat to the whole of Europe is not just the situation in Belarus. The threat to the whole of Europe is basically, unfortunately, unpunished evil. And the situation in Belarus is just its latest and vigorous example.

We, the free and democratic societies of both the East and the West, have succeeded throughout history in inventing solutions for the most outstanding challenges that humanity has ever faced or produced except for one. We mainly failed to plug the source of such challenges in a timely and duly manner. And if the evil is left unpunished, it will surely strike again.

The situation with the aircraft grounded in Minsk is a perfect demonstration and this case does not create a threatening precedent. It is precisely the result of a threatening precedent that lacked proper reaction some time ago. A number of threatening precedents to be precise: the invasion of Georgia, the hacking of Bundestag's servers, the poisoning of the Skripal family, the annexation of Crimea and other examples that created a track record of cases initiated and tolerated by even members of this distinguished assembly. Cases that, once left unduly answered, then become the source of inspiration for rogues around the globe.

This, ladies and gentlemen, we cannot allow ourselves to remain as mere silent observers of blatant violations of international law, international security, human rights or hostile actions against sovereign states. Measures shall be taken, justice shall be restored and, moreover, evil shall be punished. Therefore our group strongly supports the necessity to boldly react on behalf of the Assembly to the situation in Belarus and calls for the creation of an ad hoc working group within the Council of Europe tasked with monitoring the human rights situation in Belarus.

Thank you.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:28:58

Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Mr Ólafur Þór GUNNARSSON on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr Ólafur Þór GUNNARSSON

Iceland, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

10:29:08

Mister President,

It has now been exactly one month since the apparently illegal capture of the Ryanair plane by Belarusian authorities on what appeared to be bogus grounds.

The following arrest and imprisonment of Mr Protasevich and Ms Sapega are also in clear violation of international law and the Montreal Convention. This disregard for international law and procedures remains unresolved. By endangering the lives of the plane's passengers in order to satisfy the means of capturing a vocal opponent of the government, the authorities have set an example that this body cannot accept. An investigation into the matter is under way by the ICAO and all the relevant authorities should be urged to cooperate. In the meantime the Belarusian authorities should immediately release the prisoners captured on the plane.

We must ask ourselves whether condoning this action by inactivity will give other governments with totalitarian tendencies the go-ahead for similar actions. However, we must also ensure that the actions we do take to provide pressure on the authorities in question, that  the pressure is on the authorities rather than on the public that we're trying to protect.

Let's not forget that passenger planes have in recent years been targets in conflicts with horrendous consequences as well as having been forced to land apparently based on the identity of some of their passengers.

Apparently the situation in Belarus remains the same as far as respect for human rights is concerned. The Council is currently looking carefully into this situation under the leadership of Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN, whose report is forthcoming.

The rule of law must prevail and full respect of human rights must always be at the forefront.

The people of Belarus deserve, like every other people, basic human rights, freedom of speech, the right to assembly, and the right to free and fair election. It behoves the Belarusian authorities to ensure their people these basic rights.

Thank you, Mister President.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:31:41

Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

10:31:51

Mr President, dear colleagues,

During its April session, our Assembly adopted two resolutions concerning Belarus. The resolution on "human rights violations in Belarus" gives a detailed account of the serious and repeated human rights violations committed on a massive scale following the 2020 presidential election.

Similarly, the resolution on the "urgent need for electoral reform in Belarus" condemns in the strongest terms the unprecedented wave of violence, mass arrests, intimidation and prosecution of political opponents, human rights defenders, journalists, media workers, independent election observers and citizens of Belarus following the presidential election.

Mr President,

Unfortunately, since April, the situation in Belarus has not improved. It is quite the opposite. In particular, the recent diversion and forced landing of the Ryanair flight and the arrest of Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega is an alarming attack on the rules governing civil aviation.

The fact that similar types of incidents have happened before on European soil makes the present case all the more worrying. It is clear, that one unacceptable thing does not make another one acceptable. What happened with the Ryanair flight is a severe threat to human security. Civil aircrafts should be able to operate safely and securely. It is no wonder that the international community has reacted swiftly and strongly. It is a concern for all of us.

The Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group joins its voice to that of the international community to condemn this incident.

The group also demands the immediate and unconditional release of Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega, as well as all other journalists and political prisoners held in Belarus. The figures are alarming. There are already close to 500 political prisoners in Belarus. In any democracy, dear colleagues, the place of opposition is in the parliament, not in prison.

Having said that, I would like finally to quote our resolution on electoral reform:

“The integration of Belarus to the Council of Europe on the basis of the organisation’s values and principles remains a strategic objective.” Thus, we should continue to call “on the Belarusian authorities and all relevant stakeholders to urgently conduct a broad-based and inclusive national dialogue to ensure a peaceful way out of the current crisis, and to open the door for necessary reforms benefiting all Belarusian citizens”.

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:35:07

Thank you.

Our next speaker is Sir Tony LLOYD.

You have the floor.

Sir Tony LLOYD

United Kingdom, SOC

10:35:17

Mr President,

I'm also delighted to be able to take part in this short debate, because it is so important as my friend Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN has just said, the place for opposition politicians is in the Belarusian Parliament. But in fact things go a little deeper than that. 

We know that the world believes that Mr Lukashenko is not the president of Belarus. He did not win the election last August; that was almost certainly won by Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

But of course it isn't just the defrauding of an electoral process that Mr Lukashenko stands charged with. The events since then, as colleagues have already expressed, are a frightening thing across the whole of Europe. Torture of people who are political prisoners, but people who didn't commit any great crimes. Darya Chultsova was a camera operator. She filmed a demonstration, a protest about the death of a young man who himself was a protester. She was not part of that protest and yet now she's serving – along with a colleague Yekaterina Andreyeva – a prison sentence for what everywhere else would be regarded as a non-crime.

We know that those in prison have been subject to torture, and horrendously in the case of some, of the sexual violence and rape, so we are told.

But the astonishing events of the de facto hijacking of the the plane must leave the world mystified, partly because it was so clearly an act of terror. To fabricate the idea that there's a bomb on board would be a criminal offence of itself in many regimes. It is certainly in my own country. But to use that as a way of arresting one journalist and his girlfriend, Roman Protasevich, is incredible. It's incredible for this reason.

This is not only an event in itself that is shocking. It's also quite frankly threatened everybody on that plane when a mega aircraft effectively took part in forcing the Ryanair flight to land in Minsk. Of course, at that level, potentially threatening every other passenger on board as well as the intended victims of this crime.

In that context, the world has reacted. I'm going to see the EU, my own country the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, now that [have] begun to impose the toughest sanctions regime, probably one that they should have introduced at an earlier stage.

But let's be thankful for what's there, in particular in the case of the UK, the decision to sanction BNK (UK) Ltd., the Belarusian oil producers. It's an important step forward.

Mr President, I'll just conclude by saying this.

What took place is outrageous. The world has reacted and we are grateful for that reaction.

But Mr Lukashenko must reckon that it is time to go.

Thank you.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:38:33

Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Mr Jacek PROTASIEWICZ. You have the floor.

Okay, he might come back. We take now Mr Roberto RAMPI. Mister RAMPI, you have the floor.

Mr Roberto RAMPI

Italy, SOC

10:39:03

Mister President, ladies and gentlemen,

I confess that I have a passion for Belarus. I had the honour, I had the pleasure, with some organisations, with some NGOs, of going to that wonderful country several years ago, before everything that we are witnessing and discussing this morning happened. Precisely to campaign for an international moratorium on the death penalty and for the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus.

This would have made it possible, as we hoped at the time, to bring Belarus fully into this forum, into this Parliamentary Assembly and to fill the gap that today objectively represents the absence of this country in this organisation. Which covers the entire geographical area of Europe, understood in the broadest possible sense, and which has that very gap, that hole, which is obviously not just a gap in geographical terms. It's not about the mountains, lakes or rivers here.

We are missing millions of people, millions of people who are not protected by the International Court of Human Rights, who are not protected by the Court, who are not protected by all those commitments and discussions that we manage to carry out, with some difficulty, in this Parliamentary Assembly. Where it is possible for Armenian and Azerbaijani colleagues, who are experiencing a tragic situation in their own countries, to be sitting here together discussing and therefore using words instead of weapons. Where the same thing is happening with regard to many other open issues. I am thinking about relations between Russia and Ukraine, etc.

I believe that it is really important, it would be really important, to be able to address what is happening in Belarus with Belarus as a member, as part of this forum. What has happened since then, from that first visit to today, has gone in exactly the opposite direction of what we hoped for. Instead of, let us say, meeting and maturing some of the objectives that this Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Europe as a whole were trying to achieve, the Belarusian regime has taken significant steps backwards.

Today there are political opponents in prison. We have heard the conditions under which this is happening. I have had the good fortune, but also, how shall I say, the sadness, to be in contact with some of them, to lose contact, to write them letters which I hope they have read, but of which I know nothing.

I believe that we must hold this flag high. We must hold out our hand to the Belarusian people and we must use the force of intelligence, the force of democracy, to demand that Belarus and its citizens can join the ranks of the democratic countries of the Council of Europe.

Thank you.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:42:10

Thank you very much.

We try again with Mr Jacek PROTASIEWICZ.

You have the floor.

<audio/connection problems>

Let's try a bit later again. Then I give the floor first to Mr Sergey KISLYAK. You have the floor.

That doesn't seem to work either.

Does it? Yes.

You have the floor.

I tried to call you yesterday, but I'm very glad that we can meet again. You have the floor

Mr Sergey KISLYAK

Russian Federation, NR

10:43:29

Thank you. 

Mister President, distinguished colleagues,

I am listening to today's discussion and I cannot help but feel that the very phrasing of the question that is a threat to Europe, a threat posed by Belarus to Europe and the tone that was set by the initiator have drawn our organisation into a sort of post-truth era because all of the arguments I have heard up until now accusing the regime of all types of different crimes, seem to be based on either distortion of the facts, or on a complete absence of truth, on groundless accusation of what was happening in Belarus.

The situation there is such, that on the outside, the political situation is under pressure from the outside to be supporting the opposition. There are preparation and training of professional revolutionaries in Belarus. This is being done by countries that today, in this discussion, are using a tone full of pathos, for example Ukraine, where there are volunteer battalions that openly exchange experience with Belarusian revolutionaries, so to speak. We also hear this tone with regards to the airplane that had to land in Minsk. This is not really honest because before any investigations were carried out by ICAO, accusations were already being levelled, sanctions were already being imposed, because it is clear that the situation was being stoked from the outside. 

Yet again, who is the most active in this issue? In 2013, in Austria, the Bolivian president's plane was forced to land for political reasons. In 2016, our Ukrainian colleagues, who today spoke with so much pathos as well, forced a Belarusian plane to land, a plane that was carrying an anti-Maidan activist. The plane was forced to land under threat of military force, and this person was removed from the plane. With the approval, as well, on 31 May of this year, a Ryanair flight was also forced to land, and I have not heard any objections with regard to that forced landing. 

This is a country where we are seeing an attempted coup d'état, murders and so on, and no one is talking about those crimes, so let's be honest here. We need to let the Belarusians work on their own future and establish dialogue that is already being conducted as part of the constitutional reforms in the country, which for some reason, no one is talking about today. That is why I call on everyone to be honest.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:47:09

The next speaker is Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK.

You have the floor.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

10:47:18

Distinguished Assembly Members,

Belarus has always been a hard negotiator for the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly. After Mr Lukashenko had refused to abolish the death penalty in late 1990s, the dialogue between the Assembly and the official Minsk was frozen in fact.

The recent accident in May 2021 was the logical development of no reaction of the democratic West to the anti-presidential protests, which have been ongoing since summer of 2020. Because of the censorship, which covers even online media in Belarus, the oppositioners and citizens of Belarus, did not convey the message of the scale of the protests, which were severely oppressed.

After the hijacking of the Ryanair plane and the expelling of the Latvian Ambassador from Minsk, it looks that the passive phase of Europe’s disagreement of the “last European dictator’s” policy has to turn into the active phase.

1084 km of Ukraine’s northern land state border is the border with Belarus. We have lots of common in the past. At the level of the parliament, the bilateral Ukrainian-Belarusian Assembly had been functioning for several convocations. But since 2019 the Assembly hasn’t been functioning. Unfortunately, I do not see any common lines between Ukraine and Belarus in the future, unless Belarus conducts democratic elections. As of now, the officials of our neighbouring country do not share the principles of democracy, protection of human rights and the rule of law.

In conclusion, I suggest to the Assembly colleagues to come up with the ad hoc monitoring procedure for Belarus aimed to democratisation of the country. Let's hope for the better.

Thank you.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:49:10

Thank you very much.

Dear colleagues,

Unfortunately, we have arrived to our last speaker and that is Mr Samad SEYIDOV.

You have the floor.

Mr Samad SEYIDOV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

10:49:27

Thank you very much, Mister President.

Dear friends,

Dear colleagues,

I remember that in this organisation at the political Committee we discovered the relationship between the opposition and the authorities of Belarus.

At that time were very close to achieving a breakthrough in the relations with Belarus. The Council of Europe and especially its Parliamentary Assembly has really fulfilled its historic mission. The mission of uniting countries and people, different opinions and positions.

Unfortunately, radical approaches prevail, and those who believe that pressure and sanctions to the country were more productive won.

I know and we know very well what these led to. These led to a complete rupture of all relations with Belarus.

Now, today, these relations are actually in a state of war: economic, ideological, cultural, civilisational. But our organisation was created not for waging war. It was created for peace.

I believe that it's necessary in any case, I know that it's very difficult, to preserve bridges for co-operation and dialogue. Yes, it's hard, but it has to be done. We must prevent this real war with Belarus. We must go through negotiations. This is what I call on the Council of Europe for. Find the courage, strength and wisdom and start these negotiations. Go to Belarus. See what is happening there from the inside. Don't listen to those who want war. Talk with those who live inside the country. This is the best way to prevent distractions and tragedy.

I am sure that there are very many people here, and they are ready to go to Minsk. All that is needed is your decision and will. The Council of Europe is the oldest and wisest organisation. I am sure this organisation does not have the arrogance that we can see sometimes from other international organisations.

Therefore, it is we who must keep distance from rash decisions which will bring grief and tragedy not only for Belarus but for the whole Europe.

That's why, dear friends and colleagues, again we should think how we can reframe our dialogue despite difficulties, despite a lot of problems which Belarus has. We should do that because this is the value of our organisation. Dialogue and again dialogue.

Thank you.

Mr Andreas NICK

Germany, EPP/CD

13:00:45

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

Ms Nicole DURANTON

France, ALDE

13:00:52

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

Mr Bernard FOURNIER

France, EPP/CD

13:00:57

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

Mr Jacques LE NAY

France, ALDE

13:01:04

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

Ms Marta GRANDE

Italy, NR

13:01:11

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

Ms Maryna BARDINA

Ukraine, ALDE

13:01:18

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear colleagues,

The lack of fair procedure for election preparation and counting in Belarus ultimately has led not only to a political crisis but to the serious human rights violations.

People in Belarus came through violence, torture, mass arbitrary arrests, violations of freedom of speech and persecution targeting opposition members, journalists and bloggers, human rights defenders, lawyers and people who were simply peacefully protesting.

All these above-mentioned acts go against Belarusian international obligations and the worldwide democratic standards. Minsk attempted to take its violations under the total control in a deliberate and unprincipled manner and filled information space exclusively with pro-government propaganda.

The Parliament of Ukraine condemned the illegal actions of the Belarusian authorities regarding the forced landing of a Ryanair plane and the detention of Roman Protasevich, which is another manifestation of the Belarusian authorities' attack on the political opposition, freedom of speech and journalism in Belarus.

We called on the Belarusian authorities to release Roman Protasevich and all political prisoners immediately.

The government of Ukraine in order to ensure the safety of civil aviation and society, was one of the first in Europe to ban air traffic between Ukraine and Belarus from May 26, 2021 and strengthen "air sanctions" against Belarusian airlines from May 28, 2021.

The Government also advised Ukrainians in particular journalists, human rights defenders and civic activists to avoid visiting Belarus.

I also want to mention that public interview given by Roman Protasevich has shown us that he is under great pressure and tortured - signs of having been tortured were visible on the wrists of his hands. Ukrainian Stanislav Aseev who was detained and tortured by the Russian agents in the part of Ukraine's territory temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation experienced the same when in 2018 he was forced under torturs to give an interview to the Russian channel called Russia 24. He shared this information after Protasevichis' interview.

The list of political prisoners, arrested by the authoritarian regimes, is increasing. I suppose, last two cases of Protasevich and Navalnyi make the whole Europe to rethink on our capacity to react on challenges in todays world. They urges us to unite and protect human rights, international law and fight for freedom of political prisoners.

Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS

Greece, EPP/CD

13:01:25

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear colleagues,

I asked for the floor first because the plane that was forcibly landed, recently, by the Byelorussian authorities took off from Athens. The Greek people were shocked and appalled by this act of state terrorism.

Most importantly, I asked for the floor to underline the fact that in this issue we stand united, all of us, from all across Europe. The problem of Byelorussia is not a problem only of the neighbors of Byelorussia. It’s a European problem that concerns us all, in the south, in the north and in the west of Europe as well.

The message that we send out from here today should be clear and loud: we cannot accept and will not tolerate a black hole in the middle of Europe, a despicable regime of unspeakable brutality that systematically violates the rights and freedoms of its people. We are determined to hold the regime and its supporters outside Byelorussia accountable.

Our job is not to forget but to monitor, to report and to keep the focus on the violations and abuses of the Byelorussian regime for the benefit of the great people of Byelorussia and the principles and values of our Charter.

Mr Jacek PROTASIEWICZ

Poland, EPP/CD

13:01:31

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear Colleagues,

I am extremely sorry for not having a chance to address you personally due to technical problems that occurred when I tried to connect you on-line. However do want to take part in this very very important debate on situation in Belarus. Allow me firstly to start with saying: thank you, to Emanuelis Zingeris and other Lithuanian MPs who have taken the initiative to organize this debate as well as have chosen very proper title for the issue. Yes, Belarus is not only last clear authoritarian-style regime in our continent, where people are deprived of their basic rights, but also a real threat to security in Europe. Particularly the decision taken by Belarussian authorities to send military plane to force civic plane full of civic passengers to land in Minsk in order to arrest two young freedom activists. That was not only a clear soviet-style international law violation but also an act of state-terrorism that revealed how dangerous people are in power in Belarus and how dangerous they can be to Europeans. They are ready to repress or beat common and innocent Belarusians being very scared of losing power. Roman Protasevich and his girl-friend as well as many many Belarussians who just believed they could change bad government through democratic elections didn’t committed any crime they are now accused of. They just wanted to live in peaceful country when democracy was respected and citizens will - honoured by political leaders.

Dear colleagues! You might noticed family name of Roman Protasevich is almost the same as mine however we are not a family. But as I heard that Sunday what happened to him I tried to reach his family in order to offer a helpful hand. It took some time because eventually I found they left Belarus last year being also at threat of repression. Via Ukraine, Slovakia and Czech Republic they came to Poland so I could meet them personally. Believe or not but, knowing the system of politically abused justice, they – particularly Natasha – really worry what kind of sentence might be “judged” to their son by people who are driven by fear and revenge. We must never close our eyes on what is going with Roman, his girl friend as well as other arrested and repressed people in Belarus. Only international pressure on Lukashenko as well as on his “bigger brother” of Moscow may help the to survive unhuman treatment or even to avoid capital punishment that is still in Belarussian criminal code. Having said that I would like to recall leaders of Polish minority who were arrested only for preserving their national culture and respecting important heroes or events of Polish history. Angelika Borys – a teacher of Polish, and Andrzej Poczobut – journalist of Polish papers are still in Belarussian prison because they refused a deal that was proposed to them by the authority and didn’t agree to leave their families, homes and their country and migrate to Poland for good.

Yes, Belarus under Lukashenka is a real threat to the whole Europe and particularly to its own citizens who are also Europeans even though Belarussian state is not a member of any European community, Council of Europe including.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD

13:01:36

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

President, colleagues,

It has been nearly a year since the presidential election in Belarus. A year since Svetlana Thikanovskaya had to leave her country for a life in exile. A year with the developments in Belarus at the top of our agenda. Unfortunately, the situation and the state of democracy in Belarus does not seem to be changing. With the forcing down of the Ryan Air flight bound for Vilnius in May, the trend is definitely negative. And the actions of President Lukashenko are having direct effects not only on the states neighbouring Belarus, but all of Europe.

I echo other colleagues who have called for the release of Roman Protasevich. The way in which he was arrested, and the way he is being treated is deplorable.

President,

As the developments have not been positive I must reiterate a couple of my points from our debate on Belarus in April.

The violence against peaceful protesters and human rights defenders, which we have witnessed again and again since the election in September 2020 cannot be accepted. Those responsible have not been held to account. The reports of serious human rights violations, including torture, are numerous. We cannot stand by silently.

The electoral system is flawed. This has been pointed out by the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission for more than two decades. Comprehensive electoral reform is needed. Today’s electoral system is neither transparent, accountable nor credible. Without change the Belarusian cannot have confidence in the electoral process.

President,

Without positive development on these very important issues, I as a member, and we as an assembly must continue to repeat our message. We must continue to put pressure on President Lukashenko. We must continue to repeat our strong support for the people of Belarus and their struggle for democracy. We must continue to express our wish for Belarus to join the Council of Europe as a member state.

Thank you!

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:52:33

Thank you very much.

Dear colleagues, I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers list who have been present physically or remotely during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the Official Report provided that speakers connected remotely can report their actual presence when the debate is closed.

I remind colleagues that typewritten texts must be submitted electronically no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted. I remind you that at the end of a current affairs debate, the Assembly is not asked to decide upon a text; but the matter may and actually will be referred by the Bureau to the responsible committee for a report.

Thank you very much for your attention.

 

High Level Panel and interactive debate: Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention): 10 years on

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:02:51

Please, take your seats, ladies and gentlemen.

As you know, I am a very severe Chair of the Parliamentary Assembly. Of course, not as much as Maria, who is heading our Institution.

Video, please.

(Screening of a video)

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:04:37

Ladies and Gentleman,

I'd like to welcome all of you to Strasbourg, or rather from Strasbourg, the headquarters of the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly. A centre for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe where, of course, we have our European Convention of Human Rights. Where there are more than 200 conventions, including the Istanbul Convention to prevent and combat violence against women.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:05:10

I'm very pleased to start with a message by Ms Nadia MURAD who is a human rights activist, laureate of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. Recipient of the 2016 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

Ms Nadia MURAD is a leading advocate for survivors of genocide and of sexual violence. Through Nadia's Initiative, she advocates for resources and policy changes to protect and support survivors of sexual violence and rebuild communities in crisis.

As a member of France's Gender Advisory Council, [in French: I welcome the presence of the Minister], Ms Nadia MURAD advocates for the G7 member states to adopt legislation to protect and promote women's rights at UN level.

Ms Nadia MURAD and the Nadia's Initiative team were instrumental in drafting and advocating for the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2467, which expands the UN's commitment to end sexual violence in conflict.

Please know that the Istanbul Convention, which is fighting against violence against women, applies not only in situations of armed conflict, but also in times of peace.

Madam MURAD, we are very pleased to have you on board.

You have the floor.

Nadia Murad

Human Rights Activist

11:06:39

Thank you so much President, Mr Rik DAEMS.

Parliamentarians,

Friends,

Greetings,

For every setback our societies face women are forced ten steps back.

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the risk of exploitation and brutality against women worldwide.

Since the pandemic began, numerous countries have seen drastic increases in reports of domestic violence.

The few resources designated for prevention, rescue and rehabilitation are being stretched. As a result, women's health and safety is on the line.

It is now difficult for many women to access psychological support, health care and safe shelter.

For communities affected by conflict and displacement, these effects are often patent.

At the time when we should be fortifying women's rights, it is concerning to see support for the Istanbul Convention moving in the opposite direction. Now is not the time to back down. It is time to step up and prioritise the safety and wellbeing of women everywhere.

I have experienced first-hand the consequences of reckoning with international human rights protections. The promises of "never again" and the responsibility to protect were forgotten when the world watched ISIS commit genocide against my people, the Yazidis of Iraq.

As a result, sexual violence was used as a weapon of war. This violence was undeniably gendered. The abuse of women was used as an attempt to destroy our community from within.

Sadly, the international community is still falling short in providing comprehensive support to survivors and rescuing the 2,800 Yazidi women and children who remain in ISIS captivity.

The Istanbul Convention has the potential to make meaningful change for survivors like the Yazidis and women around the world by shifting the international norms around gender-based violence.

The Convention has already helped identify ways to shift from a reactive to a proactive approach. For example, economic empowerment allows survivors to reclaim their livelihoods and positions women to be less susceptible to exploitation.

Collecting data on gender-based violence provides a clear picture of the immediate need for services as well as an understanding of the patterns of abuse.

Accountability for sexual violence can facilitate healing and justice for survivors and also prevent future crimes by sending a clear message that perpetrators will not receive impunity.

The Council of Europe brought global attention to the issue of gender-based violence by passing the Istanbul Convention. You cannot now look away from what you correctly identified as one of the most dangerous and perversive human rights violations.

The gravity of this issue demands that it be addressed at every level in international bodies such as this, in your national governments and in our communities.

One solution will not work for everyone. Throughout the world, different socio-economic and political circumstances impact women's rights and require different solutions.

Compounding factors such as race, religion, class and access to health care, education and empowerment pose unique hurdles. That is why it is so critical that local communities and especially survivors be empowered with the tools and resources to lead preventative and responsive measures that are adapted to their specific needs.

In closing I ask you to consider this. Preventing gender-based violence does not deplete a community. It strengthens it and provides a foundation for success. This success starts with gender equality. One that includes the support and participation of men and boys.

In order to prevent sexual violence in times of war we must create a strong foundation of gender equality in times of peace. It is our duty as global citizens to collectively ensure the human rights of women and girls. Their safety, their respect and their humanity depend on all of us. We cannot let them down.

Thank you so much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:14:01

Thank you, Madam Nadia Murad, for this very important message.

We will now head into our panel but I would like to first recall each and every one of us that during these two hours that we are together, there will be thousands of women who will be beaten. There's a lot of violence against women at this very instant as we sit here. Even women will be beaten to death as we sit here. Just think about it. We're talking not just some cases, we're talking about thousands, thousands, thousands of incidents at this instance. Unfortunately, during the two hours that we speak, that we have an exchange of views, there will be women beaten to death. Just think about it. This is why this is so important that we do this not to celebrate a convention, but Madam Secretary General, to take stock and to see how we can step up our action to eradicate violence against women. Think about it.

We will head off with our panel. Just a few rules, ladies and gentlemen, since we will have an exchange of views. Our Members of Parliament will have full access to have a one-minute message, question to the panel. Our colleagues of the panel will have, as an introduction, five minutes. I hope that I will not exaggerate by asking each and every one of the panel to stick to the timing more or less. I do think that this is important in order to have each and every one express his or her views.

We respect each other's views. The convention is not an obligatory convention, but it is a convention of which we think that everyone should be there because it is a tool, it is a gold standard. There are elements in there that will, indeed, help each and every one of us to fight violence against women.

We will start off with our panel.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:16:14

It is now my pleasure and honour to introduce Mr Alexander De CROO, Prime Minister of Belgium, my Prime Minister.

Mr Alexander De CROO is the author of a book entitled The Century of Women – a man wrote it – in which he makes a strong plea for full equality between men and women. There is also a chapter devoted entirely to violence against women, which, according to the Prime Minister, is comparable to a pandemic, if not worse than a pandemic.

Mr Alexander De CROO combines theory with practice, with concrete action, as he is the head of the first parity federal government in Belgium with 20 members of government, 10 women and 10 men. He is also one of the first supporters of the SheDecides movement, which provides for the advancement of women's rights worldwide. He defines himself as a feminist and is proud of it.

Prime Minister, you have the floor.

Mr Alexander De CROO

Prime Minister of Belgium

11:17:23

Thank you very much Mr Rik DAEMS, distinguished President, and thank you for the kind introduction. 

Mr Alexander De CROO

Prime Minister of Belgium

11:17:34

You mentioned my book, which also exists in English, which is called "The Age of Women: Why Feminism Also Liberates Men" and one of the chapters is indeed about the fact that gender-based violence is a pandemic.

We know by now very well, all of us, what a pandemic is, but that pandemic has been going on for decades. The impact of the gender-based violence pandemic has been much harsher than anything we've seen related to Covid-19.

We've unfortunately also seen that the two pandemics add to each other, because in periods of crisis it is always women and girls who are disproportionately impacted by something that happens. That is the case with civil wars; that is unfortunately also the case with this Covid-19 pandemic.

What this is about, what this discussion is about is that every woman and every girl knows what their rights are and knows how to enforce them and knows that they can count on people to enforce their rights.

Now the facts and, Mr President, you mentioned them, the facts are appalling.

One out of five women is still victim of physical or sexual violence.

Every day seven women die from being beaten by their partners.

Since the start of the pandemic unfortunately, the emergency calls for these traumatic topics have increased even more so.

This has nothing to do with ideology, this is not an ideological topic. These are just the facts and this is unsustainable.

And it's not sustainable because from a human perspective it's unacceptable. It's against the humanity that we have, but it's also hampering the full development of our humanity.

How would we have a world where we would agree that for half of the population they should never get the opportunity to fully develop all the potential that they have?

I think that at this moment more than ever, the Istanbul Convention can help us to reverse this negative trend. The Istanbul convention is a success story. Today 34 states have ratified the Istanbul Convention. Those states have been working extensively to implement the convention at a national level.

The essential added value of this convention is that violence against women and domestic violence can no longer be left unpunished in the domestic sphere. Governments and state parties have the obligation to implement a zero-tolerance policy against any form of violence. I think we can be proud of that success.

But at 10 years old, the Istanbul Convention is also at a crossroads. One of its first state parties decided to withdraw from the convention. I must say that I deeply regret that. What type of message are you giving to women and girls around the world at a time where a health crisis has unfortunately increased domestic violence?

So what we need is a step up to prevent gender-based violence, to protect survivors, to prevent things like from happening. Belgium is determined to join the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and so many others, including civil society, in order to promote the convention loud and clear, and to lead by example by implementing it in the best possible way.

The promotion and protection of women's rights is a Belgian priority both in our domestic and in our foreign policy. Belgium is currently developing a sixth national action plan for the elimination of gender-based violence. We have also adopted additional measures in the framework of the Covid-19 crisis.

So, to conclude, I want to say that Belgium stands ready to share its experience. To share its experience, first of all, in the ratification and the implementation of the convention. Secondly, in the development and implementation of national action plans against gender-based violence.

The Belgian Institute for Equality of Women and Men regularly engages in technical exchanges with experts at a technical level.

So today, once again, I would like to invite other member states, members of the Council of Europe and beyond, to join our commitment to eliminate violence against women and girls by ratifying this convention.

I hope that today's event will contribute to the understanding of how crucial this is in the development of our societies.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:22:34

Thank you very much, Mister Prime Minister.

We now move to Madam Anca Dana DRAGU who is the President of the Senate of Romania. She is the first woman in history of Romania to hold this important post being elected in December of last year. She has served previously as Minister of Public Finance, she holds a PhD in economics. Now, Romania signed the Istanbul Convention in 2014 and ratified it two years later, but it was a process that had some challenges. So we look forward to hearing from Madam Anca Dana DRAGU about the progress with the implementation of the Istanbul Convention but, more specifically, colleague, Madam Speaker, of the process and the role of the parliament, the role of members of parliament, of how to succeed to ratify and put into practice the Istanbul Convention.

We're very happy to have you on board, Madam Speaker, you have the floor. Five minutes.

Anca Dana DRAGU

President of the Senate of Romania

11:23:43

Thank you so much. I'm delighted to be here with you today celebrating 10 years.

But, as you also mentioned, it is maybe not a celebration; it is a time of reflection and of the fact that we are at a crossroads.

It is the moment we need to push for the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. Unfortunately, violence against women continues to be the most common violation of fundamental human rights worldwide. There are serious consequences for individuals and for families, for society, with huge social and economic costs.

We know that during the pandemic violence against women increased and that there are more vulnerabilities that have been developed during this period of time.

As you said, Romania signed the Convention in 2014 and ratified it two years later in 2016. It was the beginning of a very complex process in which the legislation was revised, legislation and public policies were adopted to this convention. We also budgeted for new partnerships which were created with civil society, which has a fundamental role in this phenomenon to diminish violence against women.

In terms of legislative developments, let me mention, for instance, the introduction of the provisional protection order, the specific legal provisions on cyberviolence and the offender electronic monitoring digital system to be used in judicial and criminal procedures, which entered into force just last month.

Of course, besides all the positive developments, much still remains to be done and new challenges must be addressed. Fighting violence against women should be a continuous joint effort involving all national actors, which is enhanced by international co-operation.

This is also my priority as President of the Senate. Also as the first woman ever elected in this office, from the very beginning of my mandate, I have initiated in-depth public debates on women's empowerment and participation in decision-making processes, including the introduction of electoral gender quotas, which follows the zipper principle and on ways to eradicate all forms of gender-based violence and promote equal opportunities for men and women.

By taking a zero tolerance approach against women, I am committed to encourage an open dialogue between all state institutions with responsibilities in this field, the civil society, international organisations, and to open new channels of inter-parliamentary co-operation at bilateral and multilateral levels.

Let me take this opportunity to commend the Council of Europe for its remarkable work in relation to violence against women, to diminish and to eradicate this phenomenon and domestic violence. At the same time, I want to congratulate the Parliamentary Assembly whose recommendations, tools and guidance have helped parliaments for many years now already.

Ladies and gentlemen, Romania is committed to continuing to implement the provisions of the Istanbul Convention and encourages its signing and ratification by as many states as possible, so the remaining states should join the club.

This is a truly unique instrument.

If I were asked to sum up in two words why: I would say that the Istanbul Convention saves lives.

It saves the lives of women and ensures the future of children.

Our responsibility as parliamentarians is to integrate it in a comprehensive cross-sector national response to gender-based violence, including as part of the Covid-19 recovery process.

We should all be united to ensure that the Istanbul Convention will not be only words, but will turn into tangible actions with indicators, policy indicators, outcome indicators and specifically budget lines in our budgets.

We should all unite to eradicate this phenomenon and enable each and every woman to live safely from fear, and safely from violence.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:29:00

Thank you Madam Speaker.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:29:04

I now give the floor to the Minister, Ms Elisabeth MORENO, Minister Delegate to the Prime Minister for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities.

Your responsibilities, Madam, cover the coordination of the government's work on parity and equality between women and men, the fight against discrimination and against hatred towards lesbian, gay and trans people. One of your priorities is, in particular, to double the efforts to fight violence against women, towards the rigorous implementation of all the 46 — no less than 46 — measures from the 2019 Grenelle des violences conjugales, aimed at combating all forms of violence against women.

It is logical that my question, therefore, focuses on how to put the Convention into practice, both from a legislative point of view and, above all, from the point of view of concrete actions.

Through your presence, I would also like to welcome France's commitment to gender equality issues and the promotion of the Istanbul Convention at an international level through the Generation Equality Forum, to be held next week in Paris. Our Secretary General and I will have the pleasure to attend, as well as the Action Coalition on Gender Based Violence of which the Parliamentary Assembly is a member.

Madam Minister, with great pleasure and honour, I give you the floor.

Elisabeth MORENO

Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities, France

11:30:37

Thank you very much, Mr. President. It is my pleasure as well to be here.

Madam Secretary General,

Mr Prime Minister,

Distinguished President of the Senate, distinguished parliamentarians,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Ten years ago, the most ambitious treaty to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence was opened for signatures. France, along with Turkey, Slovakia and ten other states, were one of the very first signatories. I am very honoured to be here with you today to discuss this important subject.

For ten years, the Istanbul Convention has made it possible to save lives, as you mentioned, Madam President of the Senate. In France, several unprecedented measures have been taken, particularly since 2017, to fight violence against women and strengthen gender equality, which was one of the great causes of the five-year term by the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron.

In parallel with the visit to France of the group of experts on combating violence against women and domestic violence, or GREVIO, at the end of 2019, a national strategy, called the national forum - or grenelle - on domestic violence was adopted with the whole of government and state services, as well as civil society. It resulted in the formulation of 46 measures, some of which directly reflect the commitments made at the signing of the Istanbul Convention. I would like to mention a few of these measures.

Firstly, the information and counselling hotline, 3919, for women victims of violence, is now operational 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, in accordance with the GREVIO baseline assessment report.

Secondly, to facilitate the filing of complaints, we have trained more than 88,000 police officers and gendarmes on issues of domestic violence. We have issued a danger assessment grid in the police and gendarmerie services. This specific training for law enforcement agencies is in line with article 15 of the Convention.

Thirdly, in order to provide shelter for victims and families, the government has increased the number of slots in shelters dedicated to women victims of violence by 60% since 2016, bringing us closer to the very high standard set in the explanatory report of the Convention.

And, finally, the stay-away GPS bracelets to enable the geolocation of the violent partner has been generalised throughout the country.

For each of these measures, we have been able to rely on what the Istanbul Convention says, and on what the GREVIO evaluation reports and the recommendations of the Committee of the Parties teach us. We have saved lives.

But the scourge of violence against women and domestic violence spares no country, even those with the best laws in place. It causes more than 90,000 deaths of women a year worldwide, even more than armed conflicts.

Since the French presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in 2019, France has prioritised the universalisation of the Istanbul Convention as one of the main goals of its feminist diplomacy, so that any state that wishes to do so can raise its protection standards based on this document.

We hope that the ratification process in Europe will be completed, in particular thanks to the mobilisation of all of you, parliamentarians from the European continent, who are ready to form the "Equality Generation". It is not enough to look at the progress made in Europe over the last ten years. The time has come to make ambitious, concrete and measurable commitments so that the right to a life free of violence becomes a reality for the next generations of women and girls throughout the world.

This is what we are striving to do at the Generation Equality Forum which will take place in Paris next week, and we will be happy to see you all there. The innovative format of the Generation Equality Forum will set it apart from previous feminist gatherings. It will bring together not only heads of state and government and international organisations, but also all the other actors of change, including civil society, the private sector and, of course, your Assembly of parliamentarians.

All these actors will have to make commitments, whether financial, programmatic or legislative, in one of the six coalitions of thematic actions on priority themes, in particular gender-based violence, bodily autonomy, sexual rights and health or economic justice and rights.

I am delighted, Mr President of the Parliamentary Assembly, that you are bringing the voice of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to the Generation Equality Forum on the very day on which Turkey's withdrawal from the Convention will be effective. By making the universalisation of the Istanbul Convention a strong commitment at the coalition of action on gender-based violence, you will be sending a powerful message to the international community, and I would like to thank you for that.

For it is indeed gender inequalities and preconceived notions of the roles that men should play in society that underlie violence against women. Gender stereotypes everywhere help to shape a different life path for girls and boys. The academic world and the world of work are segregated; wage and pension inequalities persist; women are still under-represented in leadership positions in companies or in political life - this is, moreover, I believe, the subject of the excellent parliamentary report by Mrs Eglantina GJERMENI which you will be debating this afternoon. 

Ladies and gentlemen, you can all play a crucial role in the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, in its implementation and, more generally, as agents of change in attitudes. I know that the debates in several countries on the Istanbul Convention or even on the very concept of gender have been fraught with misunderstandings and untruths. Make no mistake about it and commit yourself.

Make a clear commitment, regardless of your political affiliation, religion or gender, to this Istanbul Convention.

This is a means of saving the lives of women and girls who are victims of domestic violence in their own households.

There is no other international instrument that better protects women in the world.

It is the responsibility of all of us.

I thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:38:16

Thank you, Madam Minister.

We now come to Ms Dubravka ŠIMONOVIC.

Ms Dubravka ŠIMONOVIC is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, it's causes and consequences.

Ms Dubravka ŠIMONOVIC knows very well the Istanbul Convention. She was the co-chair of the Ad Hoc Committee CAHVIO, [In French: is that how it's called?], which was the committee that prepared the Convention. So it is to a certain extent, Ms Dubravka ŠIMONOVIC, she is a co-author of it.

The United Nations recognises the Istanbul Convention by far as the most advanced international legal instrument which, together with the UN's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and other regional treaties, provides us with a solid global human rights legal framework to strategically and effectively address all forms of violence against women.

Madam ŠIMONOVIC, I would be very grateful if you, being one of the drafters of the Istanbul Convention, could focus a little a bit on how the Convention started and specifically, as was mentioned by the Minister, how to tackle some of the issues surrounding the Convention today. Gender, politics, traditional values.

Madam ŠIMONOVIC, you have the floor. Five minutes please.

Dubravka ŠIMONOVIĆ

United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences

11:39:32

Thank you very much, Mr President of the Parliamentary Assembly.

Thank you for this invitation to participate in this important commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Istanbul Convention as United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

This is a particularly important discussion for me. Firstly, as United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, I am using the Istanbul Convention as a part of international human rights framework to address measures needed to combat and prevent violence against women since I'm entrusted by the United Nations Human Rights Council to use an international human rights framework. The Istanbul Convention is now an integral part of international human rights framework focused on eliminating and preventing violence against women and domestic violence.

Secondly, as you have mentioned, I was very fortunate to participate in the elaboration of the Istanbul Convention as the co-hair of the ad hoc committee, the CAHVIO committee that elaborated the Convention from 2008 to 2010. At that time I was also the committee expert. But before that I was also president of the Council of Europe task force on domestic violence against women, that led a very important campaign against violence against women from 2006 to 2008. I was entrusted to propose measures at the level of the Council of Europe to combat and prevent violence against women.

This task force in its final report recommended the elaboration of the Convention on the elimination of violence against women. At the same time the ministers of justice proposed elaboration of the Convention on domestic violence. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe proposed the elaboration of the Convention on gender-based violence. So the committee of ministers decided to establish an ad hoc drafting committee that was entrusted also to decide on the scope of this convention. And we have spent two sessions of this committee to decide the scope which covers violence against women and domestic violence.

So this Convention from the moment of its adoption and its opening for ratification in 2011 is growing. Not only by the number of ratifications - we have 34- but also as a powerful roadmap on legal and other measures needed in areas of prevention of violence against women, protection of victims, prosecution of perpetrators, and coordination of all those measures. This could be used by all states all over the world.

As a UN Special Rapporteur, I am using the Istanbul Convention as an important human rights instrument with respect to Council of Europe member states since 2015. I have been a UN Special Rapporteur and over the past years six I have visited 11 countries and elaborated 11 thematic reports. From those country visits and thematic reports, I could verify very huge gaps between international norms in the Istanbul Convention and UN conventions, mainly CEDAW Convention, and national laws and their implementation.

So, for example, I visited Georgia before the ratification of the Istanbul Convention by Georgia that was on the way. I recommended its ratification, which was done after that. But I have also visited Bulgaria which did not yet ratify the Istanbul Convention. I can recommend its ratification, so I have very complete proposals and measures that should be addressed by the government. I would like to recommend that all Council of Europe member states ratify the Istanbul convention, including the European Union.

But I'm also recommending that all states all over the world use their provisions as a model provisions for the elaboration of national laws and as a roadmap for the implementation of the UN declaration on the elimination of violence against women.

Because there are many synergies, there are many definitions that are the same. The UN declaration on the elimination of violence against women is defining violence against women as gender-based violence against women.

The same goes for CEDAW general recommendation number 19.

Let me mention that I have prepared a framework model legislation for rape. My next report is addressing rape as a human rights violation. It will be presented to the human rights council on 28th June. Because currently there is widespread impunity for perpetrators of rape and a lack of justice for victims.

Currently we can observe a culture of impunity for the perpetrators and victims who are not reporting rape, a lack of data, high attrition rates and the lack of harmonisation of criminal laws, also for the Council of Europe member states with respect to the Istanbul Convention.

So I would like to say that now those provisions of the Istanbul Convention that are addressing rape, criminalisation, and prosecution of rape are very important standards that are reflected in my report on rape. My report could be now also used as a tool to implement the Istanbul Convention.

Just briefly with respect to pushbacks against women's rights and gender equality: they are not only against the Istanbul Convention. In different parts of the world, we are seeing the same arguments against gender equality, against the term gender, and so on. The way forward is to use independent human rights mechanisms like GREVIO which is observing the Istanbul Convention, my mandate CEDAW, and the other seven of us. The UN Secretary-General called all of us to push back those pushback movements. Independent mechanisms are here to help with respect to pushbacks, but we should be better supported. The Istanbul Convention should be valued and promoted and should be used by all humanity. It should be globalised.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:46:08

Thank you very much. 

We now turn to our own Secretary General of the Council of Europe, who is the beholder and the guardian of all Council of Europe conventions, amongst them obviously the Istanbul Convention.

Madam Secretary General, we all know your deep commitment towards this promotion of the Istanbul Convention, but what is perhaps a little bit less known, is that when you were Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Croatia, you had to tackle the debates in your country about possible misunderstandings around the convention and beliefs that the domestic legal order was sufficient to tackle the scourge of violence against women and girls.

So Madam Secretary General, we would like to hear from you as to what the Convention represents for upholding women's rights, why it is a golden standard, promoting gender equality, ending violence against women, and what is the added value of the convention as to this effect.

Madam Secretary General, I am very pleased to give you the floor. 5 minutes, please.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe

11:47:16

Mr President of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Prime Minister, Mr Alexander de Croo,

Ms President, Ms Anca Dana Dragu,

Minister, Ms Elisabeth Moreno, 

Ms Dubravka Šimonovic, 

Ms Nadia Murad,

Distinguished members,

It's a pleasure to address you on a subject that is close to your hearts and to mine.

We share a commitment to end violence against women and domestic violence, and an understanding that the Istanbul Convention is central to that task. The Assembly has played a key role in making the case for the treaty. You have stood behind it four square over the course of the past decade.

As we mark the treaty's 10th anniversary, its success to date owes much to you.

Ratified by 34 of our member states, with non-member states asking to join the United Nations, it is right to describe it as a gold standard.

Its aims are simple and clear: to prevent violence against women, to protect those who become victims, and to ensure the prosecution of perpetrators.

All the evidence suggests that where the Istanbul Convention is enforced, it has brought about positive change.

Our monitoring body GREVIO has so far issued evaluation reports to 17 countries that are treaty members. These are an invaluable source of the European Court of Human Rights in adjudicating cases. They show that each and every country evaluated has moved to amend its domestic laws so that these align with the treaty.

From these reports other important trends emerge. Movement by governments towards a consent based definition of rape; the classification of stalking as a specific criminal offence; and the introduction of sexual harassment offences, ranging from intimidation online to the non-consensual sharing of sexual images often known as revenge porn, and which has taken a terrible toll on many women and girls.

GREVIO has found improvements in the way such offences are handled by law enforcement, prosecution services and the judiciary.

The expansion of police units specialising in sexual and domestic violence is a case in point.

The European Women's Lobby has also done a lot to support the Istanbul Convention and report on its implementation. In every area it has examined policy, protection, prevention and prosecution, it has found that most countries that have ratified the treaty have made change for the better.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe

11:50:33

It is so important. No woman should have to fear for her safety and yet there are still too many women who do.

We have all read or heard stories of their suffering. We all know women who have been abused: friends, colleagues, family members who sometimes trust us enough to ask for help but sometimes suffer in silence. The recent outbreak of violence during the Covid-19 lockdown tells us how fragile the gains we have made are. That is why we must move forward.

Yes, there are preconceptions and misconceptions about the purpose behind the Istanbul Convention. It was on the basis of these misconceptions that one of our member States withdrew from that Convention. Our best response to these misconceptions is to widen the circle of states parties to this treaty. We have already started: last Thursday I received an instrument of ratification from Liechtenstein, and I welcome that. Other member States, such as Ukraine and the United Kingdom, are also making progress towards ratification.

In these and all countries, the support from parliamentarians is crucial. But to persuade other countries to follow suit, we must take every opportunity to promote an open, honest and positive discourse around the Istanbul Convention. A discourse that is understood by the highest judicial authorities, by the Latvian Constitutional Court, for example, which stressed earlier this month that the scope of the Istanbul Convention is limited to the elimination of violence against women and domestic violence.

We need to be clear about what this multilateral treaty provides, which no single government can recreate. It is not just about raising national standards: it is about having a unique, independent international monitoring mechanism that helps to bring about change – difficult, but positive change – and cooperation between countries so that their authorities work together to bring to justice those who choose to commit crimes against women.

The Council of Europe is at the forefront of this issue. Nothing will make us move backwards, on the contrary. This organisation as a whole and each of its components will join forces and make further progress in the interests of women, throughout Europe and beyond.

Thank you for your commitment and support.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:54:25

I wish to thank all of our five panellists for the first remarks. We will come back to you while we have some exchange of views with our members of parliament.

I will try to be fair and to direct some of the issues to each and every one of you. Sometimes it might be a little bit surprising but, hey, this is a hemicycle. You're in the parliament, so you know that you can be a little bit surprised.

So, Madam Speaker, Mister Prime Minister, Madame la Ministre, Madam Secretary General, Madam General Rapporteur, I do recall very briefly a couple of elements before going to the representatives of the political groups.

Men should be on board. Zero tolerance. Budgets should be there. You have to have the means to do something. You have to be engaged. There are no misinterpretations possible. They can only be abuse, if you can say it like that. Push back against equality of men and women is in the room, not in this one, but it is in the room. The Istanbul Convention has made changes for the better, that is very clear. This is only an intermediary phase. It's been 10 years but this is like a step up that we are looking for. More countries than we thought are coming on board, and I believe that even during this session we will get some news concerning that.

One of the things that are very important is that this is one of the sole conventions, ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, where parliaments are fully involved. This is why I now turn to the representatives of the political groups. We will have 2 minutes by each representative of a political group. Please stick to the 2 minutes. I will start with the representative of the Socialist group, Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE.

Selin, you have the floor. By video. I hope you are there.

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

11:56:32

I salute everybody on behalf of the Socialist Democrats and Greens Group.

Ownership and agency of change, solidarity, truth, resources; these four key concepts will build the future of our rights.

Ownership and agency of change. Now the Istanbul Convention was born out of centuries-long political and social struggle of women for their rights. It was a hard one. It was not granted by the grace of any political power or individuals. Its powerful roots lie in this history. Its powerful roots lie in this very organisation and throughout our geography. It is not a foreign imposition. It is all of ours, we did it.

Now this panel, I think, is proof of a strong political ownership. But what is more critical is ownership by millions of gender-equality fighters who are the actual change agents. Hundreds of thousands of women continue to rally throughout Europe, calling for high-level authorities to effectively implement the Istanbul Convention, not withdraw from it. Here I salute you on behalf of the millions of women of Turkey with whom I stand shoulder to shoulder and I am proud to represent, who continue to hold on to the Istanbul Convention despite the unlawful presidential decision to withdraw from the Convention despite all political oppression. This is where solidarity comes in. The survival of the Convention is possible by solidarity of all people who believe in democracy and human rights. We need to stand strong against unlawful attempts of withdrawals and in support of those ratifying the Convention.

Truth, it falls on all of us to nurture truth to tirelessly speak of facts. We have to ensure the safety of millions does not fall victim to the destructiveness of the post-truth era, misinformation built mostly by misogynist interest groups and populist politicians who surrendered to them.

Resources: we need sufficient funds for strong social public investment plans for an adequate number of shelters, free helplines, among others.

We will not give up on our lives and on our rights. Let's not give up on each other. The Istanbul Convention saves lives.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:58:42

Thank you.

We now move to Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN on behalf of the EPP group. I think Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN is in the room.

Ria, you have the floor. Two minutes please.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

11:58:56

First of all I would like to thank all the panellists. Those are moving statements.

Dear colleagues,

The Istanbul Convention is the most far-reaching international treaty designed for tackling violence against women. Women in and outside their homes. As a member of the Group of the European People's Party I'm absolutely proud that I am allowed to defend and to promote the 10-year-old Convention.

Dear colleagues,

We are all all aware of the misinformation about the Convention. Misinformation in some of our countries. But there is no hidden agenda. The Convention was adopted, let me stress that once again, in consensus. In consensus by all members of the Council of Europe. The Convention sets out minimum standards on prevention, on protection and prosecution of violence against women. If a country wants to do more, then it is allowed. There were and there are many myths about the Convention. I got a brochure yesterday from our Ukrainian colleagues. I also saw the positive judgment in Lithuania. After all, if we really want a society in which every human being can feel him or herself safe, a society where we all are protected, then we need the protection and the enforcement of this Convention.

Mister Chairman, dear colleagues,

I was absolutely disappointed yesterday about the answer given to my colleague Ms Ingjerd SCHOU from the Hungarian Presidency. If they want to do more, they can.

I was in 2010 and 2012 rapporteur on Turkey. I was so proud of the safehouses. When I see now what they are doing, I am asking them to come back on this issue. Come back and allow women to be protected.

Thanks a lot.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:01:17

Thank you very much.

We will now move to Ms Petra STIENEN on behalf of the ALDE group.

Petra, you have the floor.

2 minutes please.

Ms Petra STIENEN

Netherlands, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

12:01:34

Dear colleagues, on behalf of the ALDE group, I would like to ask to call a spade a spade. I see the metaphor "shadow pandemic" a lot, but violence against women is not a disease, it is not a pandemic. It is a serious human rights violation and the Istanbul Convention, if you want medicine, then I think we should have lots of drops of medicine from the Istanbul Convention.

Dear colleagues, trying to undermine or leave a human rights convention on the basis of upholding family values is adding insult to injury. Because, how can anyone argue that it is part of upholding families, family values, to intimidate, assault, beat, stalk, rape or murder a woman? So will we accept in this house and in our national parliaments the polarisation around misconceptions on the Istanbul Convention? Or will we join forces across the aisle and work together to stop violence against women? Because that would indeed protect human rights and dignity of all of our families, whatever shape and form they have, all over the Council of Europe member states.

The ALDE group is pleased with the ratification by Lichtenstein and hopes many other states within the Council of Europe and beyond will sign and ratify this important human rights convention. In the ALDE group we also believe, since violence against women is predominantly perpetrated by men, men's engagement in combating this human rights violation is crucial. Therefore, I have a special request to the male politicians in this Plenary: look up Article 12.4 of the Istanbul Convention, as it calls on all members of society, especially men and boys, to contribute actively to prevent violence against women.

Please, dear male colleagues, online and in the hemicycle, take your responsibility and become an ally in ending the worldwide violation of women's rights and convince your governments to uphold, sign, ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:03:47

We now move to Mr John HOWELL.

You see these little seconds that go over time and then when you add them up, it makes a lot.

We now go to John HOWELL on behalf of the European Conservatives.

John, online. You have the floor.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

12:04:04

Thank you, Mister President.

I am absolutely committed to the Istanbul Convention as is the UK government, and we are in the process, as the Secretary General has said, of moving to ratify that.

Violence against women seriously violates and impacts or nullifies women's enjoyment of their human rights. It should be stamped out as quickly as possible. But in the course of moving towards the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, which we think is an excellent standard and excellent benchmark from which to proceed, we have come across additional ways of ensuring that the rights of women can be better protected. The question that I have for all of us to answer is how we can ensure that we make sure that we capture those additional ways of improving the lives of women to make sure that the Istanbul Convention remains a living document rather than one which we just sign and then we then we forget about.

I understand the frustration that we have, not as a country yet been able to ratify the Convention, but I can reassure everyone that we believe that it is better to change the law first to meet the conditions of the Convention rather than do that as a secondary thing. As I say, it has been a very instructive process for us in being able to work out additional ways in which we can help to make sure the violence against women remains a thing of the past.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:05:54

Thank you, dear John.

We now move to Mr Tiny KOX, the chair of the United Left in the room.

Tiny, you have the floor. 2 minutes.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

12:06:06

In my opinion the Istanbul Convention, that is first and foremost men, it is men who use violence against women. It is men who harass, beat, rape and kill wives, mothers, daughters. Women, they know well, women they do not know at all. Relatives and strangers, colleagues and subordinates, servants and women who will happen to have the bad luck to just be passing by. The scale of harassment of women, the number of men who violate women in their integrity and their dignity is all enormous and it's all inexcusable. The good news is that most men do not violate them, the bad news is that far too many men still do and that the numbers ten years after the start of the Convention to combat and prevent violence against women and domestic violence are still frighteningly high and have, especially in the recent Covid-19 crisis, dangerously increased.

Ten years ago in this very hemicycle, the then Chair of the Committee of Ministers, told us that he was delighted that the draft convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence was transmitted to our Assembly. And that he was eagerly waiting for our opinion so that the Convention could be open soon for signing by all member states in Istanbul.

Some months later, the then President of our Assembly, stated that this new Convention was a fundamental consideration, valid for any country in any geographical area in the world. There could not be any real gender equality as long as violence against women would persist. No culture, no religion, no tradition could be used to justify violence and inequality between human beings. Freedom from violence was, the then President said, a basic human right without which all the other rights would become meaningless.

I do thank Ahmet Davutoğlu and Mevlüt Çavuşağlu for the wisdom and hope they then expressed in this hemicycle with regard to the enormous importance of the Istanbul Convention. And I do sincerely hope that the wisdom and hope, then expressed, will keep growing throughout Europe and the world and we will come back to those who now tend to distance themselves from the Istanbul Convention by, the now most prominent international standard, which orders men to behave and offers women most needed protection. 

Nothing more, nothing less, let us all stand firm for the Istanbul Convention.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:08:30

Thank you very much.

I will now turn for a couple of minutes to our panel.

So beware, beware.

I think that one of the first issues, Mister Prime Minister, that comes up all the time is about women needing to be involved.

If you could give us a couple of head-ups on how you see that we, as men, and since you've written a book on it, how we can indeed come on board.

Please, do so in a couple of minutes, not too much because we've got so many things to discuss.

You've got the floor.

Mr Alexander De CROO

Prime Minister of Belgium

12:09:01

Yes.

Well, first of all thank you for the great discussion and engagement we are all showing on this topic.

Yes. I think that the topic of feminism in the broad sense has for way too long been seen as a topic which is about women, so only women can give their opinion on it. I think that's wrong for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is that, yes, very often the reason why women are not getting the same opportunity as men have is because men play a certain role.

Also, I think that if only women are allowed to talk or to have an opinion on this topic, it creates very often a blocking mechanism amongst men which very often would have the feeling like "okay, we are feeling threatened by what is happening". Which, of course, is the wrong perspective.

I would actually go further. I think that feminism is a good thing for everyone and that it's also a good thing for men. Women get stereotyped, but men get very often stereotyped, as well. If you have a more open discussion and if you can convince men why this topic is important in a general sense, and if they would not be convinced in a general sense, because it's also a good thing for themselves, I think we can get much further on delicate topics such as gender-based violence.

Why would we agree with a society where we invest in education for everyone but then afterwards you would say "well our ambition is to have the highest educated housewives in the world"? What's the benefit of that? What a massive waste of talent this is.

What we need is men who want to take the lead and in this, and who want to take the lead in this because they understand that they're playing a pivotal role in ending discrimination and in ending gender-based violence.

We see that things are moving. We see that more and more men are willing to play that role, willing to play that role because they think it's right for the common good but also maybe for some of them and because they understand that this is not something that is threatening. It's actually something which I think is also liberating for men.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:11:39

Thank you, Mister Prime Minister.

I would like to go to Ms Dubravka ŠIMONOVIC overseas, because when we speak about men and their role, so to say, we head into family values and the way we look at family values.

Now, with hindsight Madam ŠIMONOVIC, if you allow me to do so, you as one of the drafters of the Convention, how would you respond to all those who say that the Istanbul Convention might be, or is, contrary to family values?

Please, in a minute if possible.

Dubravka ŠIMONOVIĆ

United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences

12:12:12

Thank you very much for this question.

With respect to this claim that it is against family values, it is basically claimed that it is negating human rights, in general. If you look at human rights area especially the CEDAW Convention, the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women that all Council of Europe member States have ratified, there is a specific article there on equality within families. There are human rights of women within families that should be implemented by all Council of Europe member States as members of the CEDAW Convention. Those rights are enshrined in other human rights instruments. I also remember that we have recently commemorated 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action.

For preparation of Beijing Platform for Action, states also had movements against the Beijing Platform for Action as something against family values. We are seeing this type of argument coming from conservative forces that are, in general, against human rights including the human rights of women and all those excellent principles related to equality between women and men that are enshrined in the CEDAW Convention but also in the Istanbul Convention.

If I may add with respect to questions posed by the UK MP, there are other measures for implementation because the CEDAW Committee as expert mechanisms, as well as my mandate, are living. We are able to interpret those instruments and to recommend the measures that are addressing specific gaps. To be very concrete, if any State is going to claim very specific kinds of attack coming from the Istanbul Convention with respect to family values, it should be specified. Then we respond by recalling principles that protect all persons from domestic violence and women and girls from violence against women. There are specific measures that should be addressed. With respect to, for example, this area of rape, because I have received inputs from different states from all over the world, but are also from Council of Europe member States, altogether 207 inputs, it is clear that in many states, laws are not aligning with the Istanbul Convention, and they are not in line with the UN's CEDAW Conventions.

We have a main problem of the lack of full implementation. Let me mention the area, for example, of sexual consent, in some Council of Europe member States, it is still possible to have sexual consent of a child of 12 years old. It is something that is not acceptable, it is not in line with the Istanbul Convention, and it is not in line with UN's CEDAW Convention. For that reason, I think that it would be very important to challenge such laws, to change them and to use both instruments jointly. They are improving family values and not against.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:15:34

Thank you.

I do apologise that I have to intervene once in awhile because we can discuss about it in length. Of course, if the panellists agree, we can take one or two more hours, I would gladly do so. I can tell you that all the members of parliament present will gladly do so.

I will now move to our first list of speakers. We will come to some of the other panellists because I have got so many questions already on my list. We will do this as follows, dear colleagues, we will have 10 speakers. Please, stay within the one minute because the time you take away from the one minute, is time you take away from a colleague.

Ten members all in the room except for the last one, who will be on board from Mexico. The first speaker on my list is Ms Nicole TRISSE.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:16:16

The first speaker on my list is Ms Nicole TRISSE.

Are you in the room, Madam TRISSE?

You have 1 minute speaking time.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE

12:16:27

Thank you, Mr President.

The Istanbul Convention is one of the most important treaties that the Council of Europe has initiated and drafted. It has even been described as a "gold standard" by the United Nations.

Unfortunately, it remains a fragile achievement and is struggling to gain acceptance everywhere. Today, only 34 of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe have ratified it. On 1 July, the first signatory, Turkey, is due to withdraw from it, which I deeply regret.

I deeply regret this, because the cold, sad reality is clear to us all. A few figures: in the European Union, one woman in ten has been subjected to sexual violence and one in twenty to rape; 3,500 women die every year as a result of being beaten by their partner or ex-partner in Europe. In my own country, a murder of this kind occurs every three days, and feminicides are becoming ever more sordid and shocking, even in the street.

I would like to give you a testimony, a testimony from a member of Parliament. Along with a number of other members of parliament, I was a referent at the Grenelle to combat domestic violence. Like my colleagues, I received many testimonies from battered women. Among ourselves, we affectionately called them "the Catherines". Why Catherine? Because it was a first name and it is still a very common name. More than 220,000 Catherines exist in France. I'm sorry, I have to finish because it comes from the heart and it is absolutely necessary to say that. We talk about feminicides, but we don't talk enough about battered women. So I'll finish, excuse me. This is the estimated number of battered women: more than 220,000 in France.

Look around you: take two minutes to look at the names that are commonly used, whether it's Maria or Christine or Elisabeth, whatever, and you'll understand the immensity, the magnitude of this scourge.

I really appeal to all parliamentarians and politicians in all countries. We must mobilise. The ratification of the Istanbul Convention is an obvious and urgent matter, and we must be effective.

Thank you and excuse me.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:18:28

Thank you, Nicole.

I understand the emotions, but I would like to ask everyone to keep to the minute, because this is time that will be lost for colleagues. And I fully understand.

We now move on to Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW.

You have the floor, one minute, please.

Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW

Sweden, UEL

12:18:50

Colleagues, when I say I'm a feminist, people will react because I'm a man. But if feminism is the radical idea that women are equal to men, then every sensible man should be a feminist.

We need to realise that women's rights are human rights. They are not separate from human rights. They are actual 'keyword' human rights.

We are an institution that supposedly should be safeguarding the principles of democracy and human rights.

As member states we must live up to our commitment to the principles of equality and human rights and justice for all. That includes women.

The Istanbul Convention is the world's most comprehensive tool for protecting women against violence. It is a result of centuries of struggle for equality for women.

Talk of leaving the convention would deprive Turkey and Turkish women of a vital tool to counter this violence.

Let us recall that the purpose of the convention is to prevent violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators. It upholds woman's fundamental rights to a life free of violence.

I challenge all men in this hemicycle, all men in the member states, all men in the world to take a clear stand against violence against women, and to support this very important tool.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:20:18

You see, when the heart speaks it gets tough to stay within the time.

But the heart is more important. Please, stay, if possible, within the minute. Not if possible: stay within it.

We now have Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ in the room. Laima, where are you? You have the floor.

I don't see her. We move to the next on my list, Ms Ingjerd SCHOU.

Ingjerd, you have the floor.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD

12:20:51

Dear President and colleagues,

The Istanbul Convention is very important. It improves the lives of women and children all over Europe. Yet, there are member states that have still not ratified it. There are member states that have not signed, and there are even member states withdrawing. This is deeply worrying. It is preventing the convention from helping as many as it could.

President, our organization is currently shared by a member state whose parliament has rejected its ratification. They argue that their laws give women and children better protection than what implementing the convention would. However, and I asked what the problem is, the convention is a minimum standard.

If their laws are in fact better, ratifying would be no problem. I appeal to all Hungarian colleagues present today to take the message from our keynote speaker and the debate back to Hungary. The Istanbul Convention protects families. It must be implemented in national legislation to keep women and children safe.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:22:01

Thank you, Ms Ingjerd SCHOU.

We now go to Ms Petra BAYR, here in front of me.

Ms Petra BAYR, you have the floor. 1 minute.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC

12:22:08

If you own a real precious treasure, the gold standards of legal protection of women from all forms of violence. If this treasure doesn't get less, if you share it but in contrast it becomes more potential if you apply it to more people, a real precious and mighty tool to protect women from violence, the more signatures, ratifications and implementations there are you consider your self really lucky.

We all would unveil ourselves unintelligent if we would not promote and advocate in favour of this Istanbul Convention. It is to protect women from violence, not to interfere in domestic culture, not to abolish men and women, not to introduce same-sex marriage, no. It's just about the protection of women from all forms of violence. We must not deprive women of this fundamental human right, nowhere in this world.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:23:13

Thank you, Madam Petra BAYR.

We now move to Mr Dara CALLEARY in the room.

You have the floor.

Where is Mr Dara CALLEARY?

Oh, he is online but I don't hear him.

Mister Dara CALLEARY, you have to put on your mic.

Mr Dara CALLEARY

Ireland, ALDE

12:23:32

Thank you, Mister President.

Just to welcome this debate, but let's not get carried away by the 10th anniversary.

We have seen, in the last 12-15 months of this pandemic, a rise in many countries of reports of domestic violence.

I would ask the panel, if in the context of that experience they were to update the Convention, an update on the lessons that we have learned from the pandemic, what would they put into the Convention?

I would ask the Prime Minister, if he would commit on behalf of all prime ministers to give the same level of unity and attention to the pandemic of domestic violence and of violence against women, as he and his colleague prime Mministers and governments gave to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:24:19

Thank you very much, Dara.

We now move to our next speaker, Ms Maria RIZZOTTI.

Maria, you have the floor.

Ms Maria RIZZOTTI

Italy, EPP/CD

12:24:46

There are 34 out of 47 member states in the Council of Europe, but 10 years after the adoption of the Istanbul Convention, there is a resurgence of prevaricating attitudes towards women. Turkey, the first signatory, is leaving the Convention, and I fear that others will follow.

Fundamentalism has many faces, the fear of control over women and their self-determination. I think of the 63 girls and young women killed in a school in Kabul only a few years ago. I'm thinking of Saman Abbas, a young Pakistani woman of 18, killed in Italy a month ago by her own family because she had refused an arranged marriage. The Italian social services had protected and housed her, but she decided to return home after a misleading message from her mother and that same evening she was strangled.

Her name is Saman but there are so many like her living in our countries who just want to go to school, to be educated, but within the family they experience violence as a result of fundamentalism within their families, and despite our laws, we're not in a position to protect such vulnerable children.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:26:02

Thank you very much.

We now come to our next speaker who is Ms Elvira KOVÁCS.

You have the floor.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD

12:26:15

Thank you, Distinguished Chair,

The sad fact is that in every country in the world, women experience sexual, physical and emotional violence. Violence against women is a huge problem, the effects of it are lasting and difficult to overcome. It is a human rights violation which inevitably leads to other violations and therefore makes equal opportunities for women and men impossible to achieve.

Domestic violence is a form of gender-based violence, discrimination and denial of equal opportunities. Its victims might not have the chance of reconstructing themselves, of finding a job, another partner, another home. Some of them will not have the chance to survive. Therefore, I believe that it is important that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe fights for these women’s right to have a second chance.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:27:12

Thank you very much.

We now come to Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS.

Mister Dimitrios KAIRIDIS, you have the floor.

Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS

Greece, EPP/CD

12:27:21

Thank you, Mister President.

I speak to you this morning humbled, shocked and appalled, as all my compatriots back home in Greece, by a hideous crime against a young woman, a wife and a mother of a young child who was recently murdered by her husband. Reminding us all of the continuous problem we are faced with.

I took the floor to raise my voice against the pressures the Istanbul Convention faces today.

Let me be clear, the demographic decline — especially in Eastern Europe—, should be no excuse to violate or restrict the rights of women. We can deal with the serious challenge of the demographic decline without violating them and in full respect of women's rights and women's dignity today.

Let me stress the importance of education as a father of a boy and a girl, how important it is. And ask my colleagues from Turkey, Turkey is a big country, a Muslim majority country, an important country, it should be on board to send a message not only to the women of Turkey but to all its neighbours around and beyond Europe on how important it is to have it on board.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:28:43

Thank you.

We now go to Mexico if everything goes well with our colleague Mr Héctor VASCONCELOS.

Héctor, ¿estás allá? Héctor, tiene la palabra. [In Spanish: "Héctor, are you there? Héctor, you have the floor.]

Mr Héctor VASCONCELOS

Mexico

12:28:58

Very good.

Mister President, ladies and gentlemen.

I will avail myself of this occasion to inform you, that first of all, Mexico, you may not know this, that Mexico has been invited to join the Istanbul Convention and we are well on our way to finishing the internal procedures necessary for the Mexican Government to be able to announce officially that Mexico will adopt this Convention.

We are almost there, I think that very, very soon I will be able to inform you all that Mexico is a member of this Convention and we will do that with great conviction and feeling both pleased and honoured by this invitation.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:29:53

Thank you, Héctor.

So, if everything goes well, Madam Secretary General, we will have Mexico on board, which brings me to you to explain briefly why this Convention is not a convention solely to the European, if you wish, geographical space, but it is a convention that indeed goes beyond Europe as such.

Please, two minutes on this issue.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe

12:30:18

Thank you very much.

Now we speak about the Istanbul Convention. But let me use this opportunity to say that many of our conventions are meant to help either good governance or spreading this area of human rights, democracy and the rule of low far beyond our borders.

Let me say that in cybercrime prevention it's a case in point.

I'm very pleased to have heard this news that there is an observer state of the Council of Europe engaging on this important path. I think it speaks by itself. I think the fact that from the UN point of view we heard how it's seen as the gold standard in this area and at the moment probably the only international treaty dealing with this issue.

It goes without saying that it is offered to all the countries around the globe who are wishing to improve the protection of women against violence and domestic violence.

I can only welcome it. When it was conceived and was developed, it was intended to mean for women all around the world. I would be glad to know that we will hear about many more countries to join the Istanbul Convention or to be inspired by the Istanbul Convention to develop their national legislation and implementation of the important work.

I can only commend Mexico for this announcement and look forward to hearing more.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:32:07

Thank you very much.

I would like to go now to the speaker of the Senate. I heard one of our colleagues say, Mister Prime Minister, that you have to forge a coalition of prime ministers supporting the Istanbul Convention, but I will go now to the speaker of the Romanian parliament and ask her the question. Madam speaker, do you think it would be a good idea for you, as our Prime Minister has been invited to, to make a coalition of speakers of parliaments supporting the Istanbul Convention? What would be the elements that you, as a speaker of a parliament, take on board for your parliamentarians to push forward the application, the eradication of violence against women?

Please a couple of reflections on this and, of course, I hope you will see that you will start a coalition of speakers of parliaments against violence against women.

Madam Anca Dana DRAGU.

Anca Dana DRAGU

President of the Senate of Romania

12:33:01

Yes. Thank you for the question.

Actually, I have already started to set up such a coalition of female speakers of the senates across Europe.

I had the first conversation with my homologue in Spain, Ms Pilar Llop.

On February 25th we had the first discussion about how to fight gender violence and then we had an official visit and exchange of views on this topic.

Here in Bucharest, in Romania, we were inspired by what the parliament in Spain is doing on this topic, they are more advanced than we are.

I also had a similar discussion with the Speaker of the Senate of Belgium just last week.

I also had a conversation with the Speaker of the Italian Senate.

So we are in a very lucky position to have several female speakers across Europe, and yes, in the second half of the year we should move ahead with an official, formal group to promote the Istanbul Convention, for fighting gender violence in general.

As for what we're doing here in the parliament in Bucharest, Romania, we are going to monitor, through a specialised committee, the progress on implementing the Istanbul Convention in Romania.

As I mentioned in my previous intervention, we need clear indicators: policy indicators and outcome indicators as well as clear budgetary lines.

I know when we are talking about budgetary lines it's more difficult, but we have to do this and to push forward.

We have also Commissioner Helena Dalli at the European Commission, who is also supporting this work. 

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:35:12

Thank you.

I will not put the question to my prime minister because I know that he will move on having a coalition of prime ministers on the Istanbul Convention since you are convinced feminist, as you say, well, let me join your gang, between brackets, as far as that is concerned.

We now go back to the Assembly, knowing that we will probably not have all 60 speakers that we have on our list. I do apologize for that. I'll take the next 10 ones.

First on my list is Mr Peter FRICK from Liechtenstein, who will be followed by Baroness Doreen MASSEY.

Peter. Pierre, vous êtes là? Vous avez la parole. [In French: Peter, you have the floor.]

Mr Peter FRICK

Liechtenstein, ALDE

12:35:53

President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to address the Parliamentary Assembly today on behalf of the Liechtenstein delegation. I am pleased to report that last week the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, Ms Dominique Hasler, formally deposited the Istanbul Convention.

Liechtenstein will thus become the 34th member State of the Istanbul Convention, sending an important and strong signal for multilateralism and the protection of human rights.

With our commitment to combating violence against women and domestic violence, we are improving the situation of those affected in Liechtenstein and at the same time emphasizing internationally the importance of the Istanbul Convention.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of Parliament,

It is a special pleasure and an important step by Liechtenstein to have completed the ratification process of the Istanbul Convention on its 10th anniversary.

I would like to conclude by calling on all of you to strengthen your commitment to the work of the Council of Europe and to the protection of a high standard of human rights. On behalf of Liechtenstein, I encourage everyone to ratify the Istanbul Convention.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:37:05

We now come to Baroness Doreen MASSEY, online. Thank you for the ratification, obviously there's so many more to come.

Doreen MASSEY, you have the floor. And will be followed by Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY.

Baroness Doreen MASSEY

United Kingdom, SOC

12:37:25

The Istanbul Convention has inspired enormous change, as my colleague Mr John HOWELL said, signs are good that the UK will ratify the Istanbul Convention soon, according to our Minister for Safeguarding.

Earlier this year, we passed a long-awaited act on domestic abuse. The Domestic Abuse Act in Northern Ireland will criminalise psychological violence from this autumn. All good news and we must continue to press for progress in all directions, we must remain vigilant.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:37:56

Thank you very much.

We now come to Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY, followed by Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ.

Madam GÜNAY, you have the floor.

I do not see any movement with Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY.

Oh, I do apologise, I thought you were not here.

Please.

 

Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY

Turkey, NR

12:38:26

Dear Colleagues,

As a member of parliament I'm in favour of the Istanbul Convention.

But please remember it is a framework agreement, and the most important part is how countries take necessary measures and implement these measures and policies.

Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention does not mean that Turkey backslides from its commitment to fight against violence against women and domestic violence. On the contrary, Turkey continues to fight against all forms of violence by keeping its international cooperation mechanisms through the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Next week, the judicial reform strategy focused on the protection of women will be put before the Parliament as a draft bill, and I would like to give a couple of examples from the implementation.

Law 2684, the protection of family and violence against women launched in 2012 covers all types of violence against women and children. Women's emergency support notification system was launched in 2018 and 2.5 million people are using it and 73 000 of these calls that were real threats were prevented.

Turkey is dedicated to the struggle against violence against women and children.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:40:08

Thank you very much.

I do not believe that any of us think that any of us in the room would not do everything within their means to fight against violence against women.

The point is that the Istanbul Convention obviously is a tool to do so.

I would like to recall to all of my colleagues that I did get the engagement of the speaker of the Turkish Parliament, that at one point the Istanbul Convention as such will be debated in the parliament.

I hope that he will hold his worth.

Now we come to Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ, in the room, I have been told.

Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ, you have the floor.

Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ

Hungary, EPP/CD

12:40:46

Thank you Mr President.

We are on the side of the victims. I would like to emphasise that the Hungarian government promotes zero tolerance against all forms of violence, particularly on the subject of violence against women and domestic violence, which is extremely important.

I would like to also recall the Venice Commission opinion that the choice to ratify a treaty and to be bound by its obligations is a sovereign act of a state.

Hungary is really committed to protecting women against violence, however it fully respects the endorsement of a different approach, meaning we do not deem it appropriate to devise an additional international legal instrument.

The Hungarian government committed to a comprehensive package of legislation. We adopted one of the strictest criminal codes in Europe which gives priority to the protection of women and children. We doubled the number of victim support centres and announced last year the victim assistance programme. We made domestic violence a criminal offence one year before the Istanbul Convention entered into force.

We are on our own path. We are on the side of victims and we protect women against domestic violence. This is the most important thing.

Thank you very much indeed.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:41:49

Thank you very much.

We now come to Ms Béatrice FRESKO-ROLFO.

I know that the Speaker of the Romanian Parliament will have to leave us in a couple of minutes.

Please for those who are able to do so, stay on board because I have a number of important questions to put to the panel.

Béatrice, you have the floor.

Ms Béatrice FRESKO-ROLFO

Monaco, ALDE

12:42:08

Thank you, Mister President.

Harassment, rape, beatings, genital mutilation, forced marriages, so-called honour killings and even sterilisation without consent affect many women, whatever their age or socio-professional category. Of course, the fact that some of them belong to highly patriarchal societies makes them even more vulnerable.

The Istanbul Convention has provided the means, through strong mechanisms, to translate political will into concrete action. Thanks to the Convention, many countries have initiated or changed their legislation to combat violence against women. It has led them to analyse data, disaggregated by age, gender, types of violence and perpetrators.

This important Convention has created a momentum of solidarity between our countries and I would like to highlight the crucial role of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Network Women Free from Violence, which takes its role as a think tank and a repository of good practice very seriously.

It is up to us to convince, through the Network and thanks to you, the recalcitrant countries to adhere to this major normative text for combating gender-based violence in order to protect human rights.

Thank you for your support.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:43:16

Thank you.

We now come to Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA. You are in the room, I believe.

You have the floor. 1 minute.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA

Ukraine, EPP/CD

12:43:25

Thank you, dear President.

I will take this challenge of 60 seconds to report back to you on the developments that were positively outlined by Madam Secretary General in Ukraine.

We can proudly say that Ukraine was one of the co-authors of the text of the Istanbul Convention 10 years ago. Now we are going through the same challenge that 34 countries have gone through while signing this document, and 12 of those who finally ratified it.

Of course, we cannot forget about the four principles stipulated in the convention. These are prevention, protection, criminal prosecution, and co-ordination policy.

We can reassure you that judges in Ukraine, human rights activists, lawyers, the Prosecutor General, who is a woman herself, and all others are supporting this important document.

We have conducted two beautiful events with the Council of Europe.

I salute this house, the prominent committee on gender equality and non-discrimination.

I think Ukraine will go forward with the ratification.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:44:28

We now come to Ms Feleknas UCA.  

We have four more speakers, so please stick to the 1 minute because I still have some tough questions to the panel. 

Ms Feleknas UCA.

Ms Feleknas UCA

Turkey, UEL

12:44:43

Having been the first signatory to the Convention to play a pioneering role in preventing violence against women, Turkey has now unlawfully decided to withdraw from the Convention by means of a decree issued at night by President Erdogan.

Here I must say that women in Turkey are in favour of retaining the Istanbul Convention and are protesting against the decision.

In the last six months of the year alone, 177 femicides have been committed in Turkey. This number is more than double what it was 10 years ago. We as the HDP Women's Council have petitioned the City Council, the highest administrative court to annul the decree and are continuing our action in public.

The authorities' attacks on the Kurdish women's movement TJA and other women's organisations have also increased. We women will not stop demanding the contents of the Convention, because the threat to women's existence is not limited to the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.

I therefore appeal to everyone to stand up against these illegal decisions and against femicide.

Our struggle for a non-violent and just world continues.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:45:59

I now call Mr. Damien COTTIER.

Mr Damien COTTIER, you have the floor.

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE

12:46:08

Thank you, Mister President.

The scourge of domestic violence spares no country. In Switzerland, it causes the death of one woman every two and a half weeks and affects 26 000 children every year.

Mister President, as you pointed out earlier, the Istanbul Convention is an instrument, a powerful instrument with its four pillars for combating this shame.

The Swiss Government presented its first implementation report last Friday. It describes how the Istanbul Convention has triggered a new dynamic. This new dynamic is essential: it must radiate everywhere. I am delighted that as many men as women have signed up for today's debate.

As many countries as possible must sign up to the Convention. I am delighted about what we have heard from Mexico and I am delighted that a country, a dear friend, Liechtenstein, is joining this dynamic.

To the others, I would like to say "Please, join the group". And to those who would like to leave, I would like to say "Please, stay in the group".

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:47:12

Thank you.

We now come to Mr. Christophe LACROIX, from the floor.

Mr. Christophe LACROIX, you have the floor.

Mr Christophe LACROIX

Belgium, SOC

12:47:23

Thank you, Mr President.

It is a real pleasure to see you all again jn person, especially you, President.

What a sad anniversary it is, for us to mark these ten years of the Istanbul Convention, when we see that Turkey is withdrawing from it, and to see that Hungary and Poland also seem to be moving in the same direction, questioning the role of a multilateral approach in combating violence against women.

What a sad tenth anniversary, when we know full well that the Istanbul Convention was the first legally binding instrument providing a legal framework for combating domestic violence against women.

Our Belgian Prime Minister reminded us how important it is for Belgians to spearhead the fight violence against women. When we see the worldwide figures, 243 million women - that is to say one in three women - have suffered violence, including young children - this is unacceptable.

I would like to reiterate Belgium's robust rejection of Turkey's decision. I call on all my fellow members of this Assembly to join together to show us a much brighter future for the world.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:48:34

Thank you, Christophe.

Last on my list is Ms María Valentina MARTÍNEZ FERRO. You have the floor.

María should be in the room. I don't see her.

So, given the time I will now come to the panel.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:48:59

Madam Minister,

I have taken you a bit by surprise there. But I would like to ask you, in 2 minutes, to remind us of the specific measures concerning the prevention of violence and the protection of women.

Please, in 2 minutes, if possible.

Elisabeth MORENO

Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Diversity and Equal Opportunities, France

12:49:24

Of course, Mister President.

I'm going to be very, very quick and I want to welcome Mexico and Liechtenstein to join this battle. It is a real pleasure.

You know, the most important thing to do when a woman is a victim of violence is to start by acknowledging the violence.

Many women still, when they go to file a complaint, hear questions they shouldn't hear. In France, the idea is to have a systemic approach to this violence which consists first of all on identifying it, then reporting it and then finding ways of dealing with it. This is why we have done a lot of work with the police, why we have done a lot of work with the justice system, why we also work with the health system, since professionals are the first to be in contact with these victims, and why we allow women to file a complaint in hospitals when they don't dare to go to the police station. And there is obviously a major question of education.

I welcome all the statements made, including those by men: we need men as allies but we need men more as accomplices. We need men as allies, but we need men more as accomplices. Allies are often passive; accomplices fight with us on these issues and I welcome all the speeches made by parliamentarians on these issues.

We obviously need the associations to do in-depth work because they are in contact with the victims on the ground and they enable us to know what measures need to be put in place to get through the last few kilometres. The public mechanisms are there, but the laws are not always sufficient. Treatment must be effective, as close as possible to the victims who need it.

I also want to talk about prevention: that is why we have set up centres to take care of the perpetrators of violence in order to prevent recidivism and provide psychological and social support. So that they become aware of the seriousness of their acts — because not all men are always aware of this — and so that we can ensure that women feel truly protected.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:51:37

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues.

I now turn to our General Rapporteur on violence against women, Ms Zita GURMAI.

I mean, it is your task, Zita, as you know you are a general rapporteur, to take all of this with you and to motivate us to work even harder than yesterday on the issue.

So what are your lessons learned from today?

Zita GURMAI

Parliamentary Assembly General Rapporteur on violence against women

12:51:59

Thank you very much.

Do you know why I am standing? Because we need all to be standing to save women's lives all around Europe and outside!

This is a great occasion, dear Ministers, Secretary General, Prime Ministers, to make sure that we can achieve what we want.

It does not matter how the Convention is called, but it does matter that we change our mentality. I'm really happy that our President and former President of this Assembly and the Secretary General really thought that it is time to have a real wake-up call for Europe and outside!

I'm very, very happy that so many men understood that this is not a fight only for women.

This is a fight for society.

So let me tell you just a few thoughts which I got because I try to be a good listener of yours.

Yes, we need joint efforts. Yes, the Istanbul Convention saves the lives of women. And don't forget that these women who passed away have families, have little children who we need to take care of.

Yes, I agree, this is the most ambitious one, and of course we have the best practices. It's a great mechanism and of course the awareness campaign for which I'm super thankful is giving us guidance on what to do and how to do it.

But dear colleagues, all here around and all those who are good listeners. You need political will to do and to act so. That's why I believe the 10th anniversary is a great occasion to do so.

Of course cooperation. You spoke about the GREVIO and the 17 reports. No better instrument. This is a human rights instrument. Gold standard.

After the 70th anniversary, that was really one of the issues that this Assembly should be very, very proud of. Women and men, disabled or not, anybody who belongs to this society.

Of course, our main goal is to force a coalition with prime ministers. Yes, please, go home and tell your prime minister there is an action led by the Belgian prime minister for which we should have a strong round of applause because this man really wants to make a change. Can we have a round of applause for him?

Thank you very much.

Earlier the former Chair spoke about solidarity for all people. Of course you spoke about prevention, protection, criminal prosecution and of course you also spoke about serious human rights violations. Of course, again, I really would like to underline the importance of men's engagement which is absolutely crucial.

Feminism is a good thing. I am a feminist and I hope that you all are or will become feminists, but I was born as a feminist. You should know. As my great friend who is doing an amazing job as the President of our Committee [knows]. 

Of course what has this debate really provided us? With a great opportunity not only to take stock of the last ten years after the opening of the signature of the Istanbul Convention, of what has been achieved so far, but also to commit to further promoting and supporting its implementation.

We must come away from today with renewed determination to play our part as parliamentarians in putting an end to gender-based violence and making this reality on the ground.

I'm very thankful because some of you spoke about the pandemic, the Covid-19 pandemic which added an extra burden on women, and has led to an increase of violence against women and shed light on the urgency to prevent and conduct. Line up for action. It's time for us.

Since it entered into force the Convention has contributed to saving lives by calling its state parties to enhance assistance services and make prevention of violence and prosecution of perpetrators priorities some of you spoke about.

The Convention makes clear that violence against women is a matter of public concern. Our Assembly played, thank you very much dear Mr Rik DAEMS, an instrumental role in calling for the Convention and by promoting its ratification through national parliaments and through the Parliamentary Network Women Free from Violence which I have the honour to coordinate as a general rapporteur.

I can go on and on, but I really would like to say but we should do. Actively participate in the monitoring procedure. Ensure a follow up of the proposals made in the evaluation report concerning our own countries. Step up efforts to raise awareness of the added value of the Convention. Demystify misconceptions that unfortunately are still too prevalent.

So I urge you all to pause and think about whether you have done enough and what you will now do to respond to this call.

I'm not going to speak any longer because I have to run to Berlin, but I really wanted to show strong solidarity with all of you. Women all around Europe need better care. Covid-19 really proved that we need to do more.

Dear President, I really would like to make a call.

Just let's have an action, a good awareness campaign after the ten years, just to show that we want to save women's lives in Europe.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:58:25

For those who would even doubt that we have an excellent general rapporteur, because the heart is there and this is needed!

Minister, I would like to thank you for having joined us this morning. None of us can be complicit.

I would like to thank our Secretary General for being here with us, obviously she's the one who upholds the Istanbul Convention.

I also would like to thank Ms Dubravka Šimonovic, so far away, I think in the United States, for being on board.

I also would like to thank Ms Anca Dana Dragu and our Prime Minister Alexander de Croo for having been here.

I think this has been an important day to do what? To basically say it might be 10 years ago that we started with the Istanbul Convention, this is not a typical celebration, on the contrary it is a wake-up call. It is really as our general Rapporteur has said: this is a call for action of both men and women.

All of us we should take action because it is needed. We really need to defend this instrument which is the Istanbul Convention.

We respect all opinions, but I think that we should make all efforts to those who might not be convinced today of the added value and the importance of the tool.

We will make all the efforts, ladies and gentlemen, to convince them that, yes, the Istanbul Convention is the tool to help you to eradicate violence against women at the end of the day.

I'd like to conclude with John Howell. He said very simply: the Istanbul Convention must be a living document.

Well, dear colleagues, it is up to all of us members of parliament to ensure that the Istanbul Convention indeed is a living document.

Thanks to everyone being present, thanks to everyone on board.

And I would just say one thing. Let's go to work and make the Istanbul Convention be effective.

Thank you very much for today. And we will start working now. Thank you.

Ms Brigitte BOCCONE-PAGES

Monaco, ALDE

13:08:15

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

Ms Mònica BONELL

Andorra, ALDE

13:08:15

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

Mr Jacques LE NAY

France, ALDE

13:08:15

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