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30 September 2021 afternoon

2021 - Fourth part-session Print sitting

Sitting video(s) 1 / 1

Opening of the sitting No. 30

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

15:36:11

Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen.

We are now in the last part of the whole week's procedures. Last two items being addressed this afternoon.

I will chair.

The first item is the “Increased migration pressure on the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with Belarus” (Doc. 15382 rev). I would like to say that it's an important item and, even personally, it's important because I myself visited the border of Lithuania and Belarus two weeks ago. So, I know its significance. I'm very pleased that we do have the discussion here today. We have made a report. It's an urgent debate, as you know. We have prepared a report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.

I am honoured to present Ms Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN on behalf of the Committee she made the report. Unfortunately, she is online, but hopefully she is on the line and she is. Anna-Mari, the floor is yours. You have actually the normal 7 minutes and at the end, 3 minutes to react when after the debate.

We try roughly to finish this part of the discussion by 5:30 p.m. It's around because we started close to 10 minutes late.

OK. Anna-Mari. The floor is yours.

Debate under urgent procedure: Increased migration pressure on the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with Belarus

Ms Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN

Finland, EPP/CD, Rapporteur

15:37:45

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

So this report condemns the hybrid attack by Belarus to Europe and introduces measures to hold Belarus responsible for its actions. Using vulnerable people as instruments is something that cannot be accepted.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson's statement from 26 August that the situation on the Belarus border is not a migration issue but a part of the aggression of Lukashenko towards Poland, Lithuania and Latvia with the aim to destabilise the EU. That is correct in its reasoning why migration pressure has increased on the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

The situation at the eastern border with Belarus has remained dire for months. In May and August 2021, Lithuania and Latvia faced a sudden influx of migrants from Belarus. These people are mostly refugees and asylum seekers. The number of irregular arrivals to Lithuania increased from 80 in 2020 to more than 4,100 in 2021, so far.

The majority of the persons who crossed the border were Iraqi nationals. There are also persons from Afghanistan, Cuba, the Russian Federation, Sri Lanka and India. As reported by Latvian and Lithuanian officials, Belarusian security forces were directly involved in sending third country nationals across these EU external borders. Belarusian authorities have denied this.

In August and September 2021, several dozen persons from Iraq and Afghanistan were stranded around Belarusian borders. According to the receiving countries' authorities and several statements by European Union officials, border control measures were introduced because of migratory pressure organised by the Belarusian authorities. So Belarusian authorities are allegedly involved in the transfer of nationals of third countries and bringing them to its borders. This has created a human rights emergency situation.

These recent arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers have created significant challenges by putting a strain on the receiving countries' migrant and refugee reception capacities. These countries have not experienced a similar rapid inflow of migrants and asylum seekers before. They did not have appropriate accommodation facilities ready, nor trained staff to welcome them. This, however, cannot justify the inadequate response to the needs of asylum seekers; as recorded by human rights organisations, many migrants and asylum seekers have been blocked for several weeks on the border in very difficult and inhumane conditions. There has not been access to drinking water, food, medical assistance, sanitation facilities nor shelter.

Effective border management by Council of Europe member States should be accompanied by adequate responses to the rights of the asylum seekers. Border management should be fully compliant with European and international law standards, and in particular, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

The present situation requires rapid action. What we also need after the acute situation is new structures and instruments in order to strengthen Europe's resilience and preparedness for similar situations when migration is used as aggression for political purposes. For this, the European Union needs to reconsider its reception procedures and solidarity mechanisms.

It is vital to develop contingency preparedness with flexible and adjustable reception mechanisms, human-centred responses and adequate funding. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will have an important role to play in this process. The statement from 18 August by the EU's Home Affairs Ministers, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and EU Home Affairs Commissioner, Johansson, the representatives of Frontex, European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and Europol provides a promising initiative for improving Europe's preparedness to face hybrid attacks, providing funding to increase reception capacities, facilitating the integrated border management and developing adequate legal frameworks to ensure effective protection of EU external borders.

In reaction to the situation, I provide in the report a chronological description of the situation in each country concerned, the reaction to these events by the European Union, the response of the Belarusian authorities and our main concerns as regards to the respect of human rights of the migrants.

The situation at the Belarus border raises a number of serious human rights concerns. As reported by authorities of the countries concerned, the majority of migrants and asylum seekers appear to have arrived in Belarus by organised flights from Baghdad to Minsk. Some of them paid important amounts of money being promised to be brought directly to an EU country.

As indicated by UNHCR in its general statement on 27 July this year, "when states encourage population outflows to neighbouring countries, they create grave risks and compound the trauma and suffering of people fleeing. It drives risky onward movements, exposes people to potential exploitation, and can overwhelm reception capacities in other countries".

In the report we call governments or member States of the Council of Europe to support Latvia, Lithuania and Poland by providing urgent financial and technical assistance to ensure necessary protection of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

We address the receiving countries to:

- provide access to asylum procedures to all those seeking asylum;

- refrain from pushbacks to Belarus;

- provide necessary safeguards to ensure the human rights of those seeking entry to their territory;

- provide adequate reception, accommodation and identification of people with special needs; and

- access to information about the asylum procedure and social and other services to new arrivals.

Access to territory and asylum procedures should be granted without exceptions to those who wish to apply for asylum. Individual assessments of the situation of each asylum seeker should be undertaken prior to any removal from European territory. Adequate reception conditions, medical assistance and unhindered access for organisations providing humanitarian assistance and legal aid also need to be ensured.

The Assembly calls on the authorities of Belarus to stop the instrumentalisation of people, in general and especially migrants, refugees and asylum seekers – those who are most vulnerable.

The Assembly calls the authorities of Belarus to co-operate with its neighbours and with the European Union to solve the ongoing problems across these borders.

Dear colleagues, I call you to support the draft resolution.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

15:46:36

Thank you very much, Anne-Marie, for your introduction for the issue. You are a bit overtime. Let's try to do so that the final statement would be around 2 minutes, so that we are following the rules.

Now we move to the speakers list. We as usual first have the political groups. The first group on the list is Socialists and Greens and Mr Domagoj HAJDUKOVIĆ.

The floor is yours.

Mr Domagoj HAJDUKOVIĆ

Croatia, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

15:47:09

Thank you, Mr Chair,

Dear colleagues,

First of all, allow me to thank our rapporteur for her excellent work. I'm sure that she has done her utmost to present us with a thorough and comprehensive report. The reports we have been receiving from the borders of Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland with Belarus of a huge increase of influx of irregular migrants are worrying on a number of issues.

Just to illustrate the point: the number of irregular arrivals to Lithuania alone increased by 110 times compared to 2019.

The first issue that needs our attention is a humanitarian one, as an ever-growing number of migrants are trying to enter Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, many of whom ask for asylum – in other words – international protection. This august body needs to remain vigilant in order to prevent mistreatment of asylum seekers as well as denial of access to asylum claim to those who ask for it. It is our duty to urge countries in question to refrain from pushbacks and give protection to asylum seekers. We have a moral and human obligation to help those that need help.

Furthermore, it is vital to uphold the law and obligations undertaken by member States. Border management should be fully compliant with European and international law, and in particular the European Convention of Human Rights and the 1959 convention relating to the status of refugees. Furthermore, all relevant agents like UNHCR, IOM, and the like, should assist our member countries facing these challenges.

I say to our colleagues from Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland: You are not alone. This is the responsibility of all of us, both in the Council of Europe and in the European Union.

The second issue is a clear instrumentalisation of migratory flows by Belarus in order to destabilise recipient countries and create humanitarian crises. President Lukashenko is clearly and openly saying that his objective is to "fill Lithuania's neighbouring countries with migrants and drugs". This is clearly an unacceptable action and deserves our strongest condemnation.

Recognizing the true generator of this crisis is the first step in solving it. It is completely unacceptable to use human beings as a tool of pressure. It is unacceptable to make them hostages of the last European dictator's schemes.

Therefore, I urge you, dear colleagues, to support this report and that, in doing so, we raise our voices for humane treatment of migrants and those who wish to access asylum procedures.

Also, we should send a strong message to our friends in Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia that they are not alone but also, that they have certain obligations and should uphold the law.

And finally we need to strongly condemn a regime that uses the hopes and desperation of migrants to promote instability and chaos.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

15:50:27

Thanks very much.

And the next speaker on the list, on behalf of the political groups is EPP group Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS.

Please.

Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS

Greece, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

15:50:39

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

We are very happy with the report by the European People's Party and happy with a chance to discuss this very serious situation created by an authoritarian regime that by instrumentalising a humanitarian concern it weaponises immigrants and asylum seekers to put pressure on neighbouring countries and all of Europe.

I have five points.

First: a state behaving like a criminal gang and a clandestine human trafficker on a massive scale – that is Belarus.

Second: a hybrid attack that concerns the whole of Europe, not just the transit frontline countries like Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, because:

a) the incoming flows have Germany and other rich EU countries as their final destination and

b) because by exacerbating the political tensions and raising the heat over the sensitive issue of migration it attempts to divide Europe and Europeans, both within our nations and among our countries.

Three: we don't forget the humanitarian dimension of the crisis and that we are often dealing with destitute and vulnerable people. We must take all measures to avoid unnecessary human suffering, especially before the weather conditions worsen with the advance of winter. The deaths that have already occurred are particularly regrettable and an insult to our humanity, to our values, and to the mission of our Council here.

But let me be clear, we are humanitarian, but we are not naive. And the Belarusian dictator should understand that we are all united in our contempt for his repressive regime and despicable methods.

Five: we call on national authorities in Poland and all neighbouring EU countries to make good use of the services of Frontex that has the experience and resources to safeguard our common EU borders.

And finally, I cannot conclude before.. I cannot resist the temptation to note that Mr Lukashenko was not particularly original. He has followed in the footsteps of Mr Erdoğan who used the same unacceptable methods in February 2020 to put pressure on Greece and extract concessions from Europe by bussing thousands of people on the land border between Greece and Turkey.

Mr Erdoğan failed and so will Mr Lukashenko.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

15:54:04

Thank you very much.

And the next one is ALDE group, Ms Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI.

She is online, I understood. Please.

Ms Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI

Estonia, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

15:54:25

Honourable President, dear colleagues,

I would like to thank the rapporteur for such important work.

The situation on the Latvian, Lithuanian, and Polish border with Belarus is not only a regional security concern for us.

Currently, several dozen persons from Iraq and Afghanistan are stranded on the EU-Belarusian border.

President Alexander Lukashenko uses migrant trafficking as a hybrid attack to undermine the values and the unity of the EU countries. He manipulates defenceless people, who came with a hope for a better life. He uses them as a political instrument. This is completely unacceptable.

Therefore, we need to have a common strategy to deter President Lukashenko from escalating the crisis and to prevent the instrumentalisation of migrants.

I would like to underline that addressing migration-related challenges should be fully compliant with international law and human rights obligations.

We must ensure that asylum procedures are fair, credible, and transparent. Cross-border pushbacks of migrants have put these people in danger. Many migrants on the EU-Belarus border have endured extremely harsh living conditions.

For instance, they have limited access to medical help, to sanitation facilities, to water and food supplies. We should also take into account the climate conditions – the winter is generally harsh in this region. We cannot leave people in a humanitarian or human rights emergency. Migrants stranded on the border with Belarus do have a right to assistance and protection.

We should work collaboratively to resolve the situation, respecting people’s freedom, and prioritising human rights

Dear colleagues, the situation on the EU-Belarus border is our common problem. Hence, we must immediately recognise the serious challenges posed by increased migration pressure.

We must unitedly deliver two simple messages to the government of Belarus:

-  Firstly, the aims of Lukashenko’s hybrid attacks will never be achieved.

-  Secondly, the Belarusian regime has already experienced extensive damage in the form of restrictive measures and termination of joint projects. And without any doubt, it will face even more damage because of these hybrid attacks.

If this confrontation escalates, introducing personalised sanctions, and sanctions against specific economic sectors, measures on the EU part could become necessary.

It is also possible that we will be forced to choose between fighting for human rights and freedoms and facing financial difficulties that could result from the sanctions also for Europe.

This choice will become our trial and exam in humanity.

Thank you very much for your attention and I urge you to support this report.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

15:57:22

Thank very much, Maria.

Now we move to AC group and I am asking for Mr Bob van PAREREN, please. The floor is yours.

Mr Bob van PAREREN

Netherlands, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

15:57:32

Thank you Chair.

The subject is increased migration pressure on the borders of three countries: Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. And last Tuesday I participated in the Commission and my impression was, do we now lead or do we not lead? The discussion concentrated on the increase of migrant pressure and not a real core focus of the situation of those three countries. So there came comments like, "we like immigrants, migration must take place". I accept that but we should deal with the situation of those three countries. And what happened is, and I got to experience that as a group, as a Commission, make an apple pie, and with a lot of discussions, then we finish with a pie without apples. That feeling I got in the meeting and that is a pity for those three countries. For we are talking about a serious situation at those borders. We heard of the destabilisation of Belarus and it is a situation far from a regular stream of migrants.

These three countries tried to bring in that they want to have changes in the text to support their situation. It is easy to talk about that from the Netherlands or from the UK or France, or whatever, but they are just on the border side. But unfortunately, it was not possible. The rapporteur, she mostly decided against their amendments and the folks were accordingly. That happens, of course, it is a democratic process, but anyway it was not a situation where there was real support to the three countries. So a theoretical solution came up and not a practical solution. The relief for those three countries was not realised but also the care for the humanity of the misused migrants – so-called "migrants" – is not really cared for.

The Council of Europe leaves so, in this way, member States in a difficult situation with no solution. Three disappointed members with a clear problem. The urgency over there is great – we heard from others here before me and from the rapporteur – but this is not a real help. It is really the case, as our Chairman or President, I must say, at the beginning of our meetings this week said "to lead or not to lead". It is a missed chance.

Thank you, Chairman.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:00:16

Thank you very much. Now the last group on the list is United European Left with Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY.

Please.

Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY

Turkey, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

16:00:27

Thank you, Chair.

Let me start by saying that it is utterly shameful that poor refugees are being instrumentalised by political leaders and used as tools for political ends. Now we have the situation at the borders of Belarus and other countries detailed in the report.

In 2016 and in 2020 it was the president of my own country threatening to open the gates of hell by pouring refugees into European territories. I promise to you, tomorrow there will be many other leaders in countries that are located on main migration routes into Europe acting similarly. Blackmailing, threatening European countries, and using refugees as political tools or weapons unless Europe does produce a sustainable comprehensive and humanitarian policy in this regard.

Refugees are often taken as a humanitarian issue or a disturbing population that is quantified and technically managed. The refugees are not an issue, a problem, a crisis, a calamity, or a disaster. They are not constantly raising numbers either. Tens of millions of people are on the move as potential asylum seekers in Europe as a result of policies dislocating and often violently displacing people from their homelands. These people are coming to European countries not to destabilize or to disturb your comfortable lives here but because their countries are destroyed, their homes demolished, their family members killed or tortured, their livelihoods shattered, and they just want to have a safe home for themselves and their families. Just the way we want it.

To put it very bluntly the refugees are kind of a boomerang effect. It is the bill Europe and the West in general has been paying primarily because of the destruction they have caused in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and the like over the last 20 years.

The use of refugees as a political tool is, of course, to be most powerfully condemned, but this is not going to take us too far.

Authoritarian leaders have detected the vulnerability of Europe, its soft belly. I assure you that they will be making use of this vulnerability and hitting and punching this soft belly anytime they find the opportunity in pursuance of their interest.

European leaders may cut deals with Turkey or Belarus. Deals that do not comply with international national law, but the refugees will find other ways to come. They always do. Even if you build thousands-of-kilometre-long walls and equip them with wires, drones, and other kinds of surveillance technology, just the way it happened along the Turkish-Syrian border, the refugees will come anyways.

They will find other ways to come. It is simple because if people can't find a decent life in their countries, then they will come to your country. It is as simple as that. Hence, I have two proposals that I know are easier said than done.

First, just stop destroying other countries economically, politically, and by means of imperial military interventions. Then you will have fewer refugees.

Second, start developing a European and sustainable policy that would approach the refugees not as a problem of crisis management, but one of fellow human beings trying to build a decent and dignified life for themselves and their families. I think that should be recognised as the absolute right.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:04:08

Thank you very much. The next one is... now we go to the speakers list. The next one is Mr Lukas SAVICKAS from Lithuania.

Please.

The floor is yours.

Mr Lukas SAVICKAS

Lithuania, SOC

16:04:23

Thank you, Chair.

Dear colleagues, I want to thank the rapporteur and especially colleagues in the Migration Committee for intensive and hard work finding a well-balanced approach regarding this report.

I have no doubt that today in the Assembly we will reach a common position sending a clear and hopefully unanimous message to the Belarusian regime which is instrumentalising migration pressures on the borders of Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

The recent migration influx to Lithuania is a hybrid attack launched by the Belarusian regime. These are evident reasons to state that officials of Belarus facilitate the smuggling of migrants. Belarus regime allows and encourages migrants to legally enter Belarus and afterwards, facilitates the illegal crossing of the Belarus and EU border.

Lithuania has repeatedly expressed its deep concern over the instrumentalisation of migration by the Lukashenko regime – aiming to exert political pressure on Lithuania, and also on the European Union, in retailiation for support to Belarusian people struggling for freedom; and [calls] for EU sanctions [to be] imposed for harsh violations of human rights in Belarus.

And as mentioned before, after Lukashenko's public statement that he will "feed Lithuania and other neighbouring states with migrants and drugs," the influx of irregular migrants via the Belarus-Lithuania border peaked sharply. Such an influence is a challenge for Lithuania, as we have never encountered irregular migration of this extent.

However, Lithuania remains committed and determined to fully comply with international human rights and humanitarian obligations in regard to all people within its jurisdiction irrespective of legal status. Therefore, all the people are treated in compliance with Lithuania's international commitments and we are managing the situation to the best of our abilities.

No human right may become subordinate to political or geopolitical considerations. As I have mentioned in the beginning, it is of utmost importance not to fall into the provocation of the Belarusian regime, not to divide amongst ourselves. We have to reach a common position sending a clear and unanimous message to the Belarusian regime which is instrumentalising migration pressure on the borders of Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

To do so, my dear colleagues, I urge you to follow the common position found by the Committee of Migration.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:07:17

Thank you very much.

The next one is Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS from Lithuania, please. 

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD

16:07:48

Thank you so much, dear Chairman, especially the Chairman of the Committee and specially Ms Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN. The report was prepared scrupulously, balanced.

It was a discussion of deep insights during the discussion inside of our Committee of the Commission on Immigration this morning and before that. Thank you for listening and thank you for integrating the current experience of those three countries facing an absolutely new challenge. In the north of Europe, can you imagine in the north of Europe, we have first time during our life such situation when a neighbouring regime, using the army day? Every day you have a TV show when the army dressed in OMON uniforms. Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN, you saw that when you visited us. The army dressed in OMON uniforms, the special KGB troops pushing with their shields poor immigrants, who become captive by the regime, to the Lithuanian, Latvian and Polish border.

What should be done? We are just declaring, we will not change our policy towards the Belarusian regime, and we will not surrender to this latest blackmail. Of course, we should be humane but as our colleague just said, we should be humane but not naïve. In this case, being humane, remembering the experience of Europe in the 20th century, especially of the Second World War. Trying to be humane, we should understand that we just opened the borders for thousands of political refugees from Belarus. We have in Vilnius a huge number of Belarusian citizens, who are taking political exile and Madam President Tsikhanouskaya. We have Russian emigration, political refugees from Russia.

I would like to say to my Dutch colleague, it was not destabilisation of Belarusian regime, it was a struggle by the Belarusian people to become a free country like we became in the 1990s. They struggled with some delay in time to be free and to have free and fair elections. Afterwards they were refused such choice. A massive terror was established including the elements of attacks on the neighbouring country, including the statement – Lukas just told you about the statement of President Lukashenko. It was another statement that they will steal Belarusian political refugees from Vilnius, Warsaw and Riga, and they will bring them back to KGB prisons in Belarus, and other treatments. From my point of view, I would like to tell you that having the experience of the 20th century, being humane, please, understand that we are experiencing a hybrid attack by this unique old-fashioned Joseph Stalinesque regime on our borders. We need a common approach, and we need solidarity.

Thank you so much.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:11:13

Thanks very much and now it's Lord Richard BALFE from the UK.

Please.

Lord Richard BALFE

United Kingdom, NR

16:11:21

Thank you, Chairman.

What we're facing today is the unintended but – to an extent – predictable consequences of the policies that we have adopted.

We shouldn't be surprised that someone like president Lukashenko is behaving the way that he is, because this is the way he's behaved all the way along towards his own people and towards refugees; most of whom incidentally have paid to get as far as Belarus.

I would like us to have a common position, but I also think we need to keep an eye on the numbers. There are more people crossing the channel into the UK in small boats than have crossed this border. But what we do seem to lack in this resolution, is a clear call for the people who are trapped in the border area to be given asylum. There are people actually dying in this no man's land and we owe it to them to make a clear call for people to be allowed into the European Union.

Once they have their EU passport, their status, and some money, I predict that they will pretty soon be leaving Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland, and will be found either in the middle of the English Channel or somewhere in Frankfurt, because that is the aim of many refugees, and it's quite understandable.

The best speech, I've heard so far was actually by Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY from Turkey, a few minutes ago, because he put his finger on it. The reason there are refugees is, largely, because we have destroyed their country.

Iraq has been bombed to bits by the West and we are the cause of many of the refugees. We now have to face up to the consequences of the terrible situation that we've caused to happen in many parts of the world. Look around Afghanistan. Where is the money going to go to rebuild what was bombed to pieces by representatives of the nations that we sit here representing?

So, what I would say is this: Of course we have to keep the pressure on Belarus, but we have to keep the pressure on for a new democratic election. That's the fundamental need in Belarus: a change of government at the will of the people of the country. And I think we should concentrate on that.

The final point I'll make is this: If we're going to have a sound policy on Belarus it has to be a European policy, and frankly it has to be a European Union policy. Only they can summon the resources to put together the sort of policy that is needed to have the sort of Belarus that we would like to welcome into this Assembly as the last non-member in Europe.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:14:52

Thank you very much.

And the next one is Mr André GATTOLIN from France.

Mr André GATTOLIN

France, ALDE

16:14:59

Thank you, Mr President.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to say here that we must also look at this issue from another angle; one that is not always that of the rights and treaties that govern us.

I want to say one thing: it is easy, sometimes, to talk about migration flows, including in a large country like France, when we are not at the borders of Europe, when we are not the first to come into contact. We cannot understand, sometimes, when we are in France or Germany, what has happened in Italy or in other countries where massive flows have arrived. We can say, of course, that this country is not the final destination of many of these migrants. We have Frontex, of course, which is playing an essential role in action and border control.

I would like to express my solidarity with the countries of the European Union that are on the border front; particularly our Lithuanian, Estonian and Polish friends. Of course, we must ensure decent conditions for the people who arrive - basic conditions - but we cannot make it a system of balance by saying "Mr Lukashenko and Belarus are behaving badly, we condemn them, it is not right" and not go beyond that.

We are disarmed, and we have been disarmed several times, because we have put down our arms. We must be clear with Belarus. I fought for my country, France - and others too - to impose sanctions. We have the Magnitsky law for instance, which targets a handful of individuals but,  there are 20 000 people in Belarus who run the system. We know the names, we know the lists: these are the people who regularly defraud and keep this country in a dictatorship.

We need to be clear: we lack a specific instrument in our instruments to deal with these new hybrid forms of trafficking; what I would call a "state crime of human trafficking." Mr Erdogan's report was a good example of that. Mr Erdogan has indeed used it. That does not mean that there are no migrants who do not want to come to Europe. However, to use it as a weapon of destabilisation, or even, in the future, of the de-democratisation of countries, is truly scandalous.

I remember, a few years ago, when several hundred migrants went through north-west Russia by bicycle to Norway - 800 people in a few days. The reason for this was simply that there was a Norwegian regulation that said that people who crossed the border by bicycle could not be arrested.

I believe that as soon as there is a loophole or even an opening in our system, authoritarian and autocratic countries will take advantage of it. It is the essential questions of state sovereignty and democracy which are at stake here. I think we need to go much further in what we say and in what we advocate.

I thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:18:22

Thank you very much.

And the next one is Mr Markus WIECHEL, Sweden. He is online.

Mr Markus WIECHEL

Sweden, EC/DA

16:18:55

All right. Thank you, Mister President.

The tragic events recently played out before us in Belarus is indeed something unheard of.

An ageing dictator steeped in old-times Soviet thinking and in a position of absolute power for almost three decades unlawfully forced a foreign airliner to divert on to Belarus territory, did this so that he could capture a brave passenger on board and put him in prison simply for using the fundamental right of speaking up against a barbaric regime.

The same fate befalls hundreds and maybe even thousands of peaceful demonstrators protesting against the dictatorship across the country.

When various European countries and the European Union, in response, introduced sanctions against the regime, Lukashenko's response was to incite far away nations to send migrants to Belarus for direct passage into neighbouring Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. The Belarus regime is therefore violating international law by undermining the stability of its neighbours and exploiting innocent would-be immigrants.

The targeted countries respond by closing and strengthening their own borders with Belarus against irregular entry, and by declaring a state of emergency in parts of their territories. The migrants soon find themselves stuck in a kind of no man's land unable either to progress or retreat back into the, by this time sealed, Belarus territory.

The steps taken by the countries targeted by Lukashenko seemed to me wholly justified and correct in their reaction. It must be the absolute right of sovereign countries to have the final say over who can and who cannot immigrate.

Indeed, the international community has largely agreed with this response, showing that the year 2021 it's not the year 2015, when mass irregular migration was more the norm than the exception.

Meanwhile the Council of Europe's Court of Human Rights has ruled that the immigrant caught in the border zone must be supplied with the necessary means of survival until a longer-term solution can be found, such as a safe return to their home countries. Unless of course they have the right to asylum.

This of course is good and there has been enough suffering as it is on account of the Belarusian dictator. The neighbouring countries affected as well as the courageous oppressed people of Belarus, they deserve our continued unflinching support.

Thank you, Mister President

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:21:31

Thank you very much.

And the next one is Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS from the United Kingdom.

Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS

United Kingdom, SOC

16:21:41

Mr Chairman and colleagues,

It is a privilege to be standing here to contribute to this debate. I would like to begin by congratulating Ms Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN for this report, which I think is extremely well-balanced.

It does set out the duties and responsibilities, both of those who are at the borders, being brought to the borders and those who bring them to the borders, on the one hand, and the infrastructural needs for receiving them in a due and dignified manner.

It cannot be surprising with the increase in numbers reported in this paperwork, that the structures already in existence are not enough to deal with the problems. I am choosing not to take the great geopolitical view of what might have led to this or where this might go. There is a problem now – an existential need now – to strengthen the modalities at the borders between Belarus and the three countries under consideration so that first of all, we can take such measures as are necessary to repel what is happening from the Belarusian end, and secondly, to deal humanely with what happens when people cross the borders into Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

We must understand that we are dealing with a rogue element in Lukashenko. A joker even. As the previous speaker said, we remember the Ryanair flight that did not in the end get as far as Lithuania. We remember the shipping of people, as reported in these papers, bringing them deliberately from such a variety of backgrounds, not just the ones that we destroyed –as mentioned by an earlier speaker – but from all over the place in order to pose a threat at the border. Nor must we forget the imprisonment of so many people across the land. I sponsor a young man who has just had his 17th birthday in solitary confinement. So we dealing with something larger than life and more difficult than normal procedures are expected to cope with. And all the passion than the world will do nothing to solve the problem until we help those faced by the problem to deal properly with what they are faced by.

The Geneva Convention has one element that I want to stress – just one. It is that those who are not on the front line should be generous and show solidarity with those who are on the front line. And if the European Council believes in anything, it is that the strong help the weak in their moment of need. It is no good protesting, no good showing passion unless these gestures of solidarity give expression to our capacity to deliver not only warm words but viable solutions.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:25:16

Thanks very much.

And the next one is Mr Uldis BUDRIĶIS from Latvia.

Mr Uldis BUDRIĶIS

Latvia, EPP/CD

16:25:25

Thank you, Chairman.

Dear colleagues,

It is a shame that sometimes all the historical knowledge and experience of the Baltics, Poles, Ukrainians who were molested for half a century and the regime of the Soviet Union is taken for granted.

Sometimes this resource is greatly undervalued.

So I am saying thank you to Madam rapporteur for trying to get a well-balanced report.

This speech I have prepared for the Assembly is a repetition. I think that’s why we are here, so we can remind you, our colleagues what is happening on our borders.

On the outside borders of the European Union there is a hybrid attack. I cannot emphasise this enough – this is not a refugee crisis. International refugee terms clearly state that refugees can apply for asylum in the first country they are coming from. From their country to the first safe country. And Belarus is not persecuting the migrants, on the contrary – they are lightening the visa terms and bringing them to the borders and getting them direct flights to Belarus and Minsk.

When a person commits human trafficking, he should go to jail. When a whole system – a regime – supports human trafficking for geopolitical reasons, it gets just a few paragraphs on the issue. So this should be the emphasis on the matter. 

And these are not just accusations – those are stone cold facts!

Even in your report, Madam rapporteur, you state that "When in Belarus, they were transferred by cars or other transport to the border, escorted by masked military men". The next sentence just started off a little misleading by not seeing the elephant in the room – it does not only appear to show, it is a fact that the flow of migrants towards the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland are artificially organised and backed by Lukashenko’s troops.

Dear colleagues, we all understand the border safety of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the EU and NATO all together must come first. It is our duty to safeguard it.

This war is not performed by tanks and guns any more – now it is performed with instrumentalising peoples' freedoms for hybrid attacks and operations.

In a sense, it is a shame that the resolution is far from being tough on Lukashenko. It is a shame that we, in this Assembly, do not call Lukashenko – his regime – international human traffickers, smugglers.

Support the resolution, but keep in mind that the elephant is still in the room.

Thank you. 

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:28:38

Thank you very much.

And the next one is Ms Jette CHRISTENSEN, from Norway.

Jette, please.

Ms Jette CHRISTENSEN

Norway, SOC

16:28:55

Dear colleagues,

Human beings are being used as weapons in a proxy attack on our continent at this moment. Our common human rights are not something that should be used against sanctions. When people are seeking asylum because their safety is threatened, we have an obligation to make sure to treat every asylum seeker with the rules and systems that are transparent and according to international standards.

Human rights and respect for international rule of law are only worth something if they are respected in times of crisis. It is crucial that the Council of Europe assists the member States in question to establish the systems that can make sure that reception of the asylum seekers are treated humanely, and that they get the proper information they need to seek asylum.

That being said, President and colleagues, we would not have had this debate, and we would not be in this situation if it was not for the crucial situation of human rights in Belarus. This, the undermining of human rights in this country, needs to stop immediately.

I would like to repeat the words of the Presidential statement in the situation at the European Union's external orders with Belarus: "this Assembly should – and are with this statement – condemning and rejecting Belarus's use of migratory pressure, its contribution to the organisation of illegal border crossing and its attempt to instrumentalise human beings for political purpose."

Because that is what is happening and I am proud to be in this debate and a part of an Assembly that has the knowledge and also has the the courage to address a hybrid attack when they see one, and address this not as a migrant question because it is not a question about migration. It is a question about Belarus, it is a question about human rights, and it is a question about our common dignity as a continent.

I urge the Assembly to support this report. I congratulate the rapporteur on being capable to see and address a hybrid attack when they see it.

Thank you very much for having this debate. Thank you very much for being an Assembly who dares to take the important debates and address them for what they are.

These are the last words I will say in this Assembly since I am stepping back. I would like to say that this case is a very good sample on how the Council of Europe stands for what is right when it is needed.

Thank you very much.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:31:55

Thanks very much. Now the next one is Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY, from Russia.

Please.

I believe he is speaking remotely. [spoken in Russian]

Please, you have been given the opportunity to speak. Can you hear me, Leonid. [spoken in Russian]

You need to connect and open the line. Ask the floor.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:32:45

Let's do so that we move to the next speaker and we will allow Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY later on if he gets a line to be operate.

Now Ms Krista BAUMANE from Latvia.

Ms Krista BAUMANE

Latvia, ALDE

16:33:03

Thank you.

Dear colleagues

It is important that we recognise that the situation on the border with Belarus is not a result of unfortunate circumstances. It has been intentionally designed by an illegitimate president in a desperate attempt to hang on to power and retaliate against the sanctions imposed against his regime by the EU and other democratic countries.

These aggressive actions of Belarus authorities cause serious challenges to security of European countries. The aim of the Belarus regime is to destabilise the situation in the region so we would lift sanctions, stop supporting the Belarusian civil society, democratic opposition and free media.

To those ends, let me remind you as some of the previous speakers did: Lukashenko highjacked a civilian plane.

And more recently, his regime is recruiting people from third countries – mostly Iraq – with false promises into Belarus with official tourist visas. These trips are organised by Belarusian state-owned tourism companies, using state airlines (and airlines from high-risk countries), the guests are housed in Belarusian state owned hotels and later escorted towards the EU border. Belarusian authorities are often taking away their travel documents and preventing them from returning to their countries of origin.

Dear colleagues, who does that?

We know: human traffickers.

In other words, Lukashenko's regime is running a state-sponsored human trafficking operation, cynically using the most vulnerable people – children, pregnant women – and dumping them in the forests and swamplands, in cold weather, without any help. It is him and his regime that is directly responsible for this dire situation and he should be held accountable to resolve it.

Meanwhile, my country has, and will also in the future honour our international obligations with respect to international human rights and humanitarian law, including considering the recommendations in this report. We will also strengthen our external borders, as is both our right and responsibility.

But to stop this situation, prevent escalation, and save innocent people from further suffering, we must not forget and address the cause of it: stop Lukashenko, not play along with his cynical games using lives of real people.

I thank the rapporteur and I also thank you, dear colleagues, for your support and your attention.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:36:08

Thank you very much, Krista. And the next one is Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK from Poland.

Is he around here?

Online?

Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK

Poland, EC/DA

16:36:33

Mister President,

I would like to thank [unintelligible] to consider the situation on increased migration pressure on the borders of Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland with Belarus.

We have proposed a debate to draw PACE's attention to the unprecedented action and pressure exerted on the European Union by immigrants.

First of all, I would like to state very clearly that the current text in the eyes of potential readers may create a misleading impression that the urgent migration situation has been created by Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. It is not the case. By protecting its border with Belarus, Poland fulfils its obligation towards the EU to protect the external borders of the union.

Dear colleagues, it should be clearly emphasised who is responsible for the situation on the border. Belarus has stopped co-operating bilaterally with us on border protection, admission, and migration management. Moreover, Belarus rejected to accept humanitarian aid from Poland for migrants staying on its territory.

We cannot be accused of a lack of good will and lack of dialogue on these issues.

Immigration pressure has been cynically orchestrated by the regime in Minsk in response to EU sanctions.

We should clearly state that the Lukashenko regime is using migrants and asylum seekers to create a crisis for EU member States and generate a debate that would draw the focus away from the current human situation in Belarus. It should be openly said that it's the [unintelligible] action included elements on this information and ordered the stabilisation of the situation on the border with Belarus.

The Belarusian authorities have created a whole [unintellibible] on the migration tourist industry inside the country. According to the testimonies of people who have illegally crossed the Polish border, the Belarusian authorities have been involved in pushing people admitted to its territory to the territory of the EU having [unintelligible].

Dear colleagues, we must not put the cart in front of the horse and confuse the order of things. Attaching the utmost importance to full protection of human rights of asylum seekers and immigrants, the Assembly must clearly and unambiguously determine who is responsible for the current situation.

We are opposed to a political instrumentalisation of the migration issue.

This poise is part of the pattern of using political blackmail against us and against Europe as a whole, trying to pursue one's own political interest at the expense of the victims.

I would like to kindly ask you to support our amendments to the point 10.3 which was rejected by the Committee.

Thank you very well for attention.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:39:43

Thank you very much.

And the next one, I understood Mr Leonid SLUTSKIY is not yet available.

We will allow him to speak when he will get online.

Next one is, if I read it correctly, Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ from Lithuania.

Please, Laima.

Where are you sitting? Here, in the front. Please.

Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ

Lithuania, EPP/CD

16:40:10

Thank you, Mister President.

First of all, I would like to thank our rapporteur Ms Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN for the draft report.

Our joint efforts to improve the wording of the draft were successful. Now our draft report looks much better balanced and I hope and I wish that, as a result, we will have objective and forward-looking documents.

Those who are familiar with the situation at the eastern border of the EU, know that we deal with something new. Countries, members of the European Union, namely Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, experience hybrid attack from Belarus when human beings from countries like Syria, Iraq, African countries, are misused by the Belarusian regime to violate EU borders.

This is the last thing, is a human trafficking exercise. It is the response of the Belarusian dictatorship to European Union sanctions against Belarus, imposed for the harsh violation of human rights. As a result, in Lithuania only, we already have more than 4 thousand illegal immigrants. Quite often pushed by force, by the Belarusian forces, to cross the border and to enter our territory from Belarus.

In response to the current situation at the border with Belarus, we call on the governments of member States of the Council of Europe and you, dear colleagues, to support Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.

We call on the authorities of Belarus to stop, without delay, the instrumentalisation of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, in particular; and stop facilitating the travel of third-country nationals to Belarus under the false pretences of tourism.

We in Lithuania are in a position to fulfil all our EU membership obligations, as well as other international commitments, and cooperate with international agencies in order to solve this problem of our common concern.

Stop Lukashenko.

Thank you.

Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN

Russian Federation, NR

16:43:14

Good afternoon, distinguished colleagues.

The questions raised in the report are definitely very topical.

Many of the positions in it are balanced.

Of particular importance in the document is the part which calls on the authorities of Lithuania, Latvia and Poland to guarantee the rights of those seeking to enter its territory. Probably it should also take into account the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights, compelling Poland and Latvia to provide food, water, clothing and medical assistance to the refugees.

Colleagues, the content of some of the statements triggers the question: why in this crisis do colleagues only point the finger at Belarus? Was it really Belarus that created a humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and Northern Africa? Was Belarus in the NATO forces that took part in destroying the statehood and prosperity of Iraq, Libya and a number of other countries? Did Belarus fight in Afghanistan for 20 years? The path to a one-sided view of this situation is a dead end.

We're surprised by the practise of double standards when considering this situation.

Why do European countries actively condemn Italy, Greece and Hungary for their position with respect to refugees, but at the same time not take any notice of the attitude to refugees in Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

It beggars belief how delegates of these countries condemn the Russian Federation for unspecified, invented problems with humans rights on its territory, while never having set foot in Moscow, Crimea or the Caucasus. We would prefer they look at the real situation with human rights. They only need to visit their own border to see it and see the people – unfortunate refugees – on the bare earth surrounded by armed men, deprived of freedom of movement, and food. 

Just look at it: Belarus is being criticised for inadequate protection by its security agencies of the border, but there are not enough policemen to protect the situation and the population in their own country against mass unrest, periodically provoked from that same Lithuanian territory.

Of course, the Belarusian authorities need to step up their efforts to alleviate the situation on those borders.

It's a very bad situation that while countries are distracted by their political differences, completely innocent people are suffering.

I am sure that the border states of the EU should resolve the question of illegal immigration in contact with the Belarusian authorities who have repeatedly expressed their readiness to cooperate. 

The most recent example was the statement of the head of the foreign minister of Belarus, Mr Vladimir Makei, from the UN podium on 27 September where he again reaffirmed that Belarus is proposing consultations with the EU on illegal migration. But the European Union regrettably is refusing. I think we need to stop putting pressure just on one side and try to find a balanced approach. That will help these innocent people.

Thank you.

 

 

 

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:46:32

The next one is Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO from Ukraine.

She doesn't seem to be in the hall if I see correctly?

Usually, she's actively here but not now.

No, not online either.

The next one is Ms Iwona ARENT from Poland.

Absent. Also seems to be late.

Poland is online.

Thanks.

Iwona, the floor is yours.

Ms Iwona ARENT

Poland, EC/DA

16:47:29

The situation on the border of Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia is an unprecedented one, which goes far beyond the issues related to immigration and the basic rights (that civilized countries provide to all those seeking security and asylum in the EU.)

Alexander Lukashenko's group, inspired by its direct allies, prepared the entire process of transferring immigrants to the border with the Republic of Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

Additional flights were organized through tourist offices for economic immigrants, who, thanks to the support of the Belarusian authorities, came directly to the border of the European Union. The immigrants were ruthlessly deceived. In their opinion, the road to reach our countries of the European Union, such as Germany or France will be open and they themselves will be surrounded by broad social support.

In search of a better life, they left their homes and risked entering the European Union illegally.

By performing manipulations that violate basic human rights, Belarus is trying to destabilise the situation on the border with the countries of the European Union.

Deep solidarity and sensitivity to values and human rights – which is the basis for the functioning of the community today – is ruthlessly used against countries such as Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

During the joint conference, the governments of these countries adopted an on-flight position commending the use of vulnerable people to achieve political goals.

We expect support from all members of the Council of Europe at this difficult moment when the fate of the security and integrity of the European Union borders is at stake.

As a community of democratic countries, committed to the highest standards of Human Rights, we must speak with one firm voice in order to ensure the shared values we represent.

Belarus must end destabilisation and provide humanitarian conditions to all who need it.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:50:16

Thank you very much.

And next one is Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO from Ukraine.

Please.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

16:50:27

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

Dear colleagues,

We are discussing an extremely important issue. What we see isa weaponizing of people, weaponizing of migrants. What can be worse in human life? Can you just tell me what crime could be worse than this?

I just want to stress your attention on the speech of Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN from the Russian Federation. It was a clear confession that Lukashenko is not alone in what he is doing, because Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN said all the myths from Lukashenko. They're tourists from Iraq! They came because Western countries destroyed Iraq! That's why they are so active to see the beautiful Minsk, and then they decided, "Oh, beautiful Minsk. We can go to Lithuania. It's also beautiful! So, we can cross the forest and everything will be great there."

It was a complete mockery. Then Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN told us that Belarus authorities could not guard the border because policemen are very busy defending people inside the country. I can tell you what they're busy with. Two days ago in Minsk, a KGB agent, yes, Lukashenko still calls it the KGB, killed a person, IT, man, in Minsk, inside his apartment, because they were looking for a position. They came inside, he started to shoot, he killed one of the KGB agents, and they killed him. Just imagine what is happening in the middle of Europe.

We know that Lukashenko tortured people. We know that he kidnapped the plane with people in the skies of Belarus, and now he is using people as a weapon in a hybrid war. It's not a war against Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland. It's a war against all of us, all countries who are civilised, who consider themselves to have some values. We need to react, and the reaction should be strong.

We finally need to have in our Council of Europe a permanent group or body which will work on Belarus from day to day, because that's very important. We finally need to help place sanctions, new sanctions. All our countries. You all are members of the parliaments of your countries. Let's raise these questions in your parliament. You can create groups for democratic Belarus. As we did in Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland. Please, do it in your countries. Let's place sanctions on Lukashenko, and real sanctions.

A full blockade of Belarus. That's the only way: full economical blockade. Not one tonne of fertilizers from Belarus, not one car from Belarus, not one ferry from Belarus, not one bus from Belarus. Nothing.

We should stop it. We should kill this regime of Lukashenko, like an anti-human regime, a regime which is killing people inside the country, which is the a great challenge to the security of the whole world. We should react now, or we will have new crisis, and we will just debate. It's not question of debate. It's a question of action. If we really have these values.

Thank you very much.

And long live Belarus! [spoken in Russian]

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:53:37

Thank you very much.

And the next one is Ms Mónika BARTOS from Hungary.

It seems she´s not here. 

No, online?

Actually, we are in a good situation that we now have time to discuss. I'm now flexible, which I haven't been before, because I have sometimes stopped the list in between. We are at the end of the list and there's one request made to do an additional speech – and I'm allowing it because it seems that we are in good time.

So, Mr Rustem UMEROV from Ukraine, you have the floor.

That was additional information that he would like to state.

And if there is room?

There is room now, if you want to discuss this item.

No? OK.

Now we are at the end of the report itself and we will have the final statements first by the rapporteur.

Rapporteur Anne-Mari, the floor is yours.

And I give you enough; 3 minutes because we have enough time. Don't worry.

Ms Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN

Finland, EPP/CD, Rapporteur

16:55:24

Mister President, dear colleagues.

I would like to thank all members, in all delegations, for your valuable views and support. And I would also like to present, once more, my gratefulness for all the help and support I got from the Secretariat as rapporteur.

And then I would like to conclude the discussion by presenting my three points to the Assembly for overcoming the present challenges at the borders.

Those are:

1. Holding Belarus accountable over its reprehensible policy it has chosen to conduct towards its neighbour countries and the stability of Europe.

2. Understanding the pressure Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland experience and, at the same time, support a course of action that minds the human rights of the people who are stranded at the border.

3. And last but not least, ensuring that UNHCR and organisations providing humanitarian assistance and legal aid are provided, with unhindered access, to migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees, including at the border.

Your message today has been very clear: Human beings are not bargaining chips, and playing international politics for national political gain by instrumentalising vulnerable people and stopping their human rights is intolerable.

And I'm happy that we, as an Assembly, continue following the human rights situation in Belarus in the framework of its ongoing report on "Call for an inclusive national political process in Belarus". And that's why I'm in favour of amendment No. 6.

And when our uniformity behind our values is pushed, by such as Belarus is doing now, our response is to become even more unified behind the values which bind us together so that these values are universal and apply to everyone.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

16:57:48

Thank you very much, Anna Marie. And now the Chair of the Committee.

You also have 3 minutes.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons

16:57:58

Thank you, Mr Deputy President.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

This report is a response to the evolving situation of increased migration and asylum pressures at the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with Belarus. Pressures were orchestrated by the Belarusian authorities in response to the European Union sanctions against Belarus.

This situation on the Belarusian border raises a number of serious concerns, in particular with regard to human rights. I congratulate Mrs Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN, who, in this report, has succeeded in clarifying the current emergency situation, and in proposing very concrete recommendations for the safeguarding of human rights in this situation of an unexpected influx of migrants and asylum seekers into member States of the Council of Europe and European Union.

For me, there are three important elements in this matter.

Firstly, there must be a clear response when a state instrumentalises migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, especially those who are extremely vulnerable.

Secondly, effective border management by the Council of Europe member States should be accompanied by adequate responses to uphold the rights of asylum seekers. The principle of nonrefoulement and the prohibition of collective expulsions must be respected; access to asylum must be guaranteed; adequate reception conditions and the right to an effective remedy must be ensured; all in accordance with the Convention.

Thirdly, in emergency situations, all member States must show solidarity and provide urgent financial and technical assistance to ensure the necessary protection of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

In conclusion, I would like to warmly thank Mrs Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN, the rapporteur, for the quality of her work carried out, and in record time, and also the members of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons for their involvement in the examination of this report. And, of course, my thanks also go to the Secretariat.

Thank you for your attention.

Vote: Increased migration pressure on the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with Belarus

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:00:13

Thank you very much. And now the debate is closed.

We move to the more decision-making stage of the report and urgent debate.

When it's a question about the urgent debate, we do have a report as you know. The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons has presented a draft resolution which was introduced by Ms Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN.

There are actually six amendments made for the report, or for the resolution, we could say. And we go then, not in numerical order, but in the order they come to the text.

You do have the notes obviously, so let's follow it carefully.

We start with the amendment No. 2, and I called Mr Lukas SAVICKAS to support the amendment.

You have one minute.

Mr Lukas SAVICKAS

Lithuania, SOC

17:01:13

Thank you, chair.

It is already clearly stated in the report that the hybrid attack by Belarusian authorities is resulting in increased migration and asylum pressures.

Therefore by this amendment, it is suggested to replace the word "increased" with the word "instrumentalised".

However, the rapporteur in the Committee today, this morning, suggested that such a word is already used in the relevant paragraph. I agree to withdraw this amendment, but at the same time, I am reminding [you], dear colleagues, that an identical amendment will be soon discussed in relation to amending the title of this report, for which I will ask later for support.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:01:56

The amendment has been withdrawn. We don't discuss that at all.

Oh yes. Of course.

Does anyone wish to support this amendment?

It doesn't seem to be the case.

It's unanimously withdrawn.

Let's move to the another amendment. The next amendment No. 5.

That's technically more complicated, I can guarantee it.

I had one technical problem, that is that my signature is in this amendment by technical error. By saying this, I don't take any positions on the substance of the amendment, but there was a technical error that my name is there.

Now I will ask Mr Paulo PISCO to support amendment No. 5, he is the first to sign it.

Why I say that it is technically more complicated is that he doesn't seem to be here to support it, but I have been informed that Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment as follows: in amendment No. 5 delete the second sentence.

...Now it's more technically difficult. It seems to be so that somebody should support the main amendment in order to make the...

Mr Tiny KOX, please. You know the technique.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL

17:03:42

I would like Mr President to move it formally.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:03:46

Now the formal move has been made.

Now I can proceed to the issue of Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS who proposed an oral sub-amendment as follows:

In amendment 5, which Mr Tiny KOX formerly supported just now, delete the second sentence.

In my opinion, and the Secretariat's opinion this amendment meets the criteria of our rules, so we can do that.

Is there any objection to the oral sub-amendment being debated, because if there are at least 10, then we cannot even discuss it.

Nobody is against the oral sub-amendment. We can now move to the oral sub-amendment.

Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS, do you want to speak on behalf of the oral sub-amendment? Please.

Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS

United Kingdom, SOC

17:04:49

I hadn't expected the disappearance of the person who would have put this, but I'm happy from memory to say that we have shortened the original proposal on the grounds that what is left would have seemed to go beyond the capacity of this Council in respect of actions being required of the European Union.

So it was a tidying up exercise, which I think the Committee was quite happy about.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:05:19

I understood exactly the same way. What is the opinion of Mr Tiny KOX, who is now supporting the amendment. Please.

I understood it was very technical support.

What is your answer? Please, Mister KOX.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:05:34

You will agree also with that, shortening the text.

I now put the oral sub-amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

It takes me time because we do have both the voting procedure going on in the Hall as well as online.

The vote is closed. The result:

The sub-amendment is agreed. 45 in favour, one against, eight abstentions.

We can now move to the main amendment as amended. Is there somebody who would like to speak against?

Ok. Instead the Committee is obviously supportive, yes, Committee.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons

17:07:05

The committee is in favour of the amendment, as sub-amended.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:07:17

Thank you. I understood. Now we must vote about the amendment as it is now changed.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed

And the result:

The amendment is agreed by a clear majority: 43 in favour, 6 against, 9 abstentions.

The Amendment is approved.

We move to more simple amendments, I would say, in technical terms at least.

Amendment No. 3. I call Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK to support amendment No. 3, the first person who signed it.

Is there anybody else to support the amendment?

Does anyone else wants to support? Ok.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:09:05

Technical support done.

Does anyone want to speak against the amendment?

Mr Theodoros ROUSOPOULOS

Greece, EPP/CD

17:09:15

I will speak in Greek, because I think that we are going to make a major mistake I would ask for my colleagues to wear the headphones.

[in Greek:] The term "asylum" is very important and recognised in international law, so if we replace the word "asylum" with the term "international protection" then we are weakening the needs of those who need asylum. We're talking about a legal term here which is internationally recognised, so I would propose that we retain the term "asylum" as it stands, otherwise we will create more problems rather than protecting these people.

Thank you very much.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:10:18

Thank you very much, and now the Committee.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons

17:10:24

The Committee was in favour of this amendment by a majority.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:10:35

Now we move to the vote.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

And the result:

42 in favour, 14 against, 6 abstentions.

The Amendment is approved.

We move to Amendment No. 4 and once again Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK to support.

He is not around? He is online? Please. Excellent.

Mr Arkadiusz MULARCZYK

Poland, EC/DA

17:12:05

In the current extraordinary situation of migration pressure generated by our neighbouring state, this amendment reflects more accurately the situation on the ground, as well as the challenges that many States are facing.

This is an amendment in the spirit of mutual compromise and a desire to reflect the current international situation.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:12:28

Anyone against the amendment?

The opinion of the Committee?

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons

17:12:36

The Committee is against.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:12:41

The Committee is against.

Now I put the amendment to the vote.

 

The vote is closed.

The amendment is rejected with 11 in favour, 27 against and 15 abstentions.

 

The next one is amendment No. 6 and I call Ms Petra BAYR to support it.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC

17:14:09

(Ok there might be a connection as well, but if the connection doesn't work I will... there is the connection I think. Yeah sorry for that...No, we cannot hear).

The movers would like to strengthen the position of the whole report with this amendment and even if it was narrowly defeated in the Committee, the rapporteur wanted it, the rapporteur supports it.

So I suggest we should strengthen the position of the report and also support the rapporteur in her opinion.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:15:04

Yes, I also recall that the rapporteur supported this amendment.

Now is anybody against?

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

17:15:14

The Committee voted against this amendment and I want to ask all of you to vote against this amendment because it proposes much weaker text.

What does it mean to follow the human rights situation? We are following for more than one year, where are the results? No results.

We need to make some permanent body. And, there, I just want to remind you that yesterday I asked about this Mr Péter Szijjártó who is presiding in the Council of Ministers, and he also supported this. Before, Mr Maas, German Minister, also supported this.

So colleagues, let us vote against this amendment and we will have stronger text in our resolution. Also, I would like to remind you that in the report "Human rights violations in Belarus require an international investigation" by Ms Alexandra Louis, which we supported overwhelmingly during the summer session, there was almost the same paragraph. So let us be forward and let us not change our way of thinking, and let us have strong language against the usurper Lukashenko, who is weaponizing people.

Thank you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:16:16

Thank you very much Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO who already mentioned that this Committee was against the amendment but I better understand that the rapporteur was for this amendment, so here we are. Okay, now I put the issue on the vote.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

And the result:

21 in favour, 32 against, 6 abstentions.

It's rejected.

Now we move to amendment no. 1.

I call Mr Lukas SAVICKAS to support the amendment.

Mr Lukas SAVICKAS

Lithuania, SOC

17:17:52

Thank you, Chair.

While this is the last amendment, I would argue it is also one of the most important ones here today as well.

I already mentioned that the rapporteur and the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons implemented significant changes to the initial draft report.

It is now clearly stated that hybrid attacks by Belarusian authorities are resulting in increased migration and asylum pressures.

Also the word "instrumentalisation" is used more than once, including the call on the authorities of Belarus to stop the instrumentalisation of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

Therefore, I suggest to match the title of this report with the changes of the report that were implemented by replacing the word "increased" with the word "instrumentalised".

I ask for your support, dear colleagues.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:18:45

Anyone wants to be against? The Committee, opinion?

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons

17:18:55

The committee was against it.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, President of the Assembly

17:18:58

The Committee was against, but nobody spoke against. Ok, that's fine.

Now let's move to the vote.

We are closing the vote.

32 in favour, 25 against, 5 abstentions.

It's approved.

Now we move to the final stage of the draft resolution where a simple majority is required.

I remind you, because the technicalities are always like that, now we are voting about the whole resolution.

The vote is now open.

The vote is closed.

And the result:

58 in favour, 15 against, 8 abstentions.

The resolution is approved with a quite clear majority. [Applause]

Thanks very much.

Good discussion. Good debate.

We move on to the next item. We are good in online, on time. The next issue is cybercrime.

Thank you very much for this plenary session, there will be other people chairing it up to the end. See you here next time.

Thank you very much.

Debate under urgent procedure: Draft Second Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime on enhanced co-operation and disclosure of electronic evidence

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:26:38

Dear colleagues,

Please take your seats.

We will now proceed to our last item on the agenda: "Draft Second Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime on enhanced co-operation and disclosure of electronic evidence".

I remind you that Mr Kamal JAFAROV will present the report for discussion on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, on the subject "Draft Second Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime on enhanced co-operation and disclosure of electronic evidence", Document 15379 and Document 15316 revised .

The rapporteur has seven minutes in which to present his report and three minutes in which to reply to speakers at the end of the general debate.

I call the rapporteur to present his report.

Mr Kamal JAFAROV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA, Rapporteur

17:27:53

Thank you, Mister President.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The draft opinion before you appears at first sight to be a purely technical exercise. However, as the members of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights heard from the experts at our hearing, the draft protocol raises considerable questions about the rule of law and human rights. The most contentious provisions are those that introduce the possibility of "direct co-operation" of law enforcement authorities with Internet service providers and other private entities in other states' parties.

To begin with, I would like to recall the objective of the draft protocol on which the Assembly has been invited to vote, namely to facilitate international co-operation in the fight against cybercrime. This objective is itself directly linked to respect for the rule of law and the protection of fundamental rights, specifically the rights of victims of cybercrime.

Cybercriminals themselves are taking advantage of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic to launch cyberattacks against hospitals and vaccine development laboratories and to misuse domain names to promote fake vaccines and treatments. Cybercrime is therefore rightly considered by many states as a serious threat to human rights, the rule of law, the functioning of democratic societies and even national security.

It should also be recalled that the protocol will operate within the criminal justice systems of the parties, with all the procedures, regulations, data transmission methods, conditions and safeguards that our criminal justice systems provide. This also applies to the "direct co-operation" provided for in articles 6 and 7 of the draft protocol. Both articles require States parties to establish an appropriate domestic legal basis for the exercise of these powers.

In the explanatory report, I have summarised the comments and suggestions for improvement made by the various stakeholders. These deserve to be taken seriously. However, I believe that not all of them can be followed if the draft protocol is to fulfil its purpose.

At our hearing, the experts representing the Cybercrime Convention Committee (T-CY), the intergovernmental drafting committee that negotiated the draft second protocol, opposed any proposed changes. They want to avoid reopening a global agreement that has been difficult to achieve after many rounds of negotiations. In light of their arguments, I have effectively narrowed the number of proposals that I think we should support. The reasons for this are explained in Chapter 5 of the explanatory report before you.

The Assembly should indeed recognise that the Convention on Cybercrime and its additional protocols face a dilemma. Their objective requires that as many States as possible participate in the fight against cybercrime. Cybercriminals know no borders. However, the legal systems of States differ greatly, including in the areas of criminal law and data protection. The Convention and its protocols can therefore only set minimum standards that must be implemented by all participating States. At the same time, they may leave open the possibility for more advanced States to provide stronger protections. These higher standards of data protection must not, in turn, jeopardise the common objective of the Convention and its protocols, namely to make international co-operation in the fight against cybercrime more effective.

I believe that the second additional protocol strikes a reasonable balance in principle. However, I do not share the view of the representatives of the T-CY that the Assembly should refrain from making any proposals for amendments. In previous opinions on draft conventions, including the original Convention on Cybercrime itself, the Assembly has not accepted to be a mere rubber stamp, either.

As you can see from the text before you, the other proposals in the draft opinion are very constructive. They aim to improve the protection of human rights, in particular the right to privacy, and the fundamental right to a fair trial. Included in the draft opinion are the right to be assisted by a lawyer during online testimonies, the respect of the privileges and immunities of certain professions, including lawyers, and the possibility that the instruments provided for in the draft protocol can be used not only by the prosecution, but also by the defence.

There is not enough time to go into detail at this stage, but I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

I thank you for your attention.

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:34:45

Thank you, rapporteur.

We now come to the general discussion with the speakers on behalf of the political groups.

The first speaker is Mr Yuriy KAMELCHUK from Ukraine on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

It seems he is no longer in the room? Ah no, he's here. You have the floor.

Mr Yuriy KAMELCHUK

Ukraine, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

17:35:14

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

Dear colleagues.

Thank you for a great job, Mr Kamal JAFAROV, and Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

More than 500 000 cybercrimes were registered in 2020 only in Europe.

Hackers have new goals: portals related to the production and distribution of vaccines, training platforms and services that allow them to work in home office mode.

Digital blackmail is a new form of cybercrime. The cybercrime detection rate in 2020 was low at 32%. In general crime statistics, this figure is twice as high: 58%. And this, despite the fact that many enterprises affected by the criminal action of hackers do not file a report with the police. Therefore, nothing is known about many cybercrimes.

The threat of blackmail on the internet is especially high for which special programs are used. Hackers can additionally threaten information leakage from computers attacked by such a virus demanding a ransom from their owners.

The cybercrimes in this scenario, if successful, bring great profits to cybercriminals. Strategically important infrastructure facilities should be better protected with the help of appropriate laws.

IT security should be strengthened in all areas: at enterprises, in government agencies and in households.

Most of the cybercriminals are located in Eastern Europe, and above all, in Russia. China is using classical economic espionage, hunting for patterns to strengthen the national economy. North Korea's interests are aimed at implementing its own nuclear program. All this often happens at the expense of private firms, which incur huge losses as a result of cyberattacks. The damage done in this way in Europe last year, amounted to more than €2 billion.

Cybercriminals gain access to personal data. Hackers work alone and in organised groups. There is an entire underground industry that allows you to purchase everything you need to commit cybercrime.

An important tool used to cybercrime are stolen personal and banking data: names, addresses, credit card numbers. Hundreds of millions of such data have been stolen from social networks.

In January 2021, it was possible to detect and neutralise one of the most dangerous programs used by hackers: Emotet. This became possible thanks to the cooperation of the special services of eight countries: Germany, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Lithuania, France, Great Britain, Canada and the USA.

The purpose of the second additional protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime is to provide sharper tools to investigate cybercrime and obtain justice for victims.

We welcome the adoption of this document and stand ready to facilitate the ratification of new amendments to the Convention on Cybercrime in all countries.

Thank you, colleagues.

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:38:28

Thank you very much, Mr Yuriy KAMELCHUK.

Now I leave the floor to the ALDE spokesperson Mr André GATTOLIN from France.

Mister André GATTOLIN, you have the floor.

Mr André GATTOLIN

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

17:38:39

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Budapest Convention on Cybercrime represents an important step forward in the fight against the exploitation of information technologies for criminal purposes. Sixty-six countries have already ratified it, including 21 that are not members of our Organization. It is an open convention, and that is something very important. All the member States of the Council of Europe have ratified it, with two exceptions: Ireland and the Russian Federation, which has not even signed it.

This success of the Budapest Convention shows that States are aware of the risk posed by cybercrime, a serious threat to human rights, the rule of law and the functioning of democratic societies, as well as to national security.

Since the convention was opened for signature in 2001, cybercrime exploded, making it necessary to adapt this convention. I remember, in 2014, when I talked about a study that projected a fraud, an effect, a cost of cybercrime in 2020 at $2 trillion, some of my colleagues laughed in my face. In 2020, in reality, it was close to $6 trillion and it is projected to cost society and businesses more than $10 trillion by 2025.

That is why it is important to have an additional protocol, but doing so is never a simple operation, given the diversity of the legal systems of the States party to the Convention. The resolution proposed by our rapporteur rightly emphasises this point when it states that the Convention and its protocols can only establish minimum standards of protection, which must be implemented by all the participating States, while leaving the most advanced States the possibility of providing for enhanced protection for their citizens. However, these higher standards must not compromise the common purpose of the Convention and its protocols. This is precisely the kind of ridge I am aware of, and the difficulty of the negotiations that took place on this second additional protocol proves it. I would also point out that, as far as the member States of the European Union are concerned, they initially entered into negotiations separately before, at a later stage, the European Commission was given the task of negotiating on behalf of all the Member States.

As a result, the text that emerged from the negotiations includes real progress in combating cybercrime and facilitating access to electronic evidence.

Our rapporteur suggests some improvements with a view to strengthening the principle of proportionality, which I understand, and other elements. This is a laudable objective, given the debates we had in the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market. I agree with it, but with one reservation: we must not overturn the text that emerged from the difficult negotiations of recent years, which, as the resolution points out, achieves a "reasonable balance". The best is always desirable, but, unfortunately, it is sometimes the enemy of the good. Let us all be aware of that when we vote.

Thank you.

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:42:07

Thank you, Mr André GATTOLIN.

I now give the floor to the representative of the European Conservatives Group, Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO, from Ukraine.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

17:42:20

Thank you Mr Chairman, dear colleagues,

I want to thank the rapporteur for a very good report on an extremely important topic, because that's the 21st century, dear colleagues; really – cyber activity, cyber attacks, and cyberwars are something which we face in our time.

I just want to remind you that last week there was a statement by the EU High Representative on Foreign Policy, Mr Josep Borrell Fontelles, and I want to quote it:

"Some EU Member States have observed malicious cyber activities, collectively designated as Ghostwriter, and associated these with the Russian state. Such activities are unacceptable as they seek to threaten our integrity and security, democratic values and principles, and the core functioning of our democracies. These malicious cyber activities are targeting numerous members of parliaments" - that us my friends - "government officials, politicians, members of the press and civil society in the European Union by accessing computer systems and personal accounts and stealing data. The European Union and its member States strongly denounce these malicious cyber activities, which all involved, must put to an end immediately. We urge the Russian Federation to adhere to the norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace".

That's what we see today; that first in the history of humankind we have the first State cyber-terrorist - it's the Russian Federation, unfortunately, one of the member States of our organisation.

It means that we need to react because, in another way, there will be other people, because they're trying to hack and attack democratic systems. They try to attack elections, referendums, so they can say who will be president or prime minister or parliamentarians of any European country from Moscow! That is something which is absolutely unacceptable.

The second thing besides their cyber attacks is the using of cyberspace. What do I mean by this?

We see for example Russia Today's propaganda activity. That's a Russian state channel that is active all over the world. Russia is spending hundreds of millions of euros on this Russia Today channel which is completely propagandistic and not anything else. They are killing people not with guns but with propaganda. I want to thank the German authorities who recently blocked two YouTube German-speaking channels of Russia Today. Previously, it was done by the state of Latvia. We need to encourage such activity and we need to do it in all our countries to stop using cyberspace for absolutely malicious propaganda.

We can do it. We need to do it here because unfortunately, still even in Strasbourg, you can find Russia Today.

That is unacceptable. We need to react.

Thank you very much.

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:45:25

Thank you, Mr GONCHARENKO.

I now give the floor to Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY of Turkey, who will speak on behalf of the Unified European Left.

Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY

Turkey, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

17:45:39

Thank you Mr President,

It's clear that the rapporteur has put a great deal of work into this very detailed report.

The topic is a very important one as cybercrime has become a major threat that has visited many countries in recent times.

We are told that the purpose of the second additional protocol to the convention on cybercrime is to provide sharper tools to investigate cybercrime and obtain justice for victims. This is all good and perhaps necessary but, of course, we must carefully examine the impact of this protocol on human rights safeguards in this area.

The rapporteur believes that the protocol strikes have reasonable balance, but does nonetheless suggest just some further safeguards to protect human rights.

I think the amendments proposed do have value. They do stitch in further protections, but are they enough? I am not so sure that they are.

I believe the Assembly should give strong consideration to the fears expressed not just by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but a whole host of other civil society organisations, such as the European Digital Rights Network, TEDIC, and the Karisma Foundation just to name a few.

I want to quote directly from a paper written by these civil society organisations, quote:

"Governments are on the cusp of adopting a set of international rules which will reshape how cross-border police investigations are conducted".

They go on to say that, and I quote:

"Many elements of the protocol are a law enforcement wish list", end quote.

In particular, they criticise that in Article No. 14 data protection safeguards do not require all processing of personal data to be adequate, fair, and proportionate. They go on to say that those three words - "adequate, fair, and proportionate" are important distinctive conditions for accessing personal data recognised in several modern data protection legislation across the world.

Each term imposes different requirements when applied to the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information.

The absence of these words together indicates that fewer, weaker, and outdated conditions to access data will be allowed and tolerated.

Overall, the rapporteur takes on board eight of the suggestions made by civil society organisations but rejects 24 of them - which is 75%. The stakes are very high here. I remain doubtful that the correct balance has been struck.

In particular, the protocol fails to ensure there are data protection standards worldwide.

Parties to the additional protocol should be required to accede to and properly implement Convention 108; plus the Council of Europe, in order to ensure that safeguards provided for under domestic law, regulate the law enforcement powers and that tools given by the protocol match international standards of data protection.

Encouraging states to consider implementing Convention 108 is not just strong enough. Even the weak standards applied in Article No. 14 are, effectively, optional; signatories are explicitly permitted to bypass the safeguards through various mechanisms; none of which provide any assurance that adequate privacy protections will be in place.

With detailed law enforcement powers, should come detailed legal safeguards; not a one-sided compromise on privacy and data protection.

Thank you.

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:49:12

Thank you, Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY.

And now, I call on Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU, from Cyprus, speaking on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Mr EFSTATHIOU, you have the floor.

Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU

Cyprus, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

17:49:28

Thank you, Mister Chair.

Firstly, I would like to thank and congratulate Mr Kamal JAFAROV for his extraordinary and thorough work and his report. Our remark is at the explosive growth of the internet and our accelerated dependence on digitalisation, which has facilitated the dramatic search of new and more sophisticated criminal cyber activity,  with systems often transcending borders across multiple jurisdictions.

This growing systematic misuse and exploitation by cybercriminals highlights the need for more targeted common strategies aimed at practical collaboration against cybercrime.

Cybercrime may take different forms, ranging from, but not limited to, illegal access to Internet, its malicious misuse, computer-related fraud and child pornography.

We must never forget that the Budapest Convention is the only binding international instrument again cybercrime. One of its main factors is to provide a framework for international co-operation between state parties to treat it. So it was imperative to build our response unit rather than neutralize it by a new methodology.

There is no doubt that the additional protocol provides for a supplementary protection on cybercrime, because during the last 20 years cybercrime has taken new interstate and trans-frontier characteristics and new forms which render its detection and punishment very difficult.

It is therefore welcomed because it provides the new tools on the disclosure of electronic evidence, it also gives access to direct co-operation, prompt collaboration, and clearly stipulates that human rights must be protected and taken into account when countering.

Finally, it safeguards the protection of personal data.

It is imperative that we pay specific attention to certain provisions pertaining to the protocol, so that we promote its proper practical impact and avoid any arbitrary intervention in human rights.

No unlawful exploitation by the public authorities can be tolerated.

We must ensure that the protocol is applicable no matter the different criminal justice systems and legal regulation frameworks.

Therefore, we aim at forecasting the adoption of new data handling methods and evolving technology, guarantee proportionality and transparency in a balanced way.

The protocol mandates clear mechanism against the disclosure of personal data and clarifies that the investigations must not amount to any form of fishing expedition.

We need to make certain that our common fight against the global challenge does not hinder in upholding the rule of law and protecting the fundamental rights of the victims of cybercrimes.

Thank you very much.

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:52:46

Thank you, Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU

I now turn to the list of speakers.

The first speaker is Ms Dara CALLEARY from Ireland, online.

No, apparently not.

I have been informed that she is not present, so I call the second speaker, Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO of Ukraine.

Ms YASKO, you have the floor.

She seems to be absent as well, so we move on to the third speaker, Mrs Zeynep YILDIZ from Turkey.

You have the floor, Madam.

Ms Zeynep YILDIZ

Turkey, NR

17:53:35

Dear President, dear colleagues,

I would like to thank the rapporteur for preparing this high-quality report in such a short period.

The Assembly's contribution to the second additional protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime on enhanced co-operation and disclosure of electronic evidence carries utmost importance as cybercrimes' importance increases every day in our digitally connected world.

There is an urgent need to address important challenges for the investigation of cybercrimes, such as finding electronic evidence, usually located in foreign, multiple or even unknown jurisdictions and in the possession of private entities.

This protocol will enable more effective co-operation between authorities and private internet providers to ensure that electronic evidence is speedily and rapidly processed.

This criminal justice instrument will facilitate international co-operation in the fight against cybercrime while respecting the fundamental rights of the victims suffering from these crimes. Therefore, this protocol will be of benefit to the relevant authorities, internet providers, as well as victims.

Based on this on this understanding, Turkey has actively participated in multilateral discussions concerning the protocol.

The implications of this legal instrument concerning privacy of individuals should also not be neglected. Acquiring electronic evidence for criminal investigations by nature requires accessing personal data, which is protected by various international agreements.

The measures foreseen by the protocol should be evaluated in conjunction with the necessary procedural safeguards to protect privacy.

The future parties to this protocol should succeed in striking a delicate balance between personal privacy and fighting cybercrime.

Cybercrime knows no borders and fighting against it requires robust international co-operation. This protocol is a step in the right direction for ensuring perpetrators of cybercrimes are brought to justice. The absence of international co-operation should not let cybercriminals inflict more suffering on their victims and evade justice.

The protocol and the Assembly's opinion will certainly facilitate member States' efforts to address difficulties in fighting cybercrimes.

On a separate note, I am shocked by this statement of my Greek colleague, who delivered a speech on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party during the previous debate. Comparing the case of Syrian refugees in Turkey with a situation of Belarus is a reflection of an obsessive attitude. I encourage him to address the issue of pushbacks instead.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE, President of the Assembly

17:56:36

Thank you, Ms. YILDIZ.

We move on to the next speaker, Mr Pablo HISPÁN from Spain. He is apparently not in the room.

We can therefore move on to the next speaker, Mr Vladimir KOZHIN from the Russian Federation.

Mr Vladimir KOZHIN

Russian Federation, NR

17:57:00

Good afternoon, President, good afternoon, colleagues.

I would like to make a number of comments about the protocol we are discussing today. In fact, I think that the work on this started back in 2017 and here we are now in 2021. This is not just slow, it's very very slow. It seems to me that we've been working on this for virtually 5 years and yet, to day, the protocol still has a number of serious shortcomings even as we have it. It ignores contemporary forms of cybercrime. It refers, for instance, only to nine such crimes. And yet, according to UN data, today there are more than 30 crimes that are classified as cybercrimes.

We are on the threshold of the era of artificial intelligence of all kinds of things that the protocol doesn't even mention. And we think it's very important to take account of the way things really are today. Also, it looks at the way in which it's enshrined in practice: article 32B of the Budapest Convention. Now, you know that there have been problems with signing up to the Budapest Convention, and you know why!

If you look at article 32 of that convention, it makes it possible for state parties to the convention to receive information and to go and look for that information in a third country where in fact the information is sourced without informing the authorities of that country about what they are doing. In other words they can do this without informing the necessary state authorities in that country about what they are doing.

In effect, this actually undermines the way in which countries can operate and it violates the principle of state sovereignty. And this is an issue that the new protocol does not resolve. What then can we do?

Here I would draw your attention to a number of points I point out.

Within the UN we have a special committee that already begun to work on establishing a universal agreement on countering cybercrime. In May this year we had a meeting and it was decided that the rules of procedure for the committee would be agreed upon and the UNGA has since adopted a resolution that indeed has got that committee up and running. And it just pointed out that there will now be a committee that will investigate the way in which the Internet on this cyber area could be used.

This is an integrated and comprehensive process that will involve all countries, without exception, and that will be based on the principles of equality of the partners and non-intervention in domestic affairs of states.

We believe that some of the provisions of the Budapest Convention, and even of the protocol that we're talking about here, could become part of the basis of this universal treaty or agreement. What we need to do, is to ensure that we do not end up with two instruments that then run into a head on collision between themselves.

Thank you.

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:00:18

Thank you, Mr KOZHIN.

We move on to the next speaker, Mr Rustem UMEROV from Ukraine. He is not present.

We now come to the seventh speaker, Mr Antón GÓMEZ-REINO from Spain. He is not in the Chamber either.

I therefore call Ms Irina RUKAVISHNIKOVA of the Russian Federation. She is online. Yes, Madam, you have the floor.

Ms Irina RUKAVISHNIKOVA

Russian Federation, NR

18:01:08

President, colleagues,

I, too, would like to make a few comments taking up a number of points which have already been made and also make a few comments on this report as such.

What we are talking about is an area where things are moving forward very quickly indeed. In all countries we're really behind the curve when it comes to this, and that certainly would apply to this document also.

International instruments as we see them should be universal. We need issues like this to be discussed at universal fora such as the UN. The Russian Federation is certainly pushing strongly for that to happen.

Apart from what has already been said by my colleague earlier today, I'd like to draw attention to another point. That is the very rapid development of technology involving the use of artificial intelligence. As things stand today, we really have not fully assessed the impact of this. This is something which can certainly be used for good, but also for ill. 

Colleagues, I believe that we need not only to work on developing procedures that would allow us to combat cybercrime, but in parallel, we need to develop public institutions that can prevent cybercrime. Here we need effective self-regulation mechanisms, for instance voluntary certification, voluntary compliance with recommendations, the development of... which would be done within the expert community.

We also need to develop effective mechanisms that can allow us to deal with the era we live in, the era of artificial intelligence. In the Russian Federation we're actively working to develop the instruments that we have on this issue, because we know that the risks are very high. There are problems with biometric identification profiling, for instance, creating an evidential basis that can then be used for judicial proceedings.

At an interstate level, it would be appropriate to develop general, ethical standards that could then be seen as recommendations for the development of domestic legislation in this area. For instance, at present, within the Russian Federation we are having a discussion among experts of a draft national ethics code for AI. This document establishes general principles and standards of conduct. These principles could and should guide persons who are participating in different ways in the operation of artificial intelligence systems within the territory of the Russian Federation. The code itself is a recommendation, and violating its provisions would not involve legal liability. However, this could be an effective mechanism for an impact to be exerted on those who seek to use AI in bad faith.

Disseminating this experience at an international level would help us to ensure that we could be more active in involving all relevant players, transnational corporations (TNCs) for instance, and ensuring that we could all be better placed to combat the threat of cybercrime.

Thank you.

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:04:31

Thank you, Ms RUKAVISHNIKOVA.

The last speaker is Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN from Ireland, who also seems to be absent.

Is Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN from Armenia present in the Chamber? Because he has also asked for the floor. He's not?

Then the list of speakers is exhausted. However, we still have time to call additional speakers, either from the floor or from a distance, who have not been listed. If any member of the Assembly wishes to speak, he or she may do so now. Is anyone here? That concludes the list of speakers.

The rapporteur had to leave us, but he left us the message that Mr Boriss CILEVIČS agreed to reply to the speakers. Mr CILEVIČS, you have 3 minutes to reply.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

18:05:57

Thank you, President.

I hope I can nature this time with my brief intervention as a Chairman of the Reporting Committee.

Yes, first I would like to express my gratitude to all those who took part in this debate and indeed Mr André GATTOLIN did make some very important points, as well as Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY and Mr Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU.

Of course, it is a very specific issue and apparently it is not a proper format for us to discuss technicalities but this is certainly correct.

And our Russian colleagues also expressed some criticism. Yes, it took quite a long time but that is inevitable. We need international cooperation to fight cybercrime because cybercrime is transnational by definition, by default. At the national level, it is simply impossible, and while recognising this criticism, I still believe that the position of our Russian friends is somewhat controversial. They recognise that these five years were not enough to persuade Russia to join this instrument. So, maybe we need 10 more years to persuade Russia, but probably the problems are somewhere else.

And the new initiative mentioned by Mr Vladimir KOZHIN, in fact, this is a sort of counter project. This is the sort of alternative to the Convention on Cybercrime adopted 20 years ago, but if you really wish to make it open for everybody, really universal, acceptable for ratification by many States, you will have to do the same. You will have to go through many lengthy negotiations and maybe you are able to do this within several months, but sorry I do not believe this.

The problem is somewhere else, in my view, that indeed, we have to find a very fragile balance between an effective fight against cybercrime, on the one hand, and the reliable protection of human rights, and first of all, protection of personal data, on the other. And it really is not that easy to find the golden mean. Is it possible to speed up the process? Probably, yes. If you completely disregard and ignore human rights but, I am afraid, that if the initiators of this idea of alternative convention choose this way, it will be difficult to expect that democratic States will join this instrument.

As to the universal or the original nature of the Convention. I happened to become a member of this Assembly 20 years ago when this Convention and its first protocol were discussed and it is universal in nature and many States which are not member States of the Council of Europe have acceded to this Convention. I believe that is true, we should continue working with this Convention, try to improve it, to streamline, to take into account new developments, rather than to throw it away and to start something new.

And in the end, I would like to praise the efforts by Mr Kamal JAFAROV. This is his first report in the Assembly. He worked very diligently during this very short time, and I believe that the report is good and I call upon all members to support it.

Thank you.

Vote: Draft Second Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime on enhanced co-operation and disclosure of electronic evidence

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:09:47

Thank you Mr CILEVIČS.

The general debate is therefore closed.

The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons has presented a draft opinion to which no amendments have been tabled.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft opinion contained in Doc. 15379.

I am informed that it is actually, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

Once again, I remind you that a two-thirds majority is required.

The vote is open both here, in the chamber and via remote voting.

The vote is closed. 

I call for the result to be displayed.

22 in favour, 1 against and 13 abstentions.

If I have calculated correctly, the two-thirds majority has been achieved.

Thank you and congratulations.

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

Mr Gusty GRAAS

Luxembourg, ALDE, President of the Assembly

18:11:56

We now come to the progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee.

At its meeting today, the Bureau proposed several references to committees for ratification by the Assembly. A document summarising these references has been distributed: Doc. 15375, Addendum 3. These references must be submitted to the Assembly for ratification under Article 26.3 of the rules.

Are there any objections?

No? There are not.

The references are therefore approved.

We must now proceed to vote on the other decisions of the Bureau contained in this progress report: Doc. 15375, Addendum 3.

The proposal is that they be ratified.

Are there any objections?

No, there are no objections.

The other decisions of the Bureau are thus also approved.

I thank those of you who have contributed to the debate. I thank those of you who are still here and all the rapporteurs of the committees, who have done a great job and a lot of hard work. I would also like to thank all the Deputy Presidents who have assisted me by contributing to the smooth running of our meetings. They are Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ, Mr John HOWELL, Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN, Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO, Ms OOMEN-RUIJTEN, Ms Nicole TRISSE and Mr Ahmet YILDIZ.

In addition, I would like to thank all the staff and interpreters who have worked hard to make the part-session a success. Finally, I thank the teams of technicians who have made this hybrid session possible.

I wish to inform you that the first part of the 2022 Ordinary Session is scheduled to take place from 24 to 28 January 2022.

I, therefore, declare the fourth part of the 2021 Ordinary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe closed.

The sitting is closed.

The sitting is closed at 6:15 pm

Closure of the 2021 Ordinary Session