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27 April 2022 morning

2022 - Second part-session Print sitting

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Opening of session No. 13

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:06:50

The sitting is open.

Please take your seats, dear colleagues.

I remind members that in view of the high number of members physically participating in this Part-Session and the increase in the capacity of the Chamber, wearing a mask is compulsory. Speakers are allowed to take off their mask when they take the floor.

I also 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.

 

Dear Colleagues,

The first item of business this morning is the general policy debate on “Consequences of the Russian Federation's continued aggression against Ukraine: role and response of the Council of Europe” (Doc. 15506) presented by Mr Frank SCHWABE on behalf of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy.

The debate must conclude by 12:00 p.m. for the address by the President of the Italian Republic and will continue this afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

Now, I call Mr SCHWABE, rapporteur. You have 7 minutes and then will have a further 3 minutes to reply to the debate at the end.

You have the floor, Mr Frank SCHWABE.

 

Debate: Consequences of the Russian Federation's continued aggression against Ukraine: role and response of the Council of Europe

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Rapporteur

10:08:27

Mr President,

Thank you very much.

When we awake at the morning at the 24 February, we awake in another world, in another Europe, and in another Council of Europe, as well. And if I think about it, and I think if we all think about it, it's still unbelievable.

As Council of Europe, as the Parliamentary Assembly, we did what was necessary. Nothing nice, but what was necessary to act very responsibly, very unanimously, and we excluded the Russian Federation from this organisation. But now we have to go a very long way to think about the situation to rebuild in a way Europe, the Council of Europe, and we'll go another step today, and another step with the report of my distinguished colleague Mr Aleksander POCIEJ tomorrow.

While we are discussing here, Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine. And we really should stay in solidarity and with our thoughts and feelings we should be with the Ukrainians, and I'm glad to see Ukrainian colleagues here, and I would like to give my best regards, and I think our best regards, to those ones who cannot stay here but who can attend virtually from Ukraine.

The Presidential Committee was in Ukraine to show solidarity on the one hand, and on the other hand to discuss very concrete issues, possibilities, obligations, and what we can do to help in this very very horrific situation.

For sure we speak in the whole Europe and all over the world about weapons and about energy embargoes. Yesterday there was a meeting in Ramstein in Germany on the US base and some decisions were made about weapons. As a German I can say we are providing a lot of weapons. Meanwhile, after some discussions, I really want to say that this discussion here in this organisation is not in the centre about weapons. We try to put some wordings into the text in March and we find a compromise and at the end it made it possible that we could have a strong signal from this organisation, and I really, just to prevent some debates later, I would like to read out the text we find and I think for each and all of us something is inside.

So I would like to quote "the Assembly calls on Council of Europe member states to consider increasing the assistance to Ukraine in its efforts to strengthen the protection of its territory including its airspace". I know it was too far for some, maybe not enough for others, but at the end a kind of military support is included and I really ask all of us to stay with this kind of compromise, to make possible later here again a vast majority on those issues where we have our competence and where we can make a difference and where we can have impact in this organisation to send a very clear signal to the Committee of Ministers.

So in the report, for sure, we try to do everything to support Ukraine that is in the competence of our organisation. And again, I want to refer to the report we have to appoint tomorrow from my best colleague Mr Aleksander POCIEJ, about the human rights dimension and the question of how to deal with war crimes. You should see those two reports in addition. We asked in my report, in our report discussed this morning, to support refugees and IDPs as much as possible. We discuss humanitarian assistance, we discuss how to investigate, how to help the Ukrainians to investigate war crimes, and we ask to set up everything that is necessary, including a tribunal, to really deal with this kind of war crimes. And we ask the member countries to use the opportunity that's given by universal international law to deal and to investigate war crimes and to put to court those that can be put to court.

This is about Ukraine, but it's much more in this report. It's about the question of who we are as the Council of Europe in this specific situation, and we underline again that we should go in the direction of a Fourth summit, because fourth summit means in this long tradition of this organisation it's just the fourth summit to come together to in a way say very new what this organisation is about. And we asked the Committee of Ministers to organise it and we for sure prepared ourselves in the next weeks and months to have our position about this fourth summit.

This organisation legally is an organisation of 46 member countries, but politically we are much more. I would like to include all the people living in Europe into this organisation, whether their governments are prepared to be part in this organisation as a country or not. This is an area of values and all those ones in those countries who are not members now in our organisation but who stand with our values of democracy, rule of law and human rights should be part in this organisation. And we should not just speak about it, we should make it quite concrete.

So we should go the next steps, we should think about how to include Russian civil society through, I mentioned it, programmes or maybe foundations in this organisation, and we should do everything to support the Belarusian opposition to be part in this organisation. And later we will find, I think, a way with oral amendments to deal with this question and to urge the Committee of Ministers to find a way – we don't say concretely what way it is – to implement the Russian opposition from Belarus and to give them the opportunity to take part in this organisation.

And finally it's about money. Money is not so nice, but it is necessary to speak about it. In the last years there was too much that governments thought "we can save some money with this organisation". This organisation is not cheap, but it's quite cost-effective in comparison to other international organisations. But we need some money to organise our work. This is very clear and this request goes to the Committee of Ministers, to the member countries as well.

Maybe I can say that in the morning Germany will decide something. I don't speak about concrete money here, but we need the kind of initiative starting by some countries, I know some countries are prepared to do so, to provide this organisation with the money we need.

So again, it's a historical challenge: we have to face it. As PACE, we try to be a leading part of this organisation. It's heartbreaking what we see: we see the children in the basements in Mariupol' not seeing the sun for months and weeks. So it's really a heartbreaking situation. It's up to the international community to find answers. We are a very important part, we give the answers today, what we can do from today to support Ukraine but again we try to create a perspective for the future of this organisation as well.

Let's discuss it. I'm prepared for this discussion. It will take a long time today, but it's very very necessary and I think Europe is watching what we are doing.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:16:54

Thank you very much, Mister Rapporteur.

I allowed you a bit more speaking time because this introduction is, indeed, most important.

Dear Colleagues,

As we have 99 members of you on our speakers list, I would like to agree that nobody should take more than three minutes. Nothing more than three minutes, and it is not necessary that you take all of the three minutes. It could be an act of parliamentary solidarity if you use less time, because then I can accommodate more of you on the speakers list. I know how important it is for you all to take the floor on this important debate.

First in the debate, I call the speakers on behalf of the political groups.

First on my list is Mr George KATROUGALOS, from Greece. He speaks on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

You have 3 minutes maximum.

Mr George KATROUGALOS

Greece, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

10:17:55

Thank you very much, Mister Chair.

I would like to thank Mr Frank SCHWABE for a thorough report which makes another step towards our response to the crisis in Ukraine.

We have reacted in a swift, united and principled way. We should continue towards this direction.

For us, the immediate end of the war is a priority, of course, in accordance with international law and the report demonstrates the necessary solidarity. I would also like to praise the reference to the living forces in Russia and in Belarus. We believe that diplomacy must take the lead. Diplomacy is not limited to the states. There is also the diplomacy of the people and there are peace movements that are pivotal towards this direction.

My group has just organised the first – of my knowledge – meeting between Russian and Ukrainian activists in the peace movement. We have heard from the Russian participants that we already have 50 000 detentions of heroic Russian citizens who opposed the war. Hundreds of open legal cases for hearings already this week.

It is important for the aftermath of the war in order to avoid a new stark polarisation in Europe to pay special attention to this fact: that the Russian people are not our enemy. We must promote the values and the principles of the Council of Europe, having in mind the next day.

My last remark, because I try to respect the time limit, is that we must respond to the same challenges to our values from where they can come. Russia is not the only perpetrator. Navalny should be freed, but so should Kavala. We are very right to oppose the Russian aggression in Ukraine, but in the last days, we have also seen a new Turkish invasion in Iraq. Kurds, Iraqis, and Syrians are not children of a lesser God. We should give a principled response to all these challenges, to the values and principles we are supporting exactly because we care for a Europe that is going to base its policies not just on a raison d'état, i.e. our national interests but also on principles and values. 

Thank you, Chair.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:20:59

Thank you very much, Mr George KATROUGALOS.

Next on the debate, I call on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group, Mr Ahmet Ünal ÇEVİKÖZ, from Turkey.

Mr Ahmet Ünal ÇEVİKÖZ, you have the floor.

Mr Ahmet Ünal ÇEVİKÖZ

Turkey, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

10:21:11

Thank you, Chairman.

I take the floor on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

I just want to underline that we are now going through a very important epoch in the history of Europe.

The 24 February 2022 is probably going to become a very important benchmark in our history, in the history of our continent. Because it has opened a new chapter. It has opened a new chapter which is unprecedented since the Second World War. It is unprecedented in the sense that it has created millions of refugees, millions of displaced persons, and victims of serious war crimes in Ukraine. It is also  unprecedented because it is unjustified and unprovoked.

All this is happening, and it is being implemented by a country which is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

The international community, of course, immediately reacted to that.

As a part of the international community, our organisation has probably taken the most important and the most rapid reaction. We immediately called for an extraordinary meeting of our Parliamentary Assembly.

It is very rare that we have extraordinary meetings in this Assembly, but it was necessary because it was important to defend our values and principles. It was important to show to the world that this organisation, since 1949, is probably the only important institution in this continent, that is defending the values of human rights and fundamental rights and principles.

It is not a war between Ukraine and Russia. It is a war between democracy, between the principles of democracy, and all the values that we cherish in our Charter, versus dictatorship, versus authoritarianism. And it's not only happening in that geography, it is happening all over the continent. It has been also referred to by my previous colleague who took the floor.

So we have to show our solidarity.

In our extraordinary meeting in March, the Opinion 300 was passed in this Assembly with unanimity. It was a very balanced report. It was a very balanced document which created the understanding of this organisation, and which defended the values of this organisation, based particularly on human rights.

The report is also very balanced. I must express my appreciation to Mr Frank SCHWABE, our rapporteur for this, because it has created a very serious balance, and it has maintained the balance that we have achieved by certain concessions and compromises to the different views in the Opinion 300.

We need to show the same unanimity and solidarity here in this plenary, and at the end of the day we have to give a very strong and solid unanimous support to the report.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:24:22

Thank you, Mr Ahmet Ünal ÇEVİKÖZ.

I call on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party Ms Ingjerd SCHOU from Norway.

Ingjerd, you have the floor.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

10:24:31

President, Colleagues,

Mr Frank SCHWABE, on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party, I commend you on such a comprehensive report on the consequences of the Russian aggression in Ukraine. Only six weeks ago, at our extraordinary session, we discussed the exact same topic. The immediate consequences for our organisation were clear. There was no doubt that there is no place in our common European home for an aggressor. It was unanimous.

President,

Russia is no longer a member of our organisation. Now we must look at further consequences. Sadly, the Russian aggression is ongoing. We are shocked and saddened by the brutality, the accounts of sexualised violence and rape are excruciating. War crimes are being committed and the Ukrainian people have no respite in sight. We must continue to stand together in our condemnation and we must continue to unite in supporting Ukraine so that the humanitarian suffering is kept to a minimum. We must do what we can to contribute to ending the fighting and the conflict being resolved.

But, President, we must stay within the mandate of our organisation, and our competence. The expertise the Council of Europe has in human rights, democracy and the rule of law is available to Ukraine and plays a crucial role.

Tomorrow accountability for the serious violations of international humanitarian law will be discussed. Our organisation has the extensive legal expertise and can be relied on. The Russian Federation must be held accountable.

The idea of a summit of heads of state and government of our member States has been launched. The values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law must be reaffirmed and a new vision for our organisation elaborated. For a successful summit, preparation and timing are crucial.

President,

Russia has turned its back on our common European home. As an Assembly and as an organisation we have acted in unity. As we now go further into detail of the consequences, we must strive to maintain this unity. A united Council of Europe is a stronger Council of Europe.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:27:20

Thank you, Ms Ingjerd SCHOU.

Now I welcome in the debate on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO from Ukraine.

Good to see you here, Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO, you have the floor for 3 minutes.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

10:27:32

Thank you very much.

Dear colleagues,

You know I just – first of all I want to thank my political group European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance for the possibility that a Ukrainian is a spokesperson on this issue.

But first of all I want to speak now on behalf of the Ukrainian people. That's why I'm here. That's why I left Ukraine which is now a frontline. I left my country less than almost 48 hours ago. I can tell you that you know even now when I hear an aeroplane, I think it's a missile. This morning I woke up to some loud noise on the street – I thought it was an explosion. It was garbage taken from the street.

Yes, we are traumatised.

But you know when I was telling this Parliamentary Assembly for years that Putin is preparing this attack, about the plans of the Russian Federation, some of you thought that I was crazy. I'm not crazy now, when I mistake an aeroplane with a missile. No, I just have experienced what you fortunately have not. Ukrainians pay with their lives [so] that you don't have this experience. But many of you thought that I was crazy. Some of you – when our German colleague told me that I was populistic – and I said to him, Frank, we will see. And we see now: so who is populistic and who was populistic?

Speaking about Germany, I just want to quote Timothy D. Snyder who is the one of the best living historians in the world: "For thirty years, Germans lectured Ukrainians about fascism. When fascism actually arrived, Germans funded it, and Ukrainians died fighting it." That's true. Maybe it's an unpleasant truth, but that's true.

So I want to say – not about some consequences, because nothing has finished. The worries are continuing. Just on Saturday in my native city Odessa, together with my three year old boy, we heard some explosions close to us. And then we knew that that it was a missile attack of the Russians which took eight lives – in reality nine, because it was a couple and the lady was pregnant, a three month old baby with her mother and grandmother. Just imagine this – it was Orthodox Easter. 

I address Greeks, Romanians, Bulgarians, Moldovans, Georgians, Armenians who are here: the sacred day for all of us, for the Orthodox religion, and the blood of newborns on the hands of a devil who is Putin.

So first of all, we need real sanctions against the Russian Federation. Stop buying Russian oil and gas. Russian oil and gas is full of Ukrainian blood. If you pay 800 million euros per day for Russian fossil fuels, and the first country [to buy it] is Germany, then Putin can afford this war forever. At 1:30 p.m. we will have a public signing here near the hemicycle, I invite all of you to do this.

Second, we need weapons, weapons, and again weapons. And don't make this hypocrisy – "oh this is a defensive weapon, this is an attacking weapon" – we are defending our country. All weapons for us are defensive weapons, and nothing else.

The last thing, I'm finishing, just support Ukraine on our European path. If we are good enough, if we are good enough to die for European values, maybe we are good enough to be part of the European political family too?

Stop lecturing us. Start helping us. Stand together, shoulder to shoulder, and we can stop this evil.

If we will not do this, he will go further and you will also mistake the sound of an aeroplane with the sound of a missile. I don't want this. Let's stop it now.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:31:26

Thank you, Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO.

I granted you some extra time because of the fact that you just arrived from Ukraine and could update us.

Now, next in the debate, on behalf of the ALDE group, Mr Jacques MAIRE from France.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:31:39

The next speaker on behalf of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe is Mr Jacques MAIRE, for France.

You have the floor.

Mr Jacques MAIRE

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

10:31:46

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear Colleagues,

I am very happy to speak after Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO because I think he has set the framework a little bit. Thank you to Mr. Frank SCHWABE for his report.

We have done things; we have not been inactive. We have indeed suspended and then excluded Russia. We have gone there with Mr Frank SCHWABE and with Mr Tiny KOX, but we are still, in spite of the enrichment of the report, in a reality, in Strasbourg, which is still much too bureaucratic. I say this frankly.

The member States and the European Union have reinvented themselves in the last two months. They have pushed their limits, they have revisited their mandates, and they have done things that they did not do before, including for example in terms of military support, which is not our subject. Many member States have been there.

Ukraine is a member of our Organisation. We can see that, sixty-two days after the beginning of the conflict, the presence of the Council of Europe in Ukraine is not up to the mark, neither from the point of view of the Bureau, nor from the point of view of the political leaders.

I would say that it is very good, indeed, to be able to give visibility. It is very good to respect the rules, but we must push our barriers to the maximum. When we look at the fact that today, the answer we got yesterday, that the Office in Kyiv would only open when the action plan would be adopted, it is an answer –I am sorry– that is much too bureaucratic. When the Commissioner for Human Rights cannot come because the conditions of her mandate do not allow it, this is a bureaucratic response. It is imposed on us, we are an organisation based on the law, but there are times when we have to reinvent ourselves.

There are two fields, in fact. There is our relationship with Ukraine and our political support, and there is another field that is also important. I thank Mr Frank SCHWABE for having made efforts in this area: support for the opposition. Support for the opposition in Belarus and support for the opposition in Russia. Here too, we have to reinvent ourselves. This is probably the first time, apart from Greece, where we have to consider that supporting the populations, the civil societies, is at least as important as having a relationship with the governments that have left us and that are aggressors.

Let's reinvent ourselves. This drama must serve a purpose. This drama must allow us to be more relevant and to be more present in this political environment. I think that the Assembly has played its part, has played its role. I think that, here too, the report is completely inadequate on one important point: how the Assembly, the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General can work harder and together to effectively accelerate our momentum and to challenge our way of working.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:34:46

Thank you, Mr Jacques MAIRE. [in French]

Now in the debate I call Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, from Iceland.

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, you have the floor.

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC

10:34:58

Thank you, Mr President.

I would like to thank Mr Frank SCHWABE for this comprehensive report about what the Council of Europe can do to show solidarity with Ukraine, but also where we are moving forward after this reprehensible and completely unjustifiable invasion of the Russian Federation into the territory of Ukraine.

First of all, I would like to express my utmost support to the idea that the Council of Europe does everything in its power to support the constitution of an international criminal tribunal in order to try the crime of aggression which we know we cannot adequately address through the ICC procedure.

I would also like to call on all member states to support the ICC in its investigations of the heinous war crimes that we hear are happening in the territory of Ukraine.

And I would like to draw specific attention to the crime of rape used as a weapon of war in Ukraine, which is something that needs a special type of investigation and special attention from all of us to address.

I would also like to say that we should show strong support for this report. It has comprehensive action plans on what we as an organisation have competences to do to support Ukraine. And I think we should use all of our competences and all of our tools to assist Ukraine and to show solidarity with them. Having said that, I also think that it is important that we try to reach out to those in Russia that will speak for peace and those in Russia that name the war a war. And because of this I must mention a specific case of Vladimir Kara-Murza, an opposition politician who just testified before the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on 4 April about the bleak situation of opposition in Russia of those speaking against the war, of those trying to stop the war.

He was arrested. He is now on trial, likely to be convicted and sentenced to up to 10 or 15 years imprisonment for calling the war a war.

At his testimony before our committee, when asked "what can we do to support the opposition in Russia, those who speak against the war?", he said "give a VPN connection free to all Russians". I think this is something that we should consider, that Russians who oppose Putin and his regime can safely access the internet, can safely exchange information, and can hopefully safely organise a different kind of regime in Russia which will bring us peace.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:37:53

Thank you, Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR.

Now I welcome in the debate, from Ukraine, Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA, you have the floor.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:38:04

Dear President, 

As always, I have an unprepared speech.

You know when I was with my colleagues in Kharkiv and rocket cassette missiles just before coming to see here you, dear colleagues, my only thought was "Oh God, please not now, we have to deliver this speech, we have to be as a delegation here and to vote on this resolution." And that is really random to have these thoughts at the moment when you are under rockets, but these thoughts are really something that touches upon every family and every displaced person, every displaced child in Ukraine when they are in search of food and water, as it was literally like during the Stone Age. In February, they were drinking melted water in Mariupol, now they are eating cat and dog food in Mariupol and drinking the water from the toilet sink.

I am very sorry to give you these examples but this is something very true that people in the 21st century are facing. Yes, we are not a military organisation but I am highly thankful for the amendment which would stop supplying weapons and we call for that – to stop supplying weapons to Russia and the components of Russia, because the tanks being and having fuel in them are proceeding with bloody missions against innocent Ukrainians.

Colleagues, we cut the head of the snake but the tail is still there. I have to address the issue of the Russian staff which is working at a very high-ranking position here and influencing the political decisions.

Well, food security. I think you have seen in your member states how prices have grown and that food security is one of the things we have to face. 

Yesterday, just 32 years ago, the whole world faced the catastrophe of Chernobyl. Well, we might have 15 Chernobyls in the future because the 15 nuclear power reactors are still active in Ukraine and Putin does not have to press the red button. He can just "by accident" drop a missile on one of those. 

Colleagues, you are great politicians and great international lawyers, so please stop calling this a conflict. This is a war of aggression – it is written in our previous resolution. 

Colleagues, we have liberated some of those who are trapped by Russians and one of them is Mr Ivan Fedorov, the legal mayor of Melitopol, but there are more than 30 persons like that right now being captured by Russians. I call you to liberate them all as well. 

Three minutes is not enough. We, with very hard thoughts and hearts, are here with you and we are thankful for the timely response but we need to act on national levels: more sanctions, more weapons, more solidarity and I thank every person from your countries, from the 45 member states who support Ukraine today, who became Ukrainians themselves.

Thank you very much. 

Slava Ukraini

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:41:31

Thank you very much, Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA.

Indeed, three minutes is not enough. Fortunately, we have more of you colleagues later on the speakers list. We will hear directly from Ukraine later.

Next in the debate is Lord Richard KEEN, from the United Kingdom.

He should be online.

Do we have a connection with him?

We don't.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:41:53

The next speaker is Mr Claude KERN for France.

Mr KERN, you have the floor.

Mr Claude KERN

France, ALDE

10:42:00

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

I would like to start by thanking our colleague Mr Frank SCHWABE for this report on the consequences of the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

We see these consequences immediately in Ukraine, of course, through the destruction and the migrants thrown onto the roads, who are fleeing the war and its attendant barbarities. We also see them immediately in the neighbouring countries that are hosting these refugees, and I am thinking first of Poland and Slovakia.

But we cannot yet measure all the possible consequences of this war on the member states of the Council of Europe. Yesterday, in response to Mr Aleksander POCIEJ, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe expressed her fears about the potential destabilisation of the Republic of Moldova, due to the Russian troops stationed in Transnistria. I can only share these fears, which unfortunately have already been confirmed, just as I have concerns about the evolution of the situation in the Balkans, or in Georgia, which we will have the opportunity to discuss again tomorrow.

Our member states have shown unity in reaffirming Europe's humanist values and in achieving the exclusion of Russia from the Council of Europe. This was necessary, but this unity must be maintained in the long term, in the face of the attempts at destabilisation that are sure to come. Let us not hide the fact that the task will not always be easy. I hope that the parliamentary debate in our Assembly will facilitate this unity.

We must be clear, and I thank our colleague Mr Frank Schwabe once again for having been so in his report: the Council of Europe must fully and quickly help Ukraine, but within the framework of its mandate. It is not a question of involving it in any question of defence, but of bringing all the necessary support to the Ukrainian authorities, but also to the authorities of other destabilised member states on issues relating to the protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, including by going off the beaten track when it is necessary. Our colleague Mr Jacques MAIRE reminded us earlier: let us avoid this bureaucracy.

In this respect, I would like to commend the rapid action taken by the Council of Europe Development Bank, which was the first multilateral development bank to grant funds to help its members meet the immediate needs of Ukrainian refugees, particularly in terms of transport, accommodation, food and medical care. I also believe it is essential to coordinate with other multilateral organisations, most notably the OSCE.

Finally, and we will be discussing this in greater detail tomorrow, we must collectively rethink the European multilateral architecture to preserve peace and stability in Europe. The prospect of a Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe seems to me to be a necessity in this respect.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:45:02

Thank you, dear Claude. [in French]

Next in the debate I call Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY from Turkey.

Emine, you have floor.

Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY

Turkey, NR

10:45:10

Thank you Chair.

Dear President,

Dear colleagues,

To begin with, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Frank SCHWABE, for preparing a detailed report.

Of course, our priority now is to support Ukraine and Ukrainian people by putting emphasis on their urgent needs stemming from this unlawful and devastating war. We hope that first a ceasefire, and then peace, can be achieved soon to prevent further bloodshed and destruction.

In my speech, rather than focusing on Ukraine, I would like to advert of some general aspects of the current situation.

The report touches upon a large area of the consequences of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. We should mind that these are not just short-term consequences we need to find solutions to urgently. There are also many long-term challenges we should tackle to discuss thoroughly.

It is clear that we are now in an opposite direction of the peaceful spirit set out in the first period after the Cold War. The security landscape of Europe has rapidly changed, and a new Iron Curtain, a dividing line in Europe, has re-emerged.

In this hostile environment, our common goal to achieve democratic security is also under the threat of resurgence of aggressive nationalism, intolerance, and undemocratic tendencies, as well as a lack of effective multilateralism combined with serious challenges in recent decades.

The erosion of the European security architecture will inevitably have repercussions on the whole of Europe. Against the exceptional threat of the Russian aggression, the European community was able to create a united front. But, as we see in the past, we are prone to shift our priorities and turn our attention inward once a crisis is over.

Therefore, the important thing is, we should also find a way to sustain this unity and avoid divisions on our future actions.

Moreover, we should pay attention to set aside to responding at all these challenges only at the level of discourse, rather than we should adopt concerted actions. To take them, we should discuss constructively on how to strengthen respective roles and competences of international organisations, particularly the Council of Europe.

As expressed in the report we should formulate a new vision for Europe. I believe such a vision needs to be constructed around the notion that our security, well-being, and prosperity is interdependent, and that we will progress and regress all together.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:48:26

Thank you, Emine.

Next in the debate I call Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN from Romania.

Titus, you have the floor.

Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN

Romania, SOC

10:48:33

Thank you President and colleagues.

First of all, I would like to express a word of respect for our Ukrainian colleagues, women and men, for their courage and the way how they fight and support the interests of their country and their nation.

Secondly, I want to express a clear and strong support for the adoption of the report proposed by our rapporteur, Mr Frank SCHWABE.

This report, while expressing once again the support for the integrity, sovereignty and independent status of Ukraine (and we should repeat again and again this important formula in international relations), this report is also expressing a strong call for unity, I underline unity, in supporting Ukraine and exerting the maximum pressure on Russia to cease this aggression.

By the way, yesterday the Romanian prime minister, the speaker of the parliament, and the foreign minister paid a visit to Kyiv meeting President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian prime minister discussing what was supposed to be discussed between neighbours and European partners, but also looking forward, beyond this period of horrible aggression, looking forward to how to accelerate the speed of European integration of Ukraine, and also looking at the future process of reconstructing the building of the new Ukraine.

And we are very confident that in a European Ukraine also the identity of Ukrainian citizens belonging to different other ethnic identities, this is the case of the loyal Romanian Ukrainian citizens, will be preserved according to the standards.

Thirdly, the rapporteur is right when mentioning the risk, and this is Paragraph 9, the first line, the risk of an escalation or enlargement of the conflict. That cannot be excluded. I will join Mr Claude KERN, signalling with great concern, the last developments which are happening in Transnistria. We are looking with great concern at the provocative actions of Russian inspiration in Transnistria. We are looking with concern but with also great support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty, and also for the European future of the Republic of Moldova, and I will add also Georgia, of course.

Last but not least, it's an appeal for unity within this Assembly – I mean the unity that was shown when adopting our Opinion 300 for expelling Russia from this organisation should be preserved despite nuances and so on. At the end, at the final vote, we should preserve this political unity which is essential for our force and for our efficiency when establishing our ways of doing things and supporting Ukraine. Also in supporting the organisation of the fourth summit and also working through legal means for international criminal justice that should be done.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:51:44

Thank you Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN.

The next speaker in our debate is Mr Bernard FOURNIER from France.

You have the floor.

Mr Bernard FOURNIER

France, EPP/CD

10:51:53

Mr President,

Dear colleagues,

Two months have passed since the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine. Two months since the Russian President flouted the values of peace on which our continent was built. Two months that the Russian Federation has been violating the rules of international humanitarian law on a daily basis. Two months of destruction, suffering, acts of violence.

Faced with this situation, the Council of Europe has taken a clear and rapid stand. Our Assembly did not fail, unanimously reaffirming our values and drawing the necessary consequences.

This was necessary, but there is still so much to be done given the seriousness of the situation, not only for Ukraine but for Europe as a whole. In this respect, one can only be worried when one hears the Russian Foreign Minister now evoking the spectre of a third world war.

In this context, all member states of our organisation have an important responsibility to provide appropriate assistance to Ukraine and to reduce the human cost of this war, but also to put pressure on Russia.

Let us be clear: it will be all the easier to exert pressure if they are not dependent on Russia, particularly in terms of energy, as the draft resolution before us emphasises.

This brings us back to the subject of strategic autonomy in another context, in particular that of the European Union. We have been too naive in the past, and not only with regard to Russia. The defence of our values, the defence of our democratic model presupposes that we cannot be subjected to energy, food or technological constraints.

But there is still a lot to do – a lot to do to face the migratory consequences of this crisis and to ensure a dignified reception to migrants. Much needs to be done to document violations of international humanitarian law, and I welcome the support of the Council of Europe to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. There is also much to be done to rethink the role of the Council of Europe in this context.

In particular, I would like to support our rapporteur's request that a Fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe member states be held soon. Of course, the subject must mature, and the debates in our Assembly will contribute to this, but I think it is absolutely essential.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:54:44

Thank you, Mister Bernard FOURNIER.

Now I call in the debate from Germany Mr Max LUCKS.

Mr Max LUCKS, you have the floor.

Mr Max LUCKS

Germany, SOC

10:54:56

Dear Mister President,

Dear Colleagues,

On 15 March of this year, we as the Parliamentary Assembly decided that Russia should be expelled from the Council of Europe. This is not news for us here. Unfortunately, what reached the European public shows how well the propaganda of the Kremlin, the propaganda of Russia, the propaganda of the Putin system works in Europe, because the result that arrived to the public was that Russia left voluntarily.

That is wrong. I think it is important that we also as members of this Parliamentary Assembly continue to make it clear in our member States that we did not just wait, but that we acted quickly to stand by Ukraine.

As a German, I often encounter another example of Kremlin propaganda; Germany's historical responsibility to the Soviet Union. It is my country's - my country that once reduced all of Europe to rubble. I also know as a German that most of the victims in the Soviet Union are to be found on Ukrainian soil as a result of my country's aggression. That is why my country's historical responsibility also applies at this time and especially to Ukraine, which is brutally exposed to this Russian aggression. That is why, as a member of the German Parliament from the Green Party, I will also vote tomorrow to allow more arms deliveries. Nevertheless, I would like to thank Mr Frank SCHWABE for this very, very good report, because it shows that we, as the Council of Europe, do not just let our responsibility end after the exclusion of Russia. It shows that we have to take our responsibility actively now. It shows that we want to push forward the investigation and evidence collection of human rights violations in connection with this heinous war there and that we want to push forward the co‑operation with the civil society. It also shows that we do not leave by themselves the Russian and the Belarusian opposition movement, which wants this war just as little.

Russia has not played a false game, ladies and gentlemen. We were not just too naïve. I think Europe was sometimes too ignorant. It is our job to stand by Ukraine.

Thank you for this very good report.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:58:09

Thank you, Mister Max LUCKS.

Next I call in the debate from Lithuania, Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS, you have the floor.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD

10:58:20

Thank you, dear colleagues.

Thank you, Mr Max LUCKS, for what you said about the responsibility of the Federal Republic of Germany and its reconciliation in the last 40 years, of internal dialogue of the Federal German society and who is responsible for the Second World War, for the Holocaust.

I think from German society and the German government we expect one more step: an extended comment to the Russian government. When the Russian government talks about denazification of Ukraine, not one from the German side and also our dear Israeli friends must emphasise that this so-called denazification or a new genocide in Ukraine is undertaken by Russia. There is a relationship with a Russian internal scene in the last 10 years, a terrible movement, with a terrible racist ideology. We have to speak very loudly about the ideologisation of Russia through Russki Mir.

I want to thank Mr Frank SCHWABE for being inclusive, because you said yes to 20 of my 25 amendments.

In the other reports, which will be discussed by us in a moment and tomorrow - on Thursday, the Aleksander POCIEJ report - we have to emphasise that this ideology for Russia, which belongs to Russki Mir, and this priority of ethnicity versus human rights, Russians versus human rights. Russians have a top priority. We heard that from the Third Reich society in the 1930s.

That's what my grandma and my mother survived in the concentration camp. Some 4 years in the Nazi concentration camp. Now we hear again: ethnicity, nation above everything. This above all we have to stop, this above all. I speak in the name of all survivors of World War II. Mr Vladimir PUTIN has no right to speak about World War II, because he does not present the Allied side.

Ukrainians were also among those who fought against Nazis. About it today, when we see the evacuation of the survivors of the Second World War in the Federal Republic of Germany, an evacuation of the last survivors of the Second World War, then we have to say something about it and about this ideology.

Ukraine will be liberated, dear colleagues, together with all of us. All states will help to liberate Ukraine militarily, but Russia remains with this ideology. We must stop this ideology, this ideology of Russki Mir cannot have another life in Europe.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:01:35

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS.

Now I call in the debate Mr Erkin GADIRLI from Azerbaijan.

Erkin, you have the floor.

Mr Erkin GADIRLI

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

11:01:44

Thank you Mr Chairman.

Dear colleagues,

Various international crimes are being committed on the territory of Ukraine: crimes against humanity, war crimes. Based on what was reported from Bucha, Irpin and other places, it is fair to say that there is a reason to believe that some of those crimes are of a genocidal nature.

But above all that, there's one particular crime which deserves special attention, and that is a crime of aggression.

Dear colleagues,

There are two categories of international crimes: crimes according to international law and crimes against international law.

The vast majority of international crimes belong to the first group. Those are the ones which are defined by relevant international treaties: terrorism, illegal use of certain weapons, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and so on and so forth. Those are crimes according to international law.

Aggression is a crime of its own kind. It is not a crime according to international law; it is a crime against international law. It's based on fundamental denial of international law as a legal phenomenon. It is one thing when one is frustrated by the ineffectiveness of international law; and we all know that international law is far from being perfect, it is in fact very weak, often abused by powerful states. But it is quite another thing when one denies the legal nature of international law.

There was a word in the Russian language – безнаказанность (beznakazannost) – it is translated into English as "impunity". It is a correct translation, but some portion of the meaning is missing here. "Impunity" implies that either there is no legally provided punishment, or there is legally provided punishment but someone manages to escape it or for some reason is excluded from it.

The Russian word безнаказанность (beznakazannost) – apart from that – also means that there can in principle be no punishment, either in the law or in morality or even in the eyes of public opinion.

And that is why we often hear from Russian politicians phrases like "we will bomb Warsaw", "our tanks will be in Prague again", "Berlin will beg us", "the Baltic states are fake", "Ukraine never existed", and so on, and so on. And one of them – namely Mr Mikhail Delyagin, member of the state Duma, lower House of the Russian Federal Parliament – went as far as to say that Russia could and perhaps even should use tactical nuclear weapons against Azerbaijan. Guess why? Because Azerbaijan provides humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

Such words should not come this easy. We are at the stage where international law is being denied its legal nature.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:05:08

Thank you very much.

I now give the floor to Ms Nicole TRISSE.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE

11:05:18

Thank you, Madam President.

Mr Rapporteur, dear colleagues,

You see, today I feel particularly proud to be European, to be here, when I hear all your words, whatever country you come from.

On 24 February, Russia committed the unthinkable. By illegally entering Ukraine, it reintroduced barbarism on our continent. The massacre in Bucha is unfortunately only one illustration of this. The martyrdom of the city of Mariupol is another. In addition to this, Russia has introduced a crude power relationship since it threatens the entire continent with nuclear and ballistic fire.

Of course, our condemnation was strong, was unanimous: the Russian Federation is no longer part of our organisation and that is a good thing. But I believe that the Council of Europe must do more, can do more, and at several levels.

As for the crimes, we talk about war crimes. Yes, of course, these are unlimited attacks against civilians: bombings, murders, looting, rapes, there is no doubt about it. Crimes against humanity, no doubt, yes, but we must wait for the end of the investigations that have been ordered and that we wish to put in place. Moreover, our organisation must ensure that these investigations are carried out without hindrance. Genocide? As the President of the French Republic reminded us, this word has a meaning and it is a legal term, but here again, I consider that our organisation, through the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, will have its role to play.

So, this debate will of course occupy us for years, unfortunately. There will be investigations, trials, reparations. As far as the Council of Europe is concerned, we must be all the more firm on our democratic values, not accepting any drift towards pseudo-liberal societies and authoritarian regimes. I consider, as Mr Jacques MAIRE and many others have said, that the Council of Europe must reinvent itself and be more reactive.

To return to the war itself, the absolute priority is obviously to put an end to it, as quickly as possible, while respecting the principle of the sovereignty of states recognised by the UN. The territorial integrity of Ukraine is not an element of negotiation, nor are the democratic choices of its people. But, in parallel, there must be a discussion: that is why a channel with Moscow must remain open. At the same time, we need a policy of sanctions, the toughest possible sanctions, and massive aid to Ukraine on all levels. There is no other way.

All proposals to achieve this end are of course welcome and once again thank you, Mr Frank SCHWABE, for this report which is complete and which opens ways for the Council of Europe. I hope that our efficiency, our unanimity and our solidarity can continue in this direction.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:08:20

Thank you, Madam.

I give the floor now to Mr Ahmet YILDIZ, from Turkey.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Turkey, NR

11:08:30

Thank you, Madam Chair. 

Dear colleagues,

With this report, once again, we strongly condemn this aggression in the strongest form and express our solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people fighting ferociously for their freedom and their independence. The continuation of this aggression serves for nothing but more death and destruction.

In addition to indiscriminate attacks on urban areas, civilian infrastructures and even innocent civilians, we have witnessed shameful scenes which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity from various districts around Kyiv, the capital.

Targeting innocent civilians can never be accepted. Identifying those who are responsible and bringing them to justice by holding an independent investigation should be our expectation. Despite some progress, we see some setbacks in the negotiations in recent weeks. Nonetheless, we still hope that the negotiations will reach success. In this respect, we call on the Russian Federation to stop the aggression and get back to the negotiating table with goodwill. To that end, Turkey has been making every effort to open the way for peace. We will continue to keep dialogue channels open and engage with both countries, including our offer to host a meeting of the two leaders when this will be realistic.

Madam Chair, dear colleagues, as proposed by the rapporteur, organising a summit of our organisation is a very timely and good idea. If we achieve a successful summit, it will contribute a lot to our continent and will be remembered in the future by the next generations.

On the financial issue, I still urge – I repeat here – to let us make a fair distribution of the financial gap. Voluntary contributions may seem like a good idea in a parliamentary atmosphere, but when we take into consideration the totality of the Council of Europe, dealing with the rule of law, CPT, and others, the voluntary contribution cannot be a permanent solution because it may hamper the sustainability and integrity of some chambers of this organisation.

I blame some words here that compared the Turkish operation in Iraq, terror operation, with the Russian aggression on Ukraine. This operation – the Turkish operation in Iraq – is in a region that is not controlled by the Iraqi government nor by the regional Kurdish authority, that is why the Iraqi army also moved to the same region in co-ordination with the Kurdish regional authority in Iraq. So it is not an arbitrary operation.

Then Madam Chair I... then as Ms MIJATOVIĆ declared here yesterday, the way to communicate within the Council and my country is to engage, engage, engage. 

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:11:56

Please come to an end, because we have to be quite straight.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Turkey, NR

11:12:01

Then as Ms Dunja MIJATOVIĆ yesterday declared here, the way to communicate with my country between the Council and my country is to engage, engage, engage.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:12:14

Dear Colleagues,

We have to be very straight because we have a huge speakers list.

If we want to give everybody a chance, then we have to do so.

I give the floor now to Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC

11:12:29

Madam President.

Frank SCHWABE, thanks very much for your excellent report.

We can fully share it together with us here now.

Thanks very much, Mariia and Oleksii from Ukraine for the excellent presentation from your side, too.

You gave us severe messages from your country.

In Finland we are in full solidarity with you. In our living memory it is very very well your 1939, when after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, Stalin attacked Finland. We were alone. Stalin calculated that Finland is divided because severe Civil War had taken place in the country 20 years back. What did the Red Army actually meet in Finland? The Red Army met a miracle of Winter War in Finland.

The whole country was united, and the nationhood showed its strength. Mariia and Oleksii, that's exactly what is happening now in Ukraine, too. Your national identity is at the highest level in your history as far as I can analyse it. Congratulations, partly for that one. Tragedy is huge, but you will obviously win.

Russians are saying that the problem is NATO's expansion. That's the threat for them, as they say it. No, that's not the threat. The major threat is Europeanisation of Ukraine and the democracy development in your country. That is the threat, but not against Russia itself, not against Russian people, but against the authoritarian power structures in Russia. That is the threat. That's why your fight in Ukraine is not only the fight for your own nationhood, but it's a fight for democracy in Russia, too.

We should remember what is actually going on. It's very important to understand that the common security in Europe has now changed to common insecurity. That's why we are in full solidarity.

Thanks, Frank, for your report in noting that we should also remember the civil society in Russia. We shouldn't isolate the people of Russia from this, particularly the brave human rights fighters in Russia. We should always keep the strong support and links.

What is left for Russia now? Putin's time is over soon or even sooner. That's absolutely clear. What is left for Russia? Apologies. Apologies for Ukrainian people, apologies for the whole world, and actually apologies also for Russian people themselves.

Thanks.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:15:22

Thank you very much.

I give the floor now to Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ from Lithuania.

Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ

Lithuania, EPP/CD

11:15:30

Thank you Ms President.

Mr Frank SCHWABE, thank you for your excellent report on the consequences of the continued Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine, and the role and response of the Council of Europe.

Colleagues, the Russian Federation is out of the Council of Europe. It is out of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

This house unanimously condemned Russia's war of aggression, breaches of international law and Russia's international commitments. But it is only the beginning.

We welcome the United Nations General Assembly resolution of the 7th of April, on the suspension of the rights of the membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council. To my mind, to my understanding, there should be no place for aggressive Russia in the United Nations Security Council.

Colleagues, we are witnessing brutal atrocities, war crimes, committed by the Russian army in the occupied territories of Ukraine: Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol. We can say the genocide of Ukrainian people. Those responsible should face justice. The International Criminal Court is already dealing with those issues.

I fully support the idea that a special international criminal tribunal has to be established. We have to finish with the ideology of Putinism, which is very similar to Stalinism and fascism, once and forever. We have to exert pressure on the withdrawal of Russian troops from the sovereign territories, not only of Ukraine, but also Georgia, Moldova and Belarus. We shouldn't forget about this when our eyes are on Ukraine, mostly.

And last but not least, our assistance to Ukraine must be much stronger. I'm sure we can do more.

We are expressing our support in Mr Frank SCHWABE's report. We are expressing our support for the establishment of a Ukraine solidarity trust fund to rebuild Ukraine after the war, to initiate a large-scale investment programme, and to restore the country's growth potential after the war. While now, when the Ukrainians are fighting for their and our freedom, and European values, we have to support them by all means possible: political, economic, humanitarian and military.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:18:05

Thank you very much Ms Laima Liucija ANDRIKIENĖ.

I call now Mr Thomas PRINGLE from Ireland.

Mr Thomas PRINGLE

Ireland, UEL

11:18:16

The horrific of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation will have far-reaching effects across Europe and indeed the world.

The continued aggression is shocking and the harm being done to the civilian population of Ukraine is terrible.

There is no doubt that the efforts of this Council must be to support the people of Ukraine and put whatever pressure we can on the government of the Russian Federation to end this aggression. But we should also not support the government of Ukraine in the banning of a political party there as well – I think that is something that we have to stress.

I believe that there is a need for some line of communication to be ready as well to push for a peaceful settlement of this conflict and the Council of Europe should have a role in that. The Council of Europe can achieve this by keeping lines of communication open with the people of Russia. I think that it is important that those lines of communication as outlined in the document but that aren't actually in the motion should be kept open.

Among the changes that the conflict is driving in Europe is the decision apparently of the Finnish and Swedish governments to ask to join NATO. There is some merit perhaps in their decision from their point of view, but it is not for me to comment on that. It would be helpful if they did not comment on Ireland's discussions around the same topic.

This will lead to even more pressure on Ireland to abandon our traditional stance of military neutrality, even though consistently over 70% of the Irish people have said that they do not want to change that policy when surveyed. But that does not seem to satisfy the warmongers and our own media, government, and possibly even the EU. I believe that the views of the Irish people need to be respected. I would hope that the Council of Europe would respect and support that view as well, particularly with the upcoming Irish Presidency of the Council of Europe.

The idea that NATO is some great protection for the people of Europe, in my mind is laughable. I believe that when the history of this conflict will be written, the role of NATO and the events that led up to it will be interesting to read – although it might be the US and NATO that write that history, so maybe we will not see that.

The attack on neutrality is matched with the demands and wish for Ireland to join NATO, or if not at least join the EU version of NATO. To that end as well I would also have concerns with the continued alignment of the Council of Europe with the EU. Could this organisation become a vassal of the EU? This question needs to be addressed and might be more a pressing argument considering the Russian aggression as well. The Russian aggression is having immediate deadly effects on the people of Ukraine, but there can also be long lasting effects across Europe and we will see that work out in the coming years.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:20:52

Thank you very much. 

I now go to Mr Stéphane BERGERON. He is online, if he succeeds. No. Then we will come back to him later.

I give the floor Mr John HOWELL. He is here.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA

11:21:13

Thank you very much, Madam President.

I am unashamedly on the side of Ukraine.

The speech which has moved me the most this morning has been that excellent speech of Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO, amongst many other excellent speeches this morning. He spoke with sincerity and with clarity and should have brought home to us what this war is about and what its effects are.

I don't want to use faint praise to damn this report when I say that it contains many worthy items that we should concentrate on. Nor do I want to damn it with faint praise by saying that it is also well meaning. And I know too that we are not a military organisation, but that does not mean that we can simply pretend that a war is not taking place and that it has nothing to do with us.

We are asking in Paragraph 11.2 of the motion for nations and organisations to "help strengthen Ukrainian airspace". That means a no-fly zone. But we are not prepared to ask them, it would seem, to supply military assistance. Yes, it may be implicit, it may be implicit. But I feel that it should also be explicit, that this is not a time, to use the English expression, to hide our light under a bushel when Ukraine is asking for weapons.

This report deals with a number of items that are important. It deals with refugees, it deals with professional support, it deals with the full withdrawal of Russian troops, not just from Ukraine but from Georgia, Moldova and Belarus. And it also asks for an international criminal court to take action. And I hope that that will be unhindered.

It also asks for us to engage with civil society. And let me say that, as far as the Belorusian civil society is concerned, the most efficient organisation that I've come across is one that has selected members of this Assembly to be godparents for political prisoners in Belarus. And we met yesterday for a photograph to be able to send to those Belarusian prisoners.

So, on those grounds, I want to finish here, Madam President, and to say that I fully support Ukraine.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:24:18

Thank you very much.

I give to floor now to Mr Mogens JENSEN, from Denmark.

Mr Mogens JENSEN

Denmark, SOC

11:24:27

Thank you, Madam President.

Dear Colleagues, 

Thank you for giving me the possibility to talk. I will be short.

I would like to thank our rapporteur for this report, which in itself when adopted is another and again confirmed clear signal to the warlord Putin that a unified Europe, also in this Assembly, in the strongest possible terms, condemns the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine. We stand in solidarity with Ukraine and the brave Ukrainian people and underline our unwavering support for their serenity, independence and territorial integrity. We shall use all possible tools to stand up for Ukraine and against Putin.

First of all, increased military assistance to Ukraine to help the Ukrainian people defend themselves and stop the war. Secondly, severe economic and energy sanctions. Thirdly, we have to supply all humanitarian aid needed. Fourthly, we have to make it crystal clear, also when it comes to culture, sports and media, interference with Russia that we also here, at this moment, draw a red line. Finally, we have to step up the solidarity with those member States which have received large numbers of people fleeing Ukraine. We all have to secure all possible help for Ukrainian refugees. 

A unified response against Russia and in defence of Ukraine from this Assembly is of utmost importance. Therefore, I also urge you, all colleagues, to support the report from Mr Frank SCHWABE and the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:26:34

Thank you very much.

We can now return to our Canadian speaker who is on the line, Mr Stéphane BERGERON.

 

Mr Stéphane BERGERON

Canada

11:26:48

Good morning Madam President,

Good morning, colleagues,

Good morning, Mr Rapporteur,

According to a cynical quote often attributed – perhaps wrongly – to Joseph Stalin, "the death of one person is a tragedy, but the death of millions is a statistic". While the loss of life in Ukraine is thankfully still far from the stratospheric levels of such a so-called statistic, the horrors we are witnessing should not be trivialised.

Civilians executed in cold blood in Bucha, their arms tied behind their backs; a missile that fell on the Kramatorsk train station, crowded with civilians trying to flee the combat zones; another directed against the Mariupol theatre in which many civilians had taken refuge; countless civilians literally driven to starvation. Two months after the beginning of this unjustified and unjustifiable war, these images will remain forever engraved in our memories and there is reason to fear, I am afraid, that others are still to come.

Recently, I had the privilege of meeting a delegation of Ukrainian parliamentarians in Ottawa, courageous women, some of whom are participating in these debates. They implored us to do more and we must do more. In this regard, I have reiterated on several occasions to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs that, despite the occasional disagreements we may have on this or that subject, there is no difference whatsoever between us as to the reaction that should be given to Russian aggression in Ukraine, whether in terms of sanctions or support for the Ukrainian people and military.

Canada's response has been strong, but there is more we can do, especially in terms of sanctions. This is true of most Western states. Our Ukrainian colleagues pointed out that over 300 Russian banks are part of the international Swift system, of which only seven have been excluded, providing gaping holes for the oligarchs to skirt sanctions.

President Zelensky, when he addressed the Canadian House of Commons on 15 March, invited parliamentarians to imagine themselves in the shoes of Ukrainians, who see their cities and villages constantly bombed, knowing as they do how to find the courage to make the difficult decisions that are necessary.

However, let's not confuse Vladimir Putin's brutal regime with the Russian people as a whole, since many Russians do not support the illegal actions of their President. I am thinking in particular of Marina Ovsyannikova who, on live television, denounced the regime's propaganda, as well as of the thousands of Russians who have not hesitated to risk their own freedom and even their safety to express their opposition to this war.

In difficult times like these, the right words can sometimes be hard to find, but actions often speak louder and more powerfully than words.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:29:52

Thank you very much.

I would like to give the floor now to Mr Joseph O'REILLY.

You have the floor.

Mr Joseph O'REILLY

Ireland, EPP/CD

11:30:11

Thank you Madam President.

At the outset, I welcome this report and its contents.

To say, first of all, that I, like so many colleagues here, stand in awe of our parliamentary colleagues from Ukraine. They've displayed extraordinary tenacity, extraordinary capacity to cope with huge stress, and to absorb enormous suffering on their own part, and on the part of their people. I certainly stand in awe of them.

Not only do we stand in awe of them, but we should and do stand in solidarity with them. At national level, we should implement the sanctions as effectively as we can. Not just effectively, completely. We should, and I'm very proud of my own country's response in this area, be a warm house, a warm place for people, displaced persons from Ukraine.

The war is barbaric, it's illegal, it constitutes within it lots of war crimes, and they will have to be prosecuted.

Now, I do think the distinction is important to be made – that we are not condemning the Russian people or ordinary Russian individuals here. We are talking of a corrupt dictatorial regime, which indeed ordinary Russians suffer as much from as others. I think we need to keep that, particularly in this Assembly.

I think it was correct and proper to expel Russia. As I said in that debate, they expelled themselves by their actions.

I think we, as a Council of Europe, should be ready to have a role not only, and I would appeal to the Council of Ministers, as the report suggests, to go on with assistance. But not only have we a role now, but we're going to have a role, and a very important role I think, in attempting to broker a peace also. I think we have to be at the vanguard of efforts to broker a peace.

I do support Mr Frank SCHWABE and the report suggestion of a summit of the leaders of our member states. I would be very in favour of that. In other words, I think we should, and particularly our Assembly, appeal to President Kox, to the Secretary General, to the Committee of Ministers. That we, as an Assembly, as an organisation, should be at the vanguard of efforts to achieve a peace, and should not be a sideline observer of this.

Because there will have to be a peace. There will have to be a rebuilding of Ukraine. And of course, we have to be careful that the peace is not another version of the Treaty of Versailles, and that we don't sow the seeds of a third world war there.

In essence, I want to stand in solidarity with Ukraine. I want to condemn the barbaric war. I want to say that we've done the right thing so far. We have to go on doing the right thing.

Thank you Madam President.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:33:15

Just in time.

I call now Ms Larysa BILOZIR from Ukraine.

You have the floor.

Ms Larysa BILOZIR

Ukraine, ALDE

11:33:24

Thank you.

Dear colleagues, distinguished Chair.

First of all, I would like to thank the rapporteur Mr Frank SCHWABE for enormous work and detailed comprehensive report on consequences of the most cruel and horrible war in Ukraine. And special thanks to Mr Frank SCHWABE that, as a political group leader, together with colleagues and PACE President, visited Ukraine expressing the solidarity with the Ukrainian people at this very difficult time of war.

PACE and the Council of Europe has shown that it can invest political will to stop Russia. But ceasing the membership of Russia in the Council of Europe is diplomatic act that will not stop Putin's war. Another frontier that are outlined in this report must be overcome.

Unfortunately every money and support to Ukraine is less than European countries pay for Russian oil and gas. We need to close the door of financing Russian war in Ukraine. The dependence on Russian energy is not an accident, it's a consequence of wrong-headed policy in Europe. Of course there must be a cost of such errors.

Ukrainians are paying the highest price each day by thousands of lost lives, by 16 000 people missing, by 10 000 residential building destroyed. On this scale are priceless human lives and petrol prices at gas stations, for example, in Germany.

Russian harm in the Ukrainian economy as for today is tremendous: 6 hundred billion dollars. Russian launched 1 300 missiles at Ukraine, more and more Ukrainian infrastructure is being destroyed every day. This is economic terrorism of Russia. Can you imagine that 1 500 schools were destroyed, 215 children were killed.

Horrendous atrocities are taking place in the heart of Europe, in Ukraine. For you to see the scale, I want to give you examples, documented testimonials of Ukrainians.

In Irpin a 9-year-old girl was raped by 11 – at least 11 sperm samples were found – soldiers. Then they cut the letter Z on her chest and ripped her stomach open. Her parents were killed in front of her.

A 14-year-old girl was raped by five Russian occupiers. She's pregnant now and plans to keep the child.

An 11-year-old boy was raped in front of his mother. She was tied to a chair to watch.

And outside it's the 21st century.

There are other documented human rights violation in Ukraine including evidence of sexual violence, torture, and killing.

Please, talk to your counterparts in your parliament. Talk to your governments. It's crucial to give full scale support to Ukraine, because the aggressor will not stop until he is stopped by us united. And today the synonym of freedom is Ukraine. And in order for freedom not to lose, it must be well-armed and supported.

 

Slava Ukraini

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:36:43

Thank you very much, Madam Larysa BILOZIR.

I now give the floor to Mr Koloman BRENNER, from Hungary.

Mr Koloman BRENNER

Hungary, NR

11:36:54

Thank you, Madam President.

My first sentence is, of course, to the brave people in Ukraine.

I would like to express our deepest solidarity here in this meeting as well. The people of Hungary have expressed it there also by saying that we support and will continue to support several hundred thousand refugees from Ukraine.

Secondly, I would like to emphasise that the wheel of history is moving rapidly these days. It is precisely in such times that the importance of the Council of Europe becomes apparent. This excellent report with all the details, which we will still discuss, shows how important it was in these decades of peace to work on what are really European values: human rights, rule of law and that a threat to freedom and democracy is always there.

Every generation has to fight for freedom and prosperity. History shows us, again now, in a brutal way. Especially we, the peoples of Eastern and Central Europe, who lived not only in a Nazi dictatorship but also in a communist dictatorship, know too well how such things come about.

The previous speakers –and I join them– have shown very well that in the last 15 years Putin's Russia has been on a path where we really should all have seen the signs.

This is also a self-critical remark. Especially coming from Hungary, it is particularly important to emphasise that the rule of law, checks and balances, a balanced media landscape –which especially in Russia also led to the fact that Putin's propaganda could then achieve a real brainwashing among the Russian people– thus shows us what is important about these values, what we must uphold here in this Assembly united. We must stand united, and also point out in all other states where similar authoritarian tendencies exist, because only in this way can our Assembly really stand united.

I think that this war of aggression of Putin's Russia has already led to the fact that both the European Union and NATO have moved further together. Our organisation is the most important organisation in my eyes, where it is about securing prosperity and freedom for the citizens in Europe.

I fully support this report and would urge everyone in this room to do so.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:40:03

Thank you.

I now give the floor to Mr Darko KAEVSKI from North Macedonia.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC

11:40:14

Thank you, Madam President.

Dear Guests, Dear Colleagues,

We stand in solidarity with Ukraine, with the people who are aggressively attacked, people who fled the country and desperately seek shelter, people who live without access to water, food and the basic supplies. We decided, and we choose the only rightful side. We must act now because the war in Ukraine is a huge threat to Europe and world security and should stop immediately.

Our country's accession to NATO is a strong indicator of the value of the Open Door Policy as a fundamental principle and we strongly believe that all countries have autonomy and the right to choose their own path.

North Macedonia has joined EU efforts and is fully in line with the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy imposing a substantial package of sanctions against Russia and will continue to do so in the days ahead. Now is the time to make the most of the potential of the regional co-operation of all the partnership tools and mechanisms available in the region. The Balkans have a European perspective and we also have to be sure that European perspectives for the Western Balkans are the same. North Macedonia's place is in the European Union and being outside in these hard times has multiple negative traditions from malicious third-party influence: raising suspicions by fabricating news, spreading hate speech, producing this information that undermine the citizens' trust in the EU. Now is the perfect time to urgently speed up the process of opening accession talks for North Macedonia as the EU enlargement with the Western Balkans is seen as a security issue, crucial to the stability and prosperity of the region in Europe.

Once again, we condemn Russia's military aggression against Ukraine. We fully respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and as allies, we give all our support to all of the Ukrainians and we should open our doors to the Ukrainian people who fled their country and who overnight became refugees. We should give Ukrainians easy access to jobs in our countries, and shelter, and ensure their livelihoods. We must take responsibility in our everyday lives, in the policies we create, in the decisions we make. We must promise once and for all that the phrase "never again" will be sure this time. We are accountable, and we must ensure that the future generations will not live in a war-torn world. Everything we do must contribute to peace and prosperity. We must create a world in which future generations will not experience war in their lifetime ever again. We stand with Ms Larysa BILOZIR, Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA, Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO, and Ms Olena KHOMENKO. We stand with all Ukrainians. We stand with Ukraine. 

[speaks in Ukrainian]

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:43:03

Thank you very much.

I would like to give the floor to Mr Zsolt CSENGER-ZALÁN, from Hungary.

Mr Zsolt CSENGER-ZALÁN

Hungary, EPP/CD

11:43:18

Thank you for the floor, Madam President.

Dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to congratulate Mr Frank SCHWABE for this excellent report.

The Council of Europe was the first international organisation to take rapid action regarding the aggression of the Russian Federation in Ukraine, already on 25 February. These actions, and the measures taken since, reflect the united message of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers.

In addition to the sanctions and the efforts for peace, we face other issues as well. Since the exclusion of the Russian Federation on 16 March, a number of international legal and financial issues have arisen in the organisation in clarifying the consequences.

For the time being, the process in the Committee of Ministers has begun with the identification of legal issues. Tasks include, for example, clarifying issues related to Russia's participation in Council of Europe conventions open to non-member countries, or the identification of the budgetary and programme implications for the years 2022-23. They also concern the definition of the future relations with civil society in Russia and Belarus, or possible changes in the composition and tasks of the intergovernmental committees in the field of education, culture, youth, and so on.

In addition to these urgent issues, the organisation will have to focus now on how its strategic priorities can be sustained, and how its four-year programme can be adapted to the current circumstances. It is more important than ever for the Council of Europe to reinforce its actions in the field: through its action plans, field offices, advisory bodies and monitoring mechanisms.

The actions of the Council of Europe in the Western Balkans and the EU candidate countries have to be reinforced to show a clear European perspective for these countries and assist their European integration process in an effective manner.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:46:15

Thank you very much.

I would like to give the floor now to Mr Morten WOLD, from Norway.

Mr Morten WOLD

Norway, EC/DA

11:46:41

Madam President,

The ongoing war of aggression which Russia is waging on Ukraine is frightening. Who could possibly have imagined that there would be a conventional war of aggression in Europe in 2022?

The footage being relayed on TV screens in Norway is heart-rending. Norwegians are in shock at what our Russian neighbour has been doing to the Ukrainian people.

I have no problem in saying that I share and support my parliamentary colleagues’ condemnation of President Putin. This is something Norway has been unequivocal about. We, the Council, must be absolutely clear that Mr Putin himself is solely and completely responsible for this war and for the resulting economic sanctions that very many countries have imposed on Russia.

I’ve already said that Russia is one of Norway’s neighbours. For many years we have worked on building trust between Norwegians and Russians. We have had complex and demanding negotiations on the demarcation line in the Barents Sea, but this was solved to the satisfaction of both countries. There have been close ties between Norwegians and Russians in the border communities in Northern Norway. There’s no escaping the fact that positive developments between our two countries have been set back many years. And it will take just as long to rebuild them, if this is ever possible.

Norway, and many Council member nations, has given humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Norway has also sent military aid: 4 000 M72 anti-armour weapons, several types of protective and other military equipment relatively quickly. And very recently we have provided 100 anti-aircraft missiles with a range of 6 km, suitable for launching from vehicles, ships and helicopters, and which could be deployed against relatively low-flying aircraft and helicopters. And we are going to give more support, something our prime minister confirmed in parliament last Wednesday.

We should also underline that President Putin’s aggression has drawn western democracies even closer together. Never before has Europe and NATO been stronger or more united. I fully understand why Sweden and Finland are now considering NATO membership, something Norway views as a very positive step.

One day this war will end, Mr President. It is essential that western democracies act together and remain united, also in this Council, even after the fighting has stopped. We are stronger together. In fact, strength is itself a deterrent. Whatever the result of this senseless war, Russia will be the ultimate loser. Even if they win the fighting, which I really don't hope, they will forever be the losers of the peace.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:50:09

Thank you very much, Mister Morten WOLD.

In time, in spite of the disruption of your microphone.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:50:16

The next speaker in the debate is Mr Jacques LE NAY, from France.

You have the floor.

Mr Jacques LE NAY

France, ALDE

11:50:23

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

We can only be horrified and worried by the turn of events since the aggression launched by the Russian Federation against Ukraine. We are horrified by the images of destruction and atrocities that have reached us, and worried by the escalation of the Russian government, which is now openly talking about the risk of a world war, after having tested new types of weapons – perhaps in order to forget the very real difficulties that its army is facing on the ground.

The outbreak of this war is a challenge for Ukraine, which will have to continue to fight to regain its territorial integrity and then rebuild. It is a challenge for Europe, shaken by this attack and the resulting refugee crisis. It is the return of a yawning fracture within it, with a reactivation of NATO at a level of intensity unthinkable until recently. Finally, it is a challenge for the whole world, since an attack from a nuclear-armed permanent member of the UN Security Council, against the background of strategic rivalry with the United States, is fraught with threats.

I am also mindful of the potential food crisis in African and Middle Eastern countries as a result of this war, as the Russian Federation and Ukraine are major producers of wheat and fertiliser. This will undoubtedly have migratory repercussions that will once again put Europe under pressure.

The major crisis provoked by Russia is leading our member states to emerge from a form of naivety, to plug dependencies and to rearm ourselves.

This is certainly necessary in view of the threat – which is great – but this step must be accompanied by a profound reflection on the meaning of belonging to the Council of Europe today, on the meaning of our democratic values and on the way to protect them, to make them live and to make them prosper.

Like our rapporteur, I consider it necessary for the various member states of the organisation to put pressure on the Russian Federation to stop this war and to restore Ukraine to its internationally recognised borders, even though I do not, unfortunately, expect a rapid process of settlement of this conflict.

I hope that our Assembly will use all the means at its disposal in the coming months, both to contribute to the necessary reflection on the promotion of democracy in Europe and the multilateral architecture of our continent, but also to push our organisation to act in the most reactive and effective way possible within its mandate.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:53:25

Thank you.

Our next speaker in the debate will be Ms Serap YAŞAR from Turkey. Serap, you have the floor.

Ms Serap YAŞAR

Turkey, NR

11:53:40

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear Colleagues,

One of the important aspects of this war, which we are witnessing in other crises, is the humanitarian consequences.

Currently, the world is experiencing the greatest migratory mobility after the Second World War. One of the places where this mobility continues at the highest level in recent times is undoubtedly Ukraine. As a result of this mobility, a total of 5 million Ukrainians, at least half of whom are children, have become refugees, according to data confirmed by international organisations such as the UN and UNICEF. Children are undoubtedly the most vulnerable group in recent migratory movements, such as those from Syria and Afghanistan. We have seen many migrant children disappear or become separated from their families.

In order to draw attention to the missing children on the migration routes, we made a press statement in our Parliament and reiterated the questions about the magnitude of the danger these children are facing. Where are the missing children? What has happened to them? We sent a letter to the embassies of the 46 member States of the Council of Europe and to international NGOs, asking for support to prevent the disappearance of children. With this letter, we sent them a photo puzzle of a migrant child with missing pieces.

The international community must do whatever is necessary and required, in the best interest of children, to prevent the disappearance of refugee and migrant children. Special attention must be given to unaccompanied children, who constitute one of the most urgent problems. It is important to identify them quickly and register them immediately upon arrival. They must also be fully supported.

Overall, it is important to discuss these issues thoroughly in the Parliamentary Assembly. As the Council of Europe, we have the instruments and resources to tackle this important issue.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:56:41

Thank you, Madam YAŞAR.

The next and last speaker this morning is Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ, from Switzerland.

Mister FRIDEZ, you have the floor.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC

11:56:55

Thank you, Mister President.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to thank Mr Frank Schwabe for this important report, which covers the main political, economic, social and humanitarian consequences of this conflict which has changed the reality of Europe for a long time.

I am in charge of a report for the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population on the humanitarian and migratory consequences of the conflict. I will be visiting Ukraine in the next few days. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Slovak, Romanian and, above all, Ukrainian colleagues for their support.

Through this report, I humbly wish to contribute to an assessment of the situation in this Ukraine devastated by barbarity, in order to try to improve the lot of the victims and, more globally, of the Ukrainian population who are confronted with deprivation, suffering, cruel separations, fear, mourning and destruction. The martyrdom of the Ukrainian people deserves a response of solidarity on our part, commensurate with the stakes: to welcome, to bring food and basic necessities, to support financially, among other things. These are our obligations as European countries. It is a matter of defending and respecting the fundamental values of Europe, a Europe of peace, solidarity and democracy that we want.

But the consequences of the conflict go beyond the borders of Ukraine. As co-rapporteur for the Republic of Moldova, I had the opportunity to speak with our Moldovan colleagues who expressed their concerns and the risks of destabilisation of their country, in the front line behind the Odessa region, whose fate is still worrying. Transnistria could represent an objective for Russia, which could set up one of its pseudo-scenarios of liberation of an oppressed people.

What can we say about the explosions that have shaken the torpor of Tiraspol in recent days? A provocation, explosions that resonate with the threatening and disturbing words of a senior Russian officer. Transnistria could become a bridgehead for Russia, with a possible secondary destabilisation of the Republic of Moldova, a neutral and peaceful but fragile state, historically divided between two worlds, according to the title of the book by our former colleague Josette Durrieu.

If we add economic difficulties aggravated by the conflict and high inflation, a social conflagration and tensions could arise in this country, which also makes a strong contribution to Ukrainian migrants. The Republic of Moldova deserves our full attention and Europe's support to ensure its stability, in particular through strong financial aid. As in the case of Ukraine, this requires clear and effective assistance to this democracy, which aspires to more Europe, more freedom, more security and less corruption.

I have spoken about the Republic of Moldova, but of course, today more than ever, Ukraine must be our absolute priority, with our absolute support.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:59:53

Thank you Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ.

Now I will interrupt the list of speakers.

I remind members that the debate will resume at 15:30 p.m. this afternoon, where we will hear further speeches, replies to the debate, and consider the amendments.

We are now going to welcome the President of the Republic of Italy.

We will wait for a few seconds to have him here with us in the hemicycle.

 

His Excellency the President of the Republic of Italy! 

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear colleagues,

It's now my great honour to welcome to this Chamber his Excellency the President of the Italian Republic, Mr Sergio Mattarella.

Dear President, welcome to what we consider as an agora of European parliamentary dialogue and multilateral diplomacy.

We are extremely honoured and happy that you have joined us today, and that you are present at a time where your country, Italy, is chairing our Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers. I'm also glad that you are accompanied by your Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Luigi DI MAIO, and your Ambassador, who take very good care of the chairmanship of the Republic of Italy of the Committee of Ministers.

It's great that we have you here as well, Mr Minister and Mr Ambassador.

Mr President, the commitment of your country to the values of peace and democracy is essential for deepening our cooperation within the Council of Europe. Especially in these very difficult times when we see that peace and democratic stability, all the values that we sometimes did take too easily for granted on European soil, are fundamentally undermined as a result of Russia's war of aggression against our member state Ukraine.

Your presence here, Mr President, is highly appreciated by all of us, and demonstrates the dedication of your country, a founding member of our organisation, to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

At a time, Mr President, when these values of our organisation are violated by the Russian aggression against our fellow Ukrainians, your personal support in attaining the maintenance of our common goal, a united and peaceful Europe, contributes to the reinforcement of the Council of Europe's principles and values.

These are the moments that we need. We all need courage and we all need wisdom. If you have an age of 81, some people think that wisdom comes with years, but as you told me earlier it has to be proven time and again.

Let me say, if some of you think the President is already 81, it is clear that the President thinks that I'm only 81.

So be aware, he is with us fully-fledged. You have been, you have had such a considerable political and legal experience, Mr President. You were a long-standing member of your parliament, a judge of the Constitutional Court of Italy, a minister, and you have so many qualities.

It is a great honour to have you here and get some wisdom from you. We are really looking forward, with great interest, to your intervention, and then afterwards, the exchange of views with members.

Mr President, thank you again for being with us. May I invite you to the floor.

Thank you very much.

Address by Mr Sergio MATTARELLA, President of the Italian Republic

Mr Sergio MATTARELLA

President of the Italian Republic

12:05:31

Mr President of the Parliamentary Assembly,

Madam Secretary General of the Council of Europe,

Ladies and gentlemen of the Parliament,

Ambassadors,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be able to address this Assembly, which expresses in the broadest terms the sentiments of the people of Europe.

It gives me great satisfaction to make my first trip abroad to Strasbourg – the seat of many European institutions – since the Italian Parliament and the representatives of its regions wished to confer on me once again the office of President of the Italian Republic.

I pay homage to the Council of Europe, to its institutions, to you who are the expression of the parliaments of 46 member countries, representing 700 million European citizens.

Allow me to express my special thanks to President Mr Tiny KOX for this opportunity that he offers and allows me, for his very kind words; and thank you all for your welcome.

I extend a warm greeting to the Secretary General Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, whose guidance in this organisation I consider valuable, as I had the opportunity to tell her in our meeting last November, at the Quirinale Palace, and to reiterate to her in the meeting we had this morning.

The Council of Europe has always had the vocation of being the "common European house" and has been able to develop it in the decades that have followed its establishment, as its current wide representation testifies.

A house that, while it has been a faithful mirror of the divisions and difficulties among the different national communities, has also been able to be, and above all, an expression of the courage of European unity, often foreshadowing what might later be built, under other profiles and in other areas, such as the European Union.

The Council of Europe has achieved many civilisation goals. These include the abolition of the death penalty, the fight against racism, freedom of expression, the protection of cultural diversity, the protection of children's rights and the development of youth policies.

Moreover, paraphrasing the miller of Potsdam, in our continent we can say: "There is a judge in Strasbourg", with the activity developed by the ECHR, fruit of the European Convention on Human Rights signed in Rome.

In other words, the Council of Europe has been able to consolidate the prerogatives of citizens, adding to the protection of individual state systems deriving from the application of the Convention, in cases of violation of rights by states. Because there is no reason of state that can be upheld in the case of violations of personal rights.

Freer, safer, more cohesive – and I am thinking of the European Social Charter against inequality and poverty, launched in Italy, in Turin, in 1961.

These are the undeniable results of the tenacious construction of a common house like the Council of Europe. Progress for hundreds of millions of European citizens, proud to find themselves increasingly in a single demos.

The Council of Europe is the child of the drive towards multilateralism that characterised the years following the Second World War, together with the United Nations system. A drive based on an elementary consideration: collaboration reduces opposition, counteracts conflict, increasing the possibility of a positive settlement of disputes.

It was not easy to take the road to reconciliation. Just as it was not easy to reach the sharing of a common heritage; to have the courage to pass, in the relationship between states, from the law of force to the force of law.

Building a lasting peace has been a slow and gradual process that has been able to avoid the risk of a third world war, from the Korean War and the Berlin blockade, via, over the years, the regulation of Austria's condition under the neutrality clause and the overcoming of the Cuba crisis.

As much as war is supposed to be a flash in the pan – although this is not the case – so much so that peace is the result of the patient and unstoppable flow of the spirit and practice of collaboration between peoples, of the ability to move from confrontation and the arms race to dialogue, control and the balanced reduction of weapons of aggression.

It is a laborious construction, made up of coherent and continuous behaviors and choices, not of an isolated act. It is the fruit of an unfailing trust in humanity and a sense of responsibility towards it.

As Mr Robert SCHUMAN reminded us, "peace cannot be safeguarded except by creative efforts, proportional to the dangers that threaten it.

If we pursue common goals, in order to "win" it is no longer necessary for someone else to lose. We all win together.

The example was contagious, so much so that Strasbourg became the obligatory destination of those who achieved freedom and independence, in order to strengthen and consolidate it. This has been the case in several cases; but, of course, in order to stay together, it is necessary to respect the rules we have set ourselves.

For this reason, the interlude in Greece after the military coup is justified.

Decades later, the peoples of Central Europe, the Baltics and the Caucasus were able to choose, in their turn, to join the Council of Europe and, with this decision, to stand up for the protection of human rights, the rule of law and the development of democracy.

As pointed out by the President of the Italian Republic, Sandro Pertini, speaking before this Assembly exactly 39 years ago, on 27 April 1983, it is sometimes necessary to be able to exercise the "courage of renunciation", when the separation of a member country from the Council of Europe appears necessary in order not to stray from the spirit that gave birth to this institution.

Hitler's objective leading up to the Second World War was to make Germany the prevailing power with a dominant role over other peoples and other countries. It was a design that involved regimes of many other nations – the Kingdom of Italy among them – and was beaten by the international civil conscience.

But the record of history reminds us that stability and peace are not guaranteed once and for all: dramatic and sad events in the Balkans, in the Caucasus, in the Black Sea, testify to this. Peace is not automatic, but is the result of the will of men.

We live today, again, the nightmare – unexpected because unpredictable – of the war in our continent.

There is an aim of moving back in history to the era of power politics, of the overpowering of one over the other, of the opposition of one people – sometimes disguised under the expression national interest – against another.

Imperialism and neo-colonialism no longer have the right to exist in the third millennium, whatever the guise behind which they hide.

It is no longer the time for a late nineteenth-century, and then Stalinist, vision that imagines a hierarchy among nations to the advantage of the militarily stronger one. It is no longer the time for countries to claim to dominate over others.

The choice has long since been made with the passage of international relations from extraneousness to legal aspects, to the civilisation of law.

Faced with a Europe devastated by war, no equivocation, no uncertainty is possible.

The Russian Federation, with its atrocious invasion of Ukraine, has chosen to place itself outside the rules to which it had freely adhered, helping to apply them.

The decision of this Parliamentary Assembly, of the Council of Europe, to take note of the rupture that has occurred is consistent with the values underlying the Statute of the organisation, which points the way to a closer union between the common aspirations of the peoples of Europe.

The responsibility for the inevitable sanction adopted falls entirely on the Government of the Russian Federation – I would like to add: not on the Russian people, whose culture is part of the European heritage – and who are guilty of trying to keep in the dark what is really happening in Ukraine.

There can be no retreat from the trenches of the defence of human and peoples' rights. These are principles that have been embodied in the history of the second half of the twentieth century and, a fortiori, must be consolidated today.

The firm and active solidarity towards the Ukrainian people and the appeal to the Government of the Russian Federation to stop, withdraw its troops, contribute to the reconstruction of a land that has been devastated, is a consequence of these simple considerations.

The international community has one task: to obtain a ceasefire and to restart the construction of a respectful and shared international framework leading to peace. A great intellectual, Paul Valery – who went through two world wars – called on his fellow Europeans to become aware of living in a "finite" world. "There is no more free land", he wrote "no other edge of the globe is to be discovered".

If no one is a stranger to anyone, President Pertini wondered, is it not time for men to learn to be at peace with themselves?

We might add today: in an increasingly interconnected world, in which distances have essentially disappeared, in which each person can communicate, and often does communicate, in real time, with interlocutors in every part of the world, there is no place: it is anachronistic to speak of territorial spheres of influence.

The international context presents contradictions, starting from the Russian Federation itself, responsible for the violation of all the main charters defined within multilateral bodies, which paradoxically finds itself invoking the intervention of the World Trade Organization against the sanctions imposed by the international community.

While the conflict has further weakened the international system of shared rules – and the world, as a consequence, has become much more insecure – the only way out seems, without fear of contradiction, to be that of cooperation and recourse to multilateral institutions.

This seems to be the conclusion reached by those countries which, while refusing to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, are now calling for its intervention, so that trials may be held against those responsible for undeniable and horrible crimes against humanity, such as those of which the Russian Federation is guilty in Ukraine, thus recognising the necessary role of that Court.

If the voice of the United Nations has been clear in its denunciation and condemnation but, unfortunately, ineffective on the ground, this means that its action must be strengthened, not weakened. It means that initiatives, such as the one promoted by Liechtenstein and 15 other countries, to avoid paralysis of the UN Security Council must be taken into serious consideration.

War is a voracious monster, never satiated. The temptation to multiply conflicts is in the background of the warmongering venture undertaken by Moscow. The devastation brought to the rules of the international community could propagate its effects if we do not succeed in stopping this drift immediately. We must manager to avert the danger of an increase in warlike ventures which, experience teaches us, would then be difficult to contain.

We must be able to oppose all this with a firm will for peace. Otherwise we will be overwhelmed.

For a moment, let us practice - borrowing them from the language of the so-called "Cold War" – spelling out words that we thought had fallen into disuse, to see if they can help us get back on track, however difficult it may be.

Détente: to interrupt hostilities.

Repudiation of war: to return to the previous status quo.

Peaceful coexistence among peoples and states.

Democracy – as the valuable work of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe teaches us – as a condition for the respect of the dignity of each one.

Finally, Helsinki and not Jalta: dialogue, not tests of strength between great powers that must understand that they are less and less so.

To envisage an international forum that renews the roots of peace, that restores dignity to a framework of security and cooperation, following the example of the Helsinki Conference that led, in 1975, to a final act that was a harbinger of positive developments and giving rise to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

It is a matter of strongly affirming the rejection of a policy based on spheres of influence, on weakened rights for some peoples and countries, instead of proclaiming, in the spirit of Helsinki, equal rights and equality for peoples and people. Creating a new architecture of international relations, in Europe and in the world, shared, involving, without prejudicial privileged positions.

Security and peace – this is the great lesson that emerged from the second post-war period – cannot be entrusted to bilateral relations – Moscow versus Kyiv – all the more so if this takes place between unequal states, between large and smaller states. Ensuring security and peace is the responsibility of the entire international community. The international community as a whole can and must be the guarantor of a new peace.

As I draw to a close, I would like to emphasise that the possibility of addressing you in person – thus being able to express the basic need for direct communication – is certainly an advantage. We have lived through a long phase of difficulty because of the pandemic, with dramatic moments. The virus is not yet eradicated, but we have learned to fight it, to mitigate its effects.

I would like to pay tribute here to all those who, at the cost of personal risks, sometimes involving the sacrifice of their lives, have contributed to achieving the results we enjoy today. I am thinking first of all of the medical and health staff, to whom we owe all our gratitude, of the researchers and scientists, but also of the many workers, volunteers and professionals who in various ways have helped us to overcome this trial.

Once again we have had confirmation of the value of international cooperation. The international scientific community has worked across borders, exchanging data, knowledge, results of experiences, research advances. There couldn't be a more persuasive call; and it was hoped that this example of collaboration against a common enemy of humanity would be received by the governments of states, pushing towards the search for dialogue, sharing, cooperation.

All this does not make us forget that, while today we can hope that the worst is behind us, it is thanks to the civic-mindedness of our fellow citizens, to their sense of responsibility that they have shown, to their collaboration in the measures to mitigate the spread of the virus and in ensuring the success of vaccination campaigns. Without their contribution it would not have been possible to defeat, in addition to Covid-19, the pernicious virus of misinformation and distrust of science.

Our institutions have shown the ability to react quickly, our societies have shown a reassuring resilience.

I would like to express my appreciation for the contribution made by the Council of Europe to its member states to ensure that the response to the pandemic took place within frameworks that respected fundamental rights and freedoms; always placing the human person and his or her irrepressible dignity at the center.

This is something that should never be taken for granted, a European success of which we can be justly proud.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Italian Republic strongly contributed to the birth of this organisation, to its growth and to its full affirmation as an essential reference point in the multilateral system of defence of the values of freedom and affirmation of the principles of the rule of law. It is a function that continues to prove valuable, to which all the organs of the Council of Europe, and the member states, are called upon to contribute.

This is what we have responsibly sought to reaffirm on the occasion of this eighth Italian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

The generation of the founders was able to build, on material, moral and legal foundations, this multilateral community, looking to the future. We trust that we have faithfully guarded this heritage; that we have defended it as a precious asset.

But the task is not over, it is up to us to respond to today's challenges, developing and implementing its principles.

I wish all of you the best as we move forward and thank you for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:28:24

Mr President, thank you for your words of wisdom.

I told you when we met before that I would expect that many members would come here in the hemicycle or online to listen to your words of wisdom, I can tell you that you have gathered a record number of members listening to you and the applause at least shows that we do see some wisdom in your words. 

Thank you very much for that. But, as you know, you have been a parliamentarian yourself for such a long time, we always have questions – we are parliamentarians we have to ask questions. And you kindly agreed to answer the questions, so I will first give the floor now to five representatives of the political groups and you will answer these questions – each and every one. And then we will take the remaining questions and I will bring three of them together and then you have the chance to respond to these questions.

So first in this round, I call the President of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group, Mr Frank SCHWABE from Germany, to ask the first question. Questions have to be limited to one minute or less.

Questions: Mr Sergio MATTARELLA, President of the Italian Republic

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

12:29:53

Thank you very much, caro signor Presidente [dear Mr President].

Thank you very much that you are here with us and for your important speech, especially in these challenging times.

Considering the threats of new dividing lines and all the challenges Europe is facing for its security, its values, the protection of human rights, international law, and the impact these have on our organisation, we, as a Socialist, Democrats, and Greens Group, consider that the fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government of Council of Europe member states is critical to celebrate a new vision to our organisation and should be organised as soon as possible. And I think I speak in the name of the whole Parliamentary Assembly and you spoke about a new architecture for Europe as well.

I know it's in the competence of the government, but since we have you here as a highest representative of your country, I would like to ask you about your ideas and if you think such a fourth summit is senseful? When it could be and what could be the main issues on such a summit?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:30:58

Thank you Mr Frank SCHWABE.

Mr President.

Mr Sergio MATTARELLA

President of the Italian Republic

12:31:03

Thank you.

The behavior of the Russian Federation with this tragic and unpredictable aggression of Ukraine has led to the ouster by the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly, because of the abandonment of the rules of the organisation by the Russian Federation.

This imposes a strategic reflection on the future and objectives of the Council of Europe to ensure its effectiveness so far always explained on our Continent.

I think it is interesting to recall the words of the heads of state and government on the occasion of another summit, the first one in Vienna in '93. I read these words in the communiqué: "Europe is the source of an immense hope that must under no circumstances be destroyed by territorial ambitions, the resurgence of aggressive nationalism, the perpetuation of spheres of influence, intolerance and totalitarian ideologies".

They sound like words written today. This gives an idea of how important the moment of that summit and the meeting of the leaders of the countries that are part of the Council of Europe is.

Of course, I know that in May there will be an important meeting of Ministers in Italy, in Turin, and this will be the occasion to evaluate this proposal. I look forward to it with great interest, as a solemn occasion to reflect, define and draw the lines of commitment that will ensure the effective continuation of the Council of Europe action.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:33:08

Thank you very much Mr President.

The next question comes from Mr Davor Ivo STIER, from Croatia.

He asks his question on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Mr Davor Ivo STIER, you have the floor.

Mr Davor Ivo STIER

Croatia, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

12:33:21

Thank you, Chair. Mister President, thank you for your speech.

Now Europe, Mister President, is currently facing multiple threats, of course, the most important and grave one is Putin's war of aggression. We are also seeing the challenge posed by authoritarian tendencies around the globe also in our area of the Council of Europe. We see also the problem that inflation is causing to European economies and societies.

Now, Mister President, you are a leader who managed to gather very diverse and different forces – political forces – in Italy. Based on that record, we would like to ask you how you see the role of the Council of Europe in keeping Europe united in offering a unified and unifying response to all these challenges in the defence, of course, of democracy and the rule of law.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:34:19

Thank you, Mr Davor Ivo STIER.

Mister President.

Mr Sergio MATTARELLA

President of the Italian Republic

12:34:23

Thank you,

This is a very important issue because Russia's aggression against Ukraine, which has brought war unexpectedly back to our continent, makes it even more urgent and relevant – the drive for unity of all European countries and peoples who believe in peace, in the way of democracy, in respect for international law and the rule of law.

Over the last few decades, through the work of the Council of Europe and co-operation between states, we have painstakingly created common ground, a common understanding and trust: this cannot be endangered.

We must safeguard this system that is embedded in the European Convention on Human Rights and in the Court, which is committed to reaffirming, defending and protecting these rights. It is a heritage that inspired the Charter of Rights of the European Union, and it is an asset and a point of reference that must be defended and safeguarded for the benefit of future generations.

The Statute of the Council of Europe and the Treaty of the European Union show us the way and an ever greater unity among the peoples of Europe: a unity of intentions, of commitments, a sharing of values and ways of proceeding. This is also indispensable for Europe to play a role of peace, dialogue and the rule of law on a global level and in the international community, supporting the values of democracy.

I believe that defending these values is the only way we have to go, the only way to counteract what is happening, apart of course from the way to counteract it in the immediate and indispensable ways that are happening, but to counteract it by opposing the violence of force, arrogance and war, with the values of peace and coexistence. There is no other road.

We must preserve this road that the Council of Europe has safeguarded for many years.

 

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:36:51

Thank you very much, MisterPresident.

Now, the next question is asked by Mr John HOWELL, from the United Kingdom.

Mr John HOWELL speaks on behalf of European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

Mister John HOWELL, you have the floor.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

12:37:03

Thank you, Mister President.

Your Excellency, welcome.

Can I return you to the question of sanctions?

As I understand it currently, seven big Italian companies are continuing business as usual in Russia.

Six big Italian companies are postponing future planned investment and development whilst continuing their business relationship with Russia.

What can Italy do to convincingly encourage these companies to end their business in Russia and to comply with sanctions?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:37:36

Thank you, Mister John HOWELL.

Mister President.

Mr Sergio MATTARELLA

President of the Italian Republic

12:37:40

I answer you very gladly.

Of course the numbers and definitions of importance are all to be verified: the sanctioning system decided is fully operational in Italy, it is with rigour and severity.

It is a position, it is a political decision, that the Italian Government has made absolutely clear to companies based in Italy. Many of them have decided autonomously to stop their activity in the Russian Federation, others have suspended this activity in compliance with the principles of the rule of law and free market economy that are in force in Italy.

The standards of the rule of law and the market economy are common to other countries as well, and companies freely regulate themselves accordingly, as it happens in other countries, in all other countries that have a market economy.

The Italian Republic has contributed to defining sanctions and has contributed as a protagonist: it is applying them with absolute rigour, it is prepared for other potential sanctions.

Without any hesitation, this position is very clear to anyone.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:39:06

Thank you very much, Mr President.

The next question comes from Mr Damien COTTIER from Switzerland and he asked his question on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Damien, you have the floor.

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

12:39:20

Switzerland, Mister President, is a country that also uses Italian as its national language.

Thank you for coming here to Strasbourg, Mister President of the Republic, to meet us.

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

12:39:33

We believe that the dialogue between this Assembly and the Committee of Ministers, and the country holding the Presidency, is extremely important.

My question is similar to those raised by Mr Davor Ivo STIER and by Mr Frank SCHWABE. Basically, we are at a turning point in the history of Europe, a turning point perhaps as important as that of 1989, with the aggression of Russia against Ukraine. We must rethink the Council of Europe.

I am glad to hear you say that you support the idea of a summit, a fourth summit that this Assembly is calling for. I would be interested in knowing, in this context, how Italy will concretely engage in the Committee of Ministers, in Turin, for the organisation of this summit. What ideas will it bring to revitalise the Council of Europe, so as to better defend the values it stands for?

Thank you, Mister President.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:40:26

Thank you, Mr Damien COTTIER.

Mister President.

Mr Sergio MATTARELLA

President of the Italian Republic

12:40:31

Thank you.

You see, what has happened does not weaken, but strengthens the commitment to the mission of the Council of Europe, that of building a pan-European space based on shared principles and values, which have as their criterion respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

On the contrary, the desire, the ambition, to create a common European home does not diminish – especially since this is under attack by what has happened, by what is happening, by the Russian Federation in Ukraine – the importance of the role played by the Council of Europe, which must be reaffirmed.

And this is the objective that the peoples of Europe certainly hold dear, and that guarantees their future.

For this reason, as I was saying, any initiative, we need to define together. And it could be, I repeat, interesting, a good opportunity, to hold a Summit of Heads of State and Government to define a framework for updating commitments and activities, to make European life more inclusive, more shared, safer and calmer.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:41:53

Thank you, Mister President.

The last question on behalf of the political groups comes from Mr Marco NICOLINI from San Marino on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr Marco NICOLINI

San Marino, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

12:42:03

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

I'll speak in Italian for the first time in this Parliament.

Mr Marco NICOLINI

San Marino, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

12:42:08

Mr President

I relive with pleasant memory a historical event, since in my parenthesis as Head of State of the Republic of San Marino I was invited to the Quirinale on an official visit: a unique occasion, thanks to which the Republic of San Marino can proudly call you "friend".

Precisely because of this relationship, I would ask you to look again at the small states of Europe: the current government of the Republic of San Marino came about to oppose an external oligarchy that was putting its hands on the country, creating the dangerous short-circuits that see private subjects managing seats in the most important international political assemblies.

San Marino must now look ahead and fight this vulnerability. I would like to ask you, Mr President, what are your thoughts on the negotiations, now at 7 years, that see three micro-states engaged in reaching an association agreement with the European Union?

At a time of great difficulty, with war on Europe's doorstep, perhaps the first positive sign could be precisely this small, but important, addition.

Thank you Mr President.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:43:20

Thank you very much.

Italian always takes a bit more time.

Mister President.

Mr Sergio MATTARELLA

President of the Italian Republic

12:43:27

Mr President,

 

I too remember the visit of the Honourable Mr Marco NICOLINI as Captain Regent of the Republic of San Marino; that visit was an occasion to reaffirm the great friendship that binds San Marino and Italy.

For many years, I know, San Marino and the Principalities of Monaco and Andorra have been asking to reach an association agreement with the European Union: it is a request that Italy sis very much in favour of. Italy supports this idea with conviction, has always done so and will continue to do so.

This would bring to the European Union a contribution to the traditions of independence and freedom that is valuable, especially since it comes from small countries that have maintained this condition over the centuries. For this reason, it is important that this proposal be accepted and positively implemented as soon as possible. Italy will continue its commitment in this regard.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:44:37

Thank you very much, Mister President.

Now we will have groupings of three questions, after which you get the floor to really react.

First question.

The first question from Mr Bernard FOURNIER, from France. [in French]

Mr Bernard FOURNIER

France, EPP/CD

12:44:56

Mr President,

During its presidency of the Committee of Ministers, Italy has placed particular emphasis on the consideration of the human person and on interreligious dialogue. On 2 May, an interreligious dialogue on religion and peace, religion and human rights will take place here in Strasbourg.

Can you share with us your expectations and your vision of the possible benefits of this interreligious dialogue, in a Europe and a world that need to revive humanist values?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:45:35

Thank you Mr Bernard FOURNIER.

The second question comes from Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR, from Hungary.

Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR.

Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR

Hungary, EC/DA

12:45:45

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr MATTARELLA, what do you think about the initiative "U-24, United for Peace" proposed by Ukraine and the possible participation of Italy as a guarantor state?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:46:08

Thank you.

The third question comes from Ms Ada MARRA, from Switzerland.

Ms Ada MARRA

Switzerland, SOC

12:46:16

Thank you Mr President,

 

Mr President, good morning, I allow myself to speak in Italian because I am the daughter of Italians who emigrated many years ago to Switzerland. Well, you represent for me and for many others the guarantee of a certain dignity of the institutions that are so important to protect peaceful coexistence, equality, the values that we defend in this Council.

There is a phenomenon that does not respect this, that instead wants to weaken the State, and I speak of the Mafia.

I would like to know, since there are these international branches of the Mafia, which we more or less see, or don't want to see, in our states, what do you think about international collaboration to fight this phenomenon? Do the states do enough and what could be promoted if not?

And excuse me for my poor Italian, thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:47:17

Thank you very much.

Mister President, three quite diverse questions.

Could you please try to react?

Mr Sergio MATTARELLA

President of the Italian Republic

12:47:27

I answer the first one gladly,

the strengthening of interreligious dialogue in our opinion is valuable for peace and co‑existence.

This is demonstrated by many significant episodes, and I cite just two: the letter on Human Brotherhood with which the pontiff of the Catholic Church, Francis, and the great Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed, EL TAYEB, then invited peoples and different religions to work together for peace and respect among all.

Or the meeting last October in Rome where, in addition to these two very important religious leaders, there were other equally important leaders. Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, the Anglican Primate, Archbishop Justin WELBY, Rabbi Noah MARANSM, the Ayatollah Mostafa Mohaghegh DAMAD, the Lutheran Frederick SHOO, the Buddhist leader Shoten MINEGISHI, all together to reason about the climate and how to encourage all adherents, all followers of religious faiths to contribute to the better fortunes of humanity.

With these efforts, this dialogue is fundamentally important, on the level of human values and personal dignity of each person. Whatever his or her ideas, religion or lack of religion.

It is a truly fundamental contribution because it removes the force of extremism and radicalism, of fundamentalism, and induces everyone to recognise themselves in the common human condition.

In this, the Italian Republic recognises, in the clear separation between the religious sphere and the state sphere. However, it recognises the religious dimension, the activity of the various religious faiths, the various religious denominations a contribution to the civil fabric, even beyond the boundaries of their creed. This, on a global level, is a contribution to mutual respect, to finding reasons to live together in common, respecting both one another.

To the second question I would like to answer that we are convinced that it is necessary to support, to encourage all the opportunities of negotiation that exist, of course, even if at the moment there is no great reason for optimism. All the possibilities that there are of possible negotiation must be supported and encouraged.

I repeat, hoping that the Russian Federation, which has not yet done so, will be willing to open up to us, as it has not given any hint so far. While respecting, of course, the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

In this framework, in this key, in this with these intentions Italy has offered its willingness to be part of the guarantors of the international status of Ukraine.

In the conventional international framework and framework that provides for the neutrality of Ukraine, our willingness is there, we hope that conditions can be achieved that are not visible at the moment.

To the third question I would like to answer that what you underlined, the international collaboration to fight against organised crime, is indispensable.

This was the vision of a person who gave his life in this respect, for this commitment. He is a protagonist of the fight against the Mafia, whom I knew well, with whom I met many times to talk about these issues: Giovanni Falcone, whose assassination in a few days' time we will remember the 30th anniversary of.

His conviction was that it was necessary to collaborate on an international level because this was the way to block and defeat Mafia trafficking, because organised crime has increasingly taken on international dimensions with ramifications articulated in different continents and also using the digital domain.

In order to fight it, it is necessary to have a similar commitment, constantly updated with respect to the quality that criminality has of using new instruments. It is necessary to constantly update the forms of international collaboration and the instruments of contrast.

There are many initiatives in this regard. Italy collaborates with many countries and on the level of training, transmission of experiences and on the level of investigation, there are also multilateral initiatives.

For example, the Interpol project against the Ndrangheta and its ramifications, particularly in Latin America, but also on other continents, is very important. Developing these forms of collaboration is the most effective way to fight organised crime and is a topic that must be constantly kept in high consideration.

In a few days there will be in Palermo, in my city, where the convention for the international commitment against organised crime has been signed, a conference of European attorneys general and that will be an opportunity to reflect on these issues. Of course, they are issues to be constantly developed.

I thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:53:29

Thank you, Mr President.

Now we take three more questions.

The first comes from your compatriot, Mr Roberto RAMPI.

Mr Roberto RAMPI

Italy, SOC

12:53:37

President,

The topic of culture is very much out there for us.

You were Minister of Education many years ago, and as president you promoted these rights a lot. Just over a year ago this Parliamentary Assembly made a wish of yours from 2015 come true: that of guaranteeing the right to knowledge.

We tried to codify it, exactly a year ago in this chamber, establishing some pillars: the dissemination of culture, education, information, the observatory on information, the quality of parliamentary debate.

My question is: in this crisis of democracy, this crisis of culture, this failure to work on widespread culture, is this not one of the key elements that we need to work on? How can we do that?

Mr Sergio MATTARELLA

President of the Italian Republic

12:54:24

Thank you.

The cultural dimension is, of course, fundamental- It is also fundamental as a basis for democratic growth and for the awareness of the rule of law.

In this context, information: I wanted to emphasise the decisive role of free and independent information. As you know, in Italy this is a principle safeguarded by the Constitution, because it is a fundamental pillar for democracies to build them and to make them live in an authentic way.

Freedom of information and the rights that this entails are also essential elements for a conscious and active citizenship, which is capable in its freedom, of a culture of comparison, exchange of opinions, free circulation and discussion of ideas, and in-depth study.

This is a litmus test to measure the authenticity of the commitment of the various countries to the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It is truly a crucial point, truly a litmus test.

The Council of Europe has spent a great deal of energy and commitment to guarantee this right, and it represents a fundamental safeguard, with initiatives aimed at protecting freedom of expression, free information, and the defense of journalism and journalists.

The guidelines adopted to support media pluralism, transparency of media ownership, are particularly important. It is also important to take care of and commit to fighting the manipulation of algorithms because algorithmic processes are often manipulated to influence public opinion and spreading fake news.

This is a way to protect free information as well, of course, with the assumption that no voice can be compressed for freedom of expression. I would also like to mention the platform for the profession of journalists and journalism.

In Ukraine we are seeing and witnessing, among the many and many cruelties, the many horrors. We are seeing the death of reporters, of these real and effective witnesses of truth. This shows how important it is to guarantee their work and profession.

The adoption of a Charter by the Council of Europe on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Education for Human Rights, as well as the report you mentioned, confirms how much this body, the Council of Europe, is aware of the importance of this issue, an importance that is growing in the face of new technologies and the prospects of artificial intelligence.

This is a fundamental issue for democracy and the rule of law. It is important to always have it as a priority commitment.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:58:12

Thank you very much Mister President.

We now take three more questions.

The first question is online, from Ms Nina KASIMATI, from Greece.

Madam Nina KASIMATI, please take the floor.

Please ask for the floor again, Ms Nina KASIMATI.

We take the next question. It comes from Mr Joseph O'REILLY, from Ireland.

Mister Joseph O'REILLY, you have the floor.

(The question of Ms Kasimati and the written reply of Mr Sergio Mattarella, President of the Italian Republic, appear at the end of the report of debates.)

Mr Joseph O'REILLY

Ireland, EPP/CD

12:58:50

Thank you, President. 

Welcome President MATTARELLA.

Given that spiralling inflation fuelled by Covid-19 and the war of aggression in Ukraine can threaten democracy and the rule of law, what Europe-wide solutions can be found? How can they be uniformly implemented? And what steps should be taken at a pan-European level to deal with the immediate impact on the most vulnerable in our society?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:59:30

Thank you.

Is Nina with us?

Yes, Nina, you have the floor.

Ms Nina KASIMATI from Greece.

Nina disappeared again, these things happen. So we take one more question from Mr Nicos TORNARITIS from Cyprus.

 

Mr Nicos TORNARITIS

Cyprus, EPP/CD

12:59:48

Mr President, there are countries which have not yet, and apparently have no intention of joining collective sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation for its invasion of Ukraine.

It so happens that Turkey, for instance, is a member of NATO and of the Council of Europe, and a candidate country for European Union membership.

Do you believe that the logic of double standards on behalf of the international community, vis-à-vis Russia on the one hand, and Turkey on the other hand, which feels free not to apply sanctions against Russia for its own benefit, serves peace and does not harm the effectiveness of sanctions, and subsequently the purpose for their adoption?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

13:00:54

Thank you very much, Nicos.

As we cannot get Nina online, the third question before you answer, Mister President, comes from Ms Nicole DURANTON, from France.

Nicole.

Ms Nicole DURANTON

France, ALDE

13:01:09

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr President of the Republic,

My dear colleagues,

Welcome, President MATTARELLA.

On 7 April this year, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for, and I quote, "its great passivity in a serious case of domestic violence that led to the death of a one-year-old child". Domestic violence is unfortunately a scourge that affects all the member states of our organisation and we see, in all our countries, the difficulty of fighting it.

I would therefore like to commend the emphasis placed by the Italian presidency of the Committee of Ministers on the prevention of violence against women and on the elimination of all forms of violence and abuse against children and adolescents.

Mr President of the Republic, can you tell us what you expect from the Council of Europe's action in this field, and in particular, from the new strategy of the Council of Europe on the rights of children and adolescents launched in Rome on 7 and 8 April?

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

13:02:18

Thank you, Madam Nicole DURANTON.

If you would allow me, Mister President, I would add one more question, because it comes from the leader of the Italian delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly, Ms Marta GRANDE.

If you then combine all these questions, then we leave you free for lunch.

Madam Marta GRANDE.

Ms Marta GRANDE

Italy, NR

13:02:40

Thank you, President.

Mister President, the international system created since the post-war period and based on democratic principles and values is undergoing heavy attacks in various aspects and fronts.

After years and years of building an architecture strongly anchored in the principles of the rule of law, respect for human rights and diplomatic conflict resolution, we are witnessing a real war in Ukraine.

In this regard, there is often talk of reforming international institutions so that they can respond more effectively to the challenges of the contemporary world. In this scenario, President, what do you think could be the reforming role of an institution such as the Council of Europe?

Thank you.

Mr Sergio MATTARELLA

President of the Italian Republic

13:03:27

Thank you President,

I must first of all apologise to you, President, because just now I answered Mr Roberto RAMPI's question without waiting for the others. The topic of freedom of information caught my attention.

To the first question of this group, which raises an important issue, because the increase in the cost of living and the erosion of purchasing power, partially, for the most vulnerable families, from the economic point of view is a really serious problem, and is a reason, as you mentioned, of concern for the whole of Europe. The pandemic has caused it in a massive way and has become a theme for all governments in Europe.

For all the governments of the world actually. Europe, and in this the European Union, has moved promptly and effectively, must have the courage to work together to address this issue and these serious difficulties that so many of our fellow citizens may be facing.

To work together to find formulas that mitigate the dramatic consequences on purchasing power. Now those risks caused by the pandemic are multiplied by the energy crisis and the effects of the war waged by Russia.

All this, of course, increases the priority of the problem you mentioned. It is a problem on which to intervene with all the instruments we have, within countries, but also in a co‑ordinated manner beyond the borders of individual countries, at European and international level.

We must also be aware that intervening on this level and containing the negative consequences are an indispensable element to preserve our democracies, to prove their efficiency in governing problems in the interest of people and citizenship.

The second question.

Italy, I have already said, firmly supports sanctions and naturally hopes that sanctions against Russia will be applied by all as widely as possible.

Of course, there are countries that have a common civilisation, countries that have it less, but this is what concerns the European Union. It concerns the issue of verification of accessions.

Internal European accession means to have a project of integration, with a common heritage of values and criteria of behaviour. Therefore for the pre-accession period of a candidate country, the state of a candidate country serves to evaluate and verify the suitability, the adequacy of this candidacy with respect to this acquis communautaire, to these conditions required by the accession to a common project as demanding as that of integration of the European Union.

It is important to be committed to peace at this time. It is important as we are doing widely, so many countries, to support our Ukrainian friends on a humanitarian profile. Support them politically, support them also in the resistance they are developing for their freedom and independence. This must be accompanied by the willingness to continuously seek, if possible, I repeat, where there are no prospects for peace negotiations.

Therefore, no initiative should be underestimated that seeks to develop a negotiation to try to overcome this dramatic condition, with the conditions that we know well that concern Ukraine, its independence, its territorial integrity, its full freedom.

Regarding the third question, I am glad you asked it. It is a topic of particular importance.

This one of violence against women on which I have spoken publicly many times in my country. The case you mentioned should be clarified that the Court examines individual cases, which sometimes do not coincide with the normality of what happens in a country. The cruelty of that individual case has alarmed everyone. It also struck Italy with a strong feeling of pain for what happened.

The general condition of Italy is of very strong, even effective, tools to combat violence against women. There is a great attention to this. The same Court of Justice, ECHR, has stressed in that same decision, that the Italian legal framework offers adequate enforceable regulatory measures to ensure the safety of women against threats of violence. The same, underlining since 2008 how Italy has adhered to the Istanbul Convention, that we try to develop in the implementation in all possible ways.

There is in Italy a national strategic plan on men's violence against women that has been renewed for this three-year period, and is already focused on the next lines of action, for protection and support, to defend women from men's violence.

The very recent reform of criminal justice in Italy has provided additional tools, contrast and repression, with the tightening of penalties for crimes and violent behavior against women.

The same has happened for the civil process, increasing the possibilities of compensation and interventions to protect, and shortening the time of application and intervention. This issue is the focus of our attention, as well as the focus of Italian attention as a member of the Council of Europe, which is particularly committed to this issue.

This is a theme on which in the Committee of Ministers, Italy is strongly committed to develop all possible forms that guarantee against violence against women.

The commitment is to ensure that the Istanbul Convention is extended in the accession as much as possible and concretely and consistently applied and implemented.

As far as we are concerned, we will make every effort in this regard.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

13:10:58

The question from Ms Marta GRANDE. The last question.

Mr Sergio MATTARELLA

President of the Italian Republic

13:11:07

I forgot. Excuse me, Madam Marta GRANDE.

I forgot about you. You see, what happened with the challenge posed by the Russian Federation to Ukraine is really serious, dramatic, intolerable.

The decision to welcome you in the Council of Europe in 1996 was an expression of the vocation of the Council of Europe to correspond to the aspiration towards shared standards of freedom and democracy.

It was the right choice then, to encourage these possibilities and perspectives.

The Russian Federation with its behavior has nullified that opening of credit that the Council of Europe had given at the time.

What was decided at the Council of Europe is absolutely unquestionable, but of course this does not stop the contribution of the Council of Europe to the prospects of life on the European continent.

I tried earlier, when I spoke, to recall the results that the Council of Europe has achieved in recent decades on various fronts, on many values, principles, criteria and behaviors that were previously, decades ago, ignored or not considered, and now have become a priority in many countries.

This great report thanks to the action also by the Council of Europe. This is an important growth of conditions of civilisation on our continent. For this reason, it is necessary to develop, with new frameworks, new conventions, strengthening the existing ones, the action of the Council of Europe to further develop, against barbarism and violence, these principles, these values, maintaining and developing the role of the Council of Europe, which, all the more today, proves to be valuable and indispensable for our continent.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

13:13:18

Thank you very much, Mister President.

I now have to interrupt the list of speakers.

Apologies to those who were not able to take the floor.

May I thank you very much for the wisdom that you brought to the House, Mister President.

Thank you very much.

It has been a great pleasure having you here in the Hemicycle.

We are looking forward to the Turin Conference.

The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon, at 3:30 p.m., with the agenda as approved on Monday.

The sitting is adjourned.

Question by Ms Nina KASIMATI

Ms Nina KASIMATI

Greece, UEL

13:16:54

To which extent understandings based on democracy and rule of law between Council of Europe member States, like the Agreement on the Delimitation of maritime zones between Greece and Italy, can serve as a model of settlement of disputes in sensitive geostrategic areas of our Organisation, against the backdrop of longstanding revisionisms and security challenges posed by Turkey in the South Eastern Mediterranean?

Written reply by Mr Sergio MATTARELLA, President of the Italian Republic

Mr Sergio MATTARELLA

President of the Italian Republic

13:16:54

The Maritime Delimitation Treaty between Italy and Greece is undoubtedly an example in the Mediterranean, in this phase of increasing "territorialisation" of our sea. In their negotiations, Italy and Greece have been able to reconcile their respective interests, in line with their historical and traditional friendship, and consistently with the ties that unite the two countries within the European Union, the Atlantic Alliance and this institution, and have maintained the inalienable reference to international law.

This experience points to a 'working method' that may be useful to other Mediterranean coastal countries: resolving disputes over maritime delimitation through dialogue, in the knowledge that shared solutions presuppose necessary compromises and always within the framework of reference provided by international law. Bearing in mind that shared solutions benefit all parties involved.

The sitting is closed at 1:15 p.m.