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24 June 2021 morning

2021 - Third part-session Print sitting

Sitting video(s) 1 / 1

Opening of the sitting No. 21

Debate: For a European policy on diasporas

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:03:35

Good morning, dear colleagues.

The sitting is open.

The next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the Report titled “For a European policy on diasporas” (Doc. 15250) presented by Mr Paulo PISCO on behalf of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. We shall also hear a statement from Mr António VITORINO, Director General, International Organization for Migration. In order to finish by 11:05 a.m., I will interrupt the list of speakers at about 10:45 a.m. to allow time for the reply and the vote.

We will start with our rapporteur, after which I will be very honoured to give the floor to director VITORINO. I now call Mr Paulo PISCO, rapporteur. You have 10 minutes in total, of which 7 minutes is for your opening remarks and 3 minutes for your reply.

Mr Paulo PISCO

Portugal, SOC, Rapporteur

09:04:54

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), dear friend Mr António Vitorino,

Dear colleagues,

As the previous Director General of IOM Mr William Lacy, said, diasporas are the forgotten part of migration. And yet we are talking about millions of citizens who are in a kind of limbo, always between two worlds, between the host country and the country of origin.

We are talking about legal and established emigration, not about the complex issues of refugees or asylum. If some countries do not want to recognise the existence of these diasporas abroad - or diasporas in these countries - for political or other reasons, this does not mean that they exist less. On the contrary, they are a very present reality in our societies, with about 35 million migrant citizens in the European Union alone, according to Eurostat – including a few million from Council of Europe countries – but which are not well enough known and should be better known.

This report is the result of my experience as a parliamentarian elected by the Portuguese diaspora in Europe, five years of work by our Subcommittee on Diasporas and Integration and the Parliamentary Network on Diaspora Policies, which has done an extraordinary job of knowledge and awareness-raising on these matters.

First of all, I would like to warmly thank the availability of the Director General of the IOM, Mr António Vitorino. His participation tells us a lot about the importance of this topic for our societies. I want also to thank his predecessor, Mr William Lacy, for his partnership and institutional support for the work on the diaspora issue.

We are also very grateful to the Swiss government for its financial support to the work of the Parliamentary Network, which has enabled the organisation of several annual forums and conferences of considerable importance, with more than 200 participants, including between parliamentarians and experts whose contribution has been decisive in understanding the need for a European strategy for diasporas.

I am convinced that closer cooperation between the Council of Europe and the IOM would be fundamental to better understand the multiplicity of issues concerning diasporas, and to better sensitise governments to this reality, which is not only a question of poor and southern countries, but also of richer and more developed countries.

Dear colleagues,

I come from a country that has always had a very high level of emigration throughout its history. Its citizens now have the right to vote in more than 180 countries around the world. I am familiar with the history of Portuguese emigration, its perseverance in overcoming difficulties, and its extraordinary capacity to adapt to the most adverse cultural environments and the most unlikely geographies.

I am proud of Portuguese emigration, of all generations, of my people abroad, for the way it honours our humanist and universalist values, for the very positive image it always gives of my country, and also for the effort Portugal makes to value and recognise them.

In return, Portugal knows how to honour its diaspora by giving it constitutional protection, elected representatives in the national parliament for almost half a century, the right to vote in presidential and legislative elections, and very active public policies at government level.

Moreover, the relationship with the diaspora is one of the six vectors of Portuguese foreign policy, which is not very common in other countries.

It is therefore easy to understand the importance and civic force of political participation, both in the countries of origin and in the host countries, in order to strengthen the bonds of belonging and to create more egalitarian and less discriminatory societies. Support to youth projects, associations, schools and universities, local and regional power engagement can be of great importance to encourage the civic and political participation of diasporas.

Dear colleagues,

It is strongly hoped that after the adoption of this report by the Assembly, and with the commitment of international institutions, the recommendations it contains can lead governments to develop policies and strategies that are more appreciative of its condition.

The Council of Europe has the capacity and expertise to engage with them in virtuous cooperation. In fact, almost all areas of the Council of Europe's work could be involved, as the issue of diasporas is transversal in our societies.

This will send a strong message to diasporas that, although they are far away, they are not forgotten or abandoned. But for this to happen, governments must also look at diasporas in a different and more active way, with solid and innovative strategies at the level of language and culture of origin, promotion of citizenship, with more efficient and interactive consular services, with fair and non-discriminatory tax treatment, for a greater capacity of assertion of women, supporting associations and media of diasporas, creating programmes of support for return and investment in the country, among others.

Therefore, we propose a draft recommendation in which we call on the Council of Europe to take into account the issue of diasporas and to elaborate a white paper on good practices in this field. It is also important to find a methodology to better understand diasporas in all their dimensions in order to develop policies and programmes that respond to their needs and expectations. We also propose the creation of a European Diaspora Forum, for the exchange of experiences between diasporas but also to make them a permanently visible reality.

Dear colleagues,

I am convinced that this report represents a new dimension in the work of our organisation, which must be continued and deepened.

I believe that by engaging with diasporas we will bring about more integration, more citizenship, less social tension, less resentment. With a negative approach or with indifference towards diasporas, everyone loses – which makes no sense, because everyone can gain, home and host countries and diasporas, as long as they are given the means to express their full economic, social, political, cultural and diplomatic potential.

I therefore ask you to support the recommendations of this report.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:12:27

Thank you, Mister rapporteur.

I would now wish to welcome the Director General of the International Organization for Migration, Mr António VITORINO.

We really look forward to your contributions, Mister VITORINO. I would like to stress the importance of the positive contribution of diaspora communities to the European society, by enriching host country's cultural diversity, building dynamic and constructive relations with their countries of origin and contributing to the integration of newcomers.

I also would like to recall the long-term work on diaspora issues carried out by our Assembly.

Just a few examples of resolutions adapted by our Assembly, recent ones: Resolution 2043 on Democratic participation for my migrant diasporas and Resolution 2124 on Educational and cultural networks of migrant and diaspora communities. Now these are for 2015 and 2016, so, yes, Mister rapporteur, it is time to maybe revisit the issue.

I also would like to highlight the role of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons in addressing diaspora related issues within the Assembly, which notably resulted in the establishment of the Parliamentary Network for Diaspora Policies, and this was in 2017.

I also welcome the opportunities for exchange and debate between the International Organization for Migration and our Assembly.

Obviously, I would like to highlight the importance of close cooperation and collaboration between several key international organisations such as obviously ourselves, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the IOM, OECD, and others.

Why? Well, to develop cooperation programs involving, inter alia, diaspora associations.

So, without any delay, I see that the technique is working and I see Director General Mr António VITORINO on the screen.

Let's hope that now also the sound is working.

So, without any due delay, we are very happy, Mister Director General to have you on board.

You have the floor.

Mr António VITORINO

Director General, International Organization for Migration

09:14:37

Mr Chair, thank you so much.

For me it's a privilege and an honour to be able to address the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

I thank the Rapporteur Mr Paulo PISCO for this initiative.

From the perspective of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), we welcome the Council of Europe's idea of adopting a European policy on diasporas to define and drive European action in empowering diaspora communities and creating enabling conditions for them to thrive in. Owing to their transnational identities diasporas and their associations, if appropriately empowered, can make a positive contribution to the development both to countries of residence and countries of origin.

For countries of residence, diaspora members enrich socio-cultural diversity and boost economic productivity. In addition, they can also play an important role in supporting the integration process of the newly arrived migrants. They help foster social cohesion and European communities.

For their countries of origin also, diaspora members and their associations can always act as potential accelerators to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by contributing to the social and economic development of their countries.

Finally, diaspora communities can also serve as an important bridge to foster transnational, social, economic, diplomatic and trade relations between countries of destination and the diaspora's countries of origin.

From our side, the International Organization for Migration, we are hopeful that the sound European policy on the diasporas will promote diasporas' wellbeing and sense of belonging to the European societies in which they live.

I would like to stress that diaspora members and their associations should be transversally included in European policymaking. Their voice should be mainstream across different policy areas. From the International Organization for Migration, we join the Assembly's recommendation to the Council of Europe and to its member States to take concrete action at different levels of governance, and most particularly at local levels, which is crucial for the success of the integration of the diasporas.

To be sustainable, such actions can focus on improving legal pathways and regulatory frameworks to recognise human rights and social welfare and the cultural rights of migrants. To promote co-development, such actions can also focus on formally recognising and at the same time developing the skills and the professional training of diaspora members in countries of destination.

We support the establishment of transnational trade networks as well as the improvement of access of migrants to financial services to promote entrepreneurship and investment in both countries of residence and countries of origin.

We have supported governments in mapping diaspora communities within their national contexts including their needs, their challenges, and also their expertise. We have promoted diversity and tolerance through youth-led diaspora campaigns that are crucial, to empower diaspora towards investment and towards creativity and entrepreneurship.

We believe in fostering the socio-economic development of the diasporas' countries of origin by facilitating legal pathways, circular migration schemes to support the transfer of expertise and knowledge by diaspora communities to their countries of origin. We hosted the iDiaspora Platform, a global platform that serves to get knowledge and to engage with the global community committed to the engagement and to the empowerment of the diaspora.

I would like to to reassure you that the International Organization for Migration stands ready to commit its expertise, its experience, its worldwide footprint and our knowledge to support the Council of Europe and its member States in realising the recommendations set out in the draft resolution.

Finally, I want to welcome the resolution's proposal to invite international organisations, the Council of Europe, the International Organization for Migration, the European Union and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), to work more closely together to develop cooperation programmes involving the diaspora associations.

We stress the already fruitful cooperation of the International Organization for Migration with the Council of Europe in the framework of the Parliamentary Network on Diaspora Policies of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the Geneva Forum that we jointly organised in 2018.

I would like to underline that the International Organization for Migration will be ready to carry on with the work of the network and encourages the Council of Europe to emphasise the role of diasporas and diaspora associations in the framework of that network and more broadly in its own intergovernmental activities.

Let me conclude by saying that I look forward to the debate and outcomes of the European policy on diasporas. I feel pretty confident that when adopting the draft report and its recommendations, we will always be cooperating to make Europe a stronger partner in the international migration landscape.

Thank you so much Mr President.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:21:13

Thank you very much, Mister VITORINO.

I'm very happy to have had you on board.

It is a pleasure and honour for us to be able to closely co-operate with your important organisation, so thank you very much for that.

We will now come to the list of speakers.

I wish to remind our colleagues that the time limit is restricted to 3 minutes.

First on my list is on behalf of the groups, Mr Alexandros TRIANTAFYLLIDIS, I hope I said that right.

Online. Mr Alexandros TRIANTAFYLLIDIS, you have the floor.

Mr Alexandros TRIANTAFYLLIDIS

Greece, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

09:21:51

Good morning, dear Chair.

Can you hear me?

Dear Chair, dear colleagues,

Speaking on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left I would like to highlight the importance of Mr Paulo PISCO's report in a globalised world where violence, poverty, and social inequalities prevail.

We must change for the better, supporting peace and equality for all. The ideals of democracy, egalitarianism, and collaboration, as well as the inclusion of diversities are the corner stones on which a multicultural world should be constructed.

The timeless ideals of Hellenism, which shaped the values of our world, remain today more than ever relevant and essential elements of global cultures. The Greek diaspora has contributed to the economic, social and cultural development of the host countries. Maintaining Greek culture, identity of Greeks abroad and strengthening the socio-economic linkages between home and host countries is the primary goal.

For the above reasons, the European diaspora unites us all in the southern EU countries, which where hit hard by the economic crisis and unemployment. Young people had to leave their home countries in search of better life conditions abroad. This is what we call bravery. The single European policy platforms should be inspired by the principle that national dispersions should be a bridge of friendship, cooperation, and solidarity between the countries of origin and the host countries.

The top objectives based on these fundamental principles are:

First, drafting a white paper on good practices for the the participation of diaspora member States; creating the common framework of criteria for the mapping of the diaspora worldwide; the establishment of European dispersion forum as a platform for international exchanges between the different diaspora communities; encouraging the implementation of measures aimed at promoting the integration of migrants and avoiding exclusion, xenophobia, and extremism.

We should promote relations with diaspora and established political bonds with their home and host countries.

Portugal, Italy, and Spain serve as best practice models for countries with diaspora members in other countries, as said by the Council of Europe.

Last, I cannot but stress enough the importance of education and language as links both in homeland and in host countries.

Europe needs us all. Europe needs us all to join forces and combine efforts.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

09:25:12

Thank you very much.

We will now move to our next speaker who is Mr Domagoj HAJDUKOVIĆ.

I also request a vice-Chair, Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO, thank you for being here to take over the meeting.

Mister HAJDUKOVIĆ, you have the floor.

Mr Domagoj HAJDUKOVIĆ

Croatia, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

09:25:27

Thank you, Mister President, and congratulations: you have pronounced my name perfectly.

Dear colleagues, I come from a country that values its diaspora. Indeed, more Croats live outside of Croatia than in Croatia proper. Therefore, we are, and I am, well aware of the importance of a clear and systematic approach to diaspora. And I'm proud to say that Croatia already implements vast majority of the recommendations stated here, in this report, if not all.

Dear colleagues, this is the first real and systematic take on this issue. Although, as the President rightfully mentioned, there have been attempts at this before. We have created a sub-committee on diaspora, we have created the diaspora network. Those were all steps, in my opinion, leading to a culmination which is this resolution before us.

I see this process in two segments, when we talk about diasporas and their inclusion. The first one is integration in the receiving country, so to say. This is a completely different issue that is tackled on a different level. Indeed, I plan to tackle it on my own report, hopefully soon. But integration in the receiving countries, in the home countries of diasporas is important.

Then the second segment is, of course, inclusion in countries of origin. This inclusion is on several levels as outlined by the resolution. Political representation, cultural autonomy, cultural promotion and active promotion of ties and connections with the country of origin. This process yields social, political and economic benefits. On social and political I will not elaborate in depth, but economic benefits are clearly seen in the Croatian example. When a lot of Croatian diaspora came back to Croatia to invest or to settle after a time they spent abroad.

Finally, if there is a member in this august chamber that embodies diaspora, I think it is my dear friend Mr Paulo PISCO. I think this report is in the right hands.

Congratulations, dear Paulo, you have made a tremendous job and I call on everybody to support this crucial report because, as I said, it is only a culmination of our systematic work on this issue.

So, in the words of Winston Churchill, when it comes to diasporas this is not the end, but I think that it is the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end which is clear diaspora policy on a European level.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:28:20

Thank you.

Now the floor goes to Mr Theodoros ROUSOPOULOS from Greece.

After him, it will be Ms Diana STOICA from Romania. Please. 

Mr Theodoros ROUSOPOULOS

Greece, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

09:28:31

Thank you Chair.

On behalf of the Group of the European People's Party I welcome the discussion about the adoption of a common European policy in diaspora.

The Rapporteur Mr Paulo PISCO provided us with a thorough report for which I commend him.

The international cooperation on diasporas should be encouraged. The diaspora strategy by the EU and its member states is much needed.

Strong links with diasporas are very beneficial for countries of origin. In Greece we know it very well. Beside the obvious economic benefits, the cultural impacts and intellectual exchanges bring an added value to host and origin countries.

I agree with the Rapporteur that the countries of origin need to include diasporas in home policies and engage them constructively. National mechanisms and institutions to facilitate cooperation can contribute to this goal. Of course, the rights of diaspora communities must be respected not only by countries of residence but also by countries of origin.

Unfortunately there have been attempts to manipulate diaspora communities for geopolitical reasons. This should not be allowed to happen neither by countries of residence nor origin.

Incidents of racism, xenophobia and other forms of anti-migrant discrimination must be addressed in the countries of origin too.

Allow me to make a final point. Although the report has these undoubted merits, when talking about diaspora I believe we should take into account the reasons someone chooses to emigrate in the first place.

A diaspora is formed through migration often for specific reasons. These are not always the result of conflict but may be related to other economic or social reasons.

The proper integration of immigrants can be a determining factor for communities of diaspora to be created and to prosper for the benefit of countries of residence and origin alike.

European member States, especially countries who welcome increased numbers of migrants every year, must be assisted and supported in formatting such strategies.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:31:14

Thank you.

And now the floor goes to Ms Diana STOICA from Romania and after we will have Mr Erkin GADIRLI from Azerbaijan.

Please.

She's online.

Ms Diana STOICA

Romania, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

09:31:41

Thank you, dear colleagues.

On behalf of the ALDE group I would like to thank the rapporteur Mr Paulo PISCO for preparing such a rigorous report on such an essential matter for all of us, whether we are coming from a country like mine, where we have almost five million citizens living abroad, and at the same time where a host country for many diverse communities, or whether we are coming from a country that is now home to diaspora communities.

I strongly believe there's an urgent need to develop a European strategy on diasporas that should aim to enhance economic and cultural development. For example, the Romanian citizens who are now living and working abroad include people from all walks of life, from agriculture seasonal workers, to IT specialist, to doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs, and European public servants.

I agree with the rapporteur that we first need to better understand nationals living in diaspora communities and then develop a national policy to best fit their needs. We all <audio missing> diaspora policies represents a decisive opportunity for economic, social, and cultural development of both countries of residence and of origin, and a greater cohesion and inclusiveness in society.

One of the interesting issues raised in the report is that the substantial economic contributions to their host countries should be accompanied by the right to participate in political processes while encouraging engagement with their countries of origins. At the same time, it's important to prevent any manipulation of diaspora communities as vehicles for promoting expansionist policies and violating the sovereignty of other countries.

I strongly believe this report is very important because it aims to avoid a parallel society. It also underlines that national parliaments such as ourselves have a central role to play in determining diaspora policies. But this is not an issue we can tackle on our own. The Council of Europe can play a major role in bringing together all the relevant stakeholders, including NGOs and international organisations. I believe it is our responsibility to work together on this to improve our European family.

I support the resolution and thank rapporteur Mr Paulo PISCO for the excellent work on this report.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:34:04

Thank you.

And now the floor goes to Mr Erkin GADIRLI, who will be followed by Ms Susana SUMELZO.

Please.

Mr Erkin GADIRLI

Azerbaijan, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

09:34:19

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

Distinguished members of the Assembly, I'm speaking on behalf of the European Conservative and Democratic Alliance Group.

Let me start with thanking the rapporteur for the tremendous work he has done. This is really hard work. It is visible from this report and especially from the explanatory memorandum. I did a lot of very good recommendations in this report, especially those which concern educational and cultural programmes, registration procedures, and work opportunities.

I commend the rapporteur for putting them in his report.

Yet, let me focus on what I believe to be shortcomings of this draft, because it seems like this report disregards certain problems or other legal mechanisms. First of all, in paragraph 5.4, the draft board recommends that member States sign bilateral agreements on supporting the integration process for migrants. This is a very problematic issue because it is not easy to imagine a country which would be interested in integration of its own nationals in the society of a foreign state.

Also, this recommendation seems to disregard that certain states have international obligations to reduce the cases of multiple nationalities. Also, we should not forget that some countries, especially small ones, have different experiences of diasporas. Some countries have diasporas of some countries that are larger than their own population. It is rightly pointed out in this report that sometimes the diasporas are manipulated by host countries and home countries, but the reverse is also true. Sometimes a diaspora manipulates the public opinion of the home country and even influences the government. The government's prior obligations to its own population not to the diaspora.

Granting diaspora the voting rights in a parliamentary election is a very problematic issue. Not every country is ready to do that. Also, in the explanatory memorandum paragraph 109, it seems that the draft attaches certain value to such concepts as globalism, cosmopolitanism, and multiculturalism.

I clearly understand why it is written this way to tackle the problems of nationalism, but let us not forget that, unlike in some Western countries, where nationalism has a predominantly negative connotation, in Eastern European countries and most post-Soviet countries the term nationalism as mainly a positive connotation because it was a driving force for the liberation movement which led to independence, and in some of them it also resulted in political and economic reforms.

I'm running out of time.

I thank the rapporteur, yet, I deliberately chose to draw the attention of the distinguished Assembly to certain shortcomings of this report.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:37:50

Thank you.

The floor now goes to Ms Susana SUMELZO from Spain, who will be followed by Mr Bernard FOURNIER from France.

Please.

Ms Susana SUMELZO

Spain, SOC

09:38:05

Good morning.

Spain, our country, traditionally has been a country of emigrants. But when we are looking at this issue from a Spanish perspective, obviously we see it through a republican prism. In the first decades of last century, Spain was a country of emigrants and at the turn of the millennium, a decade ago, the population of Spain, diaspora population, multiplied by five. 

Now, Spain, along with other countries of western Europe has experienced immigration over the last five decades and that did not pose us with any particular problems. I think that one can rightfully state that Spain has been exemplary when it comes to integration, but in times of economic difficulty, the situation flipped. The reverse was true. We had millions of young people leaving the country looking for work elsewhere and these days the Spanish government is striving to redirect its support to Spaniards living abroad, to cater to their needs, as well as to offer them real prospects of a return.

It is important, therefore, that we work to reform our external action services and the needs of Spanish citizens today are far different to those who migrated last century. The various issues bound up by this debate are extremely important, for example, exchanging best practices in order to improve both national and European policies, as proposed by this report.

And for this reason, we would like to thank, as well as congratulate Mr Paulo PISCO, a neighbour of ours, who has been the primer mover behind this issue on which he has been working on for a number of years. And the Council of Europe, I believe, can play an important role in tackling the issue of diasporas and certainly, it will find Spanish support for all its endeavours. 

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:40:22

Thank you.

I call now Mr Bernard FOURNIER from France, who will be followed by Ms Sena Nur ÇELİK from Turkey.

Please.

Mr Bernard FOURNIER

France, EPP/CD

09:40:35

Mister President,

Dear colleagues,

I would like to thank our colleague Mr Paulo PISCO for his report on diasporas, which addresses many important issues and is a continuation of the work carried out by our Assembly for several years.

I would like to mention two subjects in particular: the integration of people from diasporas in host societies and the issue of citizenship and voting.

Our colleague's report rightly emphasises that immigration is sometimes frightening today. Diasporas can indeed be perceived as challenging the historical cultural identity of the country of residence. Some are also used by the countries of origin for political purposes. Hence the importance for each state to work on integration issues of migrants in order to facilitate their inclusion in the host society. Mastering the language of the host country thus seems to me to be a major issue.

But we must agree on the issue of integration, which depends closely on the form of the state and the history of each of our countries. In this respect, France has an approach that may appear singular in the eyes of other states. The French Constitution recognises only one people: the French people. As a result, no special legal regime can be put in place for people from diasporas. The republican model is an assimilationist model, as opposed to the multiculturalist model.

This approach also affects our approach to the right of foreigners to vote in local elections, which is directly linked to citizenship. It is the quality of citizen that allows one to vote.

This citizenship is twofold: French citizenship allows one to vote in local and national elections. As for foreigners, they cannot vote or stand in local elections unless they are citizens of another European Union member State: this is the full scope of Union citizenship.

In order to vote, non-EU foreigners must acquire French nationality. Compared to the naturalisation procedure in other states, the procedure for acquiring French nationality is not more complicated. Moreover, the desire to acquire nationality shows attachment and commitment to the country of residence, which justifies participation in elections. Finally, France grants the right to dual nationality. Therefore, just because France does not grant the right to vote in local elections to foreigners who are not EU nationals, does not mean that it does not favour the integration of members of diasporas residing on its territory.

Finally, I would like to mention the case of the French community abroad. French citizens living outside France are represented, both in the Senate and in the National Assembly, by representatives that they elect. They therefore contribute very directly to the vitality of our democracy.

I thank you for your support. 

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:43:54

Thank you very much.

Now the floor goes to Ms Sena Nur ÇELİK from Turkey, who will be speaking online.

She will be followed by Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN from Ireland.

Please.

Ms Sena Nur ÇELİK

Turkey, NR

09:44:12

Dear president, dear colleagues,

I would like to congratulate the rapporteur for highlighting the positive contribution of diaspora communities to the society and presenting solid policy proposals for better integrating and empowering diaspora communities at the countries of destination.

Diaspora communities constitute a significant portion of the society in most of the Council of Europe member States. As underlined in the report, we have to figure out ways that would enable active participation of diaspora communities in economic, social, and political life. In the report there are several policy recommendations directed at member countries in order to create a suitable environment for the involvement and inclusion of diaspora communities. These comprehensive recommendations range from facilitating political participation at all levels to encouraging enterpreneurship.

In order to achieve integration and inclusion of diaspora communities, member States, parliamentarians, and diaspora associations bear responsibilities. I believe that promoting and communicating positive narratives about diasporic communities would be the best starting point in this respect. All actors should actively work to highlight their accomplishments and contributions to the host countries.

I believe that the media also has a key role in displaying political, economic, and cultural potential of diaspora communities as active members of society, promoting their success in the host country through media. All relevant actors would help combating negative stereotypes about migrant and diaspora communities.

As I emphasized in resolution, engaging diaspora communities in decision-making processes by granting them to elect representatives of their communities to national parliaments is crucial for their democratic participation. All member States should recognize and value diaspora communities not just for their economic output, but also as political actors who have much to offer to improve the democracy of their host countries and countries of origin.

Finally, I would like to express my full support for the sound recommendations in the report. I believe that if member States could successfully implement these recommendations, we could see the full realisation of the potential of diaspora communities at the European council member States and their positive impact on the host countries in the near future.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:47:13

Thank you, I call Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN from Ireland.

She will be followed by Mr Asim MOLLAZADA from Azerbaijan.

Please, Miss Fiona.

Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN

Ireland, ALDE

09:47:27

Good morning, Mister Chairman, and of course to my colleagues in Strasbourg and around Europe. I thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak on this important topic.

I want to congratulate Mr PISCO on his report. I think he makes some very sensible suggestions which would be important for us to take on board. He, of course, highlights the very positive contribution of diasporas and their associations to the development of their own country of residence. I think he is correct in calling for strengthening diaspora policies to promote greater societal cohesiveness and inclusiveness.

I think, in a way, this debate is very timely following the last 16 months. Because of Covid-19, we've seen a situation where people may have been further isolated from their country of origin and weren't able to travel to and fro where they might have done before. They saw the importance of having that connectivity with their country of residence. I think there is an opportunity to grasp this now.

Diasporas, of course, make a very powerful contribution to both their country of origin and their country of residence, and that's culturally, socially, and economically. They can act as a unifying force, but all too often we've seen situations where people have been isolated in their country of residence. That's absolutely something that we need to combine our efforts on, because we're a very rich continent in terms of our people and when we look at our different languages and our different cultures.

Most importantly, I think, what Mr PISCO says in terms of trying to take the concrete steps to promote and implement diaspora engagement policies are really important. I agree with his call to ratify the convention on participation of foreigners in public life.

In terms of our own diaspora policy in Ireland, we developed a new strategy last November as part of a series of measures to strengthen our own relationship with our own diaspora. We built specific commitments in our program for government. That's basically about prioritizing the welfare of the Irish abroad because people leave for different reasons and have different experiences of their residency, also looking at how we can walk about promoting our values abroad and celebrating the diversity of our diaspora.

Of course, culture is a common thread and particularly we see that at across Europe and across the world in celebrating Saint Patrick's Day, and now a new move in terms of celebration Saint Brigid's Day. Influence for our own country and, indeed, across Europe in terms of developing business and entrepreneurial projects are really really important.

I think there is an incredible potential to develop a lot of different policies around this. I also want to note the positive response from Mr VITORINO.

Thank you, Mister Chair.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:51:19

Thank you.

I call now Mr Asim MOLLAZADA from Azerbaijan and he will be followed by Mr Irakli CHIKOVANI from Georgia.

Mister Asim, please.

Mr Asim MOLLAZADA

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

09:51:33

Thank you very much, Mister Chairman.

It's a really very important issue, discussing when migration growing in Europe. We have a really simultaneously growing of anti-Islamism, anti-Semitism, racism, because of clash of cultures, clash of civilisations.

In this situation probably the European model of tolerance doesn't work. Because, what does tolerance mean? First of all I don't like you but I'm patient. In situation when different cultures really pacing each other and creating a multicultural system first of all should be based on mutual respect. Respect to different races, respect to different cultures, different religions.

I think that in this situation we have to think about the rights of communities in Europe, ethnic minorities' rights. It should include, first of all, their access to health systems, social protection, education. I believe that if there will be such a mechanism we should create a system which will resist to growing clashes between civilisations and cultures.

On the diaspora issue, there is arguably a lot of sensitive things. Sometimes all the diasporas which are really far from the country of residence are keeping different ideas which are maybe creating a problem for the small and new established countries, especially in the post-colonial world when also former empires are trying to keep control on small and maybe not rich countries. It's creating a lot of problems. Manipulation which might exist. Sometimes difficult.

But also manipulation comes where we have reached diaspora. It's creating something like ethnic lobbying and, probably in some cases, issues of political corruption when rich diasporas are trying to use their financial resources for promoting their own interest. Sometimes their interests even contradict with the interests of the country of residence. Sometimes it's even damaging the national security interests. That's why manipulation in both directions are very dangerous. I think that creating a strategy of diasporas in Europe should keep this type of issue under control in form of combating political corruption, also influence to media, because we are facing a lot of fake news systems. In new electronic media this situation is becoming a global problem.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:55:17

Thank you.

I call Mr Irakli CHIKOVANI from Georgia, and please be prepared Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA from Ukraine.

Please.

It seems that there is no Mr Irakli CHIKOVANI.

In this case I request Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA and after her Mr Carlos Alberto GONÇALVES from Portugal.

Please.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA

Ukraine, EPP/CD

09:55:53

Thank you, dear President.

Dear honourable colleagues,

Dear rapporteur,

You have conducted a great job Mister PISCO. You have brought a very important issue which is uniting all of us across Europe. The issue of diasporas and diaspora engagement in different fields is obvious and it's often of interest in many ways. Governments employ a variety of methods to engage with their diasporas and use different institutional forms and different governmental levels.

We're following the new trends of diaspora policies worldwide. We could expect that the member States should have taken a deeper look at the outflows of human capital and that they might focus on engagement, immigrants and development strategies of their countries.

Particular emphasis should be placed on the positive contribution of diasporas to the development of European countries and countries of their origins. In particular in the context of enhancing the cultural diversity of hosting countries, which most of my colleagues have already mentioned. Building this dynamic and constructive relationship with the countries of origin for economic and cultural exchanges and common development.

At the same time the report mentions existing views on the manipulation of diasporas, and they also have been raised by my fellow colleagues, by countries of origin for political purposes or any others.

Mister rapporteur, it's also critical for the fact of racist, anti-Semitic and other xenophobic acts against diasporas. So this document emphasises the importance of ensuring respect for the political, social, economic and cultural rights of diaspora members and supporting their activities within the host communities. The PACE has repeatedly researched various aspects of the existing diasporas in Europe and has come up with various initiatives to involve European diasporas in political, economic and social life.

I would like to mention that there are around 11 to 13 estimated million of Ukrainians living world wide. The recommendation that has been stipulated by you, dear rapporteur, in the recommendation, has partially already been touched by the Ukrainian Parliament. We have registered a law on dual citizenship and we are looking forward to reviewing it in the Ukrainian Parliament.

Furthermore, transnational nations are being formed in the world currently and national life of today's globalised world is quite essential. The new policy on diasporas is the new wave of bringing this house together and implementing the recommendations that were stipulated by you in the report.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

09:59:01

Thank you.

I now call Mr Carlos Alberto GONÇALVES from Portugal, and after him there will be Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ from Turkey.

Please.

Mr Carlos Alberto GONÇALVES

Portugal, EPP/CD

09:59:32

Mister President,

I apologise for this technical problem, but the diasporas also justify going beyond technical problems.

Mister President, dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to emphasise the fact that our Parliamentary Assembly is today debating a subject to which I attach enormous importance and which seems to me to be strategic for the future of our continent, for the future of Europe.

In an increasingly globalised world, it is a duty for our countries to include diasporas in our national policies and to integrate them into our political debate. Having the experience of my country as an example, I consider that diasporas have a political, economic, social and cultural potential that we should not neglect.

I could also, dear colleagues, underline the role that these diasporas play at the diplomatic level, through their contribution to relations between host countries and between countries of origin. Diasporas therefore assume a strategic value for our countries and, in my opinion, are an opportunity for Europe and also for the host countries.

The Europe that we know, the real Europe, is a Europe open to the diasporas from throughout the world and that maintain relations with their countries of origin. But the great challenge for our countries is also, in my opinion, the inclusion of diasporas in national decisions.

My country, since the advent of democracy, has allowed Portuguese abroad to participate in national elections and, when I speak of Portuguese, I am also referring to bi-nationals. Although Portugal seems to me to be a very good example, in my country there is still a long way to go to achieve optimum participation of our diaspora in Portuguese political life.

I therefore believe that this Parliamentary Assembly must continue to mobilise to start down this path that will lead our diasporas to be included in the decision-making processes and political choices of the respective countries. You tell me that this is often a very long road, and it is true that it is a road full of obstacles, but I believe that it is unavoidable and of great importance for many, for our democracies.

This report has the great merit of putting on the agenda a subject of enormous importance for our countries and our societies. Talking about diasporas also means talking about the influence of our countries and the influence of Europe in the world. It is they who give the true dimension of our continent and the European people.

I would like to end by congratulating my colleague Mr Paulo PISCO on his report, for his excellent work on a subject that I consider a priority and that this Parliamentary Assembly will also take as a priority.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:02:42

Thank you.

And now I call Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ from Turkey and after him there will be Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA from Ukraine.

Thank you.

We're trying to get connected online.

Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ

Turkey, NR

10:03:11

Thank you, Mister Chair.

It takes time to take the floor from online I think.

Dear president,

Dear colleagues,

Let me begin by congratulating the rapporteur for his prominent work on highlighting the importance of diaspora communities for the host countries.

As many of you know, six million people of Turkish descent currently live in European countries. They continue to be a part of their host countries and to contribute their host states.

Turkish diaspora in Europe has a history of more than half a century. The formation of Turkey's diaspora in Europe started with labour agreements signed with several European countries back in the 1960s.

At the beginning Turkish workers migration to Europe did not consider themselves as permanent settlers in Europe. However, as time goes by, integration process began with the help of family reunifications.

I'm happy to say that Turkish people in Europe are no longer mere temporary workers. They are also active citizens serving to the host countries as scientists like as Covid-19 vaccine inventors, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, artists and even politicians.

Turkey has always establish close ties with the diaspora community in Europe in order to promote their integration in the host countries and to facilitate their links with the homeland.

Diaspora communities significantly contribute to their countries of origin in many ways as well as in their homeland. For this reason my dear friends, they deserve to participate in political processes in their homeland as well. With the technological and logistical advances and increased connectivity, diaspora communities have the opportunity to play both a roll in the host countries as well as their countries of origin. With a will to facilitating their democratic participation in Turkey, Turkey has amended its election law in 2012 as to enable Turkish diaspora in Europe and elsewhere to cast their votes from the countries where they reside.

We are happy to see that turnouts in both general and presidential elections increased significantly since then. That's why we all I think support diaspora in their homeland and to connectivity in their original countries as well.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:06:21

Thank you.

I call Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA from Ukraine and after her, Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS from the United Kingdom.

Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA

Ukraine, ALDE

10:06:32

Dear Mister Chair of the Assembly,

Dear colleagues,

First thank you very much to the rapporteur for his really excellent and great work.

Note that the diasporas and associations of migrants of our compatriots abroad play an important role in the economic, social, political and cultural development of both countries of residency and of origin. They are the bridge enhancing inclusiveness and diversity and key stakeholders in civic diplomacy.

International mobility and migration flows have been recently growing, so numbers of foreign nationals are also increasing. Development of more inclusive national policies and European cooperation would be required.

It is also important in terms of the Council of Europe's activities in presenting national minorities multilingualism and multiculturalism as part of democracy and human rights.

The report recognises the value of diasporas and suggests a set of actions, policies and governmental strategies to be implemented by the member States. It's very important for Ukraine as the Ukrainian diaspora is settled in numerous countries and contributes to the development of our country: the Canadian diaspora or in the USA.

The initiative suggested by the resolution should be taken into account by national parliaments and governments in the formation and implementation of state policy on diasporas.

At the same time establishing a European forum for diasporas can become a great platform for international exchanges between diaspora communities. It's also worth noting that the report mentioned the problem of the manipulation of diasporas by the country of their living origin by ruling non-democratic authorities or non-state actors for their own political or other purposes also while violating human rights.

The Council of Europe should advocate that diasporas cannot be banned and persecuted by their home countries. We should condemn stigmatisation, discrimination and violence against national minorities in diasporas and call to combat hate speech in media or political speeches.

We call to strengthen multilateral dialogue and the more multifaceted co-operation with civil society and acknowledge the value of diaspora in the development of Europe.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:09:08

Thank you.

Now I call Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS from the United Kingdom, to be followed by Mr Samad SEYIDOV from Azerbaijan.

Please.

Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS

United Kingdom, SOC

10:09:22

Thank you Mr President and colleagues.

I'm a minister of religion and I worked with diasporas for the whole of my working life.

Mr Paulo PISCO's report is most welcome. Time is short and a number of important points have already been made.

I'd like to highlight three aspects of this question which might be added to the report.

Firstly, there's the importance of remittances: money sent by members of diasporic communities to their families back home. According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures, remittance flows to lower and middle-income countries amounted to a staggering $554 billion US dollars. This is more than the total foreign direct investment to those countries. It's over three times the amount of official development assistance they receive.

It's not difficult to imagine that the entire economies of developing countries depend on these flows. With that in mind, it's worrying to note that Covid-19 is likely to reduce these amounts by up to 14%. This would be a hammer blow for people already living in poverty.

Before I make my second observation, let me explain that the membership of a church I served for over 20 years until my retirement had people from 55 different countries. Over 20 different mother tongues were spoken by our congregation. Since I baptised them, married them, buried them, I had easy access to a vast array of ethnic minority groups. I can testify to the importance of these groups in providing solidarity and fellowship to their members.

I mentioned significant work I did with Fijian, Korean, Ghanaian, Gambian, Sierra Leonean, Zimbabwean and South African groups and others too in terms of affirming their rights, enjoying their culture and finding educational and employment opportunities for them.

And so to my second observation. Having all these national groups under one roof allowed us to get them to relate to each other and avoid the danger of living in parallel universes. So Africans met Caribbeans, Asia touched Europe, North came together with South. Indeed we saw a microcosm of the whole world.

While people's national identity had ample opportunity to be affirmed, we were able to see integration between and across these groups.

Finally I must point to the generational question. First generation migrants are often content with the need of the fellowship of others from the same cultural and national background. This often weakens with the second generation as young people attend school and make friendships with people from all kinds of backgrounds. This process continues even further by the third. I'd estimate that 20 of the last 25 weddings which I have officiated have been across the diasporic groupings.

Mr Paulo PISCO's report is timely. Once again, I thank him for it.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:12:44

Thank you very much.

Now the floor goes to Mr Samad SEYIDOV from Azerbaijan, and he will be followed by Mr Pere LÓPEZ from Andorra.

Mr Samad SEYIDOV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

10:12:55

Thank you very much Mr President.

I want also to express my gratitude to the Rapporteur for this excellent report, very important report, and very timely report.

This is a vivid example that these kind of problems should be investigated, should be analysed, and especially here, in the Council of Europe, because diversity is one of our core values. That is why we should understand what we should do with this phenomenon. Again, I want to express my gratitude because we can see a lot of positive recommendations within the report, which is great and which is very important.

At the same time, we can see some problematic issues in the report, which is also very important, especially taking into account the role of diasporas is growing in Europe and all over the world. From this point of view, I think we should take into account that sometimes – and my colleagues have already mentioned this – the role of diaspora and the impact of diaspora to the country of origin. That is crucial.

Maybe for the first time in the history of this Assembly, as a representative of Azerbaijan, I am going to speak on behalf of Armenians who are living in Azerbaijan. They are citizens of Azerbaijan but sometimes representative of very strong, very rich, very influential Armenian diasporas; they misuse, they use as a tool for their own political reasons [sic]. These people are looking – I mean those who are living in Azerbaijan – they are looking for peace; for normal communication with the rest of the nations, in my country also. But unfortunately, the strong, influential and very big diasporas in France, Russia and the United States of America sometimes try to manipulate these people.

This is a problem.

That is why I think this report very rightly mentioned what we should do. Maybe we need more reports in this direction in order to understand that [there are] not only problems within Europe, but sometimes these groups of people try to create or manipulate people who are living in the region, in the country of a region. And that is why, from this point of view, I think this is an essential report. This is a very crucial report. This report shows us in which direction we should go.

And the last, very important, remark which I wanted to say.

Thank God that we are returning to the understanding of our core values: that Europe is a place of diversity, not the place where we can see the same absolute standards.

Yes, we need the same standards, but we need the same standards in the environment of diversity. From this point of view again, thanks to the Rapporteur.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:16:10

Thank you.

I call now Mr Pere LÓPEZ from Andorra, and he will be followed by Mr Viorel-Riceard BADEA from Romania.

Mr LÓPEZ is not here and for this reason I call Mr Viorel-Riceard BADEA from Romania, and he will be followed by Mr Allal AMRAOUI from Morocco.

Mr Viorel-Riceard BADEA

Romania, EPP/CD

10:16:42

Dear colleagues, dear President,

First of all, I would like to express my greatest support for this report, because of the proposals that the draft resolution and the draft recommendation contain.

As a senator representing Romanians living beyond the country's borders, I am following this topic with great interest and I am concerned about the way in which my fellow citizens are integrated in the states where they have chosen to live, in the majority of cases, as a result of the European Union's right to free choice of movement and residence.

There are significant communities of Romanians in Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, but also in many other states. According to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Romania is the fifth largest diaspora in the world in terms of the number of inhabitants.

I have initiated at the Council of Europe, in this Assembly, up to now three motions for resolution on issues that unequivocally refer to the fate of a large part of the Romanian diaspora. Respectively the right to work of domestic workers, especially women, the impact of labour migration on the children left in the countries of origin.

All these documents became resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly. The precarious status of trans-customer and seasonal workers in Europe was another proposal of mine that has already been forwarded to the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons for allocation to the rapporteur.

I hope that the recommendations included in these documents will be taken into account as relevant factors for improving the situation of these people. In order to provide decent working conditions similar to those given to any employee, both for domestic and trans-domestic workers, and not least for the provision of increased protection for these children whose parents have gone to work abroad.

Dear colleagues, the engagement of the members of the diaspora community in everything that represents the life of the community in which they live, through their involvement in the decision-making process for their respective community, is extremely important. But, at the same time, the efforts that states of origin have to make to create within a reasonable time frame solid premises to facilitate the return to the country of origin for the members of the diaspora who want to undertake this return are also very important.

However, I strongly support a strategic partnership between civil society, states and the private sector and international organisations capable of generating a European diaspora policy. And this proposal to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to draw up a white paper of good practices of diaspora inclusion in the member States of the Council of Europe seems to me an excellent proposal.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:20:04

Thank you very much.

Now I call Mr Allal AMRAOUI from Morocco and after him, please be prepared, Mr Ahmet YILDIZ from Turkey.

Mr Allal AMRAOUI

Morocco

10:20:20

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear colleagues,

I would like to begin by congratulating my friend Mr Paulo PISCO on his excellent report, which I welcome.

We are in a globalised world: the diaspora is an essential part of the rapprochement between countries of origin and host countries. Morocco hosted a meeting of the Parliamentary Network on Diaspora Policies in Rabat in 2018 and Morocco has a very large diaspora abroad — almost 5 million — across Europe. Moroccan nationals abroad manage to be very well integrated within their host country, while maintaining strong links with their country of origin. With their culture and mixed identity, they generally represent examples of success and there are even success stories that, all over the world, have made their mark in various fields, including the economy, politics, science and culture.

Thanks to their culture, they also play an important role in the fight against fanaticism and extremism and, on the Moroccan side, the diaspora has always been considered a national asset and ambassadors of their country within their host country.

There has always been a ministerial department that deals with Moroccans in the world. Currently, we have a minister who also deals with the diaspora and who was a member of this Assembly; we have a Council of the Moroccan Community living abroad, which is a constitutional body. There is still work to be done, politically, to ensure their full and effective participation in electoral events. At the level of their country of origin, the logistical modalities have not yet been defined, but there is almost unanimous agreement on the importance of their participation.

This diaspora is of course also experiencing difficulties within the host countries, with a rise in xenophobia and Islamophobia, and is also a victim of all kinds of discrimination.

Morocco would like to stress that it has ensured that the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, adopted in Marrakech in 2018, takes due account of the important contribution of diasporas to the development of countries, both of origin and destination. Indeed, the Marrakech Pact has established, for the first time, a methodology with qualitative cooperation between countries of origin and destination, with a view to responsible and coordinated migration governance.

I would also like to point out that Morocco is starting to have a large diaspora from a number of countries in Africa and the Middle East, Asia, Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. Once a port of transit, our country has become a destination of residence.

Again, this is an excellent report and I thank you. 

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:23:46

Thank you.

Now I call Mr Ahmet YILDIZ from Turkey, and after him, please be prepared, Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV from Azerbaijan.

Please.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Turkey, NR

10:24:03

I really appreciate the tremendous and dedicated work by Mister rapporteur.

As a country which is very experienced on diasporas, Turkey, and myself as a former consul in the diplomatic service, we try to contribute for its efficiency.

Indeed dear colleagues, I will not repeat the previous speakers but I must say that Europe and the area of the Council of Europe in general would be the best place on earth for diaspora policies, diaspora practices, because of its complementary economies, complimentary demographics and its position near the origin of migration countries.

When we look back at the record in the previous decades it is mixed. Of course there are some success stories. There is improvement, but unfortunately, it took sometimes four decades, five decades, six decades to legislate relevant laws and improve good practices.

In other parts of the world there are good examples also, for example Australia and some other countries. They were more rapid and more efficient in some legislations and practices. That's why I urge all members of the Council of Europe to get prepared. Now we may see that these issues may be relevant not for some countries, but in the near future it will be very relevant for everybody in the Council of Europe.

I hope this report will be a tool to incentivise for this purpose.

As I said, there are many success stories in diasporas. Diasporas are vibrant communities but with special needs, sometimes affirmative action. As a previous speaker said, two doctors, Turkish doctors in the diaspora in Germany, they improved, they developed this Biontech vaccine as a service to all humanity.

Why not other examples in the near future?

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:26:33

Thank you.

Now I call Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV from Azerbaijan, and he will be followed by Mr Mikayel MELKUMYAN from Armenia.

Please.

Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV

Azerbaijan, ALDE

10:26:44

Thank you, Chair.

Dear colleagues,

Time that is moving forward has changed dramatically the concept of diaspora and, accordingly, the diaspora policy of countries over the past 50 years. This is especially true for a number of newly independent states, primarily post-Soviet states and peoples.

I am well aware of the important role of global political processes in the life of the diaspora in the example of my country Azerbaijan, as a person who has studied this problem for decades and has contacted many members of the diaspora of different ages in different countries.

It is a fate of the Azerbaijani state, which is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its independence this year, that it has a diaspora four times exceeding its number of citizens. The population of Azerbaijan is 10 million, and the number of Azerbaijanis living abroad makes up 40 million. It is true that 30 million of these 40 million live in Iran, and although they officially constitute a national minority in this country, in fact, they make up the national majority in this country. It is an unusual and unprecedented bitter reality in the world that for decades so many people have not been allowed to have even primary school in their own language.

The number of members of Azerbaijani diasporas mainly in Europe, America and on other continents exceeds 10 million.

During the Cold War closed borders blocked the road for most diaspora members to their homeland Azerbaijan, and many of them were even officially considered enemies.

Today, the role of the diaspora is becoming more and more important both in the countries in which they live and in the countries to which they belong originally, because they are perceived as significant bridge in interstate relations. Today, just as diasporas need attention and care from the countries in which they live and their homeland, in parallel they are needed both by their homeland and the countries of which they are citizens or choose their place of residence. This, of course, underlines the importance of co-ordination and systems approach in diaspora policy.

I think that in the future it would be very good to have a permanent forum of the European diaspora every year or every two years in order to have an open exchange of views.

I would like to outline here the mechanism for implementing my proposal. I think that the organiser of this Forum could be the Council of Europe, which over time has to resort to innovations and new methods of work. I hope that the European Forum of Diaspora will lead to many effective and real practical results if organised by the Council of Europe, without diminishing the importance of the World Forum for Democracy, also organised by the Council of Europe in recent years.

Of course, as in the Forum for Democracy, it is possible to expand the circle of participants, not being limited to the 47 participating countries.

Such a bridge, which the Council of Europe could successfully build, would be an invaluable contribution to the future systematic and effective functioning of diasporas.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:30:08

Thank you.

Now we'll try to get connected with Mr Mikayal MELKUMYAN from Armenia.

He will be speaking on line. Can we get in touch?

Unfortunately, we cannot get connected with him and in this case the floor goes to Ms Serap YAŞAR from Turkey, to be followed by Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK from Ukraine.

Please.

Ms Serap YAŞAR

Turkey, NR

10:30:38

Good morning, thank you Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

I would like to congratulate the Rapporteur Mr Paulo PISCO for his excellent report on diaspora.

We believe that this draws our attention to some very important issues concerning diaspora policies and what needs to be done to improve their lot.

There is a tremendous potential in these diaspora communities, and there are a lot of responsibilities in these host countries to provide them with good conditions so that they can develop properly.

Yet they are confronted with many threats to their rights and their fundamental freedoms.

I am familiar with that when it comes to the Turkish diaspora communities in Europe. Since the 1960s those diasporas have grown a lot. Turkey has maintained links with those diaspora communities and has supported their integration into the host society and the exercise of their rights and freedoms in their respective host countries as equal citizens.

Unfortunately, due to the rise of populism, xenophobia and racism, a number of the NGOs established by the Turkish diaspora in their Muslim communities have been subjected to significant restrictions that violate their right to freedom of assembly and association.

At the same time, there are major problems with regard to the teaching and learning of their mother tongue and religion. Some countries have tried to limit the number of Turkish teachers and religious leaders sent by the Turkish government. Unfortunately, Turkish diaspora leaders are confronted with a lot of obstacles when it comes to studying their mother tongue and religious learning. Sometimes their security is undermined, which is a serious violation of human rights.

I am pleased to see that this report is proposing a positive framework for diaspora and for host countries in proposing diaspora-friendly policies for access to protection of their rights.

However, we must be aware of the difficulties confronted by diasporas; it is still very difficult for them to enjoy their rights as fully equal citizens in their host countries.

I hope that this report will help contribute to changing the approach towards diasporas so that they do not suffer any discrimination any longer.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:33:54

Thank you.

I call Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK from Ukraine.

After her, please be prepared, Mr Attila TILKI from Hungary.

Please, Madam Yevheniia .

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

10:34:07

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear Assembly members, dear rapporteur,

The main idea, which is raised in the report — to come up with the joint strategy on the development of the unified policies on diasporas — is very well received by all our colleagues.

This is a strategic approach, would it be realised, to set the predictable long-term standards for both receiving diasporas countries and sending diasporas countries.

The proposed initiatives can be implemented mainly in countries with strong economies and strong democratic institutions.

It is also worth noting that the report only touches on the issue of manipulation of diasporas by countries of origin or non-State actors for their own political or other purposes. It is obvious that for the Ukrainian side this aspect is currently a priority interest, in particular given the use of Russia and some other countries of their own diasporas to implement their scenarios in Ukraine. I would also address the same notion on manipulations in the attempts of some countries to provide their national passports to the citizens of other countries.

Without any doubts I support the key provision of the draft resolution that the diaspora policies across the European continent should focus on promoting the political integration of diaspora communities into their host countries, while also encouraging and facilitating ongoing engagement with their countries of origin.

I will support the proposed resolution and recommendation.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:35:40

Thank you.

Now I call Mr Attila TILKI from Hungary to be followed by Mr Abdelali HAMIDINE from Morocco.

Please.

Mr Attila TILKI

Hungary, EC/DA

10:35:57

Hungary pays a special attention to Hungarian communities abroad. After 2010 the policy for Hungarian communities abroad became crucial, focusing both on Hungarians in the Carpathian basin, Hungarians who stuck abroad as a result of the peace treaties ending the First and Second World Wars, Hungarians in the diaspora, expatriates and their descendants.

Regarding relations with Hungarians in the diaspora Hungary opened a new chapter in 2010, rebuilding relations with Hungarian communities in diaspora became a crucial aim. Diaspora policy gradually became a more and more important field of the policy for Hungarian communities abroad.

The Hungarian Diaspora Council was established ten years ago as part of which maintaining communication with diaspora organisation is continuous.

The Hungarian diaspora is well organised. There are hundreds of Hungarian organisations worldwide. One of the most important goals of Hungarian diaspora policy is to keep in touch with these communities so Hungarians abroad may preserve their identity.

Unlike other countries, the Hungarian diaspora policy focuses on preserving and strengthening Hungarian identity. We mainly organise programmes in the fields of education and culture. In the past few years we have paid special attention to young people of the second, third and fourth generation. We have launched several programmes that are aimed to reach young people with Hungarian roots, such as the student diverse programme immersion tools, as part of which every year thousands of students living in the diaspora have an opportunity to visit Hungary.

All of these contribute to fostering a sense of belonging to a community with the Hungarian nation.

Because of the peace treaties after the First World War, for example, 100 000 Hungarians stuck to the territory of Ukraine. For us it is very important that Hungarian people living in the territory of Ukraine should have the original minority.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:38:40

Thank you very much.

And now the floor goes to Mr Abdelali HAMIDINE from Morocco, and our last speaker after him will be Mr Dmytro NATALUKHA.

Please.

Mr Abdelali HAMIDINE

Morocco

10:39:03

Dear colleagues,

On behalf of the Moroccan delegation, I thank the rapporteur, Mr Paulo PISCO, and congratulate him on the quality of his report.

Mister President,

Morocco has become a migratory crossroads for Euro-African traffic. Morocco has become a key stage for sub-Saharan migrants seeking to leave the African continent. As the duration of the stopover is not fixed in advance, they need to find accommodation, work and obtain all kinds of information necessary to continue their adventure.

Morocco has become a host country and has an ambitious policy towards migrants who wish to settle in the country. Since 2014, two regularisation campaigns have resulted in almost 60 000 people being granted residence permits. The integration of sub-Saharans in Morocco is progressing little by little. The authorities are listening to civil society so that migrants can have full access to social rights, schools and health care.

Mister President,

Morocco also has a migrant community in the world, particularly on the European continent, a community that is attached to its country of origin. It also receives special attention from His Majesty the King. In this context, His Majesty King Mohammed VI has given very high instructions to the competent authorities and to all those involved in the field of transport to work towards facilitating their return to their country at affordable and reasonable prices that are within the reach of all, and to enable Moroccan families abroad to return to their country and to reconnect with their families and loved ones, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mister President,

We stress the importance of a broad dialogue, cooperation and coordination between the authorities of the host countries to develop and implement integration policies, including in the fields of culture, education, social protection and economic inclusion. Necessary vocational training for migrants could be promoted through a partnership between governments, the business community and diaspora associations. There is a need to include effective provisions in national legislation for migrants in cases of exclusion and discrimination.

We stress the importance of combating stereotypes for the integration of diasporas and the realisation of their potential as democratic participants, recalling the obstacles arising from populism, xenophobia and racism for the democratic participation of diasporas.

Thank you, Mister President.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:42:00

Thank you.

And now I call Mr Dmytro NATALUKHA. Is he here?

Since he's not here, then we have two more speakers who requested to present their speeches. I call Ms Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN from Finland and after her there will be Ms Arzu ERDEM from Turkey.

Please.

We are trying to get connected via online.

Ms Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN

Finland, EPP/CD

10:43:16

Mister President, do you hear me?

Very good, thank you.

Mister President,

Diasporas have crossed barriers between people for a long time and this excellent report discloses good examples on how they have benefited both old and new residents in local settings. A common and sound European policy adds to this.

As we know, diasporas increase possibilities for economic social and cultural development. They can have a positive impact on cultural integration consisting of language proficiency, independence from social welfare, inclusion in the public sphere, and employment relationships. As diasporas play a key role in transmitting information to new residents on local culture, habits, possibilities, and people, the assistance they can offer for finding a job in a new culture can become a turning point in the newcomer's life.

A good example in point can be given from a Finnish city where a young entrepreneur has established a service in co-operation with the city council to associate immigrant background youth with local employees. The project is called "give an opportunity". Increasing similar services in Europe would enrich European societies by large.

Association, assistance, and services in employment should be understood as vital operations for local diasporas as they facilitate integration and provide support to newly arrived immigrants. As diaspora members also help new arrivals to cope with psychological factors that relate to language barriers, loss of usual social networks, and legal uncertainty, assistance for finding an employee is a fruitful means to answer challenges on personal, local, national, and transnational levels.

Diasporas can be platforms where 1+1=3. In addition to offering access to the labour market, social integration should be promoted also via democratic participation, access to education, and strong dialogue between host countries' diaspora communities and countries of origin.

There is very much to be done in forming diasporas into constructive venues for co-operation between people from different backgrounds.

Thank you very much.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:45:50

Thank you.

Dear colleagues, that concludes the list of speakers and I call Mr Paulo PISCO to reply.

Mister PISCO, you have three minutes. Please.

Mr Paulo PISCO

Portugal, SOC

10:46:12

Thank you very much, Mr President.

I would like to begin by thanking all the colleagues who have taken part in this debate, which seems to me to be very rich and with very important contributions, especially because it has become clear that there is a convergence of opinions in this report on the part of our colleagues, who recognise the importance of diasporas in our societies.

This is very important, because it is a convergence. It is also a sign that the Council of Europe is doing work to raise awareness of these issues which, I hope, will bear fruit with governments.

I would also like to highlight the fact that Mr António Vitorino has expressed his agreement with the report's proposals and his willingness to cooperate more closely with the Council of Europe and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is essential if we are to examine these issues in depth. The aim of the report is also to promote good cooperation between countries. It is fundamental to raise awareness in countries so that they recognise these diasporas. The objective of this report is to bring peace where it does not exist, more integration, and more recognition of people's rights.

The bilateral agreements that have mentioned here seem to me to be very important so that relations between countries can also lead to the recognition of migrant citizens, of the different diasporas.

Another colleague, Mr Bernard FOURNIER, said that migration is sometimes frightening. I think that this is a very important point, but I believe that it is worse if everyone lives with the fear of others. In this way, we do not manage to have more harmonious societies that recognise the rights of others; on the contrary, we should take advantage of the fact that others, the diasporas, are in our countries so that all their potential, at all levels - cultural, social, diplomatic, political - can really be highlighted.

I also think it is very important to highlight what has been said about the need for new strategies towards diasporas, which must be led either by international organisations or by countries. Because if we adopt these new strategies, it is already something very important to remove the indifference with which many countries and organisations approach the issue of diasporas. Some countries go as far as denying their rights.

I believe that here, we can defend more rights, and not take away rights. Diasporas are really strategic for Europe.

I would also like to thank all the colleagues who have been chairpersons of our Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population, Mrs Sahiba GAFAROVA, Mrs Doris FIALA and also our President, Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ.

Thank you very much, Mr President.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:50:22

Dear colleagues, I would like to apologise for a small mix up because we still have the very last speaker, the last but not the least.

Since the floor is not closed yet, I give the floor to Ms Arzu ERDEM from Turkey.

Please.

Ms Arzu ERDEM

Turkey, NR

10:50:47

Dear Mr President,

Dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to thank and also congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Paulo PISCO, for the wonderful report concerning the diasporas.

I come from Turkey. As you know, there are more than six million Turks living in Europe. People living in Europe become part of the European country over time and thus serve the country of residence as scientists, doctors, engineers, artists, politicians, etc.

Here I want to give two important examples, namely the scientists Dr Özlem TÜRECI and Dr Ugur SAHIN, who were born in Germany, and are members of a Turkish family that moved to Germany in the 1960s. These two scientists are serving not only Germany but the whole of humanity with their vaccine invention against Covid-19. From this it can be seen that diasporas can play leading roles over time. I am sure that diasporas can have a high potential to contribute to their country of residence.

We as a Turkish group had given two amendments regarding adding Islamophobia to the text, and learning the mother tongue along with the language of the country of residence. The rapporteur had accepted these in the Commission. We thank him again.

It is very important to us that the diasporas can continue their cultural relations with their country of origin. They should have the full right to preserve them. The rights of the diasporas in the country of residence should also be protected – on a cultural, human, religious and also political level.

All member States should contribute to this. I hope and believe that this draft will serve this.

Thank you again.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:52:46

Thank you very much.

Does the Chairperson of the Committee wish to speak?

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, Chairperson of the Committeee on Migration, Refugees ans Displaced Persons

10:52:53

Thank you, Mr Vice-President.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

On behalf of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, let me congratulate Mr Paulo PISCO on this substantial report, which is the result of many years of continuous work in our Committee on the subject of diaspora.

As migration to and from European countries is constantly increasing, Europe needs to promote a standard diaspora policy in order to value and dignify the presence of diasporas in countries of origin as well as in host countries. Diaspora communities represent an opportunity for European countries to enrich their cultural diversity and to develop strong economic and cultural exchange relationships with countries of origin.

Council of Europe member States can find it in their interest to support diaspora members if they engage with them, empower them and make them self-reliant, thus enabling greater cohesion and inclusion in society, and avoiding the risk of their political exclusion, which can lead to xenophobia, radicalisation and extremism.

In recent years, forced migration and new employment opportunities have enabled a growing number of expatriate communities to settle throughout Europe and to contribute to the development of their home and host countries.

However, there are still differences in national policies that slow down the process of inclusion in host countries, through the maintenance of legal and administrative barriers to the economic and political engagement of diasporas.

In my country, Switzerland, out of a population of over eight million, more than 22% of residents and one in four employees do not have a Swiss passport. More than 34% of people over 15 living in Switzerland have an immigrant background. Members of the diaspora contribute to our gross domestic product, tax revenues and the national social insurance system.

Personally, I am a strong supporter of the idea that it is time for the Council of Europe to examine how it can engage with diasporas, with a view to identifying good practices in managing co-operation with diasporas and making the most of the potential represented by these diasporas. The Council of Europe can play a major role in developing a common European diaspora policy and in promoting international co-operation, by bringing together the different actors that shape national diaspora policies, including parliaments, governments, diaspora associations, NGOs, media and research bodies.

I encourage you, dear colleagues, to support the draft resolution and the draft recommendation presented by our colleague Mr Paulo PISCO and, more generally, to support and relay, in our respective countries, this call for a clear and determined commitment to the issue of diasporas.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:55:59

Thank you very much.

And now, dear colleagues, I can officially solemnly declare that the debate is closed.

The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons has presented a draft resolution, Doc. 15250, to which 8 amendments have been tabled, and a draft recommendation, to which no amendments have been tabled.

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons wishes to propose to the Assembly that amendments 1, 3 and 2 to the draft resolution, which were unanimously approved by the Committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly. Is that so, Mister FRIDEZ?

Vote: For a European policy on diasporas

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, Chairperson of the Committeee on Migration, Refugees ans Displaced Persons

10:56:47

Yes, that's right.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:56:49

Thank you.

Does anyone object?

If so, please ask for the floor by raising your hand in the hemicycle for those who are present, or via the remote system.

As there is no objection I declare that Amendments 1, 3 and 2 to the draft resolution have been agreed.

Under Rule 34.12 introduced by Resolution 2350, any amendment which has been rejected by the Committee, ceased for the report by two thirds majority of the votes cast, shall not be put to the vote in plenary and shall be declared as definitely rejected. Unless ten or more members of the Assembly object.

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 7, 6, 5 and 4 to the draft resolution which were rejected by the Committee with a two thirds majority be declared as rejected.

Is that so Mister FRIDEZ?

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, Chairperson of the Committeee on Migration, Refugees ans Displaced Persons

10:58:02

That's exactly right.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

10:58:05

Thank you.

As nobody objects, Amendments No. 7, 6, 5, and 4 are rejected.

Please, could those who object raise their hand in the hemicycle, for those present, or via the remote system?

I remind the Assembly that the objection must be supported by at least ten members.

There is no rejection, okay.

Since there are only seven, not ten, people who object, the decision holds.

Yes, fewer than ten members objected and so Amendments No. 7, 6, 5 and 4 are rejected.

And now we go directly to Amendment No. 8.

I call now Mr Vladimir KOZHIN to support Amendment No. 8. You have 1 minute, please.

Mister KOZHIN, we cannot hear you well. Please, speak up.

Dear colleagues, is there anyone else who wishes to support Amendment No. 8?

If nobody supports the amendment... OK, we have Mr Sergey KISLYAK online who wishes to speak.

Please.

Mr Sergey KISLYAK

Russian Federation, NR

11:01:14

We simply wanted to add that this particular packet of rejection...

The fact that there were particularly ten who were against this particular rejection of this amendment, but because of the situation none of us are present. It's an unusual situation.

Now with regard to No. 8. Quite obviously it involves fighting against any sort of discrimination against the diaspora population. I do feel that this particular issue, quite obviously, for our organisation is extremely important. We do feel that it is necessary to include this particular text into the report.

I wanted to say that, unfortunately, because of this very very speedy process that has been adopted, it's unfortunate that we are not able to discuss some of the aspects of the report, for the most part positive aspects of the report. A number of issues that we wanted to add as well, unfortunately, because of the speed with which it has been adopted, wasn't possible.

Thank you.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:02:40

Thank you, Mister Sergey KISLYAK.

I have been informed that Mr Paulo PISCO, the rapporteur, wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment on behalf of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons as follows: in Amendment No. 8 leave out the words "systemic discrimination against diasporas including in the virtual space, especially in the context of maintaining relations with the country of origin" and insert the words "discrimination against diasporas".

In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment meets the criteria of Rule 34.7.a and 67.4.d.

Is there any objection to the oral sub-amendment being debated?

This objection requires the support of at least ten members of the Assembly.

Please raise your hand to request to speak using the remote system.

Any objection?

No.

Fewer than ten members object to the oral sub-amendment being debated.

I call Mr Paulo PISCO to support the oral sub-amendment.

One minute please.

Mr Paulo PISCO

Portugal, SOC

11:04:14

Thank you, Mister President.

Just to say that we are in a position to accept part of this amendment with another wording, effectively, as you said, keeping only the sentence "as well as to prevent the manifestation of any forms of discrimination against diasporas".

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:04:41

Thank you.

Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment?

No.

What is the opinion of the mover of the main amendment Mr Vladimir KOZHIN? 

Can we bring him on?

The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons is of course in favour of the amendment.

I will now put oral sub-Amendment No. 1 to the vote.

Members present in the chamber should use the hemicycle voting system.

Members participating remotely should vote using the remote voting system.

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

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

Oral sub-Amendment 1 is agreed.

We will now consider the main amendment as amended.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment as amended?

No one?

What is the opinion of the Committee on the amendment?

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC

11:06:44

The Commission is in favour.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, SOC, President of the Assembly

11:06:47

I shall now put Amendment No. 8 to the vote.

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

The vote in the hemicycle and via remote voting system is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

Amendment 8 as amended is agreed to.

 

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Doc. 15250 as amended.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

The draft resolution in Doc. 15250 as amended is adopted.

 

Now we go to the draft recommendation.

We now come to the draft recommendation presented by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, to which no amendments have been tabled.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft recommendation contained in Doc. 15250.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

The draft recommendation in Doc. 15250 is adopted.

Current affairs debate: The need for an effective solidarity mechanism between European countries to relieve migratory pressure on front line countries

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:14:32

Please be seated.

Please be seated, dear colleagues. We will start in a minute.

Good morning, dear colleagues, we have our next item of business this morning, which is a current affairs debate on The need for an effective solidarity mechanism between European countries to relieve migratory pressure on front line countries.

The speaking time is limited to three minutes for all members except for the first speaker, chosen by the Bureau, who is allowed seven minutes. We will also hear a statement from Mr Notis MITARACHI, Minister of Migration and Asylum of Greece.

The debate will end by 1 p.m.

We will start by our first speaker, Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ, who has seven minutes, after which we will immediately come to the statement of the minister.

Pierre-Alain, you have the floor.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC

11:16:30

Thank you, Mister President.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,

The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons took the initiative for this current affairs debate after its ad hoc sub-committee returned from a fact-finding visit to Greece last May, on the situation of refugees and migrants on the island of Lesbos following the destruction by fire of the Mória camp. Following this visit, the Committee felt it necessary to convey two strong messages.

The first is the need to protect the lives and dignity of those who arrive in our countries and on our shores, whether they are irregular migrants, asylum seekers or refugees.

The second is the importance of expressing the necessary solidarity of the whole of Europe towards those countries on the front line that bear the greatest burden of the arrival of migrants. The recent events in Ceuta have provided an additional reason for this debate. The sudden influx of more than 8 000 irregular migrants and asylum seekers, including many unaccompanied children, has put the small Spanish enclave on the North African coast under severe strain. 

During our visit to Greece, we met with representatives of UNHCR, ICRC, civil society, various ministries, our colleagues in Parliament and refugees in the reception centres. We were informed that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of arrivals had decreased considerably but that safe access to Greek territory had become a problem due to strict border controls. We received testimonies of allegations, deportations and heavy-handed blockades, the so-called push-backs. While the situation on the mainland is now better, most of the 14 000 asylum seekers in the island reception centres remain exposed to particularly difficult living conditions.

The non-governmental organisations called on European countries to set up a more effective relocation mechanism. They also called on the Greek authorities to establish institutional partnerships with civil society on issues related to the support of migrants and refugees, in particular to provide sustainable health services. Pregnant women do not receive the minimum necessary health care in the reception centres and there are problems with hygiene and access to vaccinations. Children in the centres do not attend school and only receive non-formal education.

Major concerns were also expressed about the length of asylum procedures, which can take up to 2 years. There are over 18 000 asylum applications pending. Once people leave the centres as refugees or people in need of international protection, a new set of problems arise, including the lack of integration programmes.

We also heard from our ICRC colleagues that 1500 people have been reported dead or missing as a result of crossing the Aegean or Evros since 2015, including 528 minors. The identification process is very complicated due to the lack of a unified system.

However, there are positive developments: 745 unaccompanied and separated migrant children have been relocated to different European countries. But much more could and should be done in terms of relocation. Our Committee is currently working on a report on this issue, prepared by Lord Alexander DUNDEE. Another positive news is that Greece has also followed the recommendations of our Assembly and adapted its legislation by banning the detention of migrant children.

The highlight of our visit to Lesbos was a visit to the temporary reception and identification centre in Mavrovouni. Our impressions were mixed. On the one hand, we saw hope and smiles on the faces of people who have escaped from wars and misery; on the other hand, we saw very difficult living conditions, children without access to schools and playgrounds, pregnant women without the necessary care.

After visiting the centre, we can see that the Greek authorities are working to improve the living conditions of the refugees after the fire in Mória by providing them with slightly more dignified accommodation and sanitary facilities, but overall the situation is still very far from satisfactory. More than 6 000 people live in the centre, the majority from Afghanistan and Syria, 40 per cent of them children, and it is clear that these people are not there by chance. They complain about the food, the state of their tents and the very poor hygiene conditions, and they are desperately waiting for a response to their asylum application.

On the spot, touched by their situation, we committed ourselves to relay their concerns to the European authorities and to call on our member States to show more solidarity and humanity. We must ensure that the new European Pact on Migration and Asylum, which proposes new mechanisms to improve solidarity between member States in the field of asylum and migration, and which will replace the existing Dublin Regulations, will establish real solidarity, simple mechanisms, by which people in need of immediate protection will be relocated to the country that can offer them the best protection.

So far, only a few European states have taken in asylum seekers and, in fact, the majority of asylum seekers have self-settled in border states where reception conditions are often inadequate.

Unfortunately, what is proposed in the new Pact does not show sufficient solidarity with other countries and people in need of international protection. It is essential that measures are taken to help integrate those who remain on our shores and in our countries. There is scientific evidence that prospects for integration are significantly enhanced when a person has a link with the transferring state, which may include a common language, cultural background or family ties beyond those accepted as relevant for the purposes of transfer. And in the case of children, the care taken to ensure successful integration is particularly crucial.

In this whole migration story, I would argue that there is a fundamental contradiction between two legal approaches: one that aims to protect borders from illegal crossings and one that requires saving the lives of people in distress who are trying to escape violence and destitution, and who must be able to make use of an essential right recognised by all our states: the right to seek asylum and protection.

The values of our Organisation must be respected. We must show solidarity with the countries receiving these mixed flows of irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees and help protect the rights of these people, many of whom are extremely vulnerable. Receiving countries are under great pressure, their means are regularly overwhelmed. They need the concrete expression of our solidarity to relocate people, human beings, children, families who hope for a future of peace and security.

Europe, through the joint and unified action of its different member countries, must use its influence to put an end to wars and conflicts, unite its efforts to prevent the smuggling and trafficking of migrants and create more legal opportunities for migrants to cross borders for the purpose of migration and asylum. It must help frontline countries to manage arrivals. This is about respecting our values and the honour of our continent.

Thank you for your attention. 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:24:25

Thank you, Mister Pierre-Alain.

We now come to the statement from Minister Mr Notis MITARACHI.

Mister Minister, I do not see you yet on the screen. Here we go.

Welcome in our Assembly, Mister Minister, to the current affairs debate on The need for an effective solidarity mechanism between European countries to relieve migratory pressure on front line countries.

I would say this is really a topic that is to the heart of your government.

I know that you have only briefly been a member of our Parliamentary Assembly, so that is like coming home a little bit, if you wish.

I know that your time is quite limited so without any due delay, Mister Minister, I have the pleasure of giving you the floor.

You have the floor.

Mr Notis MITARACHI

Minister of Migration and Asylum of Greece

11:25:13

Thank you, Mister President, for giving me the opportunity to participate in today's meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

I would also would like to thank Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ and his Committee for visiting Greece and for the very fruitful discussion we indeed had when they came to our office in Athens.

It is critical to understand that migration is an issue that affects the entire European continent.

It's an issue that affects the entire planet and we need to think along that line providing a mechanism for solidarity to ensure that the pressure from migration is not met unevenly from the frontline states, particularly the countries in the Mediterranean is the previous year: Greece, Italy, Spain, Malta, and Cyprus.

I think it's important, and I thank Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ for his kind remarks, that we have made a lot of effort in Greece to undertake what is our responsibility, to improve the living conditions of asylum seekers in Greece.

In the last two years during the current government, we were able to almost eliminate any loss of life at sea because of the better surveillance overseas. We have outlawed keeping unaccompanied minors in police custody, something that Greece had established 20 years ago. We have been able to reduce the asylum seekers awaiting an asylum decision from 140,000 to 60,000 today, and hopefully to zero by the end of this year.

Now after schools have reopened after the pandemic, we were able to offer to all the asylum seekers the opportunity to go back to school, to the Greek schools.

When we talk about migration in the European context, were talking about three things.

One is managing the external dimension. The relationship between the European Union and the countries of origin and the kinds of transit. What it is is eliminating the root causes of migration. Then it's about protecting the European borders by fully complying with international European law. That's very important and very critical for this government. Thirdly, the fair distribution of responsibility among European partners.

Solidarity should be present in all three aspects since solidarity is a structural principle in any collective effort on migration management. Solidarity is as much about averting crises as it is about remedying their consequences.

Greece has been under sustained migration pressure for a number of years.

We have been called upon to protect external borders, to register and process applications for international protection, provide reception conditions, return those deemed not in need of protection and integrate the beneficiaries of refugee protection. My country follows a strict but fair migration policy. We will always offer asylum to those entitled to it.

I am pleased that Greece has a state of the art immigration programme called HELIOS which we work together with the International Organization for Migration to operate.

Based on the country’s size and GDP, the responsibility shouldered by Greece is disproportionate from an EU perspective. Our position is that we need a mechanism that can alleviate the pressure and distribute responsibility fairly and evenly among member States. The establishment of a mandatory solidarity mechanism, with relocation being at its core, is critical for the EU pact on migration and asylum.

We're concerned that the current proposal on the table by the European Commission falls shorts for a number of reasons. First, the triggering of the mechanism.

It goes without saying that the threshold of the mechanism should be the same whether we speak of situations of migratory pressure or search and rescue operations at sea.

It is also important for Greece to know that if it considers itself under migratory pressure, the European Union will be there to help.

It is rather important to have a transparent and predictable methodology on the assessment of migratory pressure.

Second, it is important that the Member States concerned are consulted on the measures that the state considered necessary to alleviate the pressure.

Third, the proposal on the table is bureaucratic and lacks automaticity. We argue that the European Union needs a standing permanent mechanism that allows for impactful solidarity to be delivered immediately when needed. Migratory pressure may escalate within days as you know, and we need to be assured that the solidarity mechanisms can deliver in this situation.

Fourth, were concerned about the viability and effectiveness of what is proposed and called the return sponsorship process. We're particularly concerned about the duration of this process. That means that even with the proposal for the return sponsorship, it may happen that we have an overcrowding again in the island, and then you will have camps like Moria that nobody would like to see again.

A year and a half ago Greece had 41,000 people residing on five islands. That being now a considerable part of the total population. I'm pleased to report that the number is down to 7,000 today, from 41,000 to 7,000 today in five camps. We are now below the stated capacities of these camps and, therefore, the living condition are much better. Building five brand-new camps that will meet the standards should be ready some of them in 2021, some in 2022.

Afterwards we will not have a problem of living condition on the islands. We were also able to evacuate Moria after the fire without any loss of life, of any injury.

My final point on this is that the flexibility in the context of the solidarity mechanisms cannot proceed to the detriment of alleviation of the burden. Solidarity measures need to be impactful and should not only involve the European Union. It should involve all the members of the Council of Europe.

I would like to propose also to think about solidarity beyond the Commission's proposal. We need to exhibit solidarity not only among member States but also towards refugees themselves. We need to properly revisit a policy proposal that has made the rounds, namely the mutual recognition of positive asylum decisions within member States, which would facilitate the mobility of beneficiaries of international protection within the European Union.

Beneficiaries become lawful residents of a single country. That shouldn't be the case. They should be lawful residents of the European Union. Are these people coming to the European Union seeking refugee status?

I think it's time to make this option available on the European continent.

On the key challenges faced by European countries as a whole, it has been the issue of returns of those not entitled to international protection. This is very critical for the credibility of the international legislation on refugees. We should be able to effectively discern among those entitled to international protection and those not entitled to international protection. Provide integration opportunities to the first group and be able to return the people not entitled to protection with dignity and safety preferably always in a voluntary way back in their home countries.

Finally, I should note that Greece has recently characterised Turkey as a safe third country in terms of people coming from Syria. Although already from 2016 the Joint statement had made in effect the similar determination, but also about Afghans, Somalis, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi applicants who have crossed into Greece from Turkey. Of course, every case will be judged individually as demanded by European and international law, but many applications may be found inadmissible. Thus applicants should be returned to Turkey based on the EU-Turkey Joint Statement.

We need to recognise at the same time the pressure that Turkey has been under for many years hosting four million refugees in Turkey. I think Europe also needs to make good of the promises that they have made towards Turkey under the EU-Turkey Joint Statement. It needs to be a joint statement that is honoured by both parties and both parties follow what they are obliged to do.

Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Greece has been under immense pressure for a number of years. We take our responsibility very seriously. One and a half million people came to Greece in the last ten years. We were able, under pressure many times, to provide the appropriate living standards, the appropriate individual asylum determination, and to provide integration to those not entitled to international protection.

We honour our commitments under the international and European law and all the conventions that Greece is a party to. But also at the same time we need more support, more help, from the members of the Council of Europe, from the Members of the European in Union, to have a fair system of redistributing those entitled to international protection, to all the European continent, and not give the feeling to the residents of the five islands, Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Kos and Leros that they are effectively the buffer zone for the European continent.

Thank you, Mister President, for giving me the opportunity to address the members of the Parliamentary Assembly.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:34:46

Thank you, Mister Minister, for your message.

We were very happy to have you on board in this very important debate, as you know.

And I'm looking at my Secretary General who is from your country, by the way, we are going to Athens somewhere in October, right? So, Mister Minister, if you would happen to be in the neighbourhood, well maybe we can have a coffee or something and get acquainted, why not. I see my Secretary General nodding her head. So, that's already okay.

Good. We then go to our speakers list. I remind our colleagues that you have three minutes. I'm a very severe chair to that account, as you know we start with the speakers on behalf of the political groups, and first on my list is the group's leader of the Socialist and Green party.

Mr Frank SCHWABE.

Frank, you have the floor.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

11:35:38

Mister President,

In the name of the Socialist Democrats and Greens, I would like to speak about the situation, and I would like to thank for sure Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ for the introduction.

We are in a situation that we speak about 70 years of the Geneva Convention and it's very clear.

We are in a situation where we will have this Geneva Convention in the future or not.

This we have to make very clear. It's not the something a little bit here or a little bit there, the question is do we have this convention in the future or do we not have this convention. Do we have a situation where people will suffer in their own country due to political reasons, to racist reasons, religious reasons, whatever, or even when because there's an ongoing war have the opportunity to go to another country? Not all of them can do it. A lot of people claim, yep, it's not possible for everybody, you need the conditions... whatever, yeah, for sure. But is this a world where you have this kind of hope that there is somewhere in the world where you can rescue your life, your family, your children?

Again, I would like to thank Pierre-Alain, not just for the introduction today, to make it very clear as a chair of the concerned committee to travel to the countries, to speak with the governments, and to make it public where we are and what the opportunities are, and that we really are in a danger to lose what was the result at the end and what were the lessons learned from the second world war when Germany started this kind of tragedy.

For sure we need to change the rules, for sure, obviously it doesn't work.

We need a kind of solidarity mechanism. Maybe not just in the EU, but it would be nice if we could have it in the EU as a minimum. For sure we need more help close to the countries from where people run away and flew, but what is not possible and what we cannot accept is that there are countries –and thanks to the minister that he was here with us, but for sure Greece is a part of the problem– we cannot accept that there are countries who organised push backs.

We have a lot of reports yesterday in the German media about the situation in Croatia and that the organisation's context in the EU. Maybe it's a part of this kind of push backs. This is not acceptable and we have to make it very clear. I have to say, as a Chair of the Socialists Democrats and Greens group, what is not acceptable as well is that there are member countries of our organisation who would like to change the rules, who would like to go away from the Geneva Convention.

Unfortunately it's the government in Denmark as well with the kind of new laws, but for sure it is not in line with this kind of international law. We are the organisation to prevent this law, for sure of to ask for new kind of mechanism. Thanks again very much, Pierre-Alain, that you take care, and that this organisation can deal with this question.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:38:54

Thank you, Mr Frank SCHWABE.

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

Mr Theodoros ROUSOPOULOS, you have the floor.

Mr Theodoros ROUSOPOULOS

Greece, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

11:39:05

There are a lot of Greeks around today Mr President.

Of course, on behalf of my Minister you are very welcome in Athens, not only for a coffee, but for a nice dinner under the Acropolis.

----

Mr Rik DAEMS: I will take you up on that.

----

Thank you, Mr President.

There can be no doubt, frontline countries facing the migration crisis in the Aegean and south eastern Mediterranean Sea should be supported in solidarity and not in suspicion.

The borders of Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta are the borders of the European Union.

Of course, we cannot overlook third countries that indeed carry a heavy burden of migration and refugee flows, like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, yet there should be no tolerance towards policies of instrumentalisation of migrants for geopolitical games.

Incidents like the one on the Greek borders that occurred back in February 2020, can never be repeated.

As the Group of the European People's Party we welcome the discussion for a new asylum and migration pact and a relocation plan between member States of the European Union.

We encourage the establishment of an effective solidarity mechanism among European member States. Implementing relocation in a fair and proportionate way remains critical for frontline countries. It is one of the most practical methods of demonstrating solidarity and it contributes to the effective management of asylum claims.

Voluntary relocation is also crucial. I draw your attention to the unaccompanied migrant children relocation plan implemented currently by Greece and prime minister Mr Kyriakos Mitsotakis personally.

European solidarity must be reflected in our mutually beneficial relations with third countries. The adoption of a "more for more" principal with co-operation on all dimensions of migration and asylum, including prevention, return and readmission is a sine qua non for depending and expanding co-operation of EU member States with third countries.

Our goal should be twofold. On the one hand, protect human lives and ensure the rights of refugees are respected, and on the other, control migration in Europe. We must be united on the migration front. It is not a problem that concerns a few or one that can be solved by a single actor. It requires unity, solidarity and consistency. That is after all the spirit of the Council of Europe and this Assembly.

I have the hope that it will be expressed, not only in words, or through lists, but in a more practical way.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:42:04

Thank you very much.

We now come to our speaker on behalf of the ALDE group, Mr Damien COTTIER.

Damien, the floor is yours.

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

11:42:14

Thank you very much, Mister President,

Thank you Mister Minister and our colleague Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ, who introduced this debate.

Migration is one of the main challenges of our century and we can see that the trend for international and internal displacement is on the rise. According to UNHCR figures for the year 2020, there are nearly 80 million people who are in forced displacement in the world, internal displacement or international displacement. 80 million people, that's the equivalent of the population of a country like Germany or Turkey. 75 per cent of these people, moreover, who are on the move — it must be remembered — are in countries of the South, which are often the neighboring countries of areas of conflict or tension, and 40 per cent of these displaced persons are children, which should also call our attention.

This is obviously due to geopolitical tensions and there, the ALDE group would like to recall that the response to these crises can only be a political response. We need political will, we need a will for dialogue to resolve the political crises that generate many displacements, and this is unfortunately too often lacking in the current international climate.

When it comes to managing migration in Europe, the response must obviously be coordinated. Therefore, the ALDE group supports this idea of a solidarity mechanism or, to use the terms of the UNHCR Global Compact on Refugees, this idea of “burden and responsibility sharing”. The fact of bearing collective responsibility, of working actively together and constructively to a humane response to this type of crisis. A response that is based on the criteria of the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees — this Convention whose 70th anniversary we are indeed celebrating.

So obviously, within the framework of the European Union — my country, Switzerland, is not part of it but it participates in the Dublin system — and several speakers have mentioned this today, rethinking the idea that a solidarity mechanism could extend beyond the countries participating in this system or the countries of the European Union. We obviously have to rethink the geographical criterion which means that certain countries are at the front. This idea should obviously make it possible to distribute things better, even if we see that some countries which are not currently countries of first arrival have more refugees in their system than the countries of first arrival — this must also be noted. This is the case for example of my country, Switzerland, which receives practically the same number in its asylum system as Italy or Greece but also of countries like France, like Germany or like Sweden which welcome more, even many more.

We must also remember what is not possible: bad reception conditions are something that is not acceptable and push-backs are things that are not acceptable from the point of view of international law and the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court has recalled this very clearly and our Assembly has also done so in Resolution 2299 (2019).

It is therefore a collective response that we must provide and the ALDE group supports efforts in this direction, and also the individual responsibility of each state to apply the law and provide a dignified reception for those entering. within the borders of Europe.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:45:42

Thank you, Damien.

We now go to the representative of the European conservatives, Lord Alexander DUNDEE.

Lord DUNDEE, I think you are online.

Alex, you have the floor.

 

Lord Alexander DUNDEE

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

11:45:53

Mr President, Mr Notis MITARACHI, dear colleagues,  

The voluntary relocation of refugees and asylum seekers is probably the strongest solidarity mechanism between European countries to relieve migratory pressure on frontline countries. Having been appointed rapporteur on such voluntary relocations by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, I am very glad today to speak on behalf of my political group about this. My report will be represented in the autumn.

Mr Notis MITARACHI and senior members of this Ministry, showed me and members of our ad-hoc subcommittee in May, the current situation in Lesbos.

Nearly 4,000 unaccompanied minors and other persons in need have been relocated from Greece to other European Union and non-EU countries under an emergency programme established by the EU Commission in April last year, despite the travel restrictions imposed by Covid-19.

This is an enormous humanitarian success, which must be praised. In particular, these relocations have been purely humanitarian without any legal obligation for them to happen.

Several unaccompanied minors were relocated from Greece to my own country, the UK, for family reunification under the Dublin Regulation last year. This is the only legal obligation existing in Europe but it is limited to asylum seekers and refugees. while it does not include other persons under international humanitarian protection, as well as countries outside the European Union.

Migratory pressure exists also through alarmingly increased arrivals of boat migrants in Italy and in Spain. Lampedusa and the Canary Islands have been on the front pages of media recently. This should not make us forget that Cyprus and Malta have for a long time received the highest numbers of boat migrants per capita. In the UK, Kent has to cope with numerous boat arrivals across the English Channel. Although media attention is largely on migrant boats, frontline countries under migratory pressure can also be found along the land routes of refugees and irregular migrants.

Turkey hosts the highest number of Syrians under temporary protection. This situation will be affected negatively if the United Nations Security Council cannot overcome the blockage of the humanitarian border crossing to Syria from Turkey. I call on our Russian members to ensure that humanitarian goods can continue to be delivered by the United Nations to Syria.

Bosnia and Herzegovina have certainly become the dead end road of irregular migrants along the so-called Balkan route towards Western Europe. While a lot is done now by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), other countries should provide humanitarian relief. Such relief can also comprise humanitarian aid and technical support to countries under migratory pressure, as well as humanitarian assistance to migrants there, including to those whose asylum applications are not successful.

The Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme of the UN and the EU deserves praise in this context. Voluntary humanitarian relocations are an effective way to avoid migrants turning to smugglers and becoming victims of human trafficking. We should encourage our parliaments to support such relocations, especially of those who are most vulnerable, for unaccompanied children, persons with medical needs and victims of human trafficking, it can be life-threatening to remain in overcrowded camps.

We must not look away from this human suffering in overwhelmed refugee camps.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:49:16

Thank you, Alexander.

We now move to the representative of the United Left. Mr Antón GÓMEZ-REINO.

Antón.

Mr Antón GÓMEZ-REINO

Spain, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

11:49:31

Good morning. 

The situation generated by the lack of policies and effort internationally in order to deal with the situation in the Mediterranean, has really tested our cohesion and our ability to work together. There is a total lack of respectable practices. Thousands are dying, ladies and gentlemen, to reach the European Union, to reach Europe, over all. What we have seen is, essentially, a necropolitics, if you like, being implemented, a death-oriented politics that is being implemented.

We see a terrible violation of human rights and there is very little solidarity on the part of European countries in order to deal with these migratory waves. It is really necessary to call out, to address all, to deal with this issue in a fashion, which is one which respects human rights and the lives of these individuals. We are speaking about human beings, we are speaking about thousands of human beings. This involves, not only the frontline countries, Italy, Greece and Spain, but all countries on the continent. It is a critical situation, we have to understand that we have a reality that has been generated, created because of conflicts. Conflicts in which all are embroiled. So it is necessary for us to have a policy that will look at the roots of the problem. 

The fight now is the fight against the militarisation of borders. The fight against poverty. The fight against the destitution in which human beings are living right now. We have horrific social injustice, so we need to have a policy which respects human lives, management which respects the very precepts of the numerous conventions which guarantee human rights as well and bring an end to the situation that exists right now. Bring an end to these camps that have been set up throughout Europe and let's not forget that we have to create safe channels or safe paths so that these individuals can come to the continent. Simply remember that the situation that exists right now is unacceptable, there really is no other word for it. 

We were in Lesbos, in Greece, we have been to the island of Lampedusa in Italy, we have seen the horrific situation that prevails, we have seen these individuals that have fallen victim, who have been the victims of civil wars or of conflicts in their places of origin and now, once again, these individuals are victimised in the system that has been set up, or the lack of a system that is in place right now. 

We are speaking about the very, very fundamental values of this Organisation, and we are to defend and uphold them. 

Thank you very much. 

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:52:55

Thank you very much.

We now continue with our speakers list.

First on my list is Mr Thomas HAMMARBERG online, I suppose.

Mr Thomas HAMMARBERG, you have the floor.

Mr Thomas HAMMARBERG

Sweden, SOC

11:53:11

Thank you very much.

I think this is one of the most important discussions we have had. We make references to the work of the European Union when it comes to trying to find solutions to these problems but I do think that we cannot leave this only to the discussions in the EU structure. We have to take a more active role on this because this is a really, very, very important matter and coming very close to our principles, not least for human rights.

I like the reference to the term solidarity, in two directions: one is that we have to see to it that not a few countries close to the Mediterranean area will have to handle the situation as it is now, with the other countries hiding and not really being interested in giving full support. But the solidarity, of course, also must go to the individuals who are victims of the lack of understanding among European politicians today. We must recognise that the situation in the Mediterranean is still going on. During the first four months this year more than 700 people drowned in the Mediterranean. They died there and that happened within four months. So the tragedies in the Mediterranean are still going on, though there is not much discussion about it in various countries. 

Children are very much victims of all this. We have mentioned here already the problem of the push-backs and, of course, the problems of the Libyan Coast Guards coming and bringing people back to Libya and a very difficult situation there. We have reports about consistent ill treatment and even sexual violations of females there. It is a scandal, this situation, and we have really to see to it that this has an end, and we have to realise that that requires that we do this together.

We cannot isolate ourselves on the national level and try to push the problems to other countries. We have to do this together and I think one aspect that we have missed out, is to really listen to UNHCR when it comes to this. They have the experience, they have good advice, but they are not fully respected by those in government positions in the various countries. We, as parliamentarians, have an obligation on this and we have to try to convince our people at home that this policy that we now have is not in solidarity with ourselves and with people abroad.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

11:56:28

Thank you.

We now move to our next speaker in the room.

If I'm not mistaken, Mr Ahmet YILDIZ.

Are you in the room or online?

Ahmet, my good friend, you have the floor.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Turkey, NR

11:56:43

Thank you, Mister President,

I thank ministers for attending the session and addressing us. Indeed we came here to discuss the possibility of establishing a mechanism in the Council of Europe but Mr Minister talks in contrary to establishing something to protect the European Union borders. And all colleagues from EU members also repeated this here. This is a very cynical and contradictory approach.

The Turkey EU statement was done and I was part of it in an emergency case, and Turkey fulfilled all its commitments but the EU did not. The EU comes always with new impediments, new preconditions and unfortunately, as some other speakers have said, the EU and EU countries are legislating some laws eroding the Geneva Convention. Because EU convention and EU laws bind the EU countries, but this issue requires a real, sincere burden-sharing and co-operation. When we discuss this issue here, the frontline countries, when they mention the frontline countries, they always forget Turkey. Turkey is the real frontline country, here in the Council of Europe, on migration.

So this is very clear in some approaches, I invite all members here from EU countries, please to enforce Frontex to come to inform this Council and Committees about the practices. It is very clear, in the press, with videos, Frontex is participating in push-backs. On the other hand, of course, the burden-sharing is up to the level of economic development income of countries. Turkish per capita income is around now US$9 000. EU average may be more than US$20 000.

Our approach from the beginning is clear. We do not want anything indeed, but if you want something from us let's co-operate and share the burden. Let's be good partners. So this statement should be upgraded, of course, I prefer to make a mechanism. To establish a mechanism within the Council of Europe, representing and binding all members here.

During this emergency in 2015-2016, Turkey was relaxed enough even to accept a NATO mission in the Aegean somehow to deter this migration. But indeed, for me personally, it was a shame to resort to NATO resources against migration, against individuals, against people. EU countries have enough resources to do that with civil means, with humanitarian ways, that is why I hope the discussion may continue on a more relevant scope. Establishing mechanisms within the Council to relieve the burden on the frontline countries. Unfortunately, EU countries never name Turkey among the frontline countries.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:00:41

Thank you, Ahmet.

We now come to Ms Stephanie KRISPER in the room or online?

Stephanie, where are you?

Ah voilà. [In French: There she is.]

You have the floor.

Ms Stephanie KRISPER

Austria, ALDE

12:00:56

Thank you Mr Chairman.

Dear Minister,

Dear colleagues,

All authorities from Greece have said enough. Also many of the European Union and for member States, as they think that the situation for refugees and migrants on the EU border in Greece and also on the islands is getting better.

I believe that we are here to protect and promote human rights and to guarantee especially that Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights is always respected. We cannot accept only that things are getting better.

It is clear and should be spoken out that the status quo is not acceptable on European soil as we have it now on the Greek islands.

Three weeks ago I visited the Kare Tepe of Mavrovouni camp myself and informed me on the situation of the individuals concerned in other islands.

The Greek authorities under the eye and despite of billions of Euros they have received in the last years from the European Union, have not fulfilled their obligation to guarantee human treatment for the refugees and migrants in the camps but also those that just have to stay under trees on the other islands.

This alarming situation does not exist since September, so almost one year ago, after the Moria camp burnt down. But we have been facing these inhuman conditions for many years now on the islands, being a clear violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Push backs are also meanwhile well-documented. That's why, dear Minister, I would have some questions for you.

Some weeks ago you admitted to push backs by the Greek border guards officially. How is this in line with human rights?

Why does it take so much time to provide human living conditions and shelter, especially for children? There are so many children running around in refugee camps in absolutely inadequate conditions. Concerning MSF report "Constructing Crisis at Europe's Border", two-thirds of the persons trying to commit suicide are children, the youngest being six years old.

When you say that the burden is too heavy, are you supporting the voluntary relocation programme of your ministry for unaccompanied minors and, hence, would you be glad for other EU member States beside the 12 constructive ones until now, to take part in it and receive the most vulnerable persons and help them and Greece by this way?

What are your expectations towards other EU member States regarding burden-sharing when it comes to asylum seekers in general?

In Greek television your message was clear. If there are now, according to Greek ministries, approximately 100 000 recognised refugees in Greece who have no integration perspectives, are homeless or stay in camps, they can move on to other EU member States. Is this your solution for recognised refugees, their rights and order and security on European soil?

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:03:57

Thank you, Stephanie.

We now move to Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND.

You have the floor, in the room I believe.

Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND

Hungary, EC/DA

12:04:06

Thank you, Mister Speaker.

Today the pressure of migration is once again increasing, especially on the Mediterranean and Western Balkan routes.

While the world is busy fighting against the Coronavirus, in Brussels the left-wing parties have once again put the promotion of migration on their agenda.

The Brussels elite are repeatedly proposing a new migration report, which does not even include proposals to strengthen border protection or stop illegal migration.

Illegal migration over the long term endangers Europe. Huge masses arrive continuously and uncontrollably without the willingness to cooperate, and too many of them refuse to reveal their real identity.

There's a modern-day population movement in progress around the world, the waves of which have reached Europe.

The question now is what the response of Europe and the European Union will be. The EU proposal is that we should let the migrants in and that it should mandatorily distribute them among the member States and the Brussels should decide on this distribution. The Hungarian people have considered this proposal in the referendum and they have rejected it. Hungarian people have decided that we Hungarians alone may decide on whom we wish to live together with.

Brussels or Budapest, that was the question. And we decided that the right to make that decision lies exclusively with Budapest. In the recently proposed migration package, even though the position of member States had not changed in respect of migrant quotas, the Commission focused on the distribution of migrants. Currently the expression "return sponsorship" is being used, but no matter what they call it, a quota is a quota, which many countries reject.

The latest EU report called for a single European immigration code which would give green light to migration flows towards Europe. This, in my understanding, is completely contrary to the interest of the people of Europe.

Brussels kept trying to break the unity of the member States that reject migration and quotas, but the Hungarian government will always take a stand to protect the Hungarian people and European borders. We defended and continue to defend an external border of the Schengen area, provide assistance to countries on the Western Balkan migration route and take part in the work of the European border and Coast Guard.

We believe that the defence of external borders can only be carried out together. We have those who apply for asylum as valid justification. We want to know who is requesting entry in our country and our community and with what motivation.

Hungary did not build the border fence in order to isolate itself or to express its alienation from the European Union. Quite the contrary, the aim of the border control regime is the protection of our common values and guaranteeing security and freedom. If you really want to help our fellow human beings in trouble, we need to treat migration locally, eliminating its root causes.

Hungary has recognized that a long time ago and together with the Hungary hubs program it will continue to provide help outside Europe and to take serious steps to ensure that everyone can live in peace in their own country.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:06:55

Thank you.

We now move to Mr Piero FASSINO.

Mr Piero FASSINO

Italy, SOC

12:07:02

Thank you, President.

And I agree with the report presented to us by my colleague Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ, I thank him and I would like to develop in three minutes three points.

Firstly, those who land in Greece, Italy and Spain want to come to Europe, and this is a very simple issue that can be easily observed. The fact that there are countries that continue to consider that the management of migratory flows is the responsibility of the countries of first arrival, as provided for in the Dublin Regulation, is an issue that must be tackled seriously, without hypocrisy.

The Dublin Regulation is an unfair and ineffective instrument and must be overcome. The proposals put forward by President von der Leyen for a new immigration and asylum pact go in the direction of overcoming the Dublin regulation, but are still timid. And, despite this, there are countries that continue to refuse them, even when they have been put forward with an argument that is without foundation, namely that we cannot accept those who land on our shores because Europe is unable to accommodate unlimited flows of migrants.

However, the fact that it is not possible to manage migratory flows in a regular manner, welcoming both those who need humanitarian protection and those who want to come to our countries to find dignity of life, is not true. This is borne out by the demographic figures which show that at the end of the century, with current birth rates, Europe will have 70 million fewer inhabitants.

To maintain the current levels of prosperity and productivity, Europe with 70 million fewer inhabitants would have to retire all of its inhabitants at the age of 80. This is clearly impossible, so in reality Europe needs an additional demographic contribution that can only come from migration.

So, instead of continuing to close our eyes, let us address the issue with a transparent migration management strategy in the open. Humanitarian corridors for those fleeing wars, conflicts and persecution, regular channels based on negotiations between the country of origin and the country of destination for economic migrants.

Let us tackle the issue of unaccompanied minors with a major family foster care campaign that gives these minors the chance to have a home, a family home, and let us use the tools we have by harmonising and unifying them. Today, for example, there is no European legislation on asylum, and we continue to manage these matters on the basis of different national regulations.

So all this requires a strategy that requires a qualitative leap based on the assumption of responsibility and sharing by all European countries.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:10:40

Thank you.

We now come to Ms Serap YAŞAR, online I think.

Let's see if this works.

Ms Serap YAŞAR you have the floor.

Ms Serap YAŞAR

Turkey, NR

12:10:54

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear colleagues,

I would like to thank the Chairman of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ, for bringing this sensitive issue to the agenda of this part-session.

We are closely following the serious human rights violations perpetrated by Greek forces against irregular migrants in the Aegean Sea. We are deeply concerned about the continued refoulement of asylum seekers, arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and inhumane living conditions of asylum seekers and refugees in Greece.

Over the past four years, more than 80 000 migrants and asylum seekers have been returned to Turkey by Greece. Greece's policy of systematic refoulement is a flagrant violation of Greece's international human rights obligations and poses a great threat to the human lives of asylum seekers.

We also regret to observe Frontex's involvement in the Greek refoulement policy, which has been exposed to the public via social media. Frontex was caught while deliberately helping the Greek authorities to push back migrant boats. The Greek practices and the involvement of Frontex as an EU agency clearly undermine the very basis of the 1951 Geneva Convention, the International Convention on Human Rights and common humanitarian values. We believe that Frontex must be accountable and transparent in its activities and must respond to the invitations of the Council of Europe.

Finally, we believe that migration pressures should not be used as an excuse for refoulement or any other violation of other human rights, by Greece or any other country.

As the title of this debate suggests, we need solidarity and, more importantly, we need fair burden and responsibility among all member States.

Thank you very much.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:13:38

Merci.

We now come to Mr Roberto RAMPI.

You have the floor.

Mr Roberto RAMPI

Italy, SOC

12:13:46

Mr President, colleagues,

This is clearly an issue that divides us. There are many that unite us, but listening to this debate, we have a very different point of view and set of thoughts.

I realise that many people do not share my opinion on these issues, but I believe that we have to face up to historical reality, that migration is a constant in human life, that territories do not belong to someone for a particular reason. There are peoples who live for a certain time in a certain geographical area and then move on. We are not here to condemn this or that country. We did not shy away when we had to, in this Assembly, in pulling on the ears of our Minister of the Interior, who was behaving in a way that was, in our opinion, unacceptable and inappropriate. Each one of us must reckon with himself.

But we must tell each other the truth. And that is that there are millions of people living in unacceptable conditions, both from the point of view of survival, but survival is not enough. Because human beings, women and men, rightly want for their short or long lives to try to achieve the best. And so they will always try to move towards the best. This movement is a movement that is sometimes an intellectual, philosophical movement, sometimes a physical movement.

If there are places on earth where you cannot get the best, they will move to look for other places where they can try to achieve the best for themselves and for the people they care about.

So we cannot try to condemn or outlaw or judge this movement. We must try to organise it. The more we do it in solidarity, and the more we do it in unity, and the more we widen the field of countries that all together organise to do it, the better we will do. The better we will do for those people, but the better we will also do for ourselves. Because it is clear that having people living in our countries illegally, who do not exist, who disappear, is not a condition of security and tranquillity, even for our citizens.

But the problem is not the people who move. The problem is our regulations that do not allow people to move in a regular way, because otherwise this problem would not exist. Even those arguments that right-wingers sometimes use to say that someone steals someone else's job... in reality it's not about stealing work, it's about exploiting people, which produces illegal competition, competition that is unsustainable for other workers. Because obviously an exploited worker lowers the possibility of spending resources of other workers, it builds a competition that is unsustainable. But the fault does not lie with the person who moves, the fault lies with those who exploit him, and above all with those rules that allow him to be irregular, and therefore exploitable.

So this is one of the biggest issues on which this Assembly must try to regulate, and to give itself a vision, a common profile.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:17:01

Thank you.

So we come to one of our partners for democracy.

Mr Allal AMRAOUI.

You have the floor.

Oh, it's online, I thought he was to my right.

Mr Allal AMRAOUI, you have the floor and welcome.

Mr Allal AMRAOUI

Morocco

12:17:21

Mister President,

Minister,

Dear colleagues,

I would like, on the occasion of this debate, to stress on behalf of the Moroccan Parliament that Morocco's relationship with the Council, in both its governmental and non-governmental dimensions, is rich and varied, including on the migratory side.

Migrant rights, added value, diasporas and the fight against human trafficking are important axes of our bilateral cooperation and the various evaluation reports of the partnership for democracy with the Parliament ... [interrupted and unintelligible]

Some figures: during the last four years, Morocco has dismantled more than 8 000 human trafficking cells and has aborted 14 000 illegal migration attempts and 80 attempted assaults on the city of Ceuta. Morocco also exchanged more than 9 000 information on illegal migration with Spain.

So, for years, Europe has never cared about its western flank, not because it is not used by the mafias of human trafficking but because Morocco has deployed a lot of resources there, including 20 000 people from its security forces to secure the area. There is unanimous recognition of Morocco's status and its role in migration cooperation. All the UN agencies, UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration, the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights and all the independent rapporteurs have always underlined the considerable contribution of the Kingdom of Morocco on this subject, which has of course always respected its international commitments.

Morocco, by virtue of its Constitution, attaches paramount importance to the issue of migration and it continues to invest fully in the file. At the national level, with an exceptional operation to regularise approximately 50 000 irregular migrants, therefore migration integration and management. At the regional level, with several conferences. At the continental and African level, in particular, through the mandate of leader on migration entrusted to His Majesty the King or the establishment of the African Migration Observatory in Morocco. At the international level, through an intense and voluntary commitment, I recall the World Forum on Migration and Development in Marrakech in 2018, on the occasion of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Morocco has always defended the fact of making borders an axis of co-operation and not of division. Because it is a shared responsibility, moreover, by most countries, rather the countries of Europe and, above all, the neighboring country, Spain, which has always recognised the importance of this exemplary cooperation.

Morocco's commitment and role are reinforced by enhanced cooperation with Europe, through dedicated mechanisms, in particular the working group on social affairs and migration and the partnership for mobility. All observers underline the important role of Morocco in migratory coverage.

Thank you.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:20:49

Thanks, Mister Allal AMRAOUI.

C'est un plaisir de vous avoir à bord. [In French: It's a pleasure to have you on board.]

Now we come to Ms Ada MARRA from Switzerland.

Ms Ada MARRA is online I think.

You have the floor.

Ms Ada MARRA

Switzerland, SOC

12:21:11

Thank you, Mr. Chairman of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ, for asking that this debate be held today in our hemisphere.

The subject of the debate shows the extent of our countries' disarray in matters of migration policy. Not only their dismay, but also the mistakes they persist in maintaining the principle of a fortress Europe. Let us recall some figures that have already been given: of the 80 million people displaced in the world, 46 are in their own country, and 73% of the remaining 34 million people live in a country neighboring their country of origin. Europe, by comparison, therefore only welcomes a tiny fraction of all these people.

The solution to what is happening, people dying in the sea, countries left alone in the reception – with the Dublin mechanism completely outdated – and who have been calling for help for years, governments Europeans of all political stripes, now, who want asylum seekers to no longer even be able to arrive on European soil and want to open subcontracting agencies in countries that are problematic, to say the least from many points of view, goes through a change of policy and conception of our Europe.

Instead of building a fortress, instead of prioritising good and bad migrants, instead of lending a flank to the blackmail of Libya and Turkey, instead of building a machine to make migrants more precarious, we must become rational and open again, manage migration ourselves and return to the principle of "a work permit, a residence permit" for migrants called "economic", regardless of the origin of the person.

Even though migration is quite bearable if it is well distributed – and in many ways useful to our continent, as Mr Piero FASSINO reminded us – it has become the weapon wielded by populists of all stripes to emerge and establish their power. From nouth to sorth, from Eastern Europe to the West, the populists are rampant everywhere and impose their agenda. Yet no one wants to grapple with the problem among the democratic forces because it is not good electorally. We have to ask ourselves the question of why. While migration is not really a problem in numbers, it has become the absolute scarecrow.

The answer is simple: it was coupled with austerity plans following the subprime crisis in 2008. A slimming cure was requested in many of our countries instead of betting on the recovery. The “migration plus austerity” cocktail is the perfect combination to find scapegoats for populations tired of economic programs. So yes, we must relieve these countries on the front line which had to face the challenges of hospitality alone, whose symbol was Lesbos, in Greece.

What is discussed this morning is the ethical and political minimum. Cities across Europe have declared themselves open cities, ready to receive refugees.

Courage and respect for fundamental rights require the local level. Let us listen to him, because otherwise our democracies will hit the wall of our own fortress.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:24:26

Thank you.

We have Mr Antonio GUTIÉRREZ, who is in the room..

Antonio, you have the floor.

Mr Antonio GUTIÉRREZ

Spain, SOC

12:24:37

Many thanks, dear President. 

And I would like to thank the Chairman of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons as well. 

Now, over the last couple of years we have been dealing with this Covid-19 pandemic. We have forgotten, or to a certain extent, marginalised the issue of migration, the right to migration, the right to asylum as well. These are pillars which ought to be part of the entire human rights structure in the European Union and further afield as well. 

Mr Piero FASSINO, Mr Roberto RAMPI and a number of others, have said here, what we have here is a situation of, basically, lack of solidarity, because it is quite clear that there is going to have to be a sharing out of the burden that exists right now. There are numerous different countries which have expressed no solidarity whatsoever, and are not ready to participate in any sort of relocation scheme. We need solidarity, which is automatic, which is effective and which will help us to manage the situation in an effective fashion and to relieve the burden which has fallen upon the shoulders of frontline countries. 

This is absolutely key. It is key also for us to express the solidarity necessary to countries which are outside of the continent, which are on the other side of the Mediterranean and northern Africa as well. 

The migration issue is not going to be resolved until a Swedish citizen understands that an island in Greece is also part of the broader territory of Sweden, until somebody in Hungary understands that Lampedusa, is also, to an extent, part of the larger territory of Hungary, as well. Until a Danish citizen understands that Ceuta and the Canary Islands are also Danish territory. That the borders of Spain, Italy, and Greece are also all of Europe's borders. They're our borders. Therefore, we need to work together, at the same time and in the same direction.

That's why, Mister Presidente, Mister Minister, I would dare that this institution to make a proposal.

Now, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is an institution which protects human rights. It is one of the references institutions par excellence in the world. Pierre-Alain and Boriss, I'd like you to hear this as well now. The fight against Covid-19 has been one which has been very, very courageous and effective. I do feel that, for that particular reason, we are to deploy all of our effort, the same effort that we deployed for Covid-19 in order to put together some sort of institution within this institution, establish an office, a high commissioner, if you like, on issues of migration and asylum in order to represent the fundamentals of this institution and in order to disseminate human dignity. 

Thank you very much.  

Mr Rik DAEMS

Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly

12:27:47

Thank you.

We now come to Mr Abdelali HAMIDINE.

Mister HAMIDINE, are you in the room? Please, the floor is yours.

Mr Abdelali HAMIDINE

Morocco