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28 September 2021 afternoon

2021 - Fourth part-session Print sitting

Sitting video(s) 1 / 1

Opening of the sitting No. 26

Question time: Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ, Secretary General of the Council of Europe


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Please be seated. 

I do apologise Madame Secretary General for having a little bit of a delay, we were waiting for the results of the judges but it is taking a little bit more time compiling them. 

So I will have these results after the session we have with you, Marija.

The sitting is open. 

Can I remind members that it is a legal requirement for everyone here to wear a mask. Also over the nose, because I always see a lot people wearing it but not over their noses. So, I am not supposed to give any orders to the Committee of Ministers but I, again, see Ivan. Ivan, it has to be over your nose. Voilà. See, this is one of the only times that we can say something to the Russians and they comply immediately. That was a joke! Let's be careful here. 

The first item on the Agenda is questions to our Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Marija, thank you for being with us. 

I remind the Assembly that questions must be limited to 1 minute. Colleagues should be asking single questions and NOT making statements.

So without any due delay, we all know each other so long, I don't really have to give a big introduction, please, Madame Secretary General, dear Marija, you have the floor. 

Any questions? 

Since we are starting immediately with the questions, I have the first on my list – we will take five at a time? Five at a time; 1 minute. 

So, we will start with the political groups. The first on my list is Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE. Selin, you have the floor.


Turkey, SOC, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you very much.

Dear Secretary General, 

On behalf of the Socialist Democrats and Greens group, I welcome you. Clearly, we are going through times where the core values of our very organisation are challenged and, as Secretary General, what are the concrete steps of action you plan for the organisation to take in the next one-year to strengthen the role of the Council of Europe in upholding democracy, human rights, and rule of law? Maybe, you could give concrete steps for the plan in enhancing the effectiveness of our conventions and ensuring the implementation of them.

Finally, within this context, in the same framework, would there be any progress on possibly organizing a Council of Europe summit at head of government and at state level?

Thank you very much.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

We will take five immediately if you agree, Madame Secretary?


Secretary General of the Council of Europe


There are already three.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Okay, well you have the floor.

No problem, you have the floor.


Secretary General of the Council of Europe


Thank you very much.

I will try to be brief but the questions are rather comprehensive, so let me start with enhancing the implementation of the European convention and effectiveness of the system. You certainly know that the Council of Europe has been working on enhancing the effectiveness of the European convention system for more than 10 years. The Committee of Ministers somehow summed up and ended the big reform which was called the Interlaken process, saying that no major reform of mechanism of European convention is needed.

However, what is now needed, there are few things. One is implementation, and implementation on the national level and implementation of the Court judgments. Because if we want to have a credible system, then we need to start with the court judgments which are abiding by all of our Member States. They all acceded to the European Convention while acceding to the Council of Europe, so this is not negotiable and this is not a plea, this is just an obligation that is followed by the Council of Ministers for execution.

So, for credibility this is the most important part. For effectiveness, the second part is implementation at the national level and probably this is what is important for now and for future action of the Council of Europe. You might know that protocol 15, that was one of the major results of the Interlaken process, was ratified by all Member States this year and it entered into force in August. And the major feature of protocol 15 to the convention is the subsidiarity, meaning implementation of the convention at the national level. Because, if we succeed with that, then lesser applications to the Court will be and the Court itself will be released of some of the pressures that we have been seeing in a number of years, because the implementation at the national level sometimes was lacking.

So this implementation on the national level is certainly the role for the whole system that is supporting the system of the Council of Europe to the convention system. And in that way, the European Court for Human Rights and the Secretariat are thinking of bringing more in the future for these subsidiarity assisting national judges, who are actually natural judges for the convention, to do their job better and easier at the national level in the way of putting the Court's case law knowledge at their disposal and, if possible over time, in national languages.

So that would ease greatly the work of national judges and certainly that would mean better implementation at the national level. And I would say that second what is important and what is also happening now - but in the future I think we will be seeing more of that - is the dialogue with national courts, between the European Court of Human Rights and national courts. And in that interaction certainly will help this implementation.

For what are the next steps, I have developed my strategic framework upon the request of the Committee of Ministers: Strategic Framework for the Council of Europe for the next four years. There were decisions taken at the last Hamburg ministerial. Also taking notes and taking some decisions in relation to what are the core priorities for the Council of Europe, and this very chamber also the Parliamentary Assembly debated that prior to the decisions taken by the Committee of Ministers. So I think now the whole Council of Europe system is behind these priorities and they are clear and they are also clear I put some deliverables that might be good to achieve.

And that leads me to your third question, which is: what about the summit? I know that that Parliamentary Assembly has had the resolution some years ago calling for a new summit. And let me remind you that calling the new summit first would require the unanimity of all 47 Member States and there would be a great reason for that. And this is one of the deliverables that I would like to see in the next one or two years to come, which is acceding the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights because this is the major piece of human rights architecture that was devised on the European continent. And I think without the European Union acceding to this convention we might risk in the future seeing the two systems diverging. And I think having in mind that all 27 members of the European Union are also members of the Council of Europe, that would certainly not be the most welcoming thing. And hoping this time negotiations will be concluded in a positive and conclusive way.

I just would like to mention that the negotiation started. There were four informal and one formal round. Covid-19 didn't help for negotiations, as you may imagine. But let's hope that next meetings which first come in October and second in December will bring more light to that. And I'm sure that at a certain point in time some political push from both sides, Council of Europe and also from the European Union, will be needed.

But this is what I see as the most probable future, if achieved, reason to call for the Council. But of course it's prerogative of the Committee of Ministers and all 47 to agree on that.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

We now move to Ms Ingjerd SCHOU for EPP.

Ingjerd, you have the floor.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, President.

And I think it is necessary to underline that it is only one question but I will try. The pandemic has been a challenge for us all. We are slowly emerging from the crisis and Europe will return to normal – maybe a new normal?

As the pandemic struck we saw several member states derogating from the Convention, citizens' rights being restricted, what will be your priorities to ensure that a new normal is not a step back when it comes to democracy, human rights and the rule of law? And what are the major tools in the Council of Europe toolbox in this regard? And what would be your main message? And that is the real question, what would be your main message to our national parliaments on how to safeguard these crucial values?

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Madam Secretary General.


Secretary General of the Council of Europe


Thank you.

Well, I clearly said "starting with the risks". I clearly said what I see as the risk in the document of the annual report called "A democratic renewal for Europe" because, as you may recall, my major diagnosis was that democracy is in decline in Europe. So certainly, some democratic renewal is there. This is quite a heavy document but I think all that needs to be said about it is there and let me say that also, the Hamburg Ministerial has debated over this annual report because it states where we are in Europe with democracy, rule of law and human rights. It identifies shortcomings, but it also gives how to resolve them; and if I make it really [concise] in one sentence, then the ways to resolve it are implementing Council of Europe standards. There are many Council of Europe advisory and monitoring bodies that have given a number of recommendations and conclusions to our member states, so this is my plea for the member states who have these, to deal with them and I think, with that in view, we will certainly alleviate the risks and come to [find ourselves in] a better situation.

Let me just mention, since you also mentioned, that a number of countries have asked for the derogation of Article 15 from the Convention. Finally, there were not so many that formally asked for that, but at the same time, that means the Convention was applied throughout the pandemic. If there is any doubt that it was overridden by the member states, that can be appealed to the Court - by asking how taking the proportionality, and checks and balances - what is the reality of the situation. 

Now, what are our priorities and tools? I think deliverables and my strategic framework are very clear on that and also the decisions of the Hamburg Ministerial would very clearly point to the way in which we see that. And the message to the national parliaments is certainly to do their work in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights, which means assessing the impact of legislative work when it is done. This stems from the Committee of Ministers' recommendation from 2004, and certainly doing that job in an appropriate manner at national level would, for the national governments and for citizens of our member states, mean that there would be ECHR standards applied throughout Europe and again, if there is any doubt that it is not so, there is always the possibility to apply to the European Court of Human Rights.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you, we now move to Ms Lesia VASYLENKO for ALDE.

Lesia, you have the floor.


Ukraine, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you.

Madam Secretary,

First, I kindly thank you for your participation in the Crimean Platform in Kyiv in August this year. Your support for the dialogue around ending human rights atrocities resulting from Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea is immeasurable, as is your support for all dialogue platforms in Europe.

At the same time, I would like to ask you how we here at the PACE may improve and diversify dialogue instruments so that the dialogue at this Assembly is not reduced to merely a formal exchange of opinions but that it leads instead to actual mediation of cases where a countries stray from their commitments on their ever so challenging democratic journey?

Perhaps you have already identified mechanisms that need reforming in the strategies that you have mentioned? If so, you could maybe share what they are. I not, perhaps you could agree that the matter merits a wider discussion, maybe in the form of a report or of a separate strategy or maybe of a special working group being set up here in this Assembly.

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Madam Secretary General.


Secretary General of the Council of Europe


Thank you very much.

Let me first first start by saying that there are a number of international organizations dealing with different things. In the Council of Europe we are dealing with what is called "democratic security" which makes the 223 different treaties and conventions that are applied across 47 Member States. And when dealing with situations like with you mentioned the Crimean platform, I would like to recall that the Committee of Ministers' decision from May this year gave me a task to make a report on human rights in the occupied Crimea and the City of Sevastopol.

So this is one way how the Council of Europe can and should approach the issues of areas that are temporarily occupied or are under occupation or post conflict. So, we are not a security organization, this is dealt with by some other organizations.

Now, when it comes to the areas of unresolved conflict, which are always and still continue to be and will be on the agenda of the Council of Europe in a very high position. Because every individual across the 47 Member States, no matter where they live, should be protected by the European Convention on Human Rights. So, CoE is always asking unhindered access of our monitoring and other bodies to these areas. We all know that it is not always possible but, as the Secretary General, I would always ask for this access because only by accessing to these places we can be assured that assessment of our monitoring and advisory bodies will be the proper one and that their reports could be taken with the complete picture, including the one on the spot.

So this is the way how I see that we continue insisting on having access of all our bodies to the areas of conflict and also to implement confidence-building measures which we have been doing in a number of our countries where it is needed. But this always is the case; we need to have the country which is involved or countries that are involved and their positive opinion on that. For instance, we recently started talks with Armenia and Azerbaijan to have also CBMs among these two countries, but only if both agree we will continue to have that. But CBMs are certainly one of the tools to make, as the name says, confidence-building measures among those who otherwise probably would not be in the possibility to talk to each other and through that arrive to the situation where they can speak about different issues. But CBMs normally deal with non-political issues such as empowering women, inter-municipal cooperation, and others that may help bring people together to work on that.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

We are at 4 p.m. but since we started 15 minutes late we will continue if that is possible for you Madame Secretary General, to take the 15 minutes.

(Secretary General agrees).

Thank you.

We then move to Lord Alexander DUNDEE.

Lord DUNDEE, you have the floor.

Lord Alexander DUNDEE

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group


Secretary General,

Firstly, on migration and refugees, your special representative, Mr ŠTEFÁNEK, has already done some excellent ground work. However, I find natural constraints preventing from helping in more than just a very few areas within the Council of Europe host countries. Therefore, would you support increasing budgetary resources for his work, for example, through voluntary contributions?

Secondly, do you agree that expanding this mandate would be consistent with last May's new action plan for addressing vulnerable refugees and migrants?

Thirdly, on a slightly different aspect, what can the Secretary General and the Council of Europe do to assist Belarus' neighbouring countries to withstand the current usage of migrants by Belarus as a politically expedient?


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Madam Secretary General?


Secretary General of the Council of Europe


I must say that one of the crises that we follow very closely is the one which is the very dire humanitarian situation at the Belarusian borders with three of our member states. And certainly, you heard some of the bodies of the Council of Europe, including the Commissioner for Human Rights asking to abide by the European Convention on Human Rights. And let me say here, that for humanitarian issues, for migratory issues, there are a number of international organisations that are active.

What I see as the role of Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration is to assist member states to apply European conventions and other related Council of Europe standards and international national standards when it comes to dealing with with these very difficult situations because some may say that all migrants are vulnerable because of the vulnerability coming from this very difficult situation.

So also some other bodies like the European Court have been active if we come to this border and the issue of of migrants, sometimes found in a really very inviable situation, and you know that the Court has issued the interim resolution for Poland, for Lithuania and Latvia. Latvia has complied with that. So different bodies within our system are dealing with migration and the issue but always through the lens of applying – especially the European Convention on Human Rights – to human rights issues, to the migrants.

Now for the action plan: yes, it has been recently adopted by the Committee of Ministers and budgetary means always include also for such action plans voluntary contributions. So of course, voluntary contributions from our member states are very much welcome to support the action plan and when it was discussed in the different working groups of the Committee of Ministers, actually, I think it was also looked through that lens – how it can be supported, how much the member States can be involved – so it all depends on how much we will invest into the action plan. Certainly, it devises a number of paths to be taken to assist the work of the special representative but budgetary means will actually direct what he or she can do.

Finally, for revising the mandate. The mandate has been updated in 2020. So for this moment, I don't see within the situation we have and also budgetary constraints, that we can do, at this moment, more than that. So I think implementing the action plan and working together with other international organisations, with other agencies like FRA or FRONTEX, and assisting them with implementing a human rights dimension would be an important part and actually what Council of Europe can bring to make the life of migrants and asylum seekers easier.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

We will take one more question by Mr Andrej HUNKO because we have a minister in waiting, as they say.

Andrej, you have the floor.

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you very much, Mr President,

Madam Secretary-General,

We have had a very intensive discussion here this morning on social inequality - a very urgent topic - and have also prepared a resolution and a recommendation, which also refers to your reform proposals for implementation.

Could you say something about these proposals for reform of the Social Charter and what the reaction of the Member States  has been? Whether there is enough political will and also as far as the European Union is concerned.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Madam Secretary General.


Secretary General of the Council of Europe


Thank you very much for mentioning the Social Charter.

I have been talking a lot about the European Convention on Human Rights, but the European Social Charter is certainly the second very important, the most important document we have and makes, together with ECHR, this comprehensive and robust framework for human rights.

And you are right, recently, not only but also because of Covid-19, it has shown that for instance the right to health, which is a right that is enshrined in the Charter, is a very important one. So what we saw is certainly that we need to review the role of the Council of Europe and approach to economic and social rights in general.

The European Social Charter celebrates this year its 60th anniversary, so this is probably a good occasion also to reflect more on how we can better prepare ourselves for this very important work. I can tell you that what I've done was a proposal to the Committee of Ministers in April this year based on the expert work that I have asked, and actually out of that they were three strands that are important for our Member States in order to tackle this.

First is the political will to do so. Second is certainly to change and simplify the procedures. And the third one, and this is the task now in the hands of the Committee of Ministers, is to reflect on more substantial changes in substance and in the procedures.

So these are the three main elements that I put into that paper. Now it's in talks within Member States. Of course I cannot talk about what was discussed, because the meetings of the Committee of Ministers are closed. But I tell you that some moves that some important Member States including your own, Germany, and Spain have done this year, are to accede to the ratified and ratify a revised Charter on social rights. I think this is a testimony to the interest of the Member States for doing so, for respecting and answering better to the needs of this moment when it comes to the social and economic rights. And this is certainly a lot to be discussed in the future, so this is, in a nutshell, where we are now with this issue.

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Madame Secretary General.

That concludes our Q&A. I do apologise that we had to start a bit late, but next time we will take some more time in order to cope with that.

If you allow me now to announce the election of the judges – the three judges to the European Court of Human Rights.

The first one is the - I have to take my glasses off – election of a judge to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of the Czech Republic.

Results are the following:

Members voting: 238; spoilt or blank: 16; votes cast: 222; absolute majority: 112 – this is what is needed – three candidates:

Tomáš Langášek: 10

Pavel Simon: 8

Kateřina Šimáčková: 204

So, Ms Kateřina Šimáčková having obtained an absolute majority of votes cast is elected judge of the European Court of Human Rights for a term of office of nine years which shall commence on 1 November 2021.

Then, we go to the election of a judge for the European Court of Human Rights in respect of the Republic of Moldova.

Members voting: 238; spoilt or blank: 11; votes cast: 227; votes for an absolute majority: 114;

Votes cast:

Mr Nicolae Eșanu: 3 votes

Mr Vladimir Grosu: 102 votes

Ms Diana Scobioala: 122 votes

Therefore, Ms Diana Scobioala having obtained an absolute majority of votes cast is elected judge of the European Court of Human Rights for a term of office of nine years which shall commence on 3 December 2021.

Then we come to the election of a judge to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of the Russian Federation.

Members voting: 238; spoilt or blank: 29; votes cast: 209, so absolute majority: 105.


Mr Andrei Yurievitch Bushev: 4 votes

Ms Natalia Vladimirovna Pavlova: 18 votes

Mr Mikhail Borisovich Lobov: 187 votes

Therefore, Mr Mikhail Borisovich Lobov having obtained an absolute majority of votes cast is elected judge of European Court of Human Rights for a term of office of nine years which shall commence on 2 January 2022.

Now, next item on our Agenda is welcoming the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary. Maybe one small note: after the Minister, we will have a vote so please stay in the room for the vote. You can, of course, if you wish to do so Mister Minister, you can attend the voting system, but you are not obliged to do so. But we do have a resolution of recommendation to be voted immediately after the Minister.

So, dear Minister, welcome to the Assembly again. Thank you for being here with us today. We value greatly the cooperation with the Committee of Ministers and as I have said before, you have got an excellent ambassador who is heading that, so it will cost Harry Alex RUSZ another beer, but it is true. It is true, it is really great to work with your ambassador and without any due delay, I give you the floor. 

You have the floor.

Address: Communication from the Committee of Ministers


Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe


Mr President,

Dear colleagues,

Thank you very much for hosting me for the second time during the term of the Hungarian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers.

Last time I had the chance to stand here in front of you in June, and since June many developments have taken place all over the world and I think it's not an exaggeration to say that a new age of geopolitics has been started. The withdrawal from Afghanistan has a huge significance on our continent. There are a lot of lessons to be learned and consequences to be drawn when the decision was made to withdraw from Afghanistan. We urged for two things: to prevent Afghanistan from becoming another time a safe place for terrorist organisations and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a starting point of additional massive illegal migratory flows.

And to be honest, I'm not quite sure we would be successful on any of these two goals of ours. Now, the most important thing is not to repeat the mistakes which have been committed back in 2015. We remember that after the invitations made in form of irresponsible statements by some colleagues of ours in Europe a massive illegal migratory pressure had hit the continent, constituting a serious risk regarding culture and security. We understood that in many places in Europe the models for social integration have failed, parallel societies have been created.

Now six years after that, I think it's important to avoid any kind of irresponsible statements in this regard, because nowadays another migratory flow would not only constitute a security or cultural risk, but risk regarding healthcare as well. The more people are involved in migratory waves, the more accelerated the virus is being spread. And since now we are entering the fourth wave, this is definitely something that we would not want.

Our duty is clear: we, the states, have to do our best in order to protect our countries and our citizens. And when it comes to protection, it became really obvious, at least for the most of us, that vaccination is the solution. And when it comes to vaccination, it's our duty, again, duty of the states in Europe, to ensure that everybody has access to vaccinations. And this is a matter of capacity. This is a matter of production. Because it's our duty to have enough vaccines. And since vaccines are tools to save lives they must not be considered as matters of ideology or matters of politics. That's why we urge our authorities, be they regional or national, to carry out the procedures of approval on a purely professional basis and leave all political aspects aside.

Dear colleagues, let me outline to you some major issues relating to the activities of the Committee of Ministers falling in line with the priorities of the Hungarian Presidency, which I had the honour to share with you in June. When it comes to the protection of the national minorities, you know this is one of the key areas on which we focus, and the achievements and the future challenges regarding the protection of national minority rights have been the focus of the high-level conference we organised together with the Secretariat here in Strasbourg at the end of June. And we are grateful for the participation of the Secretary General who underlined the importance of the only two legally binding international treaties in this field and the reforms carried out since 2018 – by the way, during the Croatian Presidency. And this event also noted that the Council of Europe's action on national minorities is particularly necessary with new problems arising, such as the pandemic itself.

At the beginning of September we have organised a conference at the European Youth Centre, which is located in Budapest, on the role of the civic organisations and research institutes in promoting Council of Europe norms and standards on national minority rights. This conference has offered an opportunity for representatives of civic organisations, research centres and national minority youth organisations to express their views on the role and the opportunities of international organisations in protecting national minorities in the context of the current challenges.

After more than 10 years, this event also provided an opportunity to present the first results of the renewed intergovernmental cooperation on national minority issues: The study on the political participation of national minority youth organisations. For your information, our presidency is going to organise two conferences in October, one in Strasbourg and another one in Budapest, focusing on the best practices in the field of national minority rights and on national minority identities. Our presidency aims to give impetus to this issue in cooperation with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim, and other forms of religious intolerance and hate crimes.

We have just opened an expert panel discussion on inter-religious dialogue aimed at raising awareness on the importance of this topic and to present successful strategies for the advancement of inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation worldwide. Let me also use this opportunity to divert your attention to the exhibition which is located here in this building with the title "Cross in Fire"; this exhibition shows you how the Christian communities are persecuted in the Middle East and worldwide.

And here I have to say that obviously when it comes to protection of freedom of religion then it has to be put in a general and principal term, but we are Europeans and Europe is being based on Christian values. For example, my country, as a Christian state for more than a thousand years, after our first Christian King Saint Stephen has offered the country to the hands of Mary the Virgin. And we Europeans have to be ready and maybe even brave enough to speak up for the Christian communities in the world who are in need and who are under persecution. And I tell you why: Christianity is currently the most persecuted religion all over the Earth. And we Europeans have to address this issue because, if we do not address this issue, who would address that issue?

And Hungary helps. This is not only a sentence, this is the name of a program: "Hungary Helps". We have helped 250,000 Christians to return to their homes or to stay in their homes by reconstructing their houses, their churches, their hospitals, their schools. Because if we help or if we encourage these people to leave their homes, we will contribute to the fulfillment of the goal of the terrorist organisations whose goal is to eliminate these communities. So I think that fighting for freedom of religion and speaking up for persecuted Christians is very important from a European perspective.

And we Hungarians are strongly committed to protecting the rights of the children. To contribute to this effort we are organising several events during our presidency and this is especially important during the pandemic, as families and children have been increasingly forced into the virtual space and this exposes them to a lot of dangers which we believe also mean threats to families and children.

Accordingly, I'd like to highlight our conference on the "Rights, opportunities and well-being of children and young people in the digital age" that will take place in Budapest at the beginning of October. And this conference will pay special attention to the changes, dangers, and opportunities that have emerged as a result of the specific measures introduced to fight the pandemic in the past year and a half, and the day-to-day challenges of digital education and online learning. It will particularly focus on children's and students' rights, their well-being, as well as family values, and the situation of the families.

I would like to recall that one of the challenges relating to the activities of the Committee of Ministers is artificial intelligence. This is a top priority for the Hungarian Presidency as it is also connected to threats that may directly or indirectly endanger families as well. A conference organised by our presidency will place at the end of October on the current and future challenges of coordinated policies on artificial intelligence regulation. The conference will strive to showcase various governance models and demonstrate the interplay between national policies and the relevant work of the Council of Europe and other key international organisations who are active in this field.

I also wish to highlight here to you, dear colleagues, the dilemmas posed by artificial intelligence, the revolution of the IT sector, as well as the development of the social media platforms. All too often unelected managers of high-tech companies with control over such platforms have almost limitless influence over freedom of speech in the cyberspace. This is why we should find a way to regulate this space so that freedom of speech can really be limitless. We think it is absolutely unacceptable that CEOs of multinational companies decide about the outreach potential of elected officials and politicians to their electorate. And although these managers and CEOs are not authorised and not elected by anybody at all, they have no democratic legitimacy, they decide which news are supposed to be fake or false and which are supposed to be right and fair. And this is simply unacceptable.

Especially putting into consideration that there is a strong ideological approach in this regard. And on many issues, especially when it comes to values, we feel that there is a hegemony or even dictatorship of opinions and we don't like that. We have lived 40 years under Communist regime where there was a dictatorship of opinions and we don't want another dictatorship or hegemony of opinions to take place.

Dear colleagues, I do really hope that the Assembly will adopt its opinion on the text regarding the Budapest Convention this week, so that it can be formally adopted before the end of the Hungarian Presidency. And here I ask for your kind support, because the new draft Second Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime, which is called the Budapest Convention on Enhanced Cooperation and Disclosure of Electronic Evidence is also a priority of our presidency. Criminals have stepped up their activities, exploiting changes to the ways in which people live and work at the moment of hardship and real vulnerability due to home office working methods and online education. The devices, victims and evidence of these crimes are often spread across multiple jurisdictions. Therefore, this protocol intends to facilitate more effective investigations. With this protocol, the Budapest Convention will remain relevant and more effective.

I'd like to shortly brief you about our presidency being committed to putting a special focus on the promotion of the digitalisation of justice and the safe exploitation of the full potential of artificial intelligence. Our Ministry of Justice will organise a ministerial conference in Budapest on 5 October. Thank you very much for confirmation of many of your ministers to take part. And this will provide an opportunity to discuss challenges and achievement related to the digitalisation of justice and the application of artificial intelligence for judicial purposes.

Mr President and dear colleagues, we understand that tomorrow the Assembly will dedicate a full day to debates regarding the environment and the connection between environment and human rights, even more specifically a right to a safe, healthy, and sustainable environment.

Our president, János Áder, will be here and will address the Parliamentary Assembly. For the first time since we have joined, our president is coming. I asked our president, our other president to take it personally, and he will brief you about us being proud to be the first country in Europe to ratify the Paris Agreement, to be among those 21 countries in the world which increased their GDP parallel to decreasing their emissions, and a country which thinks it is very important that economic development, enhancing competitiveness, and environmental protection go hand-in-hand.

I hope that still under our presidency we will be able to move forward, that the Committee of Ministers will do a feasibility study regarding this issue. But it all depends on you. We are crossing fingers for the outcome of the voting session about the reports tomorrow.

As for the coming weeks, let me raise the attention to the upcoming 60th anniversary of the European Social Charter and the high-level panel that will be held here in Strasburg in the middle of October, and the 50th anniversary of the Pompidou Group, and the high-level celebrations planned in Paris at the end of October also.

As you may note, the Committee of Ministers and our presidency have been active in many fields in the past months, and the most intensive period until mid-November is still ahead of us.

Dear colleagues, I'd like to express my appreciation for all of you sitting here in the Assembly to cooperate with us to help the Hungarian Presidency to fulfil its goals and the plans, and for the upcoming almost two months I still ask for your cooperation and I assure you about our desire to continue this common work together with you.

Mr President, thank you very much for your patience. And dear colleagues, thank you very much for your kind attention.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you Mr Minister Péter SZIJJÁRTÓ.

We will now head into the Q&A.

As you know, the way we treat this is 1 minute per question. We will take five questions at a time. The first five questions will be on behalf of the political groups.

First on my list is Sir Tony LLOYD for Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

Sir Tony LLOYD, you have the floor.

Sir Tony LLOYD

United Kingdom, SOC, Spokesperson for the group


Mister President, can I thank the Minister for his remarks but can I just press him a little bit though? He quite rightly said that vaccines were the right way to resolve the issue of Covid-19 in our communities. I wasn't clear though as to whether he's saying that he believed that migrants were responsible for the spread of Covid-19. He will know if he did say that, and I may have misunderstood, that's a very controversial view to hold. Can I be clear as well that the European tradition of welcoming those in fear of their lives and receiving proper and secure help is one that we should be very proud of: is that the position that he takes as Chair in Office of the Council of Ministers?


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Next on my list is Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN on behalf of Group of the European People's Party.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN, you have the floor.


Netherlands, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group


Yes, Chairman.

As a member of the Group of the European People's Party, I'm proud to be here so that we can, as the Group of the European People's Party and also as a member of this Assembly, defend all the values.

If I defend religion, then I have respect for all the religions. Perhaps the Minister could intervene on that because he only mentioned one religion.

The second point is that on the values and what he said on migration. I disagree on that, but perhaps I didn't understand it well.

Thirdly, I saw many, many meetings, but what is the result?

I would ask, do you remember Mister Minister that we asked you in June to do everything, to have a follow-up on the Istanbul Convention, what did you do?

Then how did you act with the Venice Commission? Did you act for the freedoms of all countries assembled in our PACE or did you also act on the freedoms in your own country?

Thank you very much.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


We now move on to our third speaker, Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN.

You have the floor.


Ireland, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Mister President.

In the spirit of all that we represent, here, firstly I'd like to congratulate Switzerland on a resounding victory in their Yes Equality referendum at the weekend.

Minister, in your last address to PACE in June, you did give special emphasis on the importance of the rights of all individuals to practice their religion, and I commend you for that, and in speaking about how you protect minorities. The same tolerance, understanding, and compassion is not shown when it comes to the LGBTI community, as is proven by the enactment of legislation in your parliament in relation to gender identity. These laws are discriminatory, harmful, and stand in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

We parliamentarians within our own countries and across Europe must work harder than ever to end homophobia and transphobia and to achieve equality for all.

Minister, what actions will you take to reverse the discriminatory legislation introduced and cease Hungary's attacks on the rights of the LGBTI community?

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Next on my list is Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.



Ukraine, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Chairman.

Mr Minister, we have an awful situation in Belarus.

From August of last year the dictator Mr Alexander Lukashenko first falsified the presidential elections.

Then, using Russian support, and with the support of Putin, he used brutal force against his own people; killing dozens of them. Thousands were put in detention and tortured.

After this, we have had crisis after crisis.

We remember the situation with the kidnapping of the Ryanair plane in the skies of Belarus.

Now, we have an awful migration crisis on the border of Belarus with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland - where migrants are weaponised by Mr Alexander Lukashenko and also, we already have casualties.

So the question is: what steps will be made by the Council of Europe and the Hungarian presidency to influence this situation?

Secondly, new sanctions: do you support the idea to create, within the Council of Europe, an ad hoc committee, or a body, on the situation of Belarus to work on it day-to-day?

Thank you so much.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Next on my list is Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY. You have the floor.

Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY

Turkey, UEL, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you so much, Mr President.

My question to Mr Minister is a simple one actually which we have already discussed at this plenary so many times.

We have been observing that many members of this very Council are defying court decisions.

Given that the Committee of Ministers is the body responsible for the execution of court decisions, I would like to ask: what do they specifically plan to do, given that there is a growing tendency in many Member States in simply not implementing binding court decisions?

We have talked about the case of Mr Selahattin Demirtas and Mr Osman Kavala both from my country - one being the chair of my party actually, imprisoned since November 2016 - but it is not just Turkey and these two names, there is a really very dangerous and growing tendency.

I would like to get your opinion Mr Minister on what specifically the Committee of Ministers plans to do with respect to this grave situation.

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Mr Minister.

May I also ask you to put on your mask, please? Thank you, it's just in case you forgot.

You've got the floor.


Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe


Dear colleagues, 

Thank you very much for your questions and observations.

Thank you very much for giving me the floor to clarify what I have said in order to avoid any kind of misinterpretation and circulation of fake news; which I understand is part of politics.

When it comes to migration, what I said was the following: the more people are involved in migratory waves, the more accelerated the virus can be spread around the world. With this, I have not said that the migrants are responsible for the global pandemic. Come on! Do not falsify my words, please! At least not to that extent because it is a little bit too much, I think. But it is obvious that if people are moving around, without being vaccinated, I am pretty sure that it would accelerate the spread of the virus.

When it comes to migration itself, here, we differ on opinions. I think we have to put into consideration the international law; for the respect to which I guess, all of us are committed. International law says the following: if anyone is being forced to leave his or her home, then he or she is entitled to stay temporarily on the territory of the first accessible safe country, as long as the reasons for his or her escape still exist. That is what international law says. And it is absolutely not a human right to cross borders of dozens of countries just in order to get somewhere where you would want to [be].

Let us put into consideration, for example, Hungary's situation. Back in 2015, we were invaded by 400 000 illegal migrants. They arrived partly from Serbia, and partly from Croatia to Hungary, and they demanded to be allowed to cross the border. They have not asked for it – they violated the border in order to go to Germany or to Austria or to Sweden. Now my question is: do we really take it seriously that there is a human right existing that once you would like to go to Germany, you can cross borders of countries? Serbia and Croatia are peaceful countries, thank God; there is no war – neither in Serbia nor in Croatia. There is no reason for anybody to escape from Croatia or from Serbia. My question is: on what basis should Hungary have allowed people to violate the border between the two of us, after crossing at least half of a dozen safe countries?

If you always speak about the rule of law, if we Hungarians are always lectured on that, now my question is why do we not put into consideration, international law when it comes to migration? Our position is very clear. Migration is a dangerous phenomenon and we understand that there are countries with a different history, with a different location, with a different heritage and with a different understanding. That is a matter of democracy, you are allowed to think differently. But my question is: why do we try to put pressure on each other to act differently, compared to how we think it is appropriate [ to act] for our own countries?

I admit and I accept that there are countries who think that migration has had a positive contribution to their past. Fine – we think differently. We never asked you to think the way we think – but we should not be under pressure to think differently either.

On the issue of freedom of religion. As I have pointed out in my statement, we believe that the issue of freedom of religion must be approached in a general and principled way which means that everybody has the right to practice his or her faith, belief and religion. That must not be challenged. The only thing that I am saying is that regardless of the fact that Christianity is the most persecuted religion all over the world, proved by figures – 340 million Christians are living in areas where they are under persecution and they have to suffer from discrimination. There were more than 4 700 Christians killed last year for their beliefs. There were more than 4 000 churches and religious buildings under attack; more than 4 400 Christians were arrested last year without proper legal procedure. Regardless of this fact, I never see in statements and resolutions of international organisations addressing this issue. I really do believe, once again, as a representative of a country with a very strong Christian history, that we do have to raise this issue and, of course, with respect to others. We had a question from Turkey; my friend and brother: the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mevlüt ÇAVUŞOĞLU. He always speaks with enthusiasm for Muslim communities to be protected all around the world. He speaks up against Islamophobia and the way he does it, I think this is something to follow. I respect it and, I guess, it would be respected by them – by him – if I speak the same way he does for Muslims, for Christians. If he speaks about Muslims, I do not think he speaks against Christians, and when I speak for Christians, I do not speak against Muslims either.

There is a very, very frightening phenomenon going on in the western part of Europe, which is the modern age antisemitism. Look back at the rallies. Look back at the sentences chanted there. Look back at the flags of Israel being burned. I believe this is one of the consequences of the massive illegal migratory flows that took place, and we have to fight that; and in Hungary, we have announced zero-tolerance against antisemitism.

When it comes to freedom rights – I represent a country that had to suffer 40 years under a communist regime. It was only 30 years ago – a little bit more than 30 years ago – that we got rid of the communists. The current Prime Minister of my country was the first one, the first person to be brave enough to openly urge the Soviet troops to leave our country. If there is a nation that should not be educated on the rights of freedom, [it] is definitely as Hungarians because we had to fight for our own freedom. We understand there are nations that received freedom as a present, as a gift of history, but we are not among them, unfortunately. So I join you in celebrating the importance of the rights of freedom.

Thank you very much for praising our efforts to work towards ensuring freedom of religion and in ensuring the rights of the national minorities.

Thank you for your question regarding the LGBT community in Hungary because here now you give me a chance, finally, to clarify some things because there are awful lies and fake news and misinterpretation circulated about the law in Hungary, which was passed by the parliament in order to give protection to children. This law is not against anybody. It is definitely not against any community. It is not against the LGBT community at all because this law does not say anything about the LGBT community in Hungary. It does not say anything about what citizens do after the age of 18. It does not say how they should behave, what kind of choice they have to make, with whom they live, whom they love, but it says the following and I am proud of that: parents have the exclusive right to conduct the education of their children under the age of 18 when it comes to the education of sexual orientation. That is, the exclusive right of the parents and we stick to it because we parents know our children best. No NGO knows my kids better than myself. And yes, we have prohibited NGOs from going into kindergartens and into schools and conducting sexual education there; because it is not their job. It is not their job – it is the job and the exclusive right of the parents. That is how we understand [it to be] and that is how this law has been passed. Once again I would like to ensure my honourable colleague that it has nothing to do with discrimination, and has nothing to do with the LGBT community in Hungary.

Now when it comes to migration being used as a tool against another country, we have a long [history of] experience with that, unfortunately. Back in 2015, we Hungarians represented a very strong policy on not allowing migration to be used as a weapon against other countries. We have had 400 000 migrants marching through our country without any kind of respect to local regulations, laws or the way of behaviour. Occupying public areas, blocking roads, railroads, not co-operating with the local authorities at all, not willing to go to the assigned places where they would have been given food and drink and medical assistance; not caring about any kind of regulation. At that time, we made a decision to protect our border, which is, by the way, the external border of the European Union and Schengen area. We decided to put up a fence, you might remember. What was the reaction of the international community? You might remember. We were compared to the worst dictatorships of the last century. We were attacked by everybody. The words which were used against us were awful. And now, Lithuania and other countries are building fences on their external border and everybody applauds.

I have been Foreign Minister for seven years and I was sitting there in the Foreign Affairs Council back in 2015; so I can compare the positions which were represented at that time, and now. Do you applaud that as well? Because this is the way we have to protect our external borders and we know that politics is not about credits. I know those who say now that Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia have to protect the external border, have to put up fences; they will never say that they are sorry for what they said back in 2015. Because it is not a matter of credit. We know that. What I think is that this is the only way – how the Latvians, the Lithuanians, and the Polish should behave: protect the border, build a fence, protect themselves and protect us Europeans in the meantime. We have to use the strongest possible terms when we address migration being used as a means of hybrid warfare against anybody. We have to reject that very heavily.

Now when it comes to a special working group which you have referred to, we are definitely not against any bodies which would give a platform for co-ordination and dialogue, it is absolutely fine with us, so you should let us know how we can facilitate or how we can help with that. Of course, all issues can be put on the agenda there and we can discuss what would be the final outcome and the final decision.

Our Turkish colleague has raised maybe the most challenging issue when it comes to the activities of our presidency because, obviously, the rulings of the Court must be respected and implemented by the member States. Now, what can we do about it? I regret to say Mr President that our tools are rather limited. So maybe here work should be done, and, I guess, most likely by the Assembly, to find out some ways in which the Council of Europe can ensure the implementation of the rulings of the Court to be made in our member States. The German chairmanship did its best and, of course, I can assure you that we do everything in order to make progress in this regard with a balanced approach and in the framework of the negotiations but here, I have to confess, we are rather limited in the toolbox, but maybe under the guidance of our President of the Assembly we might go forward on that issue as well. 


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you for giving us a little bit more competences than we are used to, but we will gladly do so. You know Mr Minister, watch out when you give a piece of meat to the parliament, you can give a finger and we'll have you at your shoulder. So but we'll take a note.

We have time for two more questions.

First on my list is Mr Zsolt NÉMETH followed by Mr François CALVET.

I'll take those two in order to stick to our timing.

Zsolt, you have the floor.


Hungary, EC/DA


Thank you very much, Mr President. The Ukraine is a very important member of the European family which has been targeted by aggression and the territorial integrity and sovereignty must be respected by everybody.

However, dear colleagues, one of us member of Parliament, Mr Lőrinc NACSA, last week was banned from entering Ukraine with the humanitarian transport.

Moreover, today, the Ukraine has announced its quite intimidating statement to punish one of its neighbours for signing a gas contract with Russia.

Mister Minister, I would like to ask you: how can the Council of Europe support a country if that country tends to overlook its basic international obligations?

Thank you very much.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Zsolt.

I have to tell you I made a bit of a mistake, because I took the second series of five already thinking that we were so far into the Q&A, so now I'm a bit embarrassed because the five that were first on my list were not there.

Thank you Damien for coming down and and telling me that.

So I would propose we take the five and first on the list - so Zsolt was lucky to pop in there, not on purpose, Zsolt, just to be sure. But please be as brief as possible so that we don't run into a problem. We have to be fair and square.

So I have Mr Damien COTTIER, Ms Elvira KOVÁCS, Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS, Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV and Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA.

Please be as brief as possible. I do apologise for my mistake. Damien.


Switzerland, ALDE


Thank you, Minister, for being here and for the dialogue we can have with you.

We do not always agree with you, and sometimes it is challenging, but we talk to each other - and we talk to each other live - and I believe that this is an excellent thing.

I do not agree - I listened carefully - with several of the things you said, including on migration: I do not believe that it is a danger, I think that it is a phenomenon that is as old as is humanity, which must obviously be supervised by the States and have certain limits.

My question would be: basically, your plea earlier, to say that people cannot cross borders as they wish, is it not the best plea for a distribution of the "burden", as it is called, or of the "responsibility" of refugees across Europe, and for countries to coordinate?

And on the LGBT issue, I have to tell you that I grew up as a young gay man in a country, Switzerland, which is not homophobic but which only gave me signals of hetero normality: I felt different and not "normal". Today, my country has evolved and it gave me a totally opposite signal last Sunday by saying: you are equal, you are normal. Aren't you giving the opposite signal and don't you risk creating a lot of suffering with this political signal?


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

We now move to Ms Elvira KOVÁCS.

Elvira, you have the floor.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD


Thank you, Minister.

Five months after Hungary assumed the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, and several thematic conferences organised, could you please summarise your preliminary reflections by analysing best practices, challenges, opportunities and initiatives for the further implementation of minority rights?

My question is: how to implement the standards enshrined in the Council of Europe documents as an effective remedy to overcome setbacks in the enforcement of minority rights, especially in the area of languages and education rights, as well as a lack of instrumental empathy towards the autochthonous national and linguistic communities?

And further, how to ensure that States refraining from withdrawing already acquired Council of Europe standards in protecting minority rights in order not just to ensure that minorities' voices are heard, but to guarantee that minorities are entitled to some form of political representation?

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


We now go to Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS.

Emanuelis, are you in the room?

OK, Emanuelis.


Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD


Thank you very much for being here and for all you have done for our Council of Europe in the last six months, Minister.

However, I stressed this point earlier, the instrumentalisation of immigration.

I am from Vilnius. Every day I see when the Belarusian army is rounding up these artificial migrants, which, of course, would have to stay with us and, of course, our goodwill to these migrants look...but this is unlikely, this day, and all segments of the European Union, the Council of Europe, and so on have they already said something. So, I want to emphasise something else. How could we – we have a report the day after tomorrow with us in this room – how do we have to fight against this unlikely instrumentalisation with dictators against us? Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much. We now go to Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV.

Rafael, you have the floor.


Azerbaijan, ALDE


Thank you, Mr President. Dear Minister,

One of the priorities of the Hungarian presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is titled 'inter-religious dialogue highlighting the important role of intercultural dialogue in tackling intolerance'.

As a multicultural and multi-confessional nation, Azerbaijan strongly believes in the necessity of supporting and promoting intercultural dialogue among the world's nations as well as within our European societies.

Therefore, against the backdrop of the rising intolerance and divisive populist movements of the European continent, I commend very much the Hungarian presidency for re-launching this topic in the Council of Europe.

At the same time, I am interested to hear how the Hungarian presidency intends to take on this matter, to have some effective and lasting impact on the ground through the European societies.

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much. We now come to Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA.

Last question, and then we refer to the Minister.



Ukraine, EPP/CD


Mister President,

Dear Minister, dear Chairman,

Recently you have been preparing a second additional protocol to the Budapest Convention on cybercrime, and we do know that the member States have some challenges and concerns. I would love to hear what could there be to save some time. I would like to take this opportunity to refer to my fellow colleague and to inform the Assembly that our Hungarian colleague was not able to cross the Ukrainian border recently with humanitarian aid because he breached the article 57 of the electoral code of Ukraine taking an opportunity to root for one of the parties at the local elections in Ukraine.

Thank you, President.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much Mister Minister, you have the floor if you would oblige to be a little bit brief because we need to proceed but, please, of course, if you want to take two hours, you are free to do so, but we would prefer it to be a little bit brief, if possible. 


Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe


Sure. I'll do my best.

Mister President.

First of all, colleague from Azerbaijan, I'd just like to tell you that very recently I made an agreement with your minister of culture that since Shusha is going to be the cultural capital of the Turkic world and Veszprém, a Hungarian city, is going to be the capital of culture of Europe, in the same year: 2023. They will work together very closely in order to promote intercultural dialogue. And I also agreed with your minister of culture that we offer our help in Nagorno-Karabakh to rebuild places of worship and religion and we are happy to contribute to the restoration of the Christian heritage there. And I commend your government in promoting interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Many times I'm in Baku I have meetings with the bishop of the Catholics who usually makes it very clear that he has a respect-based cooperation with the State authorities in Azerbaijan. And this is something that definitely should be followed. You know, and if you come to Budapest, you'll see one of the biggest Catholic cathedrals of the region and one of the biggest synagogues of Europe to be within walking distance with each other. It shows very clearly how we Hungarians live together regardless of religion and culture.

When it comes to our Lithuanian colleague, once again, I can refer back to my visit to Vilnius recently where I have met your minister of interior and I have told her about our experience and I have offered immediately help to her. And we do help not only with experience but with fence as well, because we still have some in the storage back from 2015. And we know that, you know, once you build a fence, it is going to be under attack always. Since 2015, we had to spend more than 1 billion euros, more than 1 billion euros on protecting the border, because there are dozens of attempts to violate our border on a daily basis. On a daily basis. You need huge efforts to be made and, be honest, no one will help you. I mean, in our case it was only the central European colleagues, Polish, Czech, and Slovak, who sent some manpower, but we have not received any kind of help from Brussels. I think I'm afraid this is going to be the same situation with you. But, here you definitely have our full support because using migration as a hybrid weapon against any country has to be rejected, and violating the border of any country has to be rejected as well, because protection of the border is a matter of statehood.

And here I come to the question of our colleague from Switzerland, that, you know, crossing the border, and as a Swiss you must know it, crossing the border is being regulated in norms and procedures and laws. And you can't just cross the border without any kind of documentation just if you feel like going to the other side. And violating the border must be addressed in a proper manner by every state, I guess. And thank you very much for your remarks regarding on dialogue, because I think it's extremely important.

But when it comes to referendum, we will have a referendum definitely in Hungary at the beginning of next year when the Hungarian citizens will have the right to express their opinion about the law on the protection of the children. And the outcome of this referendum will definitely be respected by the government and the parliament in the meantime.

When it comes to the minority rights, I think that there are some best practices. The country you're living in, Serbia, should be the best possible example not only for Europe, but for the entire world. How the national minorities - I can speak on behalf of the experience of the Hungarians - are respected. Because what I do believe is that if the neighbouring countries can look at the national communities of each other as a source of strength instead of a source of conflict, then it will have a very very good impact on their bilateral relations and the whole region will be more stable. So, I think we have to look at best practices and we have to take seriously into consideration our own conventions regarding the minority rights. And this Assembly I think should react to all those events and phenomena which go against this kind of convention.

And lastly, two points regarding the the Budapest Convention. We do our best in order to push this issue forward. We opened it for non-European countries as well, we hope for a big turnout on our conference in Budapest, and we hope that the 20th anniversary of the signing of the original Budapest Convention will be a good reason to be able to amend that.

And when it comes to the gas contract, you know, in the central part of Europe energy supply is a matter of national security and we use gas as it is being used all over Europe and, taking into consideration the regional infrastructural reality, there's no other option than buying gas in a big extent from Russia. Because it's very smart and nice to speak about diversification, but since gas can be delivered in a pipeline, if you don't have a pipeline to another direction then you can't buy gas from there. So, for us central Europeans, Russian gas is the number one option, and we have signed another gas contract for 15 years and we reject any kind of attempt to interfere into our sovereignty, because it's our sovereign right to sign energy supply contracts with whomever we want to under circumstances we can agree on. And attacking a country just because it ensures that the houses and the flats of its citizens will be heated and its industry is going to be running is unacceptable. Although of course we are not gonna seize the attempts to enhance our bilateral relationship, but such kind of moves attacking us at the European Commission because of ensuring the security of our energy supply is too much, to be honest. We are buying gas for the next 15 years: 4.5 billion cubic meters on an annual basis. And since it's not us to have the gas, that's why we have to buy it. And the delivery route is being defined by those who sell the gas and not by those who buy the gas. That's the reality unfortunately. So it's good for those countries who have gas and oil and it's not that good for those countries who do not have gas and oil.

Thank you.


Belgium, ALDE, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Mr Minister.

That concludes our Q&A with you today.

Thank you for being with us and giving us clear answers.

Obviously, within the context which is normally politics, we do not always have to agree on everything, if not a country, but so be it. Thank you very much for having been with us. We will see you soon again.

Thank you very much. (Applause).

I am now seeing whether my Vice President Mr Ahmet YILDIZ is in the room. Is Mr Ahmet YILDIZ in the room?

Where is Mr Ahmet YILDIZ?

"Ah, there he is" (spoken in French).

Thank you, Ahmet, for taking over.

We will start now by having two votes on socio-economic inequalities in Europe. One vote on the resolution and the second on the recommendation, which will be followed by the gender representation, the Parliamentary Assembly debate and votes.

Ahmet, if you would be so kind to take the responsibility of the Assembly upon you.

Thank you very much.


Vote: Socio-economic inequalities in Europe: time to restore social trust by strengthening social rights


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Yes, dear colleagues,

Following the modification of this morning's Agenda, we are now resuming consideration of the report titled "Socio-economic inequalities in Europe: time to restore social trust by strengthening social rights" (Doc. 15365) by holding votes on the draft resolution and draft recommendation. 

First, draft resolution. We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Doc. 15365. A simple majority is required to adopt.

The vote in the hemicycle and via remote, online voting, is now OPEN.

Please vote.

The vote is closed.

Please display the results. 

Adopted by a huge majority: 85 in favour, 3 against and 16 abstentions.

It is adopted. The draft resolution in Doc. 15365 is now adopted.

Now we will proceed to vote on the draft recommendation contained in Doc. 15365. A 2/3 majority is required to adopt.

The vote in the hemicycle and remote voting is now OPEN. Please cast your votes.

The vote is closed.

I ask the secretary to display the results.

Thanks again.

A huge majority: 87 in favour, 3 against and 16 abstentions

The draft recommendation is adopted.

Congratulations to the rapporteur reporter and I appreciate her tremendous effort.

Colleagues, the next item of business at this sitting is the debate on the report titled "Gender representation in the Parliamentary Assembly (Doc. 15366 and addendum) presented by Ms Nicole TRISSE on behalf of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs.

We shall also hear an opinion from Ms Petra BAYR or on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, they have tabled a lot of amendments. 

In order to finish by 6:50 p.m., I will interrupt this from speakers at about 5:45 p.m. to allow time for the replies and the vote before the next debate.

The rapporteur has 7 minutes to present the report and then we will have a further 3 minutes to reply to the debate at the end. 

Ms Nicole TRISSE, you have the floor. You have 7 minutes.

Debate: Gender representation in the Parliamentary Assembly

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, Rapporteur


Madam Chair of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Madam Chairperson of the Committee on Equality and Rapporteur for opinion and colleagues.

I would like to begin by recalling the origin of this report. At the opening of the first session in January 2020, the credentials of six national delegations were challenged on the grounds that they did not include the required minimum number of women, which is supposed to correspond to their percentage in their home parliament.

We were faced with a genuine difficulty because we realised that our rules do not actually provide for genuine sanctions if delegations do not have a single woman as a representative. 

In other words, the current Rules of Procedure - and everyone agrees on this - are clearly unsatisfactory when it comes to the representation of women in our Assembly. It does nothing to promote balanced representation of men and women, even though our institution is the embodiment and recognised symbol of human rights - hence of men's and women's rights.

Moreover, several resolutions and recommendations have been adopted in the past: in 2003, in 2007, in 2010. These refer to a minimum of 30% of women in the delegations. This is followed by 2016 and 2019 when parity in committees was called for. In other words, we have been working on this for more than 15 years.

We should welcome that the recognition and status of women, and their protection, are high at the top of our priorities, but we must note, in all objectivity, that our Assembly is not necessarily in the best position to give lessons in parity, because it is not exemplary in its composition and in the responsibilities that it grants to its female members.

It is true that in ten years the proportion of women in the PACE has risen from 28% to 37%, reflecting the clear progress made in most of the national parliaments of our member states. However, the trend seems to be levelling off and currently, 16 delegations have less than one-third of women members.

Moreover, balanced representation is not measured solely by the respective numbers of women and men. From this point of view, I must point out here that, as far as our Assembly is concerned :

- There are no women on the Presidential Committee, which thus fully justifies its name "Presidential Committee."

- The Bureau is 77% male, with eight women among its 35 members.

- There are only six women among the 20 vice-presidencies currently occupied.

- Two of the nine committees are chaired by a woman.

- Ten women sit on the Committee on Rules of Procedure - out of 33 seats filled - and 21 women on the Monitoring Committee - out of 86 seats actually filled.

- Only 20% of the rapporteurs in the Monitoring Committee and 16% of the rapporteurs in the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights are women.

We cannot, in all good conscience, be satisfied with these unquestionable facts. We must therefore amend our Rules of Procedure to change this state of affairs, to reflect the reality of our modern democratic societies.

I wanted this report to be a collective one because it concerns us all. I am also convinced that the political groups are essential to the success of this reform of the Rules of Procedure, the sole objective of which is, I repeat, to improve the representation of men and women. Thanks to the discussions we have had, I, with each and every one of you, have been able to improve the content to change the points that were causing tension and to move forward, in order to reach a consensus that will enable us to adopt rules that are more ambitious, and that are more practical for the Member States and political groups.

Therefore, I feel that it is appropriate to specify the following key elements that have emerged from this dialogue:

- firstly, the date for implementing the new rules has been postponed to January 2023, to give the national delegations time to move into compliance;

- gender diversity has been referred to specifically to ensure that delegations cannot be solely male or solely female;

- the introduction of quotas is accompanied by a new provision on the number of women and men in the delegations, as well as a new provision on the number of men and women in the delegations;

- the introduction of quotas is accompanied by a certain degree of progressiveness, depending on the size of the delegations. Thus, for small delegations of four members, only one woman representative will be required - that is 25%. For other delegations, we propose a quota of 33%, with a minimum proposal of 33% female representatives;

- Finally, the political groups will be asked to propose a minimum of one woman out of three members for appointments to the committees under their responsibility and for speakers, while the position of rapporteur will have to be held by a woman in 33% of cases.

All these changes are intended to be the first step in a gradual but ambitious approach, with the aim of achieving 40% representation by 2026, followed by full parity.

The aim of the report is not to turn the tables, but simply to change a regulation that barely mentions women and that dates back several decades.

In a global context that is difficult for everyone but, it must be said, particularly complicated for some women, it is our responsibility to uphold the values of democracy and human rights for all. This also - and I would even say above all - requires a change in our rules to promote greater equity.

In conclusion, I should like to recall the words of the French philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, which unfortunately remain relevant today: "Nothing is ever definitively established. All it takes is a political, economic or religious crisis for women's rights to be called into question. Throughout your lives, you must remain vigilant."

I thank you for this.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you, and now the floor is for Ms Petra BAYR.

You have 3 minutes.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur for opinion


Thank you very much, Mister President.

An adoption of this resolution including the opinion will not be a revolution. Which has moved the composition of our Assembly towards the direction that is based on demography and much more important on democracy. It is key for us as an Assembly to mirror the reality of our societies at the Assembly. And I'm very grateful to Nicole for her important report that really lays a fundament for a next step forward. I'm very grateful to Ingjerd for organizing a hearing in the Rules Committee where we had a very explicit takeaway. If you want to be successful in having gender-balanced Assemblies or organizations or institutions, you need clear targets, you need timeframes, you need incentives, you need quotas, and you need consequences. That we do in the report and in the opinion. With the opinion of the Equality Committee, which was adopted unanimously, we transformed the wording to avoid the phrase "under-represented sex" to something which is not that marginalizing, because that's not very good language simply.

We provide inclusive perspective ensuring balanced gender representation. With our opinion we follow the principle of minimum 1/3 women and 1/3 men and the rest can be composed as whatever... the remaining seats left can be composed as whatever. We increase the accountability for sexism-free parliaments and we follow a resolution we already had adopted on that, and really want to ask the Bureau for the implementation efforts. And we give a role to the Bureau as well. When implementing the new approach, we give guidelines for the Committees on how they should act, for instance.

So, as I said, it is not a revolution, but it is a step towards the right direction, it comes timely, and it is necessary. And let me at the end also quote somebody. I want to quote the US vice-president Kamala Harris. She attended the gender equality forum this June, and also the Parliamentary Assembly participated and contributed, organized by France. And Kamala Harris said "Democracy is strongest when everyone participates and it is weaker when people are left out". So, I know without doubt that gender equality strengthens democracy.

Dear colleagues, let us strengthen the democracy of the Council of Europe today.

Thank you.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you for the precise timing.

Now we move to the debate.

Speakers will have three minutes but I would appreciate if they could save more time.

We will start with the groups.

First, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left, Ms Feleknas UCA. She is connected online I think.

Ms Feleknas UCA

Turkey, UEL, Spokesperson for the group


Mister President,

I would like to thank the rapporteur for this important report.

We as a group also support this report. Politics, where decisions are taken that have a direct impact on society, is one of the main areas in which domination and hierarchy are reproduced.

Although the representation of women in politics has increased today, it is, unfortunately, still not at the required level. Particularly in countries that have lagged behind in gender equality policies, women are still considered second-class human beings due to the dismissive attitude towards gender equality that prevails among ruling men and pretend that there are no other diverse genders.

In its present state, politics is an anti-democratic and monopolistic male domain. For this to change, for women to have a say in all aspects of their lives, and for the exploitation that has lasted for millennia to finally come to an end, it is crucial that women have equal representation in politics. In addition, equal representation of different faiths and cultures and of young people will also bring about equality and justice in politics.

However, at present, even in Europe, the parliamentarians of many countries are dominated by men. We see that the visibility and representation of different genders are not yet at a sufficient level. The most significant achievement of the Kurdish women's movement is that at every level, our party, the HDP, practices its system of dual leadership in leadership and speaker positions, which transforms and empowers both women and men.

In order to achieve a truly equal representation, we recommend that the dual speaker leadership system be introduced in Europe as well. This is the system of party leadership that the founding of the HDP designed as a dual leadership; not to share power and domination. It understands leadership not as the exercise of power, but as productive joint creation. Through their own autonomous women's committees and equal representation, women's disadvantage is eliminated, and they are given a voice.

The female revolution in Rojava, which has weakened male domination in the Middle East, is among the most important examples of equal representation. With a structure based on the strongest female presence in all spheres, women have transformed millennia of male domination.

We should start, here, today in Parliament by setting our goals for equal representation of all cultures and genders in every field.

I believe that the goal for 2026 must be 50% female representation in all elected offices. The responsibility for creating equal representation is shared by all of us. We will always continue our efforts to move away from a monotonous monolithic policy and to step into decision in all fields and behave visibility to its right.

Thank you.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now I give the floor to Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

The floor is yours.


Turkey, SOC, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you very much.

On behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group I'd like to express our strong support for the report and opinion on it.

Clearly, as the Assembly we should not treat the changes to our rules from this resolution as a final destination or a revolution.

But rather we should know they are a step in the right direction.

In the words of UN Women's Executive Director 'only half is an equal share and actually only equal is enough' - and we're not even there with this resolution.

All of the evidence shows that women's increasing participation in politics helps advance not only gender equality, but also prosperity for all.

And challenges women face in political participation mirrors what we face in daily life in a very gender unequal world order.

So, clearly this is a structural issue and what better place to tackle a structural problem but in our very own organisation, whose pillars of democracy, rule of law, human rights are strongly linked to gender equality.

As such, I think this resolution is somewhat of a test of our sincerity as an organisation, an opportunity for us to be genuine defenders of our values, our very own rules and regulations.

Now, we should be reminded that the aim of this resolution is to take a step forward from where we stand. And where we stand is currently 37% of women representation. So, whatever we do, we should not fall behind this level. We should ensure that no national delegations' gender composition falls behind their own national parliaments' gender proportion.

Therefore we should take a step forward.

This is why the rules guarantee that in Member States where the share of women in their national parliament exceeds one to three, the gender composition of the delegation should mirror the same ratio. And in all other Member States the rule is one in three.

International studies actually identify the benchmark of 30% representation as the critical mass of female legislators to enable significant and positive impact.

That's the bare minimum - that's where we should start from, and we should seek to achieve the ideal eventually.

That's what this resolution does; it takes a gradual approach. By 2026 it proposes 40%.

Now, we need these quotas. In 2019, women gained 30% of parliamentary seats in countries with quotas. In countries without quotas, this ratio is only 18%. Quotas actually help.

Clearly, our goal is not only numerical representation but the genuine empowerment of women.

Therefore, seeking a gender balance in the appointment of groups spokespersons, in rapporteurships, in implementation of policies and duties. Therefore this is what this resolution does.

Finally, true democracies are built on accountability. That's what this report does. So let's seize the moment of opportunity in not only preaching our values, but making them a reality.

Thank you.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you too.

Now for EPP Group, the floor is for Mr Joseph O'REILLY.

Mr Joseph O'REILLY

Ireland, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, President,

At the outset, on behalf of the EPP, I want to congratulate Ms Nicole TRISSE from France on the original report and Ms Petra BAYR, my good friend, for the Committee's opinion.

The EPP supports both the underlying principles here and the balanced nature of the report and we understand, in the EPP, that this cannot be achieved by aspiration alone and that there must be targets and quotas and clear delineation of what has to be done.

Gender inequality demeans both men and women. It denies the riches and the genius of women – 51% of the population – and, I personally and the EPP, support the principle of quotas as the only way to break the glass ceiling for women.

As members of the Parliamentary Assembly, here at the Council of Europe, we have much to do. It is right and proper that long-established international organisations, such as PACE lead by example. However, we have an all-male Presidential Committee, only two female Chairs of nine Committees, 6 women out of 20 on the Assembly seats. As members of this ambitious Assembly across all our parties and groups, we must work harder and more closely to achieve a realistic timeline for gender equality.

The current proposals show a gradual arrival at 40%, and January 2023 for implementation, and it is constantly being monitored and that is how it should be. So, we were anxious in the EPP that people come to work together on this and that it is a graduated process bringing people along on the journey with it, rather than something that will alienate a divide, which never gets the right outcome.

And, in a post-Covid world we'll have many competing challenges, we are confronted with challenges in education, globalisation, poverty, health and food provision and many other concerns. And one of the most fundamental challenges is to achieve gender equality, of course. And to address the various challenges, we need gender equality in our representations.

So basically our EPP position is, we welcome this in principle, we think of its nature, it has to be consensual, it has to be gradual and I think that has been achieved here. And we want the end outcome, and we do accept the underlying principle of quotas and that we cannot achieve gender equality by aspirational statements alone.

Thank you very much, Mr President.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

So, now the floor is for Mr Damien COTTIER on behalf of ALDE group.

The floor is yours.


Switzerland, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Mr President.

The ALDE Group supports the aim of this draft resolution and thanks the rapporteur, Ms Nicole TRISSE, for the excellent work and also for the dialogue sought with the political groups throughout the process.

I am sure that our parliaments and assemblies, as well as all elected political authorities, must strive for good gender representation. And yes, there must be a clear political will to achieve this and proactive measures.

However, the ALDE Group highlights the importance of a positive and liberal spirit in this process, not overly constrained or rigid. ALDE will always favour voluntary measures, with the emphasis on human genius, enthusiasm and freedom, over a policy of strict quotas, automatisms, obligations or, worse still, penalties. We also stress that we must avoid the trap of overly complex recruitment rules which multiply the criteria, first at national level and then in our Assembly, and which can ultimately make choice – which is the very basis of democracy – difficult and, in some cases, even impossible.

If there are too many constraints, we end up with automatisms and it is the political room for manoeuvre, and therefore, in the end, the democratic choice itself, that is constrained. It is therefore a question of finding a good balance between these different objectives.

You know, I come from a region in Switzerland, the Republic and Canton of Neuchâtel, which elected its cantonal parliament last April. This parliament is now 58% female, without any constraints, without legal quotas, but thanks to the proactive policy of several political parties, including my own.

Iceland, which has just elected its parliament, which is now almost 48% female, again without legal quotas, again shows that this is possible. It is a matter of conviction and of promoting women to positions of responsibility; it works without necessarily needing to impose overly rigid legislative frameworks.

Most of the report's proposals are inspired by this voluntary spirit, without excessive constraints, and we support this spirit. A number of amendments are intended to accentuate this clear political will, but with the necessary flexibility, which we believe is more effective, and our group will support them. On the other hand, it will oppose those amendments, in particular Amendment No. 3 paragraph 8.2, which seek to impose an overly restrictive straitjacket.

It is in this liberal, positive and voluntary spirit that the ALDE Group will deal with this report, with our thanks to the rapporteur, Ms Nicole TRISSE.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you, sir.

Now I have in my list Mr Erkin GADIRLI on behalf of EC group.

Is he in the hemicycle or connected online?

Okay, the floor is yours.


Azerbaijan, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Mister Chairman.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is indeed a very important attempt to solve a very serious problem. From a legal perspective, there is no need for any other reason other than women are equal with men, yet, we all know that almost all countries face problems with this issue. Every country has its own peculiarity: in some countries the problem is more cultural, in others more structural, and in some others more economic, but most probably they are mixed.

So, the desire to solve this problem by putting forward this resolution is understandable. Yet what is worrisome, is the very fact that this report seems to be based on the assumption that this problem could be solved by a quota system. A quota system is a numerical increase. It focuses on quantitative impact rather than the qualitative aspect of a desired change. And here comes the first problematic issue.

Which problem is greater: when one group is under-represented or when it is represented by unqualified members or under-qualified members? This is not a theoretical question. This used to be a very practical problem in the Soviet times and we're old enough to remember those times. In the Soviet Union there were all types of quotas: age quotas, gender quotas, ethnic quotas, professional quotas, urban quotas, rural quotas. Every aspect of public life in the Soviet Union was either based on or shaped by some quota system. And it worked perfectly well, but it didn't work for good. It killed the motivation or incentive for genuine competition both within the groups or among the groups and also, it reinforced the stereotypes it aimed to eliminate or fight.

This report seems to disregard the differences in electoral systems, because in a democracy you cannot predict the results. In weak democracies, even if you can't predict the result, like in authoritarian environments, for example, it's easier to put more women in the parliament. But more women in a weak parliament means more weak women, because it's not about personality, it's about functionality. If a system doesn't function properly, well, then no matter who is represented there, it just doesn't reach the result.

Speaking in terms of result, let us not forget that law cannot guarantee the result. Law can only guarantee equality of opportunities, not equality of result. So let us just keep that in mind, because this report seems to be based on over-reliance on law, and this is wrong, I suppose.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you, sir.

Now we have concluded the speakers of the groups.

Indeed the time is over, but to be fair, I will give some individual members... according to the list the first speaker is Ms Bisera KOSTADINOVSKA-STOJCHEVSKA.

Members have three minutes. Please save time.

Thank you.


North Macedonia, SOC


Thank you.

Respected colleagues,

The need for the report that you have in front of you is of the utmost importance. Women's equal participation and leadership in political and public life are essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Even though the number of women running for elected office has increased over the last decade, still women only add up to approximately 20% of the seats in parliaments or governments. Also, many of the political campaigns appear to focus on the aggressiveness of the female candidate, which is usually perceived as a masculine trait. Thus, sadly, female candidates are running in political campaigns based on gender opposing candidates because that is where the prediction of success lies, it is supposed.

According to Ms Kira Sanbonmatsu it has been shown that female politicians are perceived as only being superior when it comes to handling several issues, such as poverty, education and women's rights, whereas male politicians are perceived as being better at dealing with crime and foreign policy.

However, data shows that still women are underrepresented at all levels of decision-making worldwide:

As of 1 September 2020, 26 women were serving as head of states and / or government in 24 countries.

Just 10 countries had a woman head of state and 13 countries had a woman head of government.

Only 21% of government ministers were women.

Only 14 countries had achieved 50% women participation in government.

Women in politics are more susceptible to hate speech, stereotyping, online abuse, threats, just because they're women who dared to go into politics. Women need more societal and institutional support.

As the proposed report states, our societies are composed of an equal number of men and women. Combining this reality with political representation and establishing parliamentary parity is a legitimate subject. Where there is a political will, and where the impetus is given at the highest institutional level, parity can become the norm.

I call upon all of the members of the Assembly to give support to this report.

I congratulate both Ms Petra BAYR and Ms Nicole TRISSE for the great report.

Thank you.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now the floor is for Ms Sylvie GOY-CHAVENT from France.


France, EPP/CD


Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

In its resolutions and recommendations, our Assembly calls on Member States to promote equality between women and men and the participation of women in civil and political life. This is an essential objective and our Assembly must set an example in this matter.

In ten years, the proportion of women in the Assembly has risen to 37%. In 2007, the Assembly set a target for national parliaments to have at least the same percentage of women in their delegations as in their national parliaments, with the aim of reaching 30%. Today, 22 delegations have a percentage of women equal to or higher than 40%, while 16 parliamentary delegations have less than one third of. women. These figures can of course be improved.

While we can welcome the fact that national parliaments have adopted measures to promote parity and the presence of women in assemblies, the introduction of quotas as proposed here does not seem to be the best solution for promoting women's participation.

Let us take a perfect counter-example: Iceland. In last week's elections, 48% of the elected members were women, which is a record in Europe, even though no quotas have been introduced in that country. However, there is a real political will on the part of the parties to involve more women.

In the case of our Assembly, our Rules of Procedure already provide that national delegations must include a percentage of women at least equal to that of the national parliament. I do not think it is necessary to add a constraint, especially not if this leads to a sanction by not ratifying the credentials, because this constraint would weigh heavily on small delegations. They would be obliged to recruit women who are not necessarily very motivated, just to ratify their credentials. It does not seem to me that this would serve the cause of women. The competence of these women would then risk being very unfairly questioned, as in many cases of positive discrimination.

Finally, the delegations must be composed taking into account the political groups represented in the national parliament. This is essential to guarantee pluralism of representation in our Assembly; if too great a constraint is placed on gender representation, small delegations in particular are likely to find themselves once again in great difficulty.

The report by Mrs Nicole TRISSE is very good, the intentions are very good, but unfortunately hell is paved with good intentions. The principle of quotas bothers me, so I have reservations about the draft resolution.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you, for the efficient timing.

Now I invite Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY from Turkey. She is connected online, I think.

Please, ask the floor again.

Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY

Turkey, NR


Thank you President. Dear colleagues,

I would like to thank the Rapporteur for her considerable effort in preparing this highly important and ambitious report.

It presents concrete solutions for further promoting gender balance in the Assembly with an aim to achieve a minimum of 40% representation between four years and ultimately parity of women and men in the Assembly.

It is a significant step to move forward for us and for this Assembly on the path to ensure a gender balance.

Considering the enormous power of this organisation, I believe that it is also encouraging for other organisations and national parliaments.

So, I congratulate the Rapporteur and the Assembly.

I would like to say: I welcome this report as a representative of the Turkish parliament where women members have been present since 1934, when the right to be elected for women was accepted.

Gender quotas are considered essential to achieve women's effective and active participation in the representative institutions and decision-making bodies.

As stated in the report, the sharing of responsibilities in the political and public decision-making between women and men is an inherent element of any engine of democracy and it responds to the legitimate aspirations expressed in our societies for a long time.

Therefore, quotas have grown considerably and became widely used to rectify imbalances in participation in national parliaments and other decision-making bodies.

On the other hand, some consider it to be a controversial measure and an implication that politicians are elected because of their gender, and not because of their professional qualifications.

We should be clear by underlining the fact that election is representation. It is all about representation, not about professional or educational qualifications. Considering that a gender is disqualified compared to another is also discrimination in nature.

Quotas work because they eliminate to some degree direct discrimination and hidden barriers preventing women from getting their fair share of political life, thus it should be seen as compensation for the structural barriers and then as an effective instrument to improve perceptions of women as politicians and leaders.

To sum up, I would like to point out that a minimum threshold of one-third is not within reach. Despite some temporary difficulties, it is a realistic goal which can be achieved.

However, we should be aware that this step cannot be considered sufficient because equal participation is about more than mere numbers.

So, I believe that we still have much work to do in achieving gender equality.

Thank you very much.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam GÜNAY.

Now I give the floor to two more speakers. We are much behind the time. Then after the two speakers I will close the list.

Now the floor is for Ms Lesia VASYLENKO from Ukraine.


Ukraine, ALDE


Thank you, President.

Dear colleagues,

Ms Nicole TRISSE and Ms Petra BAYR have presented us with an excellent report with a lot of data in it but which actually takes our discussion way beyond regulating the work within PACE. It is no secret that PACE has long been looked up to by national parliaments as an Assembly with good an effective practices. Practices which merit being transposed into national systems. Practices of equality and inclusivity of the decision-making process, for example.

When we speak of gender quotas, it is not to give unmerited privilege to either sex, but to rectify the injustice that has occurred as history was allowed to freely run its course. Injustices which have led to a divide between women's jobs and men's professions and other such strange stereotypes. In this way, politics has long been stereotyped as a man's world. This is more than just a stereotype, in fact, because the numbers in the report speak louder than words. Across the globe 75-80% of members of parliament are men.

For women, to enter politics and get a seat at the decision-making table, it is not possible to simply open the door and walk in. Too many glass ceilings and too many glass walls need to be broken and shattered. The fight to get a seat at the table is followed by yet another fight to get a voice at that very table. These struggles drain the time and the energy from inclusive decision making and strip societies of effective and implementable decisions.

Quotas are a way to remedy this situation. The quotas are there to make sure that both men and women partake equally in decision making affecting societies, which in turn, are composed of both men and women. I actually believe that quotas are a temporary necessity until we learn to self-regulate and have a fair and just representation and our legislators and other top-level decision-making bodies. Until that day comes, there must be rules, and quotas are just such rules.

Rules which have proven effective in so many countries in this Assembly including Ukraine. In Ukraine, we have adopted a new election legislation which introduced equality quotas to the formation of party lists. This new principal has been applied in the 2020 local election and as a result 11% more women have entered local councils in big cities. There is confidence that these same rules of equality shall also ensure a more equal and gender representation in the next parliament and in the next election.

I am certain that many members of this Assembly can share similar positive experiences with equality quotas. With this in mind, I hope that today, in this House, we show support for the report and resolution and that we keep the gender equality discussion high on the priority list of this Assembly's agenda.

Thank you.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly



Now the last speaker is Mr John HOWELL from the United Kingdom.


United Kingdom, EC/DA


Thank you very much, Mr President.

I have to say to the rapporteur that I have several concerns about this report. Before coming to speak here, I took the view of a number of female colleagues about the issue, and many of the things that are being proposed for women, they were concerned about – because what we need to do is to avoid the suggestion that women cannot compete with men in their own right – of course, they can and I encourage them to do that. An example of that, which is not being proposed for this Assembly, is all-women shortlists for candidature. I'm glad that isn't being proposed for this Assembly because I fundamentally feel that it undermines the position of women.

Targets too, according to my view of things, fall into this group. Of the UK full representatives here, a third are already women and we have a large number, of course, who could go on to join us here in this group. It does seem, to me, slightly old-fashioned that we have chosen two targets of male and female to have this report on, when we live in a much more dynamic world; where there are LGBT people, where there are ethnic people who also, if the idea of this report is to be followed, also need targets. And then we get into a horrendous situation that I wouldn't like to participate in.

In the 2019 general election in the UK, there were 220 women elected to the British Parliament. That makes up 34% of the House of Commons. My party has already had two women Prime Ministers. It has a Head of State in Her Majesty, The Queen, who is also a woman. So, I remain unconvinced as to why we need to go against what our natural parliaments are doing.

Sure, we need to change the culture, we need to stop the bullying, we need to stop the harassment. All of these things are good things that we should be doing.

But we already have a situation where 54% of our civil servants are women and, something like, a third of all our judges too are women. Of the candidates that there were to parliament, 34% were women. So, I think in this situation, we have come a long way and we still have a long way to go but in this case, I think, the situation is far more complex than this report goes in for.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister HOWELL.

Now, as I said, I must interrupt the list of speakers.

The speeches of members on the speakers list who have been present here, or remotely during the debate, but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the Official Report, provided that speakers connected remotely can report their actual presence when the debate is closed. I remind colleagues that type written texts must be submitted electronically, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.

I call Ms Nicole TRISSE, the rapporteur, to reply to the debate in 3 minutes, or less.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, Rapporteur


Thank you, Mr President.

First of all, I would like to thank all those who supported me, who supported Ms Petra BAYR and who approve this report.

I would also like to address those who talk about quotas. I have heard talk of quotas as in the Soviet Union. We are not in the process of establishing quotas by socio-professional category, by whatever means: the only quota that is valid here is to say that we need men and women, and preferably not one woman for every 30 men. That's all there is to it. So at some point, there has to be at least a balance or, at any rate, an imbalance that is reduced.

Furthermore, as regards quotas, I would remind you, for example, that many countries have introduced quotas in their national parliaments in order to get women into politics. For example, I could mention Burkina Faso, the Philippines, Uganda, Belgium, Bosnia, Slovenia and Nepal: these are countries that I have deliberately chosen to show you that they are not just so-called rich countries that have had time to think about it, etc. This is nonsense. I believe that the quota are necessary and that is how we have been able to get women into the various national parliaments.

Finally, I do not think that it is because I benefited from the Copé-Zimmermann law, among others, in France, which dates from 2011 - and other measures - that I found myself a parliamentarian. I say this to my French colleague. I don't think I'm second-rate; I think I do my job like everyone else, including men. In this connection, I had the honour of asking Mrs Merkel about her political career and about how, in her opinion, this famous glass ceiling for women should be broken - because they ask themselves whether they are competent before they go in, which is the problem, but that could be the subject of another report. Her answer was clear: she said that quotas were needed at the highest levels, precisely to give everyone this political impetus. That is all.

And then I will end with a phrase, a little wink perhaps - a little cynical, excuse me - from another French woman, Françoise Giroud, who said in 1983: "Women will really be the equal of men the day when, in an important position, an incompetent woman is appointed."

Thank you.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now does the Chairperson of the Committee wish to speak?

If so, 3 minutes.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, Chairperson of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional ENA


President, thank you,

Dear colleagues, first of all let me warmly thank our rapporteur Ms Nicole TRISSE and her Secretariat for the work in preparing this report. I shall underline and praise her approach. This was not an easy task, not at all. She has worked in a collegial manner, aiming at reaching consensus. This is the best way to achieve progress.

Indeed, the issue is not as consensual as one might wish. It demonstrates that progress still needs to be made, both in the political culture and in the political realities.

With this report, President, the Assembly will further promote gender balance by amending the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, the ultimate goal being parity of women and men in the Assembly.

The Rapporteur, and with her the Committee on Rules of Procedure, wisely suggested adopting a step-by-step approach.

The Rapporteur has rightly underlined the important role to be played by political groups in reaching those goals. They have been fully included by our Rapporteur in her discussions on the proposals put forward in the report. I am confident that - being well aware of their responsibility in improving gender representation in the Assembly - they will play their role.

We can already observe the progress made in the last 10 years. During those years, President, the proportion of women in the Parliamentary Assembly has increased to 37%. This is a clear reflection of effective proactive electoral legislation. Only through proactive measures have the States’ national parliaments been able to increase the entry of women into parliament.

Yet, we can – and we will – do more.

The report by Ms Nicole TRISSE, and the draft resolution presented by the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs, will pave the way for further progress.

On behalf of the Committee, I invite you to support the draft resolution.

Thank you.


Ukraine, ALDE


(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear Madam Rapporteur,

First of all, I want to admit your excellent work on the report preparation. An issue of equal participation of women and men in political life and decision making is crucial for a democratic society.

Although the quota system and other affirmative action policies contribute to increase women’s representation and participation in political life, women are still often underrepresented in international relations. In most cases, the direct political influence of women and men is also disproportionate, it also includes ways of being heard, and pursuing their own political priorities.

Even if women are represented on sufficient level in the national parliaments and make up more than third of the parliamentarians, they are often underrepresented in the parliamentary delegations. This point also is mentioned in the report. Based on this, we can make a conclusion that there are structural obstacles of gender equality inside the parliaments.

Gender equality is one of the key priorities of the Council of Europe. Our work here has led to the development of comprehensive legal instruments and policy guides to improve the status and empowerment of women and to ensure the effective implementation of gender equality in the member states and beyond.

As has mentioned in the report, in Ukrainian delegation there are more than 40% of women-MPs, it is a consequence of the introduction of gender quotas and other affirmative actions in our national legislation.

For this reason, I support the ideas presented by Madam Rapporteur, but we also need to understand that implementation of these innovations may face certain obstacles such us gender stereotypes, outdated practices, political culture. Therefore, we need to focus on the process of practical implementation of these changes by Member States.

I hope that these innovations will affect the traditional division of political spheres into women’s and men’s (for example in committees), so that eventually we will see more and more men dealing with social or gender issues in the PACE.

Thank you for attention!




(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Honourable colleagues, Mr. President.

As some of you are surely aware, in Canada last week, we held our 44th federal election.

What many of you likely don’t know, however, is that 43% of the candidates were female or gender diverse – an all-time high in Canada and a small increase from the 2019 federal election campaign.

This is progress.

As recently as 1970, a woman held only one of the then 264 seats in Canada’s House of Commons.

That a country’s female population should be equally represented in its parliament may strike many of us here as common sense. But beyond the obvious issue of fairness, there is also a body of research that shows us the myriad benefits of increased female participation in politics.

A 2018 study of 125 countries, for example, found “that corruption is lower in countries where a greater share of parliamentarians are women.”

Research has also shown that female politicians tend to collaborate more and make greater efforts to reach a consensus.

So, how do we increase the number of women in politics and – turning to today’s debate more specifically – gender representation in the Parliamentary Assembly?

Rapporteur Trisse’s report highlights some concrete proposals, such as variations of the gender quota and parity policies that are becoming increasingly common around the world.

But I agree with her that these are “insufficient.”

For that reason, Rapporteur Trisse’s report also raises the possibility of using “positive incentives” here in the Parliamentary Assembly.

One positive incentive the report considers is the rewarding of “virtuous delegations” – that is, those that meet a gender representation threshold – with additional speakers in debates or more desirable speaking slots.

Another is the establishment of specific structures to promote gender equality, “such as the creation of cross-party women’s parliamentary groups, a Women’s Forum, or a network of women parliamentarians.”

I expect that today’s debate will provide us with even more ideas and proposals.

Six years ago, when a reporter asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau why he prioritized having an equal number of men and women in his cabinet, he made international headlines by saying, “because it’s 2015.”

This year, 50% of members of the Senate of Canada were women.

I hope that in the not-too-distant future that kind of question won’t need to be asked. And that rather than discussing the number of female parliamentarians, we’ll need only focus on their actions. Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD


(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

The right of each and every citizen to be represented in the political decision-making process is one of the basic principles of democracy. An elected body should reflect the political composition of the electorate.

As long as women and men do not enjoy the same empowerment, participation, visibility and equal access to resources, we cannot consider human rights to be respected, nor democracy and the rule of law to be achieved. Gender equality is the central to the mission of the Council of Europe. Therefore, I strongly support the idea to further promote gender balance in the Assembly by amending its Rules of Procedure.

I would like to congratulate the Rapporteur, Ms Trisse on her report. The Council of Europe, including its Parliamentary Assembly, has for decades been a driving force in countering discrimination against women and has promoted substantial progress in its Member States. However, gender equality remains far from achieved in practice.

The Council of Europe’s Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2023 states that the overall goal of the Organisation in this area is to achieve the effective realisation of gender equality and to empower women and men. As known, our societies are composed of an equal number of men and women. Therefore, aim of this report was to slowly achieve a balanced participation of women and men in our Assembly.

The gender breakdown in political groups in the Assembly depends on the composition of national delegations. Gender balance will improve when the new rules are implemented. Political groups should be more proactive in promoting the balanced representation and participation of women and men in the Assembly’s decision-making bodies.

Substantial progress requires strong political will, institutional mechanisms and a change of mind. Promoting the equal participation is essential to achieving gender equality, but the most important is the implementation of the measures proposed. Both the Bureau and committees should be required to report regularly on their implementation of these guidelines.

I am convinced that the most important steps in our struggle towards gender equality are the so-called “positive discrimination” measures in areas such as political representation. Balanced participation of women and men in political and public decision-making is needed, more precisely; we should promote sharing responsibility and gender parity whenever possible in decision-making bodies. Do not forget, our Assembly is the body of the Council of Europe in which we, our Member States’ parliamentarians speak for the 830 million Europeans.


Serbia, EPP/CD


(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Gender equality is among of the priorities of the Council of Europe and all its working bodies.

The Council of Europe instruments which relate to gender equality should be the principle of proactive politics. That approach requires the positive measures of the member states.

However, proactivity is not just mandatory for the public administration, because good laws and strategies involve representatives of the civil society, lawyers, experts and other stakeholders as well.

In my opinion, the goal of the Council of Europe should be 40% of women participating in working bodies and in member states’ delegations, because securing the equal opportunities for both men and women is the basic principle of gender equality and human rights.

Ms María Luisa BUSTINDUY

Spain, SOC


(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Congratulations to the rapporteurs of a necessary report to put on track a situation, in my opinion, incomprehensible, that puts us in the direction of achieving the objective that the representation in this Parliamentary Assembly becomes more and better like the society it represents.

An issue in which we have been dragging our feet and for which we are quite on delay.

So congratulations on the initiative to address this issue, which means a very important step, a necessary step because it is fairer, because it is richer and because it is more reasonable.

If women are half the population, because it is still intended to do without that half of the population ?.

Can we afford that luxury? I honestly think not

Therefore, it is best to establish standards that lead us to turn real a goal that has been set for more than twenty years.

Already in 2000, the European Council decided to promote the Community Action Program for the equality of men and women (2001-2005) and articulated the impact assessment based on gender, as an objective to be achieved.

In my country, Spain, the Equality Law of 2007 marks a before and after in this sense.

A law that was appealed by the main opposition party before the Constitutional Court, on the understanding that it was a LEGAL IMPOSITION that supposed a clear restriction of the free activity of political parties in the formation of candidacies for the different elections. Appeal that, of course, they lost and forced them to comply with a Law from which they have been benefiting ever since.

Nowadays nobody questions that the representation of men and women in the electoral lists have to be between the limits of 60 and 40%.

According to a published study, the representation in the candidacies of the last general elections in Spain was 48% of women and 52% of men.

I think that is quite an encouraging piece of information.

Furthermore, in my Region, Andalusia, a pioneering measure was also adopted in this regard.

In 2003, the Government of Andalusia assumed the commitment to prepare an annual Gender Impact Assessment report. With the aim of guaranteeing that the gender equality perspective is present in public policies in all areas of action.

In 2008, a further step was taken and this Report became part of the attached Documentation of the Budgets of the Junta de Andalucía.

They are examples, there are many more, but many more are also missing.

Which forces us to keep on working.

We're late, we're slow, but keep going ... and we'll get there.

On such a day, we will have a better represented society.


France, EPP/CD


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

Ms Marie-Christine DALLOZ

France, EPP/CD


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


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

With this we close the debate.

Now we move to the consideration of amendments the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs has presented a draft resolution to which 16 amendments and 10 sub-amendments have been tabled.

The amendments will be taken in the order in which they appear in the Compendium.

I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 1 minute.

I ask parliamentarians participating remotely to ask for the floor only when they have to support their own amendment or wish to speak against an amendment.

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 14, 16 and 11 to the draft resolution which were unanimously approved by the Committee should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

Amendments 13, 8 and 9 were also approved unanimously by the Committee but having been subject to written sub-amendments, they will be considered using the usual procedure.

Can you confirm this information Ms Ingjerd SCHOU?

Vote: Gender representation in the Parliamentary Assembly

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, Chairperson of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional ENA


Yes, I can.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


OK. Does anyone object?

As there is no objection, I declare that Amendments No. 14, 16, and 11 to the draft resolution have been agreed.

Thank you.

Now we move to the amendments now.

I call Ms TRISSE to support Amendment No. 13 in 1 minute.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, Rapporteur


It was to say that, in fact, we were explaining on the one hand how these famous quotas were going to be set, but also that there was this criterion of the number of women in each national parliament and that the most favourable criterion was to be taken.

What I am telling you here is something that was already tacitly agreed upon in the old Rules of Procedure, so I am putting it back in an amendment so that it is clear. We have the two possibilities, with the most favourable criterion used depending on the case.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


What is the position of the Committee, Ms Ingjerd SCHOU?

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, Chairperson of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional ENA


President, the Committee are unanimously in favour.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly



Now I ask Ms Ingjerd SCHOU on behalf of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs to support the Sub-Amendment No. 1 in 1 minute. You have 1 minute.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, Chairperson of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional ENA


Thank you and the sub-amendment in amendment 13, replace the second sentence in inverted commas with the following sentence: "as long as the women are underrepresented in the Parliamentary Assembly, each national delegation shall include women, and as members, at least in the same percentage as in its parliaments or if this is more favourable to the representation of women and ensure gender representation as follows."

That is the text. I can also say that for this sub-amendment 1, the Committee was unanimously in favour.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Does anyone wish to speak against Sub-amendment 1? Yes.


Monaco, ALDE


Thank you, Mr President.

We believe that this sub-amendment is not clear enough and creates an additional difficulty for small delegations of two members.

We would rather that this sub-amendment was not voted on and that you voted for sub-amendment No. 2 instead, which clearly states that this provision in the Rules of Procedure would only apply to delegations of six members or more, and therefore removes small delegations from this framework.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


What is the opinion of the mover of the main amendment?

Who is the mover of the main amendment here?

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, Rapporteur


So, I understand what our colleague is saying. I was wondering if we could not, in this case, add the sentence she wants to the sub-amendment that we voted on unanimously. I do not know whether this is possible. So, I put the question to the Committee. To say that it is from the delegations of six people. But I do not know whether this is feasible. In any case, for the report, I had already noted that for the small delegations, there must be this aside.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, Chairperson of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional ENA


This was not debated in the Committee. Either you vote in favour or you vote against. That's the issue of this sub-amendment. For this sub-amendment the committee was unanimously in favour.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


The Committee is obviously in favour.

I think we shall now put the sub-amendment to the vote.

Please vote.

The vote is closed.

The results should be displayed.

Yes, certainly it is accepted by:

60 in favour, 30 against, and 16 abstentions.

Sub-Amendment 1 is adopted.

What about sub-amendments 2 and 3?

They fall. Turn page to page 15.

May I call Ms Petra BAYR on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination to support amendment 1.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur for opinion


I think first we have to vote on Amendment 13.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Now the main amendment, as amended, should be dealt with.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment as amended? I think nobody, no objection. 

The position of the Committee is?

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, Chairperson of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional ENA


Amendment 13, the Committee was unanimously in favour.


Turkey, NR, President of the Assembly


Then I shall now put amendment 13 as amended to the vote.

The vote is open.

Now I close the vote.

Display the results, please.

With these results numbers, certainly Amendment 13 is agreed.

Thank you.

Now I call Ms Petra BAYR on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination to support amendment 1.

You have 1 minute.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur for opinion