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27 January 2022 morning

2022 - First part-session Print sitting

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Opening of the sitting No. 7

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:00:42

Good morning to everyone, and I think the watch is past 09:00 a.m. and I do hope that way you're all staying well and that we start the meeting.

So the sitting is open.

And I remind members taking part remotely that they should take part in proceedings from a quiet location and should not speak from cars, trains, or other modes of transport. It makes it easier, but sometimes it's not possible for all colleagues, but I remind you of this even though.

The first item of business this morning is a debate under urgent procedure on “Beating Covid-19 with public health measures” (Doc. 15444) presented by Mr Stefan SCHENNACH on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.

In order to finish by 10.30am, I will interrupt the list of speakers at about 09.40am to allow time for the reply and the vote.

I call Mr SCHENNACH. You have 7 minutes to present the report and then will have a further 3 minutes to reply to the debate at the end.

Mr SCHENNACH, you are there, you can request for the floor so we can connect you and both see and hear you.

Debate under urgent procedure: Beating Covid-19 with public health measures

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

09:02:36

Thank you, Madam President.

Good morning to you all and thanks that I can present the resolution and draft recommendation which we worked out in the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development in the last days.

Exactly 2 years ago the first cases of infection came to Europe because before there was some cases and nobody died outside of China. Meanwhile this worldwide pandemic shows how serious and how dangerous it is.

Maybe I'll switch now in my original language, in German.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

09:03:36

Last Sunday, which was 23 January, we lamented over 346 million known infections and over 5.5 million deaths worldwide. In Europe alone, there were nearly nine million new infections in a single week and more than 21 000 deaths, despite vaccination and initial treatment successes. Can we just accept this?

After two years of the pandemic, we have now learned and experienced a great deal, and the great miracle was the rapid development of safe and effective vaccines that could protect us from serious illness and, most importantly, death. But they need to be embraced by the population and, most importantly, made accessible - not just in the rich countries of the North.

We know that we cannot tolerate high numbers of infections, because every infection gives the virus the opportunity to mutate, and mutation prolongs this pandemic. Meanwhile, all societies are tired about this pandemic and that is why it is right now, two years after, then new steps are needed. The population is tired of the protective measures, and politicians who tell the truth often make themselves unpopular.

Because the truth is; this virus mutates and mutates and mutates and infects if we give it the opportunity to do so. That's why we should finally fight it decisively, worldwide. On Monday afternoon, the new chairwoman of the Social Committee Ms. Selin SAYEK BÖKE and I had the opportunity to have a video conference with the WHO from Geneva and Copenhagen, while at the same time the Executive Committee of the WHO was meeting. The message from WHO is clear; we must finally take the right measures. These measures are clearly listed in this resolution.

I have faced some headwinds in this meeting, and I should not be too prescriptive, but I will say: the clearer the recommendations are, the better the chances that we will not be fighting an endless loop in the pandemic.

The recommendations that I am presenting here today, they are from the World Health Organization. We have agreed them with them because otherwise these recommendations cannot be implemented in all 194 countries. But we in Europe can implement these recommendations, even if we sometimes make ourselves unpopular with voters and it is important that the pandemic is not abused politically.

Keeping up with the times, I think it was Albert Einstein who once defined insanity: insanity is repeating the same action and expecting a different result.

Two years of pandemic and we keep repeating the same mistakes; we don't dare to order appropriate protective measures and are surprised that infection numbers then skyrocket. The time has come to learn from our mistakes. It drives me crazy that people are still seriously proposing, for example, to relax the obligation to use masks or to use weaker masks. What are we aiming at - herd immunity? We see that in Great Britain two thirds of the Omicron sufferers had already contracted Covid-19 twice or three times, that is, we must not let militant vaccination opponents and conspiracy theorists take some of the reins out of our hands. This was not a pandemic, it is a pandemic. What we have to do, in any case, is to initiate a large-scale public debate on compulsory vaccination. We must protect those at risk - it cannot be that the measures taken in hospitals and nursing homes are infected by those whose job it is to care for and look after people. It is the moral and solidarity duty of all caregivers to protect these people by getting themselves vaccinated.

One last word on the amendments, for example, Amendment No. 9. I am very unhappy that that got a narrow majority, because that would virtually undo the work that Mr. Damien COTTIER and Ms. Carmen LEYTE did last June and go back to a quote from 20 January 2021. So I ask you all to reject this Amendment 9.

Because the wording that has been found now is from a time, 21 January, when there are no certificates at all.

Let's do everything we can to prevent our doctors from being forced to set triage; let's do everything we can to relieve the burden on nursing staff; let's do everything we can also for the sake of our children, that schools and universities are open again and that only parliaments set the measures.

I will conclude, and I thank you very much for your attention.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:10:13

Thank you, Mister SCHENNACH.

We go over to the debate. In the debate I call first Mr Andrej HUNKO from Germany and from the United Left.

Can you click on the request to speak icon, Mister HUNKO?

Wait, if Mister HUNKO is coming late, we include him. We continue with Ms Petra BAYR from Austria and the Socialist Group.

The floors is yours, Madam BAYR.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

09:11:05

Thank you very much Ms President.

"No one is safe until everybody is safe", the report quotes several times.

There are still countries where less than 1% of the population is vaccinated, so there is still a long way to go and a lot to do.

It's not only because of humanity, to think globally and in an intelligent way. Otherwise, the virus will have the possibility to mutate into new versions which also increases the challenge we all face globally: how to overcome this disease, this pandemic.

There are, of course, several approaches to how you can act with solidarity in a global way.

I would like to mention three out of them.

The first one is COVAX, also mentioned in the report. COVAX is a kind of platform that tries to distribute the vaccine to the Global South, with 92 countries as beneficiaries. We know that COVAX is tremendously lagging behind its own goals. It suffers from cash shortages. The pledges that were made are not realised. So it's a good idea, but it doesn't work at the very end.

A much better, because it's quicker and also more self-determined, way, is the TRIPS waiver, which is also mentioned in the report. It's sustainable and it would allow for the limited time span of the pandemic to produce medicines against Covid-19 without paying for licenses.

Vaccines have been developed really very very quickly with a tremendous input and subsidy from governments. That means from taxpayers' money. Because of this, I think the vaccines we have now should be considered as a global public good.

No country with a pharmaceutical industry must prioritise profits over the lives and health of humans.

Also a third approach, and maybe the most immoral from my point of view, is bilateral vaccine donations, where the OECD is a chest that every donor country can add 6.70 US dollars per vaccination dose to its official development assistance account, if you want to say it like that, regardless, and that's the problem, regardless of when the drug will expire.

So that means, if I have a vaccine that is still okay and two weeks before the expiry date I deliver it to another country which has no chance at all to deliver it to people to really make the vaccine, it still would be beneficial for me because I can add money on my official development assistance money.

We must act in a way that realises and implements global solidarity when combating Covid-19. We have to act in respect of human rights and respect the sentence "no one is safe until everybody is safe".

I really hope that they will stand this global intelligence test and speak out for a TRIPS waiver.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:14:25

Thank you, Madam BAYR.

Then we go back because we are now on the speaker on behalf of political groups. I think Mr Andrej HUNKO from Germany and the United Left is here now.

You're welcome to take the floor, mister HUNKO. Please, press the icon to request to speak.

Mister HUNKO, can you click on the icon?

Yes, the floor is yours.

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

09:15:19

I will speak German.

Thank you very much. Thank you also, to Mr. Stefan SCHENNACH for this report. We agree on a lot of things. The report, again, points out that there has to be much better pandemic-planning in the future. I agree with that. It is also pointed out that we should, for example, abolish patents. This is also the position of the Assembly, which I myself have also contributed to; there are very many correct things. Nevertheless, I would like to point out a few points that I see somewhat differently.

What situation do we have at the moment? We have the massive spread of the Omicron variant, which is much more infectious than the previous variants of Covid-19, but which, thank goodness, are also much milder, and this is leading to the fact that in many countries, at the moment, measures no longer seem so sensible and are therefore also being relaxed. We had passed, what I thought was, an excellent resolution in this Assembly in January of last year, which is based on the premise that the most important thing we have to fight the pandemic with public health measures, that the most important thing we have is trust. The higher the trust of the population, the better the acceptance; and that trust is established through transparency, through good data basis, and also through voluntarism; through conviction. Now in this report, the way is opened, so to speak, for a general vaccination obligation, that everyone should be vaccinated. As far as I know, this only exists in Austria at present in the member States of the Council of Europe, and I honestly don't think this is the right way to go. I think vaccination is very important, it makes a lot of sense, especially for older people, for vulnerable people; but I think introducing a general vaccination requirement for everyone will polarise societies and undermine trust.

But I also want to say, very clearly, here that there are, of course, irrational forces as well; which we also have nothing to do with; and right-wing extremists who want to exploit that. Nevertheless, I think it would be wrong to abandon, so to speak, the path that we have taken so far in the Assembly, which is why I have tabled a few amendments.

Thank you very much, and I look forward to the debate.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:18:51

Thank you, Mister Andrej HUNKO.

We continue with Mr Alain MILON from France, representing the Group of the European People's Party. Mr Alain MILON.

I think there are some technical problems. Mister Alain MILON, can you press to request to speak.

There are some technical problems.

I think he disappeared again. If you try later, I will come back to you and try to include you, Mister Alain MILON.

I continue to the Netherlands and to Mr Bob van PAREREN representing the European Conservatives Group.

Mister Bob van PAREREN, are you there? Can you click on the "request to speak" icon?

He should be here in the hemicycle, but he is not in the hemicycle at the moment.

Then I continue to Ms Petra STIENEN from Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and the Netherlands.

The floor is yours, Petra.

Ms Petra STIENEN

Netherlands, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

09:20:50

Dear Colleagues,

Astrid Van [???] was a much-loved woman of 62 years old. Her open-heart operation was postponed several times. Why? Because of a lack of capacity in the intensive care, because there were so many Covid patients. She passed away early 2021. It was an unnecessary passing.

We all have examples of people who have suffered from this pandemic. We all have examples of children and students close to us who missed out on their education. We know women who were not safe their homes during lockdown because of their violent partners. We also know the shop-owner stories who've lost their income, or of an artist who couldn't perform, or doctors and nurses on the front line.

On behalf of the ALDE group I would like to thank Mr Stefan SCHENNACH for this report which raises a few questions.

How can we find a balance between freedom and self-determination of the individual on the one hand and protecting human and civil rights over citizens on the other?

In other words, what does someone's own individual freedom to choose to be vaccinated or not mean for public health of our society? When should we call for mandatory vaccination?

At the ALDE group we do not have conclusive answers ourselves, but we feel as liberals that we have to work collectively on a few things.

1. Accepting the scientific proof of the effectiveness of measures as stipulated by the WHO: vaccines, wearing masks, distancing, and hygiene. If there are medical reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated, people should accept the consequences of this choice.

2. We need to work on proper access to vaccines everywhere on a global scale by working towards a TRIPS waiver. We should also work on access to proper information for all groups in our society.

3. We need to anticipate more of these crises, be it the climate crisis or a variant of this virus.

We agree with the call on the report on politicians to lead by example with the measures we all have to adhere to. But at the same time the ALDE group is very concerned by some politicians who use this pandemic for fear-mongering and spreading of misinformation, only for their own political gain. This inspires violent extremists to intimidate other politicians online and offline.

Let me close, Madam President, on a personal note. Our party leader Sigrid Kaag was attacked by somebody carrying a torch in front of her home. This person was convicted to 6 months last week by a Dutch judge. Let me quote what she said after this conviction and let this be in our ears all of us. She hopes "that who intimidates, threatens and does make the work of personal environment of politicians unsafe should understand this warning: this is our rule of law". When politicians are being threatened for exercising their democratic right, we have to speak out. We can disagree but we cannot inspire others to attack us.

Here in this plenary and outside, at the ALDE group we really ask everybody to protect our democracy by protecting our politicians who exercise their democratic right to speaking out about the Covid crisis.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:24:27

Thank you so much, Ms Petra STIENEN.

And then we go back and try to include Mr Alain MILON from France, representing the Group of the European People's Party. He has a connection problem. We can try once more later but I think I also try Mr Bob van PAREREN from the Netherlands and the European Conservatives. Can you click on the "request to speak" icon?

He is not online. So then I might come back if they hear something from Mr Alain MILON and Mr Bob van PAREREN but I think we continue on the speaker's list.

I then continue and go to Iceland and Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR from the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

Thórhildur, are you there? Can you click on this "request to speak" icon?

Yes, she is. The floor is yours.

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC

09:25:41

Thank you, Madam President.

Addressing the issue of mandatory vaccination, I would like to say a few words.

First of all, I believe that hesitancy towards accepting vaccination is not so much to do with selfish indulgence or self-centeredness in the citizens but rather a lack of trust in the public institutions. We have seen a direct connection between trust in public institutions and the willingness to vaccinate, so I do not believe – as I think many do believe – that people that refuse vaccination are somehow antisocial or self-centred.

Some are very badly misinformed and this is something that we definitely need to work on. Rather than mandating vaccinations, politicians should ask themselves why there is so little trust in public institutions and work towards reinstalling this trust, rather than violating the trust even further, creating a larger rift into society by forcing vaccinations. Now, I see exceptions of course relating to health officials and others that take care of vulnerable groups where we do need to make sure that people are protected.

Nevertheless, human rights are individual rights and they should not be infringed unless absolutely necessary when we know that they can be effective to achieve the goal that they are meant to achieve and that there are no other less invasive measures available. I do not think we are in a place where we can say that as of yet when it comes to mandatory vaccinations.

And I would also remind you that the right of health – in the right of health, the right of everyone to give informed consent and therefore also informed dissent is a fundamental item, is a fundamental part of our right to health. So I think we should be very cautious as a human rights body to advocate mandatory vaccinations. I do not think it is something that will necessarily even achieve the aims that we wish to achieve because when we are hoarding vaccines, here in the West, new variants can come out all over the world where access to vaccinations is not good. And this will undermine our efforts to reach immunity towards the Covid-19 pandemic.

I would also like to speak a word of caution in terms of alienating those people that, for some reason or other, be they misinformed, be they worried about their own health or in any other way not willing to have vaccinations, that we consider them self-centred or antisocial. I think people are fundamentally socially minded and they care about other people. I think what we need to cure is the lack of trust that people have towards their institutions, not continue distrusting people for not having the interest of their society at large because every research, every study recently done in human nature, has shown that we are very social and we are very caring people as a whole and any approach that does not focus on that is the wrong approach in my opinion.

Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:29:21

Thank you, Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR.

And I continue on the speakers list and come back to Mr Bob van PAREREN later.

But I give the floor first to Mr Zoran TOMIĆ from Serbia and the Group of the European People's Party.

No, he's not connected?

Mr Alain MILON, you are there and you can speak on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Oh! The floor's yours, Mr Alain MILON.

Mr Alain MILON

France, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

09:29:54

Hello.

Can you hear me?

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:30:00

We can hear you.

Yes.

You're welcome, take the floor.

We can hear you.

We can see you.

We do not have a problem with your voice and your face, so that's okay.

Mr Alain MILON

France, EPP/CD

09:30:41

Madam President,

I am delighted that our Assembly has agreed to hold this debate at a time when our continent is particularly affected by this pandemic. The particularly drastic restrictive measures put in place for accessing the Palais de l'Europe could not be a better illustration of this.

The report presented to us, for which I congratulate our colleague, the rapporteur, reminds us that the European region alone, within the WHO, has recorded some 9 million additional cases and more than 21,000 deaths in recent days.

Today, in an attempt to put an end to the pandemic, the member states of our organisation have given priority to vaccination. While the available data suggest that vaccination protects against severe forms of the disease, it is having difficulty stopping the spread of the virus. The number of infections has increased massively over the past month, due in particular to the appearance of the Omicron variant, which seems less virulent but much more contagious.

Therefore, other public health measures must be considered. First of all, we must continue to encourage the wearing of masks and remind people of the importance of prevention measures such as hand-washing and ventilation of enclosed spaces. Second, research efforts must continue to develop new vaccines and new treatments that could be effective for all variants. This is a point that we have discussed on several occasions and that I consider fundamental.

The ease with which the modern world moves from one continent to another, with an economy based on the free movement of goods and people, requires us to develop global solutions to the virus. It is therefore unrealistic to want to vaccinate Europe without investing in distributing vaccines to the rest of the world. I would like to reiterate my support for the COVAX mechanism and encourage states to commit to it.

Finally, I would like to mention the introduction by several countries, including France, of the vaccination pass, which restricts access to certain places or means of transport to vaccinated persons only. A means of encouraging vaccination, without making it compulsory, such a pass can certainly help to limit hospital saturation. However, it must be implemented with respect for individual rights and freedoms, without wanting to set one part of the population against another.

Such a measure must be guided solely by the objective of public health, and not by political communication objectives. It should also be accompanied by objective criteria, allowing the restrictions linked to the use of this pass to be automatically terminated, in order to avoid an abusively long restriction of freedoms. This is part of the debates that we had very recently in the French Parliament, as many of you have certainly had in your national assemblies.

I sincerely believe in the need for a strong commitment from parliaments to find the right balance, within a public health approach. I believe in the need for real parliamentary control, as we are doing this morning and as we will do in the coming months in the French Senate vis-à-vis the French government, by using our powers of inquiry committees.

The fight against the pandemic is essential but it cannot be used to jeopardise fundamental freedoms.

I thank you, Madam President, for your patience.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:34:04

Thank you Mr Alain MILON.

I continue now on the speakers list on behalf of the political groups.

Mr Bob van PAREREN, from the Netherlands and the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance can take the floor.

The floor is yours.

Mr Bob van PAREREN

Netherlands, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

09:34:21

Thank you very much, Madam President.

I first would like to apologise that I was late today and I'm very happy that I still have the opportunity to give the lecture.

Beating Covid-19 is a big wish of all of us and most countries do a lot to prevent and to help people, but we have to accept that this will be a part of our life in the future.

And that means that there is a high responsibility with our authorities. They should be aware that it is not only a medical issue, but also a social and psychological issue for the people. You see that toddlers and babies are really suffering. They see only parents with masks on their mouths and then their development in speaking is not that good. Besides that, there is unfortunately a big rate of suicides or people that don't see any future anymore.

So, a careful governmental approach is really needed. It needs also a clear information for the people.

When you look at the European Union you will find out that each individual country has their own rules, and so we have a very special situation that in the Netherlands we had a lockdown and in our neighbour country, one hour from our centre, we had in Belgium everything open.

So that gives also a less certain base for the people for the governmental actions. It's confusing people and it makes the acceptance less.

What we don't want is that there is another type of persons, the persons that are not vaccinated, in the countries. It is in our opinion their personal wish yes or no, and we are fully against mandatory vaccination. It is also confusing the vaccination for people. People are talking about a booster and I can tell you from the medical side that the booster is just the same as the first two vaccinations.

So it is very important to have the trust from the government. We really believe in that but there needs to be more coordination and especially a concentration on the weak people.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:37:09

Thank you, Sir.

I continue with the speaker's list. The next speaker is Mr Zoran TOMIĆ from Serbia and the Group of the European People's Party. He is online.

Yes, welcome. Take the floor.

Mr Zoran TOMIĆ

Serbia, EPP/CD

09:37:29

Covid-19 is a topic that captures the attention of the public. It is one of the challenges that proves that when the world is united and co‑operates, we can win. This is a major challenge for the health system of all countries.

Unfortunately, not all countries are in the same position to pose this challenge. That is why it is important that we co‑operate between countries and not only within the Council of Europe but on the global level. Efforts to create and distribute vaccines around the world should primarily aim to help fight for the health of the people, and not profit or geopolitical struggle. We are aware that this challenge has created numerous barriers: restricted movement of people, goods, and the slowing down of world economies. It changed our lives and created a new reality in which we have to live. That is why it is important that we co‑operate with each other to exchange experience and knowledge and to put people's interest before politics.

I take this opportunity to appeal once again for: the recognition of all vaccines that have given results, and are approved; to enable the movement of the citizens who receive those vaccines; to monitor together the results of these vaccines; to give and exchange enough information to help the further development of the vaccines.

In Serbia we are led by the president, Mr Aleksandar Vučić. Since the pandemic started, we emphasised the fight against Covid-19 and gave full support to the health system, which is why three Covid-19 hospitals have been built in Serbia in just four months. We bought many restricted medicines and helped recruit a large number of the doctors and nurses who were hired. After the appearance of the first vaccines that were approved immediately, we started to purchase them. A big thanks to everyone who helped us to give get these vaccines in the EU, Russia, and China.

We are a country which has enabled its citizens to choose which vaccine they want to receive, whether it is Sinopharm, Sputnik, Pfizer, Astrozeneca or Moderna. We have donated certain amounts of these vaccines to our neighbouring countries in order to help them to fight against this Covid-19 pandemic.

Thanks to the good co‑operation with the Russian Federation, we started the production of the Sputnik V vaccine in Serbia in order to provide sufficient quantities of this vaccine to our citizens but also to the citizens in the region.

Also with the co‑operation of China and the United Arab Emirates, we are building a factory that will produce the Sinopharm vaccine to fight these really hard times again, the Covid-19 vaccine, because we are aware that Covid-19 has slowed down the process of transporting not only medicines but also production around the world.

I use this opportunity to appeal to everyone to support this resolution, which will encourage parliamentary discussion on the new measures of how to fight against Covid-19, to exchange information, ideas, therapies and other important things.

This challenge is really great for our community. This resolution comes at a great time and will encourage us to fully overcome the challenge through co‑operation.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:40:40

Thank you, Mister Zoran TOMIĆ.

The next speaker is from Germany, Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER, from the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

The floor is yours.

Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER

Germany, EC/DA

09:40:54

Thank you,

I would also like to comment on the subject of mandatory vaccination.

Yesterday we had a big debate in the German Bundestag about this. We know that in Austria it has just been decided, and I have a big problem with the words, which are also in the report, and which Mrs. Petra BAYR had also said: "No one is safe, until everyone is safe". I would like to counter with Benjamin FRANKLIN: "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety". To me, this report, as it stands, is truly a bit too one-sided. It's all about vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate and putting people behind FFP2 masks, even though we know that these masks have problems again. The breathing resistance is too great and so on. It's dangerous for children in some cases. But there is nothing in the report about, for example, medical facts; like the presence of antibodies, like medical evidence, like natural immunity, like the fact that Omicron, as a variant, is not particularly dangerous, especially for people under 40 years of age, and I think the death rate for children is almost zero.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If we fixate only on a compulsion – vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate – as a duty, then that is wrong, then that is incompatible with a free society, which we want to have.

We have the European Convention on Human Rights, which underlies our thoughts here in the Parliamentary Assembly. And there's Article 5, which is the right to liberty and security. And there is Article 2, which is the right to life, but precisely as a defensive right against the state – not in the sense that the state must exclude any biological danger, so to speak – but in the sense that the state may not deliberately kill, and that is quite right. Ladies and gentlemen, then we cannot potentially compromise a goal, namely to guarantee the right to life for all, with the right to life of those who consciously speak-out and decide against vaccination, and do not want it, if they are compulsorily vaccinated or forced to do so through compulsory vaccination via fines. They ultimately have to live with the consequences themselves, ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to thank - and this does not happen often, you know - Ms. Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR for differentiated and balanced words because I think she is absolutely right in what she said. It is important that people get high-quality critical access to reports about these vaccines, and about their pros, which they definitely have, as well as their cons.

But we must not conflate this debate with the general assertion that vaccinating is solidarity; because we know vaccinating is primarily self-protection, not protection of others. It does not prevent the spread of the virus, it does not prevent people from infecting others. Yes, it can prevent people from having a severe course of the disease. And that's why, ladies and gentlemen, we're not going to cure Covid-19, as it says in the title, with a general vaccination requirement or with FFP2 masks. We can help the people who are at risk, those who are more vulnerable. But above all, freedom must always come first; the ability to make decisions about one's own body, as we have enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:44:21

Thank you, Mister Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER.

Then I continue on the speaker's list and introduce Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI from the Russian Federation.

Are you there Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI? Yes! The floor is yours, Sir.

Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI

Russian Federation, NR

09:44:38

Madam President and Dear Colleagues, 

To begin with, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Stefan SCHENNACH. He was confronted with a difficult job of work and he acquitted himself brilliantly. Coming to the resolution on vaccination on Covid-19, it is generally a very good report, but in point 2, it is indicated that only WHO vaccines are reliable and effective and that is not really true. I would like to stress that the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, which hitherto has not been approved by the World Health Organization, has nevertheless been approved and is used in more than 70 countries in the world, including in a number of member States of the Council of Europe. It has been administered to more than 200 million people, and it has shown itself to be effective and safe in many studies that have been carried out.

Now the Russian Federation is co-operating with the WHO on the approval of this vaccine. WHO experts have never indicated any negative studies about the vaccine and indicate that the delay is only because of beauractic reasons. 

Now despite the COVAX mechanism, we have not managed to vaccinate people around the world. Using SPUTNIK V could improve the situation. We need a massive vaccination of citizens on all continents of the planet and that requires mutual respect and recognition of vaccines and vaccine certificates. 

Another very important aspect of the course is overcoming vaccine reticence and vaccinating as many individuals as possible. This is difficult, long-term work. We have to convince people of the importance and the necessity of immunisation. There really is no alternative, and here I would like to remind you of Resolution 2361 that we adopted last year. It is indicated there that vaccination should not be mandatory and no one should be subject to political, social or any other pressure in this respect. I believe that these principles should continue to stand.

However, in some countries, despite the resolution, in order to try to solve the problem, various measures have been taken such as fines or not providing social assistance when people do not agree to be vaccinated. This, in fact, does not really work. On the contrary, it results in protests by thousands of people and an increase in social tension and that is something that we have to notice. In many countries, we are observing a violation of democratic norms during such protests. For instance, recently in Brussels, water cannons were used by the police against these protesters despite the fact that the ambient temperature was just above zero. 

Now the pandemic is something that affects all of us. We have to make sure that we find the right dividing line between personal and public good. 

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:47:47

Thank you so much Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI.

The next speaker is Sir Tony LLOYD from the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group, from the United Kingdom.

After Sir Tony LLOYD I have to interrupt the speakers list.

But first, Sir Tony LLOYD.

Sir Tony LLOYD

United Kingdom, SOC

09:48:13

Thank you Madam Chair.

Let me begin by saying this: two years on there are serious lessons we've already learned. Some of these things we knew already. Scientists have been predicting for a long time that something like the Covid-19 pandemic would hit the world and we weren't, as a world, prepared for that.

Some things work very well. The rapid development of vaccines was something that is an enormous tribute to the global scientific community. That was a great thing to see: how quickly vaccines were developed.

But there are enormous lessons still to learn because we do know that no one is ultimately safe when there are people around the world who have not been vaccinated.

The World Health Organization believes that it will take until the second half of 2024 before 70% of people in Africa are vaccinated. But that's a challenge to those of us in Europe. We can't simply sit back and say: that's okay. Because we do know the capacity of Covid-19 to mutate has already given us enormous challenges here in every part of Europe, and the capacity of Covid to mutate again will be there as long as there are people on this planet who are unvaccinated.

So the argument in Europe about compulsion is an interesting one. It's not one that I particularly support, compulsion I think is not the right answer at moment, but what I would say is that it's absolutely vital that we speed up our efforts to vaccinate the world.

Now within that, COVAX has already been mentioned, the international coming together to make vaccines available from the, well, essentially rich, developed countries for the developing world, but it's not enough. And there is a proposal for the TRIPS waiver, the so-called TRIPS waiver, a waiver of patent license and that countries can begin to use the science that our scientists have developed in order to produce without patent cover vaccines in those parts of the world that are yet unvaccinated.

We should support that. And I must say I am ashamed of my own country which is blocking the TRIPS waiver amongst others around the world. That cannot be right at a time when everyone must be vaccinated.

But there is a fundamental lesson in all this, which is I think is as simple as this: unless the world is geared up to look for another pandemic – not necessarily Covid-19, something different – unless we make sure that we mobilise our scientific community on the global basis to have both the level of investment in research facilities and the capacity to deliver on a global basis, we put humanity at risk.

If any lessons come out of the tragedy of people's deaths it has got to be preparation for Covid-19 now to make sure the vaccination is global, preparation for mutations of Covid-19, preparations in the end for a world that can face epidemics and pandemics in the future.

We've got to be ready and if we don't learn those lessons we fail those who died with Covid-19.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:51:33

Thank you so much, Sir Tony LLOYD.

I must now interrupt the list of speakers.

The speeches of members on the speakers' list that have been presented physically or remotely during the debate, but have not been able to speak, may be given to the Table Office for publication in the official report, provided that speakers connected remotely can report their actual presence when the debate is closed.

I remind colleagues that typewritten texts must be submitted electronically no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.

I call Mr Stefan SCHENNACH, the rapporteur, to reply.

You have 3 minutes.

Can you click on the icon request to speak?

Mister Stefan SCHENNACH?

You're there?

You're online, I know, so we'll just wait.

There you are. You have 3 minutes, Mister Stefan SCHENNACH.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

09:52:41

(Inaudible sound)

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:52:58

Mister Stefan SCHENNACH, we cannot understand.

Can you switch to...

Mister Stefan SCHENNACH?

Mister Stefan SCHENNACH?

He might not hear me.

I think your microphone is hidden by lots of papers.

Can you switch on floor?

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH, can you switch on floor?

I do not hear you, and it's not possible to understand, so maybe...

Mister Stefan SCHENNACH?

Hello, Mr Stefan SCHENNACH.

Can you hear me? Because we do not understand your voice.

It's not possible to translate because I think you are connected...

Mister Stefan SCHENNACH, you might be connected by two devices, or you have to switch on the floor because it was not possible to translate what you said, and not possible either to hear what you said. I thought you always have something important to tell us.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC

09:54:54

The January resolution was badly abused. What we concede here is that parliaments have the right to reflect on this. In this sense, I thank everyone for participating.

I am also of the opinion - but it is not a political decision - that Sputnik and Sinovac will be submitted to the WHO and that these are good vaccines and will certainly be approved when the appropriate studies are done.

I think it is important at the end to say, I thank all those colleagues who have already done so much preparatory work, Ms Carmen LEYTE, Mr Damien COTTIER, Ms Jennifer DE TEMMERMAN, Baroness Doreen E. MASSEY, that we are just clearly acting here as the Council of Europe, as the Parliamentary Assembly. I fully agree; we should think very strongly about the children as well. No more schools that are closed, no more universities that are closed.

I would like to thank the Secretariat for this enormous, fast work. I very much hope for a great approval of this chapter, which has been positively welcomed by many speakers here.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:56:27

Thank you, Mister Stefan SCHENNACH.

We understood what you said.

Does the Chairperson of the Committee wish to speak?

You have 3 minutes, Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE.

The floor is yours.

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

09:56:44

Thank you very much, Madam President.

Firstly, I'd like to thank our rapporteur Mr Stefan SCHENNACH and the Secretariat for writing such a comprehensive and balanced report in such a short time.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been evolving very dynamically for over two years now. This requires that we also keep dynamic vigilant and prepared for the next turn of events. This is what this report actually does.

The aim of the Resolution and Recommendation is to ensure that we do not need any further lockdowns and that any response we have is well debated, the public is a part of it, and is integrated in this into this rights-based and equitable response that we formulate.

Now, in the words of the WHO, while Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta, it remains a dangerous virus particularly for those who are unvaccinated. This is why we need the debate on vaccinations. Because clearly, those who are not vaccinated are not only affected themselves, but also affect the course of this very dynamic pandemic. The emergence of new variants is a proof that no one is safe until everyone is truly safe.

We need an equitable and accessible plan for vaccination, and we need inequalities and global distribution to actually be resolved. This is where the solidarity initiatives that we have, like COVAX, have to be strengthened. Intellectual property rights waivers, technology transfer, as well as building up local production capacities, are issues that were referred to us by the World Health Organization, and issues our Committee will continue working on.

We also have to revamp our policies of producing and distributing capacity of high-quality masks.

These are all new and much needed recommendations added through this report. Hence, the value added to a long work this Assembly has done.

We need to ensure that the most vulnerable among us, and the healthcare workers across the world, have access to vaccination in order to avoid further death and disease, and to avoid a damaging to our well-being and our economies.

Vaccine hesitancy, lastly, is fuelled by mistrust and distrust in public institutions. This can only be overcome if we have effective information sharing and if we have participatory processes. What better place to do so than in our very own parliaments?

This is what the report calls for. It calls for a public debate, especially in our parliaments, that relies on scientific evidence, that is based on evidence based discussion and policy, with clear and transparent information sharing.

Therefore, we actually do not call for a decision. We call for a public debate about whether or not vaccinations should be mandatory.

I invite our Plenary to support this report that was unanimously accepted by our Committee, and I once again thank our rapporteur, Secretariat, and Committee members, for their great work and contributions.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

09:59:55

Thank you so much, Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE.

The debate is closed.

We continue now to the consideration of the draft resolution and the consideration of amendments in Document 1544 in this draft resolution.

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has presented a draft resolution to which 15 amendments have been tabled.

We will also consider an oral amendment.

There is also a recommendation to which no amendments have been tabled.

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 6, 13 and 5 to the draft resolution, which were unanimously approved by the Committee should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

Is that so, Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE?

Ms Violeta TOMIĆ

Slovenia, UEL

13:13:05

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

It is so sad, that virus divides us on vax and antivax people, conspiracy theorists, left and right agenda, even friends and families are falling apart because politics speaks, where medical profession should.

These are not any conspiracy theories, these are facts.

Common European law does not allow discrimination on the basis of personal circumstances, in particular the Nuremberg Code, the Declaration of Helsinki, and the Convention of Oviedo do not permit human experimentation, or forced medical interventions. The Geneva Declaration of the World Medical Association also categorically prohibits the use of medical knowledge to violate human rights and freedoms.

The experience of one year of vaccination against Covid-19 shows that vaccines are not safe and that their effectiveness is limited. While they mitigate the virulence of the disease in individuals in certain cases, they do not protect the community, as they do not prevent infection or transmission. Moreover, Covid-19 is demonstrably and indisputably not a particularly dangerous communicable disease. Globally, the mortality rate from Covid-19 is 0.15%, three times lower for the population under 70 and significantly lower for the population under 45.

These vaccines are still only experimental from a medical and legal point of view and have only received temporary marketing authorization in the European Union. According to the official statement of the Public Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices, there is currently no Covid-19 vaccine on the entire territory of the EU, which would have a standard marketing authorization for use.

People who get vaccinated still have the status of “volunteers.“ In this way, the authorities and vaccine manufacturers try to avoid legal liability for the harmful effects of vaccination.

The President of the European Commission, Ms VAN DER LEYEN, recently called on the governments of the Member States to “consider” introducing compulsory vaccination against Covid-19. But, professionally and scientifically, as well as politically and morally responsible considerations dictate the rejection of this initiative.

I agree that vaccines saved millions of lives. But vaccinations can be legally defined as compulsory only if the vaccines have been developed in accordance with applicable law, established scientific procedures and conditions, and requirements of medical ethics and deontology. It is not possible to prove that Covid-19 vaccines meet all these scientific and legal (pre)conditions.

Instead of forcing mandatory vaccination, which scares people, we should discuss and consider early treatment of this disease.

Forcing people to vaccinate, and even more so the possible official introduction of compulsory vaccination against Covid-19, are in clear and serious contradiction with international law, the constitutional order of the many member states, medical ethics and deontology, general morality and the common good of the people.

Mr Tural GANJALIYEV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

13:13:05

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

Mr Aleksandr BASHKIN

Russian Federation, NR

13:13:09

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

I sincerely thank the rapporteur for his profound report and the committee for their responsible work with the document and the amendments. The report reflects the urgent aspects of our civilization's struggle against this sudden, severe challenge. The report analyzes in detail three basic directions in which humanity is trying to unfold its fight against the new coronavirus infection.

The first direction is preventive measures: these include the relevant aspects of vaccination and the use of protective and social disengagement measures. I must reiterate the importance of access to vaccines for the people of all countries and continents, regardless of their economic status, ability to pay, foreign policy or block ideologies.

The second direction is timely and effective diagnostics, primarily involving affordable, reliable testing. The resolution emphasizes the importance of free testing for certain groups of citizens. This is not enough; it matters what the cost of testing is for those who do not belong to these categories. It is necessary to pay attention of society and authorities to adequate pricing of this service.

The third is the development and application of appropriate treatment methods. This is currently the weakest link. There are still no safe, effective, affordable mass-production etiotropic targeted antiviral agents.

Cross-border collaboration of leading laboratories, perhaps even competing with each other in normal life, should help in the development of such drugs. We must admit to ourselves that new strains of the virus are negating the efforts of scientists and pharmacologists. Vaccines are losing effectiveness, it is urgent to develop new ones.

In reality, we are losing people, or their ability to work, not only directly due to Covid. The fact is that measures to increase the number of hospital beds lead to a reduction in the volume and quality of other types of medical care. It leads to deaths from non-communicable diseases, which is also an indirect consequence of the pandemic.

These challenges require simplified timing requirements and international procedures, including mutual recognition of established drugs, intensive open scientific exchange and overcoming the inappropriate political competition and an ideology of mistrust.

The practice of increasing trust and exchanges is not only worthwhile for politicians, governments. It’s even more important for large pharmaceutical laboratories and manufacturers to do so.

It’s worth at least temporarily putting aside competition and rivalry, taking a step toward rapprochement for the sake of preserving a healthy and free human being on earth.

Vote: Beating Covid-19 with public health measures

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:00:58

Yes.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:01:00

Then it's okay.

Is there any objection? Does anybody object?

I see none in the plenary. Is there someone on the screen?

No.

As there is no objection, I declare that Amendment 6, 13, and 5 to the draft resolution have been agreed to.

There is an objection so each amendment will be taken individually. [Ms Ingjerd SCHOU read this part out loud by mistake???]

And I continue.

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 7, 8, 10 and 16 to the draft resolution, which were rejected by the Committee with a 2/3 majority, be declared as rejected. 

Is that so, Madam BÖKE?

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:01:58

Rejection by two-thirds were Amendment Nos. 7, 8, 10, 11, and 16.

Thank you.

OK?

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:02:13

Amendments 7, 8, 10, and 16.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:02:16

7, 8, 10, and 16.

The Chair confirms that these are the right figures, I think.

Yes, does anybody object?

Yes, I see I think Mr Bob van PAREREN of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance (EC/DA), you want the floor?

Mr Bob van PAREREN

Netherlands, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

10:02:43

Thank you, Mr President.

Yes, we object to the amendment just mentioned and especially, as an example, number 7.

The new situation is that we object that they are not okay, sorry to say so. Because we think that the measurements are too harsh. They are too strong and that is not the way we want to do it. It has something to be for a whole society to fulfil the situation and to support the situation and in this way...

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:03:27

But Mr Bob van PAREREN, you are speaking against the amendments.

But I asked if someone wanted to object to the two-thirds majority of these Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 10, and 16.

Mr Bob van PAREREN

Netherlands, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

10:03:40

I didn't know that that was the rule, Madam Chair.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:03:43

Yeah, but thank you anyway. Yeah, okay.

Is there some objection?

Five objections.

There were 5 objections but I have to do this because if there are 5 who raise their hands that they object to this 2/3 majority, to this 7, 8, 10, and 16. I have to ask because... Could those who object raise their hand in the hemicycle? Those who are present here?

There are 5 persons who object to the amendments 7, 8, 10, and 16. They object to the rules not to the proposal. Then I have to continue to ask. Please, those who object raise their hand in the hemicycle for those who are present here or request to speak via the remote system?

then I remind the Assembly that the objection must be supported by at least 10 members. Those who are virtually, you have to press the request to speak so we can count you there. In the plenary I see none.

Thank you. I see 6 objections, but that's fewer than 10 members who object. The amendments 7, 8, 10, and 16 are rejected. That's the rules.

So, I continue.

We will now consider the remaining amendments individually. The amendments will be taken in the order in which they appear in the Compendium. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 1 minute.

We could just start with amendment 1.I call Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI to support amendment 1.

You have 1 minute.

Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI

Russian Federation, NR

10:06:25

Thank you very much, Madam President.

As I already indicated when I spoke in the debate, to state that only vaccines that have been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) have shown themselves to be effective is not really a statement in accordance with reality.

Not only WHO-approved vaccines have shown themselves to be effective, the Sputnik V and other vaccines have also shown themselves to be effective.

So I would like to ask you to support this Amendment and to delete the words "approved by WHO".

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:07:04

Thank you so much.

Does anyone want to speak against the amendments?

I see no one in the Plenary. Is there someone...

Mister Stefan SCHENNACH, the floors yours. You have 1 minute.

He disappeared. I have to continue.

What is the opinion of the Committee? Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE.

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:07:56

The Committee rejected the Amendment.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:07:59

The Committee rejected the Amendment.

I see that Mr Stefan SCHENNACH is available now.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

10:08:08

Yes, I'm online.

If it's possible, I only want to say, this is not against Sputnik and it's not against Sinovac.

We have one worldwide organisation where we are all members. It's the WHO. The mechanism is the approval by WHO, so I can only ask the Russian Federation, also China, to send all the studies into the WHO. I think that this is not really a problem. So I'm against this Amendment.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:08:47

Thank you, Mister Stefan SCHENNACH.

I shall now put the amendments to the vote. The vote in the hemicycle and via remote voting is now open.

Thank you. We can close the vote.

I call for the result to be displayed.

Amendment No. 1 is rejected.

Thank you.

I continue with Amendment No. 9.

I call Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY to support Amendment No. 9. You have 1 minute. He's online?

Does anyone online wish to support this Amendment No. 9?

Mr Andrej HUNKO, the floor is yours.

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL

10:10:51

Madam President,

I will also represent the other amendments here with Mr Peter OŠVÁTH and others.

This is about the Covid-19 passports, the vaccination certificates. Once again, what I propose here is that we reaffirm, as it was formulated in resolution 2361, that they should only be used for the actual purpose, so to speak, and that they should not be misused also to unduly restrict fundamental rights here.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:11:36

Thank you, Mr Andrej HUNKO.

Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

None in the Plenary. Someone on the screen?

No.

What is the opinion of the Committee on Amendment 9?

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:12:07

The Committee accept it.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:12:10

The Committee is in favour. Is that right?

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:12:12

Yes. In favour.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:12:15

I shall now put the amendment to the vote.

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

Can I close the vote? Yes. I close the vote. I call for the result to be displayed.

Amendment 9 is agreed to.

Then Amendment 10. It was rejected by a two-thirds majority, so we continue.

I think it is an oral amendment and my papers are in French.

It is Amendment 12. I continue with Amendment 12? Yes.

I call Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY to support Amendment 12. You have 1 minute.

Isn't it Amendment 12? We have Amendment 2 prior to that. Amendment 2? I have the French so it might be. Yes, thank you. In different languages, I have to find the English words. So, I think it is better for you and better for me.

We continue with Amendment 2.

Then I call Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI to support Amendment 2. You have 1 minute. Are you there Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI?

Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI

Russian Federation, NR

10:14:46

Thank you Madam President.

Combatting Covid-19 is difficult: the situation is changing all the time.

It's particularly important to convince people to get vaccinated, to combat vaccination reticence.

In the resolution it is indicated of course that citizens must be informed, and it must be indicated to them that vaccination is not mandatory.

No-one can be subject to any form of political, social or economic coercion to become vaccinated.

That's in accordance with our Resolution 2361 adopted last year.

That is why I call on you to support this Amendment to add a paragraph that calls on member states to prevent any form of coercion to be vaccinated, thank you.

The Amendment was rejected by the Committee - but only by one vote!

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:15:56

Thank you Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI.

Does anyone wish to speak against the Amendment?

I see no one in the plenary.

The floor is yours Ms Violeta TOMIĆ.

You can take the floor.

One minute. Speak against.

Ms Violeta TOMIĆ

Slovenia, UEL

10:16:25

Sorry, I was on the speakers list. I have to support this amendment because common European law does not allow discrimination on the basis of personal circumstances.

In particular I have to remind you the Nuremberg Code, the Declaration of Helsinki, and the Oviedo Convention do not permit...

I'm supporting this amendment.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:16:50

Yes, I understand.

But we have Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI to support it.

I asked if there was anyone who wanted to speak against the Amendment.

Ms Violeta TOMIĆ

Slovenia, UEL

10:16:59

I was not able to speak.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:17:03

I have to interrupt the list because we have 15 amendments, thank you.

Then I have to ask if anyone wants to speak against the Amendment.

What is the opinion of the Committee on the Amendment?

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:17:17

The Committee rejected the amendment.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:17:20

It is rejected.

I shall now put the amendment to the vote. 

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

Can I close the vote? The vote is closed. I call for the results to be displayed.

Amendment 2 is rejected.

Then Amendment 12. We continue with Amendment 12. I call Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY to support Amendment 12. You have 1 minute. 

 

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL

10:18:46

Yes, thank you very much, Madam President,

It´s is a small point about this amendment but it relates to the call for the TRIPS waiver, and we are recalling that it was in Resolution 2361 already, from last year. In this, we made a similar demand, so I think it is important that we refer back to that Resolution. It is a small point but I think it is important. 

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:19:18

Thank you, Mister HUNKO.

Does anyone wish to speak against the Amendment?

I think Mr Stefan SCHENNACH.

You can take the floor.

He is the rapporteur. Then I think we have to give Mr Stefan SCHENNACH the floor, the rapporteur.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

10:19:51

This is maybe a misunderstanding.

I asked with former amendments to have the floor, especially 2, 9, but in this case I'm in favour, as the Committee is in favour.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:20:10

Thank you, and thank you Mr Stefan SCHENNACH.

And what's the opinion of the Committee?

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:20:15

The Committee is in favour.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:20:17

The committees is in favour.

I shall now put the amendment to the vote. The vote, in the hemicycle and via remote voting, is now open.

Can I close the vote? 

I close the vote and ask for the result to be displayed.

Amendment No. 12 is agreed.

We continue on Oral Amendment No.1.

I have received an oral amendment from Mr Stefan SCHENNACH on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which reads as follows:

"In the draft resolution replace Paragraph 9321 with the following words: 'mutually recognising vaccination certificates issued by Council of Europe member States as well as vaccinations certificates of all WHO-authorised vaccines'."

The president may accept an oral amendment on the grounds of promoting clarity, accuracy, or conciliation, and if there is no opposition from 10 or more members to it being debated.

In my opinion the oral amendment meets the criteria of Rule 34.7a.

Is there any opposition to the amendments being debated?

Ten or more members have to...how many online? Fewer than 10 online? Two in the hemicycle? How many on the screen? Two online? Two in the hemicycle? Three online?... five, yes... still there are fewer than 10. I have to conclude with that.

I therefore call Mr Stefan SCHENNACH to support Oral Amendment No. 1.

You have 1 minute, Mr Stefan SCHENNACH.

I do not hear you...Mr Stefan SCHENNACH wants to speak in favour, but we do not hear you. Have you clicked on the icon floor? You have a problem? He has a problem, but we also have a problem then.

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:24:17

I can share his thoughts from the Committee.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:24:19

You can share his views from the Committee. We try to do that.

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:24:24

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH had pointed out, and this was discussed in the Committee, that rather than us recognising vaccinations, which is recognised by health authorities, we actually recognise the vaccination certificate, so that's the change that's included in this amendment.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:24:42

Thank you, but I also have to ask: does anyone wish to speak against the oral amendment?

None in the Plenary but is there anyone on the screen? No.

I have to ask: what is the opinion of the Committee?

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:25:06

The Committee was in favour.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:25:09

The Committee's obviously in favour.

I shall now put the oral amendment to the vote.

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

I close the vote, and I call for the result to be displayed.

The oral amendment is agreed to.

And Amendment 3, then some consequence 4.

Then I continue with Amendment 13.

Then I call Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY, but I think it's Mr Andrej HUNKO.

Yes, yes, Amendment 13 was adopted unanimously, so then we have to continue on Amendment 14.

Then I call Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY, but maybe also Mr Andrej HUNKO to support Amendment 14.

You have 1 minute, Mister HUNKO.

I do not hear you, Mister HUNKO. Can you click on the floor and your voice?

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL

10:26:59

This Amendment relates to paragraph 943 which is a central point in the resolution, and it was central to the debate that we have just had: the idea of a move in the direction of compulsory vaccinations. This would change the previous position of the Assembly.

Therefore, I propose that we use the original wording of Amendment 14, namely that we should focus, above all, on building trust among the public - trust not through compulsion or through compulsory vaccination but rather establishing that confidence through the making available of information and transparent data. I do not think the situation has changed fundamentally. I think this principle is important and this is why I appeal to you to support the Amendment. 

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:28:11

Thank you, Mr Andrej HUNKO.

Does anyone wish to speak against the Amendment?

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH, the rapporteur.

The floor is yours.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

10:28:37

Thank you, Madam President.

This is one of three amendments regarding the same paragraph. Again the formulation of the January resolution from last year was so misused in the debate. What we are doing here with this paragraph, we open the possibility for the parliaments to debate about a time-limited mandatory vaccination, especially for professions or in general, but that parliaments have the chance to debate about that and it is not against the Human Rights Convention. I hope they reject all three in the Committee and I also hope that the Plenary will reject it because this is a new way of a discussion.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:29:41

Thank you Mr Stefan SCHENNACH.

What is the opinion of the Committee?

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:29:46

Amendment 14 was rejected by the Committee.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:29:51

Amendment 14 was rejected by the Committee.

I shall now put the Amendment to the vote.

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

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

Amendment 14 is rejected.

We continue on Amendment 15.

I call Mr Andrej HUNKO to support Amendment 15.

You have 1 minute.

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL

10:31:09

Thank you very much, Madam Chair,

This is just about taking out the term "general population." There are, after all, good reasons for many colleagues to say that compulsory vaccination for medical personnel makes sense, but implied here is also a possible compulsory vaccination for all persons over the age of 18. As far as I know, Austria is the only country that has introduced such a mandatory vaccination. I don't think it makes sense to orientate, so to speak, towards the possibility of such a mandatory vaccination, as Kasus does. I would suggest just deleting the words "General Population," the arguments have been made earlier. That leads to further distrust, it leads to polarisation of society, and I don't think any of us want that.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:32:13

Thank you, Mr Andrej HUNKO.

Does anyone wish to speak against the Amendment?

The rapporteur, Mr Stefan SCHENNACH, the floor is yours.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Rapporteur

10:32:36

Thank you very much, Madam President.

One word for Mr Andrej HUNKO. Normally we are always on the same side of the fight but not in this way.

I am not here as the advocate of the Austrian parliament and what it decides but the final decision will come next week and not before. We do not want and why we also rejected this Amendment was because we do want not to make limitations for parliaments. Let parliaments discuss their situation.

And I remember in the last 300 years, we had different fields of mandatory vaccinations and it was not bad that we did it. So no limitation for parliaments and please reject also this Amendment.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:33:40

Thank you. What is the opinion of the Committee on the Amendment?

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:33:45

The Committee rejected Amendment No. 15.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:33:49

The Committee rejected amendment 15.

I shall now put the amendment to the vote. The vote in the hemicycle and via remote system is now open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

Amendment 15 is rejected.

Amendment 16 was rejected by a 2/3 majority. We go to Amendment 4.

I call Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI to support Amendment 4.

You have 1 minute, Sir.

Mr Vladimir KRUGLYI

Russian Federation, NR

10:35:01

Thank you, President.

Like any other medicines, vaccinations can have side effects.

On the internet, in various fora, there is a lot of misinformation, even lies, about this kind of phenomenon.

It is very important to provide reliable scientific information about that. It should not only be in medical periodicals. It needs to be made publicly available. 

It is very important to keep very careful records of any vaccination side effects and to publish such information so that people know how often that occurs and, of course, to provide support to individuals who may be suffering from complications from vaccinations.

Please support the Amendment.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:36:07

Thank you, Mr KRUGLYI.

Does anyone wish to speak against the Amendment?

Not in the plenary. No.

What is the opinion of the Committee?

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Turkey, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development

10:36:26

The Committee is in favour.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:36:28

The Committee is in favour, thank you.

I shall now put the Amendment to the vote. The vote in the hemicycle and via remote voting is now open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

Amendment No. 4 is agreed.

Amendment No. 5 was adopted unanimously.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft Resolution contained in Document 15444 as amended.

A simple majority is required. The vote in the hemicycle and via remote voting is now open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed. Thank you.

The draft Resolution in Document 15444 is adopted.

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has also presented a draft Recommendation to which no amendments have been tabled.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft committee Recommendation as amended.

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

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

The draft Recommendation in Document 15444 is adopted - a two-thirds majority was required for this draft recommendation.

The next item of business is the debate on the report titled "Ending enforced disappearance", I think, "on the territory of the Council of Europe".

I think we can wait then. I will also change the Chair!

You're welcome, so we continue.

[NEW CHAIR: Can we continue the discussions outside of the hemicycle please, I'd like to move on].

Request for an explanation of vote

Mr Simon MOUTQUIN

Belgium, SOC

13:20:40

I would like to mention, for the record, that during the vote on the draft resolution on Beating Covid-19 with public health measures, due to a technical issue, I was unable to vote. My intention was to vote in favour.

Debate: Ending enforced disappearances on the territory of the Council of Europe

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:42:24

Okay, good morning.

We now move on to the debate on the report titled, "Ending enforced disappearances on the territory of the Council of Europe".

And the next item of business is precisely that debate, and it will be presented by Mr André GATTOLIN on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

In order to finish before 12.00 noon, we must interrupt the list of speakers at about 11.30 a.m. to allow time for the replies and the vote.

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

Mr André GATTOLIN, you have the floor.

Mr André GATTOLIN

France, ALDE, Rapporteur

10:43:15

Thank you Mr President,

Dear colleagues,

Enforced disappearances are still a criminal practice, unfortunately common in the geographical area covered by the Council of Europe.

Thousands of people are still missing in Ukraine as a result of the armed conflicts in the Donbass and the Russian occupation of Crimea. In Russia, particularly in the North Caucasus region, many cases of enforced disappearance have not been seriously investigated to date, despite hundreds of Strasbourg Court judgments finding such violations. Many cases remain unresolved in the territory of the former Yugoslavia following the conflicts in Croatia, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Cyprus, despite the progress made in recent years, many cases remain open since the wave of disappearances before, but especially after the Turkish military intervention in 1974.

I would also like to recall here that the four high-profile cases of disappearances in Belarus, examined by this same Assembly in 2004 on the basis of the famous report by our former colleague Christos POURGOURIDES, still remain unpunished.

Finally, the Assembly has been concerned, since 2020, about the recent increase in the number of cases of disappearances of migrants, especially minors.

It is impossible here to mention all the cases of enforced disappearances on the territory of the Council of Europe and I apologize in advance. I would just like to mention the very recent case of the disappearance, last Friday, of Ms Zarema Moussaeva, who was kidnapped from her home in the North-West of Russia – a rather quiet region – by Chechens in civilian clothes, because she is the mother of a famous lawyer and human rights defender.

The families of the relatives, and the relatives themselves of the disappeared persons live in permanent uncertainty. This obviously has a very negative social, legal and economic impact on the relatives themselves as well as on the wider communities to which they belong. It prevents a lasting reconciliation between the parties to the conflict, even when the conflict has long since ended.

Dear colleagues,

In the report you have before you, I have summarized the efforts made at the European and international level to combat the scourge of enforced disappearances. As far as Europe is concerned, the case law of the Strasbourg Court is paramount, translated into the guidelines of the Committee of Ministers. Unfortunately, the implementation of these principles and in particular of the relevant judgments of the Court leaves much to be desired, due to a lack of political will in some countries. I would like to remind you that the passage of time is not a valid excuse for the absence of an investigation. The identification of bodies is still possible even after a long period of time, with modern methods based on genetic analysis.

At the global level, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance came into force in 2010. This Convention codifies the fundamental principles of the fight against enforced disappearances and creates the Committee on Enforced Disappearances. The Committee has the power to issue injunctions under the urgent procedure (Article 30) and can receive "communications" from individuals or from another State vis-à-vis States Parties that have made a declaration under Articles 31 and 32 to grant the Committee these powers.

The entry into force of this Convention is now ten years old, although many states, including European and Council of Europe member states, are still missing.

I agree with the eminent experts and representatives of civil society, whom the Legal Committee heard last September, that there is no need to think about a regional legal instrument within the Council of Europe. The International Convention, together with the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and regional mechanisms such as the Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) in Cyprus and, of course, the jurisprudence of the Strasbourg Court, already constitute a well-developed institutional and normative framework which would allow to combat enforced disappearances in Europe, provided that States make use of it.

Rather than adding a new convention at the level of the Council of Europe, it is necessary, in my opinion, to strengthen the existing legal framework and better implement the good practices advocated in these instruments throughout Europe.

Above all, we must emphasize the importance of the role of civil society in this field, and in particular the vital psychosocial support provided by the associations of families of the missing. They deserve all the moral and financial support that the international community can provide them, and they must be protected against pressure from certain States.

European States should use their influence at the international level and set a good example by ratifying the International Convention against Enforced Disappearances and effectively implementing the preventive and repressive measures provided for in these instruments in national legislation and practice. The Council of Europe has a duty to support its member states in this process, by coordinating efforts and providing the necessary technical support.

Therefore, in order to give new impetus to the fight against enforced disappearances, I propose that we invite the Council of Europe to hold a world conference on the subject this year or in 2023. This would create an opportunity for States to announce new ratifications of the International Convention against Enforced Disappearances and to exchange with civil society on best practices to eradicate this scourge.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:50:15

Thank you very much, Mr André GATTOLIN.

And now we move to the speakers from the political groups.

And first for the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group is Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU from Cyprus. Who I think is online.

Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU

Cyprus, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

10:50:33

Thank you, Mr President.

Firstly, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr GATTOLIN, for his thorough work on this ongoing vital issue and we agree with his proposal for the conference which must be issued as soon as possible.

We all agree that the practice of enforced disappearances is shameful for all mankind, especially when applied against civilians, but also to military personnel. During the last years we have all seen outrageous scenes of people abducted in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. We have all witnessed the drama of the Yazidi people and other vulnerable groups, victims of mass abductions, disappearance and executions by ISIS. Similar shameful practices are occurring also in Europe.

This criminal practice violates all relevant international instruments pertaining to the protection of human rights, humanitarian law and international criminal law. Whether generated by armed conflict, political dispute or internal instability, there is no excuse for such appalling acts, including abductions, forced detentions, torture, sexual abuse and covert executions. The devastating long-lasting impacts are not only felt by potential surviving victims but also by their families, as well as their community and society as a whole.

This is especially true in the case of long-term missing persons, as is the case in Cyprus almost half a century ago, where hundreds of people remain missing, reminding us of our failure to prevent these crimes. Εven more deplorable are abduction and disappearance cases perpetrated not only by gangs but also by armed forces or state authorities which organise, tolerate or even promote these acts for their own purposes.

One of the most important elements of this humanitarian issue is clarifying the circumstances surrounding ongoing cases of missing persons. Especially in the aftermath of armed conflict and war, when the ones responsible refuse to acknowledge such crimes and take measures to purposefully conceal the fate and whereabouts of their victims, or even worse, of their victims’ remains, as in the case of Cyprus, 48 years after the Turkish military intervention of 1974. Our inaction and impunity lead to repetition and audacity on the part of the perpetrators. I refer to the example of the villagers executed in Cyprus by armed forces, their remains buried in mass graves and later intentionally relocated, in hope of destroying evidence of a war crime.

As Mr GATTOLIN rightfully mentions, this situation exists in Cyprus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, in Ukraine, in Chechnya, in Belarus, and in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. This situation must end and this demand must not be rhetorical but must be concrete, and based on the rule of law. These gross violations are unacceptable and those responsible should not get away with it, free from persecution on war crime charges. There must be a strong position that every single responsible person must face justice. Accountability is dictated by our principles and values and is also much deserved by the victims and their loved ones.

Thank you very much.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:54:26

Thank you, Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU.

Now we move to the Group of the European People's Party and Mr Davor Ivo STIER.

You have 3 minutes as well.

Mr Davor Ivo STIER

Croatia, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

10:54:37

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

And let me on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party thank the rapporteur for his committed work on ending enforced disappearances.

Our group fully shares the view that enforced disappearances violate essential human rights and that no circumstances can justify this deplorable crime. In particular, we firmly condemn the systematic practice of enforced disappearances by authoritarian regimes, a practice that constitutes a crime against humanity under international law and for which states should be held accountable.

In this sense, it is particularly troubling that enforced disappearances take place in member states of the Council of Europe. We pay particular attention to Article 6 of the draft Resolution which states that there has been no serious investigation into enforced disappearances in several states, particularly in the North Caucasus region in the Russian Federation.

Therefore, we use this opportunity to renew our call to the relevant authorities to place special emphasis on the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, its provisional measures as well as all individual or general measures required to resolve the cases of enforced disappearances.

We also appreciate the rapporteur's inclusion in this draft resolution of the need to support and protect the associations of families of missing persons. Coming from Croatia, where we still have 1 152 missing persons from the Independence War, let me stress that clarifying the fate of missing persons should not be a hostage of political agendas and disputes but rather a humanitarian imperative for all.

In this sense, we fully support the call to declassify documents and make available all relevant information conducive to locating mass graves in a spirit of co-operation among member states of the Council of Europe. As mentioned in Article 3 of the draft Resolution, this is an essential element for lasting reconciliation.

Mr Chairman, in addressing enforced disappearances, we currently count on a wide range of legal instruments and mechanisms beginning with the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. And therefore, we do not need to add a new convention at the level of the Council of Europe, but we certainly need a better implementation of these legal instruments by all member states.

As we are witnessing these days renewed tensions, a dangerous escalation that threatens European security, it is timely to approve this Resolution and send a clear message to authoritarian regimes that Europe stands for freedom and respect for human dignity. These principles have guided European Christian democracy from the times of its fathers Adenauer, Schuman and De Gasperi and continue to guide us today in the European People's Party.

On this basis, the EPP supports this report and invites all colleagues in the Assembly to vote for the adoption of the draft Resolution on ending enforced disappearances.

Thank you.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

10:57:39

Thank you Mr Davor Ivo STIER.

We now move to the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

It's Mr Bob van PAREREN.

Mr Bob van PAREREN

Netherlands, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

10:57:53

Thank you Mr Chair.

We support strongly the work of the group because in fact we think that this is so important today.

Today, we as the European Democratic Conservatives see in Ukraine a big problem existing.

It is being already for many years, but today the tension is enormous.

We heard our colleague yesterday saying "I'm living 40 kilometres from the border".

Each day things are happening: people disappear and nobody knows where they are. They are not only soldiers, but also civilians.

It is a type of terror. So it is very important to pay attention to this subject. But we also have to focus on the other countries in Europe, in our hemisphere. There are also big problems there.

We think about Armenia, Azerbaijan. We think about the former Yugoslavia. We can also even think back to the Second World War.

Still today, there are graves filled with disappeared people. It is so enormously important. That's why we say to all countries to really declassify all the information they have about this subject. Don't hide it, but keep it available and make it available for the people.

That's why we also suggest not only tell this or to have the title of ending the situation, but also finding the people. It's not only about stopping, but at least we can work hard to find all the missing people. And also to protect the family associations that work on that. We also really should support them and give them strength to really do their good work.

Migrants are also mentioned, you mentioned migrants. It is very important to help those people, because there are also people missing. There are many reasons, but mostly they are criminal or a variety of reasons.

We should support them. They have fled from difficult situations.

I want to add, Mr Chairman, to this also, the situation of the missing persons – and it's not missing, they are killed persons – in the MH17 flight in Ukraine. It's not directly this, but it is also for those people, the people that are left behind, the parents and all the families, that they know what is behind it. Who did it.

So that's also the next step.

Yesterday they were here in the Court of Human Rights, and they also said that it is for us so important that we know who did it.

Concluding, we think this work is very important. We think that we need to concentrate on finish finding the people, and that it really happens.

Thank you Chairman.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:01:26

Thank you very much indeed.

And now we move to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Ms Nicole TRISSE.

You have 3 minutes.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

11:01:36

Thank you, Mr President,

Mr Rapporteur,

Dear colleagues,

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe considers that is an hour for our Assembly to raise today, thanks to the commitment and perseverance of our rapporteur who has invested a great deal of time and effort in this subject, the painful issue of enforced disappearances.

Unfortunately, these do not spare Europe. Several tens of thousands of people have disappeared without explanation for their relatives, due to open or latent conflicts in the Caucasus, the Balkans, Ukraine, Cyprus, in particular, or because of their opposition to the current rulers, as in Russia or Turkey.

In addition to these characteristics, there are new and disturbing trends. In recent years, some political refugees have simply been abducted from the countries that have taken them in, not to mention the minors and unaccompanied migrants who disappear, victims of human trafficking networks, sexual exploitation or organ trafficking.

As our rapporteur rightly points out, these phenomena, which violate the most basic human rights, are most often aimed at eliminating critical voices or frightening communities, or even entire populations.

The main legal instrument against this scourge, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED), defines the crime of "enforced disappearance", prohibits secret detention and guarantees the right of families to know the truth.

We in the ALDE Group regret that 26 member states of the Council of Europe have not yet ratified this treaty. Rather than committing ourselves to the drafting of a text of our own, I think the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights is right when it suggests promoting the signatures and ratifications of the existing international treaty, which is already quite comprehensive. The creation of a "Group of European Friends of the CED" encouraging Europe to set an example would be welcome in this respect.

The Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, better known by its acronym CPT, is already a very effective instrument of the Council of Europe in this field.

I would remind you that the European Court of Human Rights, which sits here in Strasbourg, has also developed extensive case law on this subject: the main problem lies, in fact, in the enforcement of its judgments, as a small number of the most affected member states  refuse to apply them.

More generally, all the proposals made by our colleague Mr André GATTOLIN have our full support. The ALDE Group agrees with him, in particular, on the need to give greater visibility, within our organisation, to the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, on 30 August.

This work seems useful to me and will have a significant impact. It is therefore with gravity but also hope that the members of the ALDE Group will vote for the texts submitted to us today.

Thank you.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:04:32

Thank you very much indeed.

And now we move to the last of political speakers for the Group of the Unified European Left, Ms Feleknas UCA from Turkey.

Ms Feleknas UCA

Turkey, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

11:04:43

Thank you very much, Miste President,

Dear Colleagues,

First of all, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur for preparing this report and thank him for his efforts.

The problem of disappearances in the territory of the Council of Europe has not only been known for years, but it is also one of the most important issues on our agenda today. It has not only been known for years, but is also today one of the most important problems and human rights violations. People, especially women and children, who take refugee routes because of wars, are lost in trafficking networks in many countries, including European countries. Disappearances occur not only in war, but also under state responsibility, including custody.

Civil wars are also important factors in enforced disappearances. For example, hundreds of children were abducted in the Spanish Civil War until the 1990s. Because there is no law regarding these disappearances, there is no effective investigation and judicial process. The failure to investigate these crimes holds the Spanish government directly responsible. Regrettably, in many Council of Europe member States, investigations into disappearances are not effectively carried out, and the relatives of the disappeared are subject to state pressure.

States see and ignore all solutions. If the solution happens like this, the doors will be opened for new violations. Another issue is the disappeared people in custody. Thousands of people disappeared under the responsibility of the state in the 1990s in Turkey. Since no effective investigations into these disappearances have been carried out in any government period in Turkey, these cases, for which the state is directly responsible, are time-barred in the Turkish court. Although Turkey has been condemned dozens of times in the European Court of Human Rights for missing files, the decisions of the European Court are still ignored. Initiatives such as Saturday Mothers and Peace Mothers, founded by relatives of the disappeared, are exposed to state pressure.

Unfortunately, cases of disappearances in custody are not limited to the 1990s. Even today, posing as civilian police, they still pick up people in the middle of the street, take them to abandoned places and threaten them. Turkey affirms that but on these actions instead of abiding by international conventions. This shows that the state is directly responsible in all cases of the disappeared.

I hereby invite all non-signatory member States to sign and effectively implement the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. I would also recommend that the Council introduce effective sanctions for such actions. It is our collective responsibility and duty to end the suffering of women and children in order to protect their rights.

Thank you.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:07:58

Thank you very much indeed.

Now we move the debate on to the list of speakers.

The first of those is Mr Nicos TORNARITIS from Cyprus, who I think is online.

Mr Nicos TORNARITIS

Cyprus, EPP/CD

11:08:17

Dear colleagues, I should like to thank Mr André GATTOLIN for this important report and the opportunity provided to debate on these very sensitive issue that is unfortunately a global phenomenon, no matter whose rights are violated by the practice of disappearance, which constitutes a particularly heinous violation of basic human rights and the criminal act in itself. Arrests, detentions, and abductions with direct or indirect government concerns fall under this category.

What makes it even more disgraceful is that most often uninvolved parties refuse to disclose information on the fate of whereabouts of the person's concern or refuse to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty thus placing the victims outside the protection of the law.

In Cyprus we have a very bitter experience of missing persons. There is nothing more paralysing and unsettling in battling emotions of family members hoping, wondering, and waiting for years on end on the fate of their loved ones.

There is nothing more shocking in assisting the funeral of a missing person whose remains have been identified and returned after so many years.

The fate of missing people in Cyprus is a tragic reality that has greatly harmed Cypriot society as a whole. The insecurity generated by this practice has undermined efforts at reconciliation and reunification despite the very brave efforts and progress achieved by the committee of missing persons in Cyprus civic society.

Taking this opportunity, I wish to pay tribute to their work and thank member States of the Council of Europe for their continuous financial support.

The relevant international and legal framework is robust. We must make sure that it is fully implemented and end impunity for enforced disappearances wherever they are occurring and in all circumstances.

Thank you very much

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:11:54

Thank you and now we move on to Mr Kamal JAFAROV from Azerbaijan.

Mr Kamal JAFAROV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

11:12:01

Thank you.

3 890 - this may sound like any number. But the uncertainty which the families and the relatives of those 3 890 Azerbaijani missing persons from the First Nagorno-Karabakh War had a harmful psychological, social, legal and economic impact on both the relatives and the wider communities to which they belong.

By this Armenia violated Articles 2, 3, 5 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights with regard to the disappearance of the 3 890 missing Azerbaijanis, and the failure to look for them and to conduct an investigation compliant with the requirements of the Convention.

A clear list of the missing persons has been submitted to Armenia through the International Committee of the Red Cross and is regularly updated. Armenia can be in no doubt as to identify those who claim to be missing. It's to be presumed that those missing persons – about whom nothing has been heard – have died in circumstances which involve the breach by Armenia of the right to life under Article 2 of the Convention.

Armenia is also in violation of Article 3 of the Convention, insofar as the additional suffering imposed upon the relatives of the missing persons is concerned, due to the unhelpful and obstructive attitude it has adopted in this matter.

One of the most serious crimes against humanity was committed in Khojaly, a town of Azerbaijan. Among the 613 residents of the Khojaly killed by a military force of Armenia, 63 were minors and 106 were women. Currently 196 Khojaly residents are missing.

In the course of the Second Karabakh War, Armenian violated Article 2 of the Convention by killing the prisoners of war and persons lost in combat which is a gross violation of international law. There is shocking evidence of Armenian agents brutally murdering Azerbaijani soldiers who were no longer able to fight. Further, Armenian forces have mutilated the corpse of deceased Azerbaijani soldiers. There is evidence that corpses have been burned and that body parts have been removed; Armenia also failed to properly investigate these killings.

From here I invite the Armenian authorities to respect the commitments they took before the Council of Europe; to properly investigate those crimes; to declassify the documents and make available all the relevant information conducive to locating mass graves and clarifying the fate of missing persons.

Merci ("thank you" in French).

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:14:49

Thank you, indeed.

Now we have Ms Sona GHAZARYAN from Armenia.

Madam GHAZARYAN, can you request the floor, please?

Ms Sona GHAZARYAN

Armenia, ALDE

11:15:19

Can you hear me?

Honourable Chair, Dear Colleagues,

My daughter was born last year, during the world pandemic and the 44-day Nagorno-Karabakh War.

To be sincere, I would never believe this is a situation I would ever be in. My daughter is already one year old. It has been a year since the trilateral declaration between Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia was signed.

But our Armenian brothers are still illegally keeping Azerbaijan prisoners of war. It has been a year, but the situation is far from being normal.

I have once more to side with the Resolution adopted here at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Dear Colleagues,

The Resolution adopted by us named humanitarian consequences of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, where the rapporteur clearly stated about the cases of 31 individuals held captive. The rapporteur has been shown videos, photos, and information on the place and circumstances of their capture and identities. 31 cases of enforced disappearance. 31 cases of my brothers being illegally kept in Azerbaijan. This is information also available to the European Court of Human Rights.

I truly believe that the Council of Europe as an institution, and member States, do their best best for human rights and will continuously work to bring our brothers back to Armenia.

Prisoners of war are not a matter of trade, as some would advise to miserly.

My brothers are human beings whose rights are being constantly violated.

Thank you.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:17:19

Thank you.

Now we move to Mr Ahmet YILDIZ. You have 3 minutes.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Turkey, NR

11:17:26

Thank you, Mister Chair.

Dear Colleagues,

Ending enforced disappearances in the Council of Europe territory is of critical importance for member States and parliamentarians alike. In that context, I'd like to underline that the fate of missing persons in Cyprus cannot be taken up in vacuum nor can it be addressed without considering the historical circumstances that led to this tragedy.

It is important to refrain from politicising this issue.

Indeed, there are in fact a considerable number of Turkish Cypriots who have gone missing during the period 1963-1974 and whose whereabouts are still unknown today. It should be underlined that the majority of the Turkish Cypriot missing persons since 1963 have proven to be civilians, whereas the majority of the Greek Cypriot missing persons have been military personnel.

In this understanding, Turkey as a guarantor in the island has given strong support to the work of “the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus” from its inception in 1981 and will continue to do so. As PACE, we should encourage the continuation of efforts of this Committee.

Dear Colleagues,

After touching the issue on Cyprus I want to underline also that I wish that the report could deal, could handle the missing persons issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina in a longer way. I assure that the issue there is still painful. The perpetrators there know where they put the victims' bodies but they don't talk. They don't inform about the location of the mass graves.

I wish in the coming meetings, coming reports these issues should be dealt with in a better way.

Thank you very much.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:19:37

Thank you, Mr Ahmet YILDIZ.

Now we move to Mr François CALVET from France, who is online.

Mr François CALVET

France, EPP/CD

11:19:48

Mr President, dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to congratulate our colleague Mr André GATTOLIN for this excellent report, which reminds us how common the practice of enforced disappearances is in the member states of the Council of Europe.

I regret that the member states of our organisation do not give more importance to this problem. Indeed, only 21 member states of the Council of Europe have ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. I call on those member states that have not yet done so to apply Articles 31 and 32 of this Convention, which establishes the competence of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances for individual and inter-state communications.

This situation is all the more regrettable because the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is a tool that could be very effective if more states agreed to sign and ratify it. Indeed, as the draft resolution states, it is not necessary to create a new convention within the Council of Europe to fight against enforced disappearances, but rather to promote the existing one. The Council of Europe should play an active role in this promotion.

At the same time, the Committee of Ministers must ensure that the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are properly enforced. The Court rendered its first decision in an enforced disappearance case in 1998. Since then, many complaints have been filed on this subject. The Court's case law tends to implicate the member state, when the applicant can prove that the victim was in the custody of the authorities before disappearing and when the member state has not fulfilled its obligation to conduct an impartial and effective investigation when there are serious indications of enforced disappearance.

While in the first decade of the 21st century, enforced disappearance cases were mainly related to Turkey, today they are much more relevant to the Russian Federation, and in particular to the North Caucasus. Indeed, since 2007, the Court has rendered more than 150 judgments concerning human rights violations in the North Caucasus, 60% of which are related to enforced disappearances. I therefore call on the Russian Federation, as a member of our organisation, to honour its commitments and fully implement these recommendations.

Dear colleagues, we should not underestimate the impact of enforced disappearances, not only on the victims and their families, but also on the whole society. Indeed, one does not thrive in a society if one does not feel safe.

I will therefore fully support this draft Resolution and draft Recommendation.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:22:54

Now it is Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN from Armenia. I think he is online as well.

Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

11:23:02

Thank you Mr Chair.

Honourable colleagues, enforced disappearance is one of the most alarming global challenges which is directly interconnected to the issue of human rights protection. The very existence of the phenomenon of enforced disappearance undermines the pillars of democracy, degrading the rule of law, and poses a constant threat to international peace and security.

The existence of enforced disappearance bears witness to the deepest inner systemic problem in respective states where minimal human rights standards are not guaranteed. For an individual, it is difficult to believe that in the 21st century, in high-tech societies, a person may be forcibly disappeared, but this is life and unfortunately, from time to time, we face enforced disappearances in Europe. And we should have zero tolerance for every such case.

From the perspective of the report under consideration, it is a very topical and timely one. Enforced disappearances violate numerous non-derogable and essential human rights and should be equally prohibited under both international human rights law and international humanitarian law, regardless of the nature and the qualification of armed conflict.

It is quite important that by this Resolution we reaffirm the widespread and systematic practice of enforced disappearance because it constitutes crimes against humanity under general international law.

I am very glad that the rapporteur has included provisions concerning the case of enforced disappearances during armed conflicts in the draft resolution. All of us are really alarmed with the increasing cases of enforced disappearance in the context of armed conflicts, where all the soldiers captured by adversary forces are placed outside the protection of the law and disappeared, instead of getting relevant protection and other international and domestic ones.

Unfortunately, during the six-week aggressive war in Nagorno-Karabakh, we have become witnesses to many such cases of enforced disappearance. The most devastating of which is the case of about 30 Armenian soldiers who were captured by Azerbaijani armed forces who were photographed in captivity but disappeared and whose fate and whereabouts still remain unknown.

It is pity that the rapporteur did not agree to include this case in the Resolution, arguing that otherwise, all such cases should be referred to in it. I respect the measured approach of the rapporteur since our resolution should be future-oriented covering all the cases, but further other cases of alleged forced disappearances were included in the report making it imbalanced from the factual perspective.

Honourable colleagues, I should emphasise that the common, if I may say, theoretical part of the Resolution, is well-grounded, topical, quite professional, quite necessary, but the factual part, unfortunately, made it quite imbalanced which made it very complicated for me to vote in favour.

I strongly believe that enforced disappearances should be equally punishable regardless of the time and place, where and when they they were committed.

Either all of the cases should be mentioned. This is not just my folly, this is an imperative of democracy. This is due respect to all the relatives and the international outrage. This is a tribute to the spirit of the founders of our organisation. This is a demand of the conscience of Europe.

Thank you very much.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:26:37

Thank you.

Now I must ask if Ms Olena KHOMENKO from Ukraine is available to join us online.

She's not connected at the moment.. ah, there she is. Very good to see you. You have 3 minutes

Ms Olena KHOMENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

11:26:56

Dear Mr Chair, dear ladies and gentlemen,

I want to thank the rapporteur Mr André GATTOLIN for the presented report.

First of all, I'm glad that Ukrainian efforts towards combatting enforced disappearance were justifiably mentioned in Clause 3.30 of the Explanatory Memorandum.

We are pursuing a legal framework, and complex but needed work to find disappeared people, and support their families in times of crisis. For that reason, I sincerely appreciate the close attention to the violation of human rights in the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula in Clause 3.29 of the Explanatory Memorandum.

I want to stress additional facts about this case. The prosecutor's office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol in exile currently oversees 117 cases of forced disappearance, imprisonment and kidnapping. A delegation of 17 Ukrainians remains unknown and the occupying authorities have not investigated the cases. No suspects have been detained at all.

Moreover, as of January 2022, according to the data of the Crimea SOS NGO, since the beginning of the temporary occupation of Crimea 44 people have been victims of enforced disappearances.

15 of them have not yet been found.

10 of them are Crimean Tatars.

In 11 of the 15 cases mentioned, there is evidence of the involvement of the state bodies of the Russian Federation, or formations controlled by it.

There are some names: Valery Vashchuk, Ivan Bondarec, Vasily Chernysh, Timur Shaimardanov, Seyran Zinedinov, Islyam Dzhepparov, Dzhevdet Islyamov, Fedor Kostenko, Mukhtar Arislanov, Arsen Aliev, Ervin Ibragimov.

There are also circumstances indicating that these 11 cases fall under the definition of crimes against humanity, which are part of widespread or systematic attacks against pro-Ukrainian activists and Crimean Tatars or their relatives. Also, six of the 44 mentioned were found dead – all of them Crimean Tatars.

Enforced disappearances indeed violate human rights as stipulated in Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. States have an unconditional obligation to investigate all serious allegations of such violations and punish them. Unfortunately authoritarian governments' involvement in the cases of enforced disappearance is not rare nowadays.

In April, the Assembly adopted Resolution 2372 – "Human rights violations in Belarus require an international investigation" – which called on Belarusian authorities to release all the political prisoners and stop repressions. Nevertheless, the persecution continued and took an international dimension.

Authoritarian countries are trying to remain silent regarding this issue with tactics of fear and repression. However, such approaches violate fundamental human rights and undermine the rule of law. Unfortunately, enforced appearances always go hand-in-hand with other crimes like transnational repressions, kidnapping or torturing.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:30:27

Thank you.

I'm afraid you must finish now.

Ms Olena KHOMENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

11:30:32

Yes. I'm finishing. I'm very sorry.

The states must protect their people, not repress them. Thus we can't neglect the importance of the enforced disappearances as a direct threat against democracy and human rights.

Thank you, Mister Chair.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:30:45

Thank you. Now online we have Ms Olena MOSHENETS also from the Ukraine.

Ms Olena MOSHENETS

Ukraine, ALDE

11:30:55

Yes.

Do you hear me?

Dear Colleagues,

It is an honour for me to speak here about such an important issue.

I would also like to thank the rapporteur for raising questions on forced disappearances in the international arena.

As for Ukrainian...

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:31:23

We have lost you. You are frozen.

Can you redial?

I'm afraid that we will have to leave this speaker.

We cannot reach her successfully online. Let us move on to Ms Arusyak JULHAKYAN from Armenia, who, I'm afraid, will be the last speaker in this debate.

Mister JULHAKYAN, are you online?

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:32:57

Sorry, Madam JULHAKYAN, I'm afraid I got your designation wrong.

Ms Arusyak JULHAKYAN

Armenia, NR

11:33:01

It's okay.

Thank you.

Honourable Chair,

Distinguished members of parliament,

We are used to hearing nice speeches about human rights, about human dignity, about the value of human life. But in the 22nd year of the 21st century, we are still in a situation that urges us to have a discussion on the issue of enforced disappearance of people.

As regards to the speech of my Azerbaijani colleague, I need to mention that he comfortably forgets about the Sumgait, Baku, Karabakh and Maraga massacres.

However, let me continue.

More than a year has passed after the second Nagorno-Karabakh war, and despite the fact that the eighth point of the trilateral statement – signed on 9 November 2012 by the heads of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia – clearly envisages an exchange of prisoners of war, hostages, and other detained persons, several dozen Armenian servicemen and civilians who are still held captive in Azerbaijan.

The number of Armenian prisoners of war and other captives remains unclear. Azerbaijani authorities do not publish the exact number of captives without any legal grounds, and in gross violation of human rights requirements under the Geneva Convention.

During the past year, 142 prisoners of war and captives have been repatriated to Armenia.

However, 46 confirmed prisoners of war and captives are still kept under Azerbaijani custody.

During the last months, Azerbaijan has repeatedly abused legal procedures, falsified the requirements of international law, and prosecuted Armenian prisoners of war using deprivation of liberty as a punishment.

Labelling Armenian servicemen and civilians as terrorists is a gross violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in general.

We emphasise once again, that regardless of the date of captivity, all the Armenian servicemen and civilians held in Azerbaijan are prisoners of war by their current status and should be treated as such.

Nevertheless, as my colleague Ms Sona GHAZARYAN already mentioned in her speech, and as it is mentioned in the Resolution adopted by PACE last Autumn on the humanitarian consequences of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, several dozens of individuals are held captive in Azerbaijan without any confirmation by the Azerbaijani side.

While speaking about enforced disappearance we just simply cannot bypass this evident reality.

Applications to the European Court of Human Rights related to these cases of enforced disappearances have been filed, and interim measures under Rule 39 have been applied by the Court against Azerbaijan.

However, so far Azerbaijan has not implemented these decisions of the ECHR.

From this point of view, it is my belief that the Committee of Ministers should raise their voice.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:36:10

Thank you very much indeed.

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

I now call Mr GATTOLIN, the rapporteur, to reply to the debate. You have 3 minutes.

Mr André GATTOLIN

France, ALDE, Rapporteur

11:36:56

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear Colleagues,

First of all, my thanks to the representatives of the different groups and to all the speakers who have supported this report.

I am well aware of the shortcomings because, unfortunately, we cannot produce a comprehensive report on the Council of Europe by investigating all the situations.

I want to say to Mr Ahmet YILDIZ that, yes, the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina deserves a real investigation, either like many other cases. I apologize in advance to our friends from Bosnia-Herzegovina, unfortunately, for not having been able to do that. We had a period of pandemic, between the beginning of this report in 2019 and today, which did not allow us to make trips and sometimes meet with delegations that asked for it.

Several things have been raised.

Very quickly, President Nicole TRISSE was right to point out that the problem of enforced disappearances is not only a problem of countries in transition to democracy or in a regime that is, I would say, not democratic. We are witnessing a resurgence of disappearances of opponents in countries such as France, Germany or the Netherlands in recent years, and this is becoming very worrying. I would like to say, above all, that enforced disappearances are a kind of hindrance, a detour, to two fundamental principles of law. In countries in conflict, as has been pointed out, there is the law of war, the Geneva Conventions. The disappearance of soldiers or combatants without their being identified, without it being known whether they have been arrested, detained or executed, is an infraction.

On the other hand, in many countries, we have been fortunate in the last 30 years in the world to see more and more countries abolishing the death penalty. Finally, on paper, the death penalty is abolished and re‑established through enforced disappearances, with an inability of any legal or investigative procedure.

It is this general sense that this report wants to pose. Of course, let's play the case of the International Convention because it is there. It is very useful, and it is necessary that the countries of the Council of Europe adopt it. We must also realise that this recent development of enforced disappearances is, unfortunately, part of a worrying movement within the member States of the Council of Europe, but also on other continents.

Thank you very much.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:39:41

Thank you very much, Mister GATTOLIN.

Does the Chairperson of the Committee wish to speak?

You have 3 minutes.

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

11:39:48

Thank you, Mister President.

The Commission attaches great importance to this report.  Thanks the rapporteur Mr André GATTOLIN for the work that has been done.

Allow me to tell you, on a personal note, that visiting the Park of Memory in Buenos Aires was one of the strongest memories of my life. When you are invited to throw flowers in the Río de la Plata, where people disappeared, you realise the terrible weight that such a situation can have on the families, on the loved ones and on the community. It is important that there be such a memorial in Argentina. It is even more important that these enforced disappearances belong to the past.

Unfortunately, this does not only happen in South American countries or in other parts of the world. This report shows that it is still a reality on our continent and among the member States of the Council of Europe. The report reminds us of this. This has been mentioned by several of the speakers from countries that have been affected or regions such as Ukraine, several regions of Russia, in particular Chechnya, the Northern Caucasus. Croatia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus or Belarus are also mentioned as regions that have been affected on our continent.

Many existing rules of international humanitarian law and international human rights law already regulate this issue. The rapporteur is right to point out that it is not necessarily a question of developing new ones, but of applying the existing ones. It is therefore appropriate to invite all member States of the Council of Europe to ratify the Convention on the Protection against Disappearances and then to apply it, to support civil society, to have training efforts and to develop good practices. In this sense, the idea of a world conference on this subject seems to us to be an interesting idea to stimulate the efforts of the different States.

The report also recalls the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, which is recalled in paragraph 6 of the draft resolution, which I invite you to read or re-read, and which very clearly recalls the obligations of the various member States.

In order to ensure that there is no need for a Memorial Park, we invite you to support this resolution. Then, we invite all States and the Committee of Ministers, as far as the recommendation is concerned, to act decisively on this essential issue for the protection of human rights on our continent.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Bernard FOURNIER

France, EPP/CD

13:13:02

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

Ms Maryna BARDINA

Ukraine, ALDE

13:13:02

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Mr. Chair, Dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to welcome this Report and thank the Rapporteur Mr André GATTOLIN for its preparation.

Unfortunately, enforced disappearances continue to be a serious threat to human rights not only on the territory of the Council of Europe member States but all around the globe. They constitute one of the serious crimes prohibited by international law.

Ukraine ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2015. In 2018 Ukraine adopted the Law on the Legal Status of Missing Persons, by which enforced disappearance was criminalized in national law.

The problem of enforced disappearances has become particularly acute for Ukraine in connection with Russian armed aggression in Eastern Ukraine and the temporary occupation of the Crimean peninsula since 2014.

I draw your attention to the numbers:

258 people are considered missing in the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, including 67 servicemen and reservists.

44 people have become victims of enforced disappearances in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol since the beginning of the Russian occupation”[1]. The fate of 15 of them still remains unknown and not effectively investigated by the Russian occupation authorities..

But it is not numbers for us – it’s real people, real families who wait for their husbands, sons, and dads to come back home.

The fact that Ukraine has no de-facto control over the temporarily occupied territories prevents us from accessing evidence and conducting a full investigation.

I want to emphasize that the facts of enforced disappearances of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar activists are presented in Ukrainian applications against the Russian Federation brought to the International Court of Justice and to the European Court of Human Rights.

The issue of missing persons in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine as a result of Russian aggression has repeatedly been the subject of numerous PACE resolutions and recommendations. Including:

Resolution 2067 (2015) and Recommendation 2076 (2015) “Missing persons during the conflict in Ukraine”;

Resolution 2132 (2016) “Political consequences of the Russian aggression in Ukraine”;

Resolution 2133 (2016) “Legal remedies for human rights violations on the Ukrainian territories outside the control of the Ukrainian authorities;

Resolution 2198 (2018) «Humanitarian consequences of the war in Ukraine».

For these reasons, our delegation supports the presented report and the provisions of the draft resolution and the draft recommendation prepared by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

Thanks for your attention!

Ms Nigar ARPADARAI

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

13:13:02

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

May I note a ever expanding practice in this distinguished Assembly, which is to come up with confusing terminology and apply it frivolously.

While there is an obvious truth that people should not disappear as the result of someone using illegal force, let me remind you that this self sustaining fact has little or nothing to do with recent Karabakh war. There are 2 points that I want to make.

Frist of all, There is a number of Armenian nationals in Azerbaijani prisons, that have been detained with arms in their hands on the territory of Azerbaijan after the signing of trilateral statement. A number of them committed crimes including murders on the territory of Azerbaijan while participating as combatants in the long lasting occupation of Azerbaijani territories. Those of them who committed lighter crimes were sent back to Armenia due to diplomatic efforts of a number of countries. And you know what, they’ve been arrested in Armenia.

You may ask: Were they arrested because they participated in the occupation of Azerbaijan? By no means! They were arrested because in the eyes of Armenian government they gave up arms and surrendered while they were supposed to continue killing Azerbaijanis on their lands.

These people did not disappear. They are where they belong – in Azerbaijani prison and they will be let out when time comes as per our laws.

Secondly and most importantly, almost 4000 Azerbaijani citizens are missing as the result of the 1st Karabakh war, hundreds of Azerbaijanis were taken hostage by Armenia and never came back. Also as a result of Khojaly massacre , when Armenian occupying forced killed more than 600 civilians while occupying the town, around 200 Khojaly residents including 36 children and 65 women haven’t been found. Khojaly will always stay one of the most serious crime against humanity and the most shameful pages in the history of Armenia.

Let me remind you that 1st Karabakh war happened exclusively on the territory of Azerbaijan and resulted in 3 decades of occupation and total ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijanis. PACE did close to nothing during the occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia and in the search of the above mentioned thousands of Azerbaijani citizen who disappeared forcefully while Armenia denied that its forces even were in Azerbaijan. It is already 3 decades that these people are missing and their families lost their hopes that they will ever be back.

I therefore suggest that the references made in the resolution are neither relevant nor full.

Thank you.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

13:13:05

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear colleagues,

Though, the enforced disappearances are equally prohibited under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, it keeps on happening. The distinguished Rapporteur mentioned several countries’ cases, which were the scope of attention of the Assembly (Belarus, the Southern Caucasus states).

I want to add one to the list: the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, Ukraine, which is now the temporarily occupied territory by the Russian Federation.

According to According to Ukrainian NGO “Crimea SOS”, in Crimea, through 2014-2020 under the Russian occupation, 44 persons became victims of enforced disappearances. The fate and whereabouts of 15 of them remain unknown.

After the inaugural summit of the Crimean platform in Kyiv on August 23, 2021 at the initiative of Ukraine, early September 2021, 5 new cases of forced disappearance of Crimean Tatars were reported. Russia tries to prevent the Crimean Platform to become operative, by blackmailing and threatening countries that supported the Summit.

Our primary obligations, as the civilized states are to the search of the missing persons, and avoid impunity for enforced disappearances.

Thank you.

Mr Rustem UMEROV

Ukraine, ALDE

13:13:05

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear Mr. President, Esteemed colleagues,

I thank the rapporteur for his work on such an important issue.

Valery Vashchuk, Ivan Bondarets, Vasyl Chernysh, Timur Shaimardanov, Seyran Zinedinov, Islam Dzhepparov, Dzhevdet Islamov, Eskender Apselyamov, Fedir Kostenko, Mukhtar Arislanov, Arlen Terekhov, Ruslan Ganiev, Arsen Ibramov, Arsen Tabrav — those are names of my compatriots — pro-Ukrainian activists who had openly opposed the Russian occupation since 2014.

They went missing — in temporarily occupied Crimea, due to the aggressive actions of the occupier — Russian Federation.

No individual has been prosecuted in relation to any of the enforced disappearances, as well as torture and ill-treatment.

Russian authorities have not been transparent about investigations into enforced disappearances in Crimea. Official information from the Russian Federation authorities is often lacking on whether formal investigations have been initiated and of any eventual outcomes. As a general rule, the relatives of victims are denied access to the investigation’s case files.

Investigations that were opened in relation to the documented cases have not reached the trial stage, even though the enforced disappearances occurred.

De facto law enforcement bodies in occupied Crimea completely ignore the facts of participation of Russian military and paramilitary forces in abductions.

Even in cases in which involvement of state actors is proved by video of abductions and witness testimonies, de facto authorities keep ignoring these facts.

Unfortunately, this is the reality citizens of Ukraine face for 8 years in a row.

After the illegal seizure of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions by Russia, crimes against Ukrainian citizens, especially Crimean Tatars, became permanent in the occupied territories — persecutions on political and religious bases, illegal detentions, enforced disappearances.

I also want to remind you that today almost 450 Ukrainian citizens are illegally detained in the temporarily occupied Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions. Among the latest detainees were Mr. Nariman Dzhelyal - the first deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatar People's representative body («the Mejlis»).

Hereby I warmly ask to support today the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly in order to reduce the number of cases of impunity for enforced disappearances, search for victims and bring the Russian Federation to international responsibility.

Ms Olena MOSHENETS

Ukraine, ALDE

13:13:05

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear colleagues!

Thank the rapporteur for raising the question of enforced disappearances, as for Ukrainians it is relevant and painful.

Roman Sahaidak, Valerii Vashchuk, Ivan Bondarets, Timur Shaimardanov, Eskender Ibraimov, Dmytro and Volodymyr Khomiak…The youngest at the moment of disappearance was 20 years old, the oldest — 43. This is far from a complete list of victims of enforced disappearances caused by Russian aggression towards Ukraine.

The largest number of cases occurred in 2014 — the year of the Russian occupation of Ukrainian Crimea. The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights has documented 43 cases in Crimea. Moreover, 267 Ukrainians are illegally detained by armed groups in the temporarily occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

In times of Russian aggression, many missing persons are detained in the prison “Isolation” in Donetsk. Ukrainian journalist Stanislav Aseyev has described tortures used there: rape, breaking bones, electrical torture —that is not the whole list of torments used in the XXI century in Europe.

According to the Trilateral Contact Group (OSCE — Ukraine — Russia), the Ukrainian side has located about 500 dead bodies of those considered missing and transferred to relatives about 200 bodies in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. There are 33 possible places of burials of missing persons to be inspected.

Ukraine has made significant efforts to combat enforced disappearances: joined the CED; adopted a law regulating the procedure for searching for missing people; approved a complex plan protecting the rights of victims of enforced disappearances and their families.

To complete tasks mentioned in PACE resolution №2067 and our obligations under the CED, The Commission on Missing Persons in Special Circumstances was established.

Ukraine never stops on the achieved. Just yesterday the Parliament adopted the law to protect and give social guarantees to victims of enforced disappearances and their families.

Ukraine actively combats enforced disappearances in the international level. We file complaints to the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. We believe that Russian Federation as an occupying power must fulfil obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, notably the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Ukraine will do everything possible to return everyone illegally detained in the occupied territories and gone missing under special circumstances.

This issue is relevant not only for Ukraine, but for all countries. We have to put it on the international agenda to further prevent such crimes.

Thank you!

Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA

Ukraine, ALDE

13:13:05

(Discours non prononcé, Règlement Art. 31.2)

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

The problem of putting to an end enforced disappearances is relevant and of constant concern to Council of Europe members. Recently, we have discussed and adopted the Resolution 2324 (2020) and its Recommendation 2172 (2020) “Missing refugee and migrant children in Europe” in which we expressed the concern over the recent rise in cases of disappearances of refugees, migrants, in particular minors. It is even much more relevant now, in the times of the refugee crisis created by the Lukashenko regime.

This report and the proposed Resolution and Recommendation emphasise the importance of the entry into force of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which codifies the fundamental principles of action against enforced disappearances.

But we must not forget the current situation in Ukraine. Thousands of people are still reported missing in Ukraine as a result of the Russian war against Ukraine in Donbass and after the annexation and militarization of Crimea. Among the disappeared, there are not only soldiers, but also civilians, volunteers, civic activists who were helping people who were suffering during the conflict. Now there is no exact information on the number and possible location of missing persons as many of them could be in the territory, which is under the control of separatist groups managed from Russia.

As a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, I constantly receive appeals from NGO of mothers and relatives of persons who disappeared in the occupied territories of Donbass and in the Crimea. These organisations raise awareness on that huge problem and a personal tragedy of everyone, they draw attention of the Ukrainian and international community on the inadmissibility of the lasting encroachments on the territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine or another independent state.

“We are waiting for you. We are looking for you. Let's not forget!" - these words became the title of the exhibition of photographs of relatives of prisoners and missing people who do not give up hope of finding loved ones. We had this exhibition in the Parliaments of Ukraine and Lithuania, maybe we should do it here, in the heart of European democracy - in the Council of Europe.

Therefore, honourable parliamentarians, I would like to support the Resolution, Recommendations and remind about mothers and relatives, of their sons, the importance of ending enforced disappearances on the territory of the Council of Europe.

Vote: Ending enforced disappearances on the territory of the Council of Europe

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:42:29

Thank you very much.

Now the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft resolution [Doc. 15431] to which 5 amendments have been tabled. There is also a recommendation, to which one amendment has been tabled.

The amendments will be taken in the order in which they appear in the Compendium. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 1 minute. I ask parliamentarians participating remotely to ask for the floor only when they have to support their own amendment or wish to speak against an amendment.

Now, Amendment 1 is the first amendment, I call Ms MEZENTSEVA to support Amendment 1. Is she in the room? No?

Is there anybody else who would..?

Of course.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

11:43:42

Yes, thank you, Mister President.

This amendment is adding a few more resolutions just to have the whole picture on this topic.

Thank you very much.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:43:56

Thank you.

Does anyone wish to speak against the Amendment?

Anybody online?

No, okay, then what is the opinion of the Committee on the Amendment?

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE

11:44:17

Alright, Mister President, I thought you would first give the word to the rapporteur..

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

11:44:22

The Commission supported this amendment by a very large majority.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:44:28

I shall now put the Amendment to the vote.

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

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

The Amendment is agreed to.

Amendment 2.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA was down to support this.

I give the floor to you.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

11:45:30

I will support all other amendments till the end, thank you.

This amendment is adding a very important sentence. This sentence expresses deep concern over the unclear fate and whereabouts of the victims of enforced disappearances in the territories of the Russian Federation in the territories under Russian control. It's about 400 people. So we're drawing attention to their missing.

Thank you.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:45:59

Thank you.

Does anyone wish to speak against this Amendment?

Is there anybody online?

Mr Damien COTTIER?

Mr Damien COTTIER is online.

 

Mr Sergey KISLYAK

Russian Federation, NR

11:46:14

Thank you very much.

I am against this particular amendment because of the spirit of it from the beginning to end.

I do feel this has to be a serious organisation that works upon veritable and verifiable information, not anything other than that.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:46:47

What is the opinion of the Committee on the Amendment?

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

11:46:51

Mr Chairman,

The Committee supported this amendment by a large majority.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:46:59

I shall now put this Amendment to the vote.

The vote in the hemicycle and via remote voting are both open.

The vote is now closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

The Amendment is agreed to.

Amendment 3. I call upon our colleague to begin to speak on this.

You have one minute.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

11:48:05

Thank you Mr President.

These amendments give just a clarification of the paragraph.

Thank you.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:48:18

Does anyone wish to speak against the Amendment?

Anybody online?

No?

There is somebody online.

Can we give the floor to him?

Ms Luz MARTINEZ SEIJO, you have 1 minute.

Ms Luz MARTINEZ SEIJO

Spain, SOC

11:49:09

Sorry. I reject talking. It was just a mistake.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:49:18

OK. Thank you very much, indeed. What is the opinion of the Committee on this?

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

11:49:24

The Committee supported this amendment by a very large majority, Mr President.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:49:28

I shall now put this amendment also to the vote.

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

The vote is now closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

Amendment 3 is agreed to.

We move on to Amendment 4.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

11:50:23

Yes, thank you, Mr President.

This Amendment provides a more clear legal definition of this paragraph. I know it was sub-amendment at the Committee and I agree on this sub-amendment.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:50:39

Thank you, does anyone else...

I have been informed that Mr André GATTOLIN wishes to propose an oral sub-amendment, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, and that reads as follows:

“In Amendment 4, replace the words “replace paragraph 11.2.2 with the following paragraph” with the following words:

“after paragraph 11.2.2, insert the following paragraph:””

 

In my opinion, the oral sub-amendment is in order under our rules.

However, do 10 or more members object to the oral sub-amendment being debated? To object members present in the hemicycle should stand up and those connected remotely should request to speak.

I can see nobody rising in the hemicycle. Do we have anyone online? Nobody online.

So I think that sub-amendment is now passed.

Oh.. Mr GATTOLIN, you still have to support it.

Mr André GATTOLIN

France, ALDE, Rapporteur

11:51:58

Yes, absolutely.

The proposed Amendment 4 seems to me to be quite valid, except that it replaced section 11.2.2. and deleted the point "by establishing an effective means of habeas corpus".

Now, what I am proposing is that we create an additional paragraph that incorporates Amendment 4 and my sub-amendment restores the replacement, so the section that was removed to make room; so we add and we shift the recommendations accordingly.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:52:43

Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-Amendment.

I can see nobody in the Hemicycle.

We do have somebody online who wishes to speak against the oral sub-Amendment.

No, that person has disappeared.

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

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

11:53:17

As I mentioned before, I agree with the sub-Amendment.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:53:20

And the Committee is obviously in favour?

Yes?

 

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

11:53:26

Yes.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:53:26

I will now put the oral sub-Amendment to the vote.

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

The vote is now closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

That oral sub-Amendment is agreed to.

Now we go back to Amendment 4 as amended.

We will now consider that Amendment as amended.

Does anyone wish to speak against the Amendment as amended?

I see nobody in the hemicycle.

What is the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights?

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

11:55:06

Supported by a very large majority, Mr President.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:55:10

I shall now put the Amendment as amended to the vote.

The vote in the Hemicycle and remote voting are both now open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

That Amendment as amended is agreed to.

We come to Amendment 5.

I call the Honourable Lady to speak.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

11:56:13

My last name is KRAVCHUK. I know it's difficult to pronounce but anyway.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:56:19

I am very bad at linguistics I'm afraid.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

11:56:22

It's fine, I can understand you, I am a philologist.

Thank you very much, so, by this Amendment we want to introduce the sanction mechanism against those who are directly involved in enforced disappearance.

Thank you.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:56:40

Thank you.

Does anyone wish to speak against this Amendment?

We do have somebody online on this occasion.

So you have the floor.

You are speaking against the Amendment that has just been made.

He's disappeared.

Is he coming back?

He's coming back.

Mr Sergey KISLYAK

Russian Federation, NR

11:57:27

Thank you very much.

I simply want to say that I didn't ask to take the floor.

I didn't ask actually to take the floor, and I'm not against this Amendment.

Thank you very much.

In other words, the Amendment of the Ukrainian colleague, I'm not against it.

Thank you.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:57:41

What is the opinion of the Committee on this Amendment?

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

11:57:47

It supported this Amendment by a very large majority, Mr President.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:57:50

I shall now put the Amendment to the vote.

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

The vote is now closed. And I call for the result to be displayed.

Amendment 5 is agreed to.

We now come the draft Resolution. A simple majority only is required.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft Resolution contained in Doc. 15431 [as amended].

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

The vote is now closed.

And I call for the result to be displayed.

The draft Resolution in Doc. 15430 [as amended] is adopted.

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has also presented a draft recommendation [Doc. 15431] to which one amendment has been tabled.

Madam, would you care to introduce this Amendment?

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

12:00:16

The same amendment as the previous one that was adopted by the Assembly. It gives proposal as in the Resolution, to introduce sanctions to those who are directly involved in forced disappearances.

Thank you.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

12:00:33

Does anyone wish to speak against the Amendment?

There is nobody in the hemicycle and nobody online.

What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

12:00:46

Mr Chairman,

This is indeed the same amendment as Amendment 5.

The Committee also supported it by a very large majority, as it did for Amendment 5.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

12:00:55

I shall now put the Amendment to the vote.

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

The vote is now closed and I call for the results to be displayed.

Amendment No. 6 is agreed to.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft Recommendation as amended.

A two-thirds majority is required. Only affirmative and negative votes will count in calculating that.

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

The vote is now closed. I call for the result to be displayed.

The draft Recommendation in Document 15431 as amended is adopted.

Thank you very much indeed for that debate.

(Applause)

I think the President is on his way back but please continue. I now hand back to the President.

 

Current affairs debate: Recent challenges to security in Europe: what role for the Council of Europe?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:07:04

Dear colleagues,

The next item on the agenda is our current affairs debate on "Recent challenges to security in Europe: what role for the Council of Europe? This debate will be opened by the speaker designated by the Bureau, Mr Zsolt NÉMETH.

The time limit for each speaker is 3 minutes, except for the first speaker, who has been appointed by the Bureau, who has 7 minutes.

I call Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, the first speaker appointed by the Bureau.

Mr NÉMETH, you have the floor.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA

12:07:46

Mr President, colleagues,

I feel a sense of urgency in addressing the topic of this current affairs debate that should, probably, result in a report in the near future.

Europe has reached an extremely challenging tipping point.

At different moments of their history, Council of Europe member States decided to join this common European home because they believed in a Europe without dividing lines.

They cherished the same values and accepted to be bound by the same obligations.

And yet tensions between member States are rising. The risk of a new military confrontation in the heart of Europe is not a remote risk; our eyes are cast on Russia and Ukraine; but every corner of the map of our continent is increasingly punctuated by disputes, frozen conflicts, and even open violence.

Aggressive rhetoric is back, and so are threats, and sometimes even the use of force in blatant disregard of international norms.

Conflicting geopolitical ambitions are tearing apart our akhi; the peace and the stability which we have been building since World War II and the end of the Cold War is also thanks to the existence and work of the Council of Europe.

In neighbouring regions, the situation is no better - whether in Central Asia or in the Middle East or North Africa region, destabilisation is widespread.

In the past decade, the world has changed at an incredibly rapid speed.

New security threats have emerged in addition to traditional ones.

Some threats are transnational, such as terrorism and violent extremism; some rely on technology, such as misinformation, disinformation, hacking of basic digital infrastructures or the interference with electoral processes.

Migrants continue to be weaponised; also recently in the new form of hybrid war.

Some challenges are environmental and man-made, such as climate change.

The Covid-19 pandemic itself poses a threat to the well-being of people and can potentially further undermine trust in public policies as a consequence in our democracies.

The backsliding of democracy, the weakening of respect for human and minority rights - which have been documented by many reliable sources and described by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Ms Marija Pejčinović Burić in her most recent annual report - is also a major challenge which is bound to have consequences domestically, as well as beyond national borders.

Council of Europe member States are interdependent for their security and stability; they are interdependent for assuring the pursuit of peace based upon justice and international co-operation, which is vital for the preservation of society and European civilisation.

As the statute of London reads: "they are interdependent with the view to promoting a shared space for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law".

This endeavour should be accompanied by a strategic and truly balanced partnership with the European Union.

We share common values, objectives. The policy of the EU enlargement should serve as an inclusive framework, an engine of the unification of our continent, offering a genuine perspective to states of the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, leaving the door open, at some stage, to Russia as well.

It is well-known that the Council of Europe doesn't have a role to play in the area of defence – which is explicitly excluded from its mandate.

The Council of Europe shouldn't get involved in matters relating to military security or military alliances, but it can and should get involved in the issues relating to democratic security. Therefore, helping member States to step up their common democratic security at a pan-European level is what the Council of Europe is about.

In this new volatile and tense geopolitical context, it is necessary to give a new vigour to the Council of Europe and equip it with robust means to carry out its missions.

If this organisation's bodies are called to have an impact on democratic security, it should have a clearer focus on reversing the current trend of growing tensions, backsliding of democracy, proposing ways to innovate democratic institutions, and to tackle the root causes of this downward momentum.

The Council of Europe needs to show leadership and secure its deserved place in the European political and institutional architecture.

The Council of Europe should have greater capacity and flexibility for rapid reaction by also creating the potential of using more flexible instruments beyond the existing frameworks when some issues are liable to that area, sometimes with spillover effects beyond national borders.

This is the case, for instance, as regards the protection of the rights of national minorities, the protection of minority languages, and sometimes even the issue of decentralisation in response to calls for greater autonomy or more.

Unresolved issues related to the situation of national minorities is a key source of tension in our shared space for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, challenging democratic security, but also democratic stability.

This is because this organisation is the oldest and truly a pan-European one; it brings together not only governments of member States, but also elected representatives of 830 million people.

The Council of Europe is often defined as a human rights watchdog - but as a matter of fact, it is much more than that.

It is not only a guardian, it is a political organisation which aims at achieving greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising common ideas and principles.

President and dear colleagues, as the chair of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, I will pay particular attention to the views expressed in this debate.

Our Committee has its mandate: the responsibility to look into issues relating to democratic stability and security in Europe.

For the time being, I would like to conclude with a personal comment:

You should be especially concerned. It seems to me that increasing tensions, that are sometimes labeled as bilateral, in reality, hide a much deeper problem. After coming together under the same roof, do we still share a common vision of Europe, and of our common future?

This is what we should discuss today. This is what we should try to achieve.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:14:58

Thank you very much Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, as the Chairperson of our Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, for your introduction remarks and your ideas about what role does the Council of Europe have to play with regard to the recent challenges to security in Europe, which is the issue of our debate.

Now we go to to our debate.

First, we have the speakers on behalf of the five political groups.

First I call Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS from Greece, who will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

You have the floor Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS.

Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS

Greece, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

12:15:37

Good morning, Mister President.

I hope you can hear me well.

I speak to you from downtown Athens. I participate in the ceremony for the Holocaust Memorial Day as the president of the Greek-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Committee together with many of my colleagues and the president of the republic. We here in Athens, the ancient cradle of democracy, say out and loud like every other nation in the world: never again.

Never again, we, the Council of Europe as an institution that was founded in the aftermath of the horrors of the Second World War, no horror was greater than the Holocaust.

Now to the topic under discussion both as a politician but also as a student and scholar of international affairs, it is well established and well documented the strong link, the strong bond between authoritarianism at home and aggression abroad.

Usually regimes that do not respect the rights of their own citizens they violate human rights and the rule of law. Often they turn aggressive vis-à-vis their neighbourhoods in their international behaviour.

Allow me to say that we in Greece have a good experience of that with our neighbour to the East, Turkey, with its authoritarianism and its aggression as it continues to occupy half of Cyprus and continues to threaten with war Greece. But the causality goes the other way as well. It's not only that authoritarianism breeds aggression, it's also that aggression abroad creates the environment for the strongest, most serious violations of human rights.

During war, during conflicts, we have seen it time and again: human rights are massively and to an unprecedented degree violated. So, although our Council deals with human rights and the domestic situation it cannot avoid to discuss and to be interested in what happens internationally abroad.

And today we have a serious crisis at hand in the Russian-Ukrainian border. We are very concerned. We are in favour of the full sovereignty and unity of Ukraine for the benefit both of Ukrainian people and all its neighbours, and we believe that Russia is an inextricable part of Europe and bound, as a result, by European values and norms as a result.

Thank you very much from the ancient cemetery of Athens where Pericles gave his famous funeral address 25 centuries ago. I salute you and commend you on this very important initiative to have this debate today.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:19:01

Thank you Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS.

Next on the debate I call Ms Olena KHOMENKO from Ukraine.

She speaks on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

Ms Olena KHOMENKO, you have the floor.

Ms Olena KHOMENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

12:19:16

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

We all are aware that the Council of Europe is not a security organisation. However, I believe that the Council should take more efforts to prevent any possible build-ups or turning conflicts into aggression.

We often hear that the Council of Europe has no tanks or no soldiers to support the communities, nations or states. However, shouldn't the Council play a more important role in the time before it becomes an open security issue? We should think about anything that can help to stop a conflict from erupting.

Moreover, modern wars or conflicts kill more people due to starvation, disease or various forms of violence in the form of cyber attacks, election interference, economic coercion, and by instrumentalising migrants.

Let's start with Africa. Yemen, Ethiopia, as recent cases of fighting involving Islamists in Africa doesn't entail hundreds of deaths, but drives millions of people from their homes and causes humanitarian devastation. Let's think about the Taliban too, in Afghanistan, and the number of people displaced due to this.

Let me go back to the country of my own origin, Ukraine. Over the previous eight years, the Russian Federation has been using its military, paramilitary and hybrid forces, as well as propaganda-spreading organisational networks, to maintain its aggression against the Ukrainian nation's statehood. Russia is also trying to employ both threat and fear, using these as key instruments for crafting ill-mannered diplomacy and utilising a range of uncivil practices in different segments of international relations. Over these years, Ukraine has become almost like a conventional testing ground for Russia's orchestrated cyberattacks.

Dear friends, we need to wake up. A very new reality is already outside for all of us to face. This is all happening over here in Europe. This is all happening against Russia's neighbours. Against continental and global stability. Against common sense to live in peace. Again positive integrative mechanisms of common beings and objectively against major civilisational principles that found their place in international law.

How can we think of getting back to a situation where Europe and the whole globe will be split up in zones of influence? When a major power, enduring the silence of other major powers, will once again have a prescribed right to occupy yet another Sudetenland, and yet another Latvia, while establishing a good dozen of puppet states as well.

Therefore, let us think clearly and consolidate our efforts in order to protect our societies from aggressions and occupations by a foreign force that lost its normality. In light of the described dangerous trends, we must stick to the norms of international law and common cohesion for the benefit of all.

Join us, and together we will re-establish a positively effective social-political architecture in Europe and beyond.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:22:14

Thank you, Olena.

Next in the debate I call Ms Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI from Estonia. She speaks on behalf of the ALDE group.

You have the floor, Maria.

Ms Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI

Estonia, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

12:22:28

Honoured President,

Dear colleagues,

One cannot remain impartial to the events on recent challenges to security in Europe unfolding around us. Unfortunately, the current geopolitical situation because of Russia’s demands to overview the architecture of European security is very tense. The European continent is going through turbulent times. And the particular questions that we have to address and to consider is: What is the role for the Council of Europe and all European countries within these processes? What is a better way to stay for the interests, freedoms and global security for the millions of European citizens?

ALDE group is of the opinion that the European Council must undertake all possible legal and determined efforts in order to stay an essential part of democratic security negotiations between USA, Russia and the whole Europe, that is much broader that European Union and comprises 47 countries. That’s why we need to raise questions concerning global security issues in PACE plenaries, committees and articulate our joint positions. We need to strengthen communication and our positions among those partners who share our values in respect of human rights, freedoms and rule of law, as our common goal is preserving peace and unity.

It is natural that the current situation causes fear and anxiety. Even more when this discussion is not carried out in the form of a dialogue, but in the form of presenting demands that cannot be met. Europe can´t afford the situation of security issues taking place on its territory without its full-fledged and active participation. Therefore, we support means like the Normandy format for negotiations of democratic security issues.

Eastern European States and the Baltic States have successfully repelled the hybrid attack from the Lukashenko regime and stopped the flood of illegal migrants. This demonstrates that while smaller countries might not command a huge military force, they can and should stand their ground and voice their opinions, as well as stand for their interests, the rights and freedoms of their people. Europe’s strength lies within its unity and joint efforts.

We need to constantly stress the support in the respect of the integrity of Ukraine and Georgia and provide our clear message - questioning the sovereignty of young countries, or talking, even jokingly, about restoring Russia to its size during the Russian Empire, or proposing NATO to reduce its borders back to the state of 1997, cannot be acceptable.

Europe must be heard and must be visible while considering these issues both on national level and on the level of Council of Europe. Council of Europe and other international institutions must do everything in our power to ensure the democratic security of Europe and its people.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:25:27

Thank you Ms Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI.

Next in the debate I call Mr George KATROUGALOS from Greece.

He speaks on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

You have the floor.

Mr George KATROUGALOS

Greece, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

12:25:38

Thank you very much.

Unfortunately, we have a return to a Cold War climate also with inflammatory rhetoric according to which war is looming, eminent.

The need for immediate [inaudible] the escalation is obvious, both at the level of actions and at the level of rhetoric.

In Ukraine they too have the Minsk Protocol. It should be fully respected and built upon for a conceptual exit of the crisis. It is very worrisome that Europe, especially the European Union, is out of this discussion. Russia and the United States are negotiating about the future of Europe. This is unacceptable.

It is true that our institution is not specialised in issues of security, but we should and we can frame the discussion in terms of international law and international legality. It's obvious that territorial integrity, sovereignty of all countries is out of the question. It should be supported by everybody along with the protection of minorities and minorities' rights. Our goal should be the full incorporation of Russia into the new system of European security architecture, not its isolation, not its alienation. We managed to do that with the Soviet Union with the Helsinki Accords, and we can also do it now.

I understand the burden of history of course. The historical perception of threat by the neighbouring countries. The equal historical fear of encirclement by Russia, but, as I have said before, history must not be a prison but a school. The goal should be, as the president of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy has already said, a common European home without dividing lines.

Along these lines the European Union should develop a more strategically autonomous foreign policy and defence, vis à vis both the United States and NATO, exactly because, as Europeans we have our own geopolitical interests and above all keep peace on our continent.

In Greece, we have a huge minority in Ukraine. The Greek revolution practically started in Odessa, so we have full solidarity with what is happening there. It is important for all of us to understand the challenges and to contribute to a continuous discussion along the lines of peace and security on our continent.

Thank you, Sir.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:28:50

Thank you, Mr Mr George KATROUGALOS.

The next speaker is Mr Christophe LACROIX, from Belgium, on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

You have the floor, Mr LACROIX.

Mr Christophe LACROIX

Belgium, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

12:29:06

Mr Chairman,

Dear colleagues,

The geopolitical situation on our continent, and more broadly in the world, is on fire. We have never stopped saying it: the diplomatic path and multilateralism must be a priority at all times.

Unfortunately, our continent has been the source of two bloody world conflicts and crimes against humanity, notably in the name of exacerbated nationalism, despite the social, historical, geographic, cultural and economic ties that unite us.

Let us remember that today, 27 January, is the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Shoah. Fortunately, from this absolute horror, the European project was born. A project in which the Council of Europe – born in 1949 – and our Assembly are essential links that unite, or should unite, our 47 member states around common fundamental values, which obviously include human rights.

On 11 August 1950, Sir Winston Churchill – it is a bit surprising that a socialist should speak of a conservative like Winston Churchill – called for the advent of a unified European army, subject to European democratic control. He said of the Council of Europe: "We are not making a machine. We are growing a living plant".

If the Council of Europe does not have a pioneering and primary vocation to deal with military issues, it can – and in our view must! – in our opinion, it can and should be a real "human rights compass" for our respective governments. We must constantly alert and remind them of the importance of respecting the rule of law, international humanitarian law and above all the goal of lasting peace between peoples, in their differences, which is inherent to Europe.

At a time when, at last, the European strategic compass is on the drawing board, our Assembly must therefore maintain its specific and essential role in this area. I also hope that we can remember that our continent has always been a driving force in the fight against so-called "dirty weapons".

And I will end with peace. Peace also means knowing how to adapt our national legislation to today's world and to bring it more into line with international humanitarian law.

It is now time for our continent to ban "killer robots", that is, autonomous lethal weapons systems capable of selecting and attacking human targets without human control. Let's ban these systems before it's too late. It is unacceptable for a robot to make a life and death decision on human beings.

In my opinion, Europe – and the Council of Europe – must regain its pioneering role in the international debate, as it did in the past. We in this Assembly have responsibilities that we must firmly combine to maintain an open dialogue, to build bridges and not walls.

I thank you for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:32:13

Thank you, Mr Christophe LACROIX.

Next in the debate I call Sir Tony LLOYD from the United Kingdom.

You have the floor.

Sir Tony LLOYD

United Kingdom, SOC

12:32:24

Thank you, Mr President.

Of course, the Council of Europe is not a security organisation. But, nevertheless, I think every one of us knows that any resort to military violence in different parts of Europe will lead to human rights abuse on a massive scale.

We have two major flashpoints now. One: Bosnia-Herzegovina and the second: between Russia and Ukraine.

We know, let me take the second of these, Ukraine. We know that any military intervention by Russia into Ukraine would obviously lead inevitably to loss of life. It would lead to dislocation of the economy. But importantly, to massive damage to the civilian population and their basic human rights. We'd see refugees once again flooding across Europe.

So, it does matter to the Council of Europe, what the security situation is and what it implies for us all.

We've got to take this seriously.

I need to remind the Parliamentary Assembly that the background to this conflict is a really bizarre one.

When the three nuclear states, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons in 1994, the agreement at that time said that they would be assured by, amongst others, the Russian Federation, that there would be no military attack upon any of those three countries, and in particular on Ukraine.

And yet it is Russia that's taken control of Crimea. It is Russia that has interfered in eastern Ukraine in a way that it abrogates that agreement.

That does matter, because it reinforces the concerns of those states that joined NATO, in the post-90s, that that was the right decision: to actually look to provide guarantees against further aggression.

That is reinforced, I've got to say, by the threats of Russia, at the moment, to Ukraine.

Now, within that context it goes, like everybody else. I want this to move away from the talk of military conflict. I want us to talk around negotiation. But it is not the sensible way for Russia to come to the conference table about things on which we have a common security interest.

We do need to look again at a treaty around intermediate nuclear missiles. We do need to examine where we are with conventional forces in Europe. Those are things that we have a common interest in.

Actually, my invitation, my hope for our Russian colleagues, is that they will go back and say to their own government "look, let's get around the negotiating table to work on those big issues, let's move away from thinking that the threat of military confrontation is the right way to move us on, because it simply cannot work on that basis".

And yes, let's turn down the rhetoric, that's rather improper. But to dial down the rhetoric, we do need to see the dialling down of the threat that exists in Ukraine, and also the tragedy of interference in the activities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who paid those prices in the past in human rights demands; and [see that] that we don't pay them again in this generation.

Thank you President.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:35:41

Thank you Sir Tony LLOYD.

Next on the list is Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN from Armenia.

You have the floor.

Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

12:35:51

Thank you, Mister Chair. I would like to congratulate you on this important election. I would like to wish you all success.

My great colleague reminded me that we are in the days of commemorating the victims of the Holocaust.

Never again, never again, never again. How many times do we repeat these words? My ancestors survived the Armenian Genocide. Everybody said, "Never again". My grandparents experienced the Holocaust, living together with Jews during the Nazi occupation. We said, "Never again". My cousin survived the Armenian massacres in Baku and Sumgait. Everybody said, "Never again".

In Rwanda it was said never again; in Srebrenica we said never again; never again and never again. How many times should we repeat it?

We are living in a very complicated situation, in very complicated conditions. There is a question: how can we contribute to the solution of this situation?

Let's go back to our roots. Let's understand why this organisation was created. It was created for the promotion of democracy. It was created for the promotion of human rights worldwide.

What do we see today? Cold War rhetoric, threats, an environment of misunderstanding and intolerance, the absence of any understanding.

No ladies and gentlemen, We are not in the 1950s. We have not come back to the roots. We are not even in 1939.

We are at the beginning of the 21st century.

What we're doing - what would be our message for our generation, for future generations?

I do believe that our role is to be a bridge - to be a bridge between our countries.

These forums should be the forum for discussion, and not the frontline.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is not enough just to say never again. It's necessary to work seven days, 24 hours per day, to not allow the escalation of any conflicts, because this organisation was created to keep the peace.

We should find a consensus. We should be looking for this consensus every day.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If we have bricks, it's better to build bridges instead of building walls.

Thank you so much, Mister President.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:38:46

Thank you, Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN.

Next in the debate I call Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO from Ukraine.

You have the floor.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

12:38:53

Thank you, dear colleagues.

We are now discussing the security situation in Europe and we need to admit that it is the worst in the 21st century. The world hybrid war started by Putin in 2008 by the war against Russia, we see it now. During this time we see propaganda war, cyberwar, we see small-scale terroristic attacks like killing in Salisbury, Berlin, like explosions in the Czech Republic, medium-to-large-scale military operations like the Russian wars against Georgia, Syria, and first of all Ukraine, with hundreds and thousands of victims. Now we are very close to the new stage of the continent-scale war, which could be started by the invasion of Russian troops, a new invasion of Ukraine, and we see now 100 000 Russian troops on our borders.

What can we oppose to all this? Two things: our values, human rights, democracy, rule of law and our unity around these values. That is why I am so upset with the recent events in Ukraine, where the authorities started their pressuring of political opposition. I am speaking about a number of things but first of all about our former President Poroshenko who was a commander-in-chief of Ukraine in 2014 and 2019 and at that time fought Russian aggression. Now he is accused of state treason. It is ridiculous.

French philosopher, Bernard-Henri Lévy, a famous philosopher said about this case, that it is absolutely a witch-hunt and the accusations against Poroshenko are Kafkaesque and that is completely true. It is a completely politically motivated case. Ukraine is a free country. We have freedom of speech, freedom of meeting, we have free and fair elections but it is not something given to us. It is something for what Ukrainian society fought during 30 years together with our international friends, including the Revolution of Dignity in 2013–14.

Yes, we have democracy but there were moments in our recent history when this democracy was endangered. Unfortunately, now we feel that the danger again rises.

So I want to address Ukrainian authorities from this high tribune of our house, of democratically elected representatives from all over Europe: stop political repressions, do not split Ukrainian society and let's meet Russian danger, the Russian threat, united and strong. In this case, we are unconquerable.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:41:39

Thank you very much, Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO.

Next in the debate I call Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK from Ukraine.

You have the floor, Madam KRAVCHUK.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

12:41:47

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear colleagues, first of all I would like to thank all of you for the firm position on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. It's very important for us.

Also it's very important for us and for Ukraine, all Ukrainian people, that we discussed numerous times in this Assembly the military build-up alongside the Ukrainian border.

Yes, it's over 100 000 Russian troops near our border, but this is the reality in which our people have been living for 8 years. At the same time we do our best to do the economical reforms to fight corruption, to do the judicial reforms. I think that we should use these debates in the Assembly not just to alert about the situation. We need to find the possible way for the Assembly to act on the situation when one of the members of the Council of Europe has decided to redistribute the borders and to disturb the peace in all of Europe.

We clearly understand that the Council of Europe plays a secondary role in the architecture of European security mainly through co‑operation was the international organisations with a direct security mandate. But there is a common goal in the co‑operation with the OCE. It is the promotion of stability and security on the basis of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights in Europe.

This is the exact time to revise and make the assessment of the current situation from the perspective of international law and the numerous conventions of the Council of Europe.

Does everything work right in the terms of security provisions? How are other resolutions of the Assembly being implemented? Rather not, I would say. What leverage can be added to make the implementation level even better?

Everything I listed needs the thorough workout mainly at the level of the Assembly's Committees. Our delegation, of course, is ready to take take part in this work.

It is the right time now to enjoy this piece of work, because tomorrow can be late.

Thank you very much.

 

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:44:15

Thank you very much, Madam Yevheniia KRAVCHUK.

In order to have a fair balance in our speakers, Mr Ahmet YILDIZ proposes that he switches now his place with Mr Sergey KISLYAK from the Russian Federation. So, we also have a speaker from the Russian Federation.

I thank Mr Ahmet YILDIZ  very much for this kind gesture.

Next in the debate I call Mr Sergey KISLYAK from the Russian Federation.

Mr Sergey KISLYAK, you have the floor.

Mr Sergey KISLYAK

Russian Federation, NR

12:44:43

Thank you very much, Mister President. Thank you very much for Mr Ahmet YILDIZ for that kind gesture.

Indeed, this particular discussion involves very, very serious issues. Three serious issues around the situation on our continent as far as security is concerned today. We all confront a very dire situation. There is no question about that. We have to be very honest in our approach and in our assessment about what is going on and why what is going on is happening.

Of course, in three minutes one cannot analyse everything. I do feel that we can see quite clearly that after the end of the Cold War there was a quick desire to create a system of stability in which all existed on an equal footing. That was the desire at the end of the Cold War.

NATO was to provide for security only for its members. We were speaking about a Europe, the hope, desire was, for all to live in an atmosphere of co‑existence. In a safe and peaceful fashion respecting international law.

Irrespective of this, however, and of the decisions at the time concerning NATO, NATO continues to expand right now. This creates a serious imbalance, and it creates a situation of tensions and prospects for conflict on the continent as well. It is in this particular light that we have to analyse the situation.

The non-dissemination of nuclear weapons. This is very important. We have signed up to this from the start. Not of disarmament and of non-escalation. That has been our particular approach.

Unfortunately, this is not the position that has been adopted in the West. We see expansion, we see the possibility, and indeed, the reality of the expansion of nuclear weapons and of claims and expansion all the way up to the borders of the Russian Federation.

We have seen, indeed, acts of aggression on the part of NATO. Isn't that what we saw in the case of Serbia? Isn't that what has taken place on numerous different occasions in perhaps fragmented forms and different ways that are not so visible, not clearly analysed or not discussed today? Indeed, the activities of this organisation have been of an aggressive nature on numerous different fronts.

We have also seen the establishment of military installations in countries right up, very, very close to our borders. In Poland. In the Baltic States. In Romania as well.

Not only on land have we seen developments, but at sea as well, with military activities, military activities in waters just adjacent to the Russian Federation.

Finally, open skies. When we discuss these particular issues, can we actually trust our partners in this new desire, trend, or aspiration for stability and co‑existence on the continent?

Indeed, we have to look at it in this particular point of view to truly understand the situation in a multifaceted fashion.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:48:54

Thank you very much, Mr Sergey KISLYAK.

Sorry, but your time is over.

Does someone want to say a point of order? Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA

Ukraine, EPP/CD

12:49:08

Dear President,

I would like to address our Russian colleagues to respect the rights of all members of this assembly and to speak according to the designated time. And if the speaker of the Russian Federation cannot count the time and cannot see it on the screen, I ask his assistants to help him. Sleeping during the speeches or taking over the time is absolutely unacceptable.

Thank you, dear chair.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:49:34

Thank you very much. You are completely right, Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA. Three minutes is far too short for everybody but in the end we all need to respect speaking time because otherwise we do not allow others to speak.

Now I give the floor to Ms Petra BAYR from Austria. Ms Petra BAYR, you have the floor.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC

12:49:53

Thank you very much, Mr President.

I would like to focus on the second part of the title of the current affairs debate: what role for the Council of Europe. And it is indeed not an easy question to answer. It's quite simple what I would suggest to a member country, namely do not become or not stay economically dependent of a country that is problematic when it comes to human rights, to the rule of law, to free and fair elections, to implementation of verdicts of the European Council of Human Rights and Democracy.

As long as we, and I also include my country, Austria, are dependent from Russian gas, it is very likely to make concessions to protect our economic interest and prioritise them over human rights, space respect or sovereignty of other countries, instead of proposing or imposing robust economic sanctions.

It's not only ecologically, but also geo-strategically a good reason to stop dependency from gas, oil, coal, and other fossil fuels, and really focus with all efforts on the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

But it's much harder to answer this question about the role of the Council of Europe I think. We do not have any possibilities to impose economic sanctions. Our procedural consequences are very weak, I think. And there are not many means for any real political pressure. So our main role is to talk, to convince, to explain why human rights are a condition sine qua non, why it is preferable to uphold democracy and common efforts, to foster rule of law.

My hope is a very simple one. Maybe really a naive one. But I think as long long as you talk with each other, as long as you talk to each other, you will not shoot yourself or the other, your opponent. And so, yeah, I think the only thing we can do is stay together at one table, really try to speak, to convince. Really try to get everybody excited about peace, about democracy, about human rights. And that might be a very very primitive recipe, but sometimes the simple recipes are the most successful ones, and I hope really that it would work for the sake of all of us.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:52:35

Thank you Ms Petra BAYR.

Next on the debate I call Mr Serhii SOBOLIEV from the Ukraine.

Mr Serhii SOBOLIEV, you have the floor.

Mr Serhii SOBOLIEV

Ukraine, EPP/CD

12:52:42

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues.

I think it is the main topic that we need to discuss in this parliamentary session and I want to return you to the name of this discussion, which is "the role of the Council of Europe in security in Europe".

I want to thank all speakers of parliamentary groups, I say all speakers because there were two main words – "peace" and "security" – in each speech. It is impossible to imagine how we can protect human rights in the conditions of war. So I think that we now need to discuss very concrete efforts that we need to discuss in our further sessions.

First of all, Ukraine is a good example of future nuclear disarmament. If Ukraine will never be guaranteed the peace and security of our bodies and of our country, it is impossible to make negotiations with all other countries on nuclear disarmament. All guarantees that Russia as well gives for us according to our security reasons and the events of 2014, it is a good example of how Russia can violate everything.

Second, it is very important to understand that in 2014 Ukraine was alone. Alone until the Normandy Format when 8% of our territory was occupied. After this, we have negotiations but still, now eight years have already passed: the same situation, the same conditions. We need further steps in order to understand that no argument of the war, even when you try to make your territory secure, when you make everything in order to make these territories and to return them, but peaceful negotiations is the main item of everything.

Now, I think that the world, not only Europe, is under very serious events – maybe the most serious after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Local wars became the whole serious situation in Europe when it can be a new global conflict, and not only in Europe. And this conflict is arising on our borders and when I heard from Russian colleagues about some intention of NATO, hundreds of thousands of troops are on our border, not from the other side of the border.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:55:45

Thank you Mr Serhii SOBOLIEV.

Now I give the floor to Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN from Finland.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN, you have the floor.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC

12:55:53

Mr President,

The theme for us is the challenges in security in Europe, what's the role for the Council of Europe?

Some cynical statements could say that there is no role whatsoever for our Assembly to discuss about the security policy of Europe. That's an issue to handle at a pan-European level by the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and its parliamentary assembly.

I say that approach is wrong.

Obviously, our focus is primarily on human rights, democracy and rule of law, the so-called soft security issues. But Mr President, soft security and hard security are at the end the same things. They support each other. If they don't support each other then we are in problems.

So that's why it's absolutely fair we do discuss about these security challenges in Europe also in our Assembly.

The Chair of our Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy said in his opening statements "common European Home". That's the phrase formula used by President Gorbachev at the end of the 1980s and at the very beginning of the 1990s when after the Cold War we created a new European security structure based on the concept of common security, shared security.

There are three elements on that Mr President. Three elements.

First of all, it's very clear that security is common in a way that you don't build up your security at the cost of others.

Secondly, security is a broad one. It's not only a question of what military threats, military security, it's also, in broad terms, different types of security threats, including the pandemic situation, including cyber attacks, etc. It's a long list.

But thirdly, important, security is not only a question about state security. It's question about human, human security. That's why we cannot even say that the Cold War ended because the concept of human security started to be a more and more important one. The tanks didn't change the European security situation so fundamentally in the early 1990s, but human beings made it.

So we have the security elements in Europe, but the crucial element is here. The crucial element here is that there are two approaches for security policy.

You can show your force. You can say military might, show your military might in different ways. Or you can trust diplomacy. The request now is less force showing, more discussion, more dialogue; less penalisation, more rewarding. That's the way of creating trust and cooperation in Europe and that's the only way of creating stability and security in the continent.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:59:02

Thank you, Kimmo.

Next in the debate I call Ms Ingjerd SCHOU from Norway.

Ingjerd, you have the floor.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD

12:59:08

Thank you, President.

And dear colleagues, in this debate we are invited to reflect on the recent challenges to security in Europe: what role for the Council of Europe?

To me the role of the Council of Europe is the same today as when the founding fathers started their aims in 1949. Our contribution to overcoming the recent security challenges is to be found in the uniqueness of the Council. Namely that it is the only pan-European arena for dialogue. Where the EU has the economic power and NATO the military power, the Council of Europe has the power of dialogue.

The founding fathers who had lived through the atrocities of two world wars understood this power of dialogue. They sought a need for a new instrument, a new kind of international body whose main function would be to make cross-border communication and dialogue easier through our constant attention to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We help to make the voices of more than 800 million Europeans heard.

Throughout monitoring bodies, through the European Court of Human Rights, and through our many debates here in the Assembly not only do we enable more normal people to question and stand up to their leaders, but also Mr President, to make their voices heard beyond their international borders.

This is what we do. It's an important role. It's important because leaders and heads of states should listen carefully to their people. Not least in times of crisis, when the risk of departing from or not respecting fundamental rights is high

Through dialogue, Mr President, we remind ourselves and heads of state in our members countries that conflicts, unrest and crisis cannot be solved without two very important components: one, respect for the basic human rights of the people of Europe and, second, a respect for the fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law.

President, we must continue to cherish and live up to this role and to our responsibility to keep the dialogue open to all members. Being a pan-European arena for dialogue is our strongest contribution to peaceful conflict resolution. It is the best way to build a future where the fundamental rights and freedoms of our children are respected and strong.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

13:01:57

Thank you, Ms Ingjerd SCHOU.

Next in the debate I call Mr Markus WIECHEL from Sweden.

Mr Markus WIECHEL

Sweden, EC/DA

13:02:03

Thank you, Mr President.

It's almost to the month 30 years ago, 25 December 1991, that the Soviet Union flag was lowered over the Kremlin in Moscow and replaced with a flag of a reborn Russia. Was that momentous event, along with others such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the signal of the coming of a new Europe? This would be a Europe where nations and peoples would be able to freely meet and create a new reality of pan-European friendship, co-operation and trust. A Europe where peace, not tension and fear, would prevail.

Our own Council of Europe and this Assembly were, needless to say, in the forefront of this new era. The Council rapidly doubled its country membership in just a few years, especially in central and eastern Europe, and pursued this effort on behalf of peace among its members.

Ukraine joined in 1995 and Russia the following year. However, today, a mere quarter century later, has this dream that we all shared become a lot nearer to realising despite setbacks? Is this dream about to be shattered?

Well, our European security order, which has been so carefully crafted over the decades, just vanished. No, we cannot accept this development. There's recently been talk by one country in our midst: Russia, of her alleged need to re-establish a supposedly loss of interest in its near abroad. Threats and the posing of intimidating, unacceptable conditions on others have been launched. But the concept of spheres of interest in the sense of political domination of others was supposed to have disappeared in the new European security order. Countries were instead to focus on their attractiveness to others in terms of the state of democracy, the respect for human rights, their observance of the rule of law, their business climate, their good overall relationship with others, etc.

The late former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who often spoke in this chamber of ours, was fond of saying "it's better to speak a thousand words, than to fire a single shot". And, as Winston Churchill, also for several years once a member of our Assembly, put it even more briefly: "jaw-jaw is better than war-war".

Let us be guided by those words of wisdom during the vital international context underway in the decisive days and weeks ahead.

Time is scarce and the stakes enormous. But the dream I mentioned can still be restored.

Thank you, Mr President.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

13:04:57

Thank you, sir.

And now I give the floor to Mr Rustem UMEROV from Ukraine and Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and after that Mr Ahmet YILDIZ.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ can prepare for the floor.

But now Mr Rustem UMEROV, the floor is yours.

Mr Rustem UMEROV

Ukraine, ALDE

13:05:16

Thank you, Madam President.

I want to start today's speech with the remark that we are not talking about the recent challenges in security in Europe. Those issues are not recent at all. For eight years in a row, there has been an active war in the centre of Europe: Russia has attacked Ukraine, occupied its territories, Crimea and some territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Russia has killed more than 14 000 Ukrainian citizens and continues to legally detain almost 500 people in Russia for their political views.

And today, unfortunately, we are forced to once again discuss the continuing aggression against Ukraine from Russia. I want to quote Mr Blinken's thesis that this crisis is not primarily about weapons or military bases – it is about the sovereignty and self-determination of Ukraine and all the states. Russia wants to break the principles of state sovereignty, the rules for peaceful coexistence that have been shaped for decades since the Cold War.

If Russia attacks Ukraine on a full scale and the world remains silent, then the principles that for decades have made the world safe will collapse. This may become a precedent for other authoritarian rulers to refresh their memory of all territorial claims with their neighbours. After the Second World War, we created an organisation that aims to prevent a return to totalitarian regimes and would defend fundamental freedoms, peace and democracy. This organisation is the Council of Europe, so today our response to those threats we are facing from Russia as from the oldest and main parliamentary institution body of Europe has to be strong and concrete.

The EU, PACE have to pay the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe special attention to the importance of strengthening sanctions against the aggressor, not afterwards but backwards.

Over the last eight years, Russia has spent approximately a trillion dollars on their militarisation. This could not have happened if the sanctions from our partners and neighbours were tough and were put in place in time. The language of sanctions is the only one that can be spoken today with the leadership of Russia. Another question: we need to discuss the possibility of creating mechanisms for European special services to work together to exchange information and launch constant reports between countries on what is going on.

Ukraine today needs both diplomatic and military aid from Western partners and allies. Unfortunately, there are some leaders of European countries who allow themselves to talk about cancelling the sanctions, or who admire Russia or support Russian narratives. This is absolutely unacceptable. The future of a safe and peaceful Europe will be decided in Ukraine. Ukrainians are ready to protect our territory from an aggressor. In return, we need real support from those countries who declared the...

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

13:08:36

Thank you sir, you are now out of time so I have to close your speech.

I give the floor, and this will be the last speaker, to Mr Ahmet YILDIZ from Turkey.

The floor is yours Mr Ahmet YILDIZ.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Turkey, NR

13:08:49

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