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21 June 2022 morning

2022 - Third part-session Print sitting

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Opening of the sitting No. 19

Debate: Recent challenges to security in Europe: what role for the Council of Europe?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:03:56

The next item of business this morning is the presentation of and debate on the report by Mr Bogdan KLICH, on behalf of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, on "Recent challenges to security in Europe: what role for the Council of Europe?" However, as Mr Bogdan KLICH has been held up by a problem at the airport, the Chairman of the Committee, Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, will present the report.

We will have to interrupt the list of speakers at 11.30 a.m. in order to hear the speakers of the high-level panel on "Upholding democratic security in Europe". But we will pick up where we left off this afternoon.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, you have the floor.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, Chairperson of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy

10:04:51

Good morning, Mr President.

Secretary General, 

Dear colleagues, 

The Russian Federation's unprovoked aggression against Ukraine has shaken the security architecture of Europe. We are coming close to the end of the Helsinki era, which started in 1975 and was fundamentally reinforced in the transition in 1988–89. There are tendencies which try to bring us back to the Yalta period – and that is what we do not want. That is against the intention of us to create, again, a security structure which is based on the sphere of interest principle. The consequences of the aggression on the military and economic aspects are incredible and dire. It is – probably I can tell it to you in the name of all of us – that it is high time that diplomats come instead of generals into the process.

But what does this new scenario mean for the Council of Europe? What role can the organisation, which does not have a defence mandate, play to address the current security challenges? At the core of this report is the notion that security is a wider concept than defence but we should be aware of the fact that defence has widened its content in the past decades, as well as the hybrid character of the war was clear to all of us in the past couple of months, but years before as well.

Human rights, rule of law, the media and cyber matters are important aspects of the democratic processes, and the compliance with democratic processes, which fall squarely within the remit of the Council of Europe. In this respect, the report underlines that it is necessary to go to work towards the strengthening of democratic security in Europe. Democratic security is not a new concept for the Council of Europe. It was the central element of the 1993 Vienna Declaration and has since been a main analytical lens for the organisation's various activities. But in this new context, the goal to make the organisation fully capable of contributing to democratic security, as presented in the declaration, has taken on renewed importance.

It is more clear than ever that in order to increase security in our continent we must reinforce democratic practices in each country and together as well. The respect for democratic standards domestically and the respect for common rules in the international arena are interdependent. In this regard, the current challenges to resilience to democracy are doubly worrying. In addition to domestic repercussions, this development is bound to have consequences on the collective security of Europe if allowed to persist. And in order to confront today's challenges to security, we need to understand the new threats we face. The report outlines some of the most important ones.

So what can the Council of Europe do more to live up to today's security challenges? Allow me to highlight four points which are included in the draft recommendation.

One of the key elements of the draft recommendation is the creation of a democratic resilience initiative, which would build on the work of existing bodies and mechanisms to monitor democratic developments in member states and help the member states address situations of concern. We are aware of the fact that there is a similar initiative in NATO but I am convinced that the Democratic Resilience Initiative Centre under the auspices of the Council of Europe is much more opportune.

The rapporteur also proposes, among other things, to establish a mechanism to monitor developments related to civil society, freedom of association and civil participation and engagement in Council of Europe member states. Given the Council of Europe's specific comparative advantage, further consideration should be given to strengthening and expanding the organisation's activities relating to confidence-building measures and conflict prevention.

May I have 30 seconds, President, because I have a few more points?

Finally, building on what was already outlined in other recent reports, the draft recommendation also advised the Committee of Ministers to convene a Fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government of Council of Europe member states. This summit would address inter alia the promotion of democratic security. I must say, Mr President, that there has always been vigorous and universal support for this idea among Committee members. Each time the topic has come up, we should not forget that 33 years ago the Council of Europe played a very pivotal role in the transition process.

Mr President, in this new volatile and tense geopolitical context, it is necessary to give new vigour to the Council of Europe and it is also necessary to give a new impetus to the European integration process, paying attention not just to the Western Balkans but to the Eastern side and part of Europe. While its mandate does not change, the organisation's activities need to be refocused in order to conform to the security challenges through a comprehensive security approach. That is why this report is so fundamental. We need a common understanding of how the Council of Europe can best act to address the new security challenges on our continent. I hope this report will contribute to this difficult task and I ask for your support for the draft resolution and recommendation.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:11:45

Thank you very much, Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, for your presentation and for replacing our rapporteur Mr Bogdan KLICH.

Now in the debate I first call Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO from Ukraine and he is speaking on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

Oleksii, you have the floor.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

10:12:04

Thank you very much Mr President,

Dear colleagues,

I want to address you because I think it's an extremely important moment today. We are discussing "Security in the continent and the role of the Council of Europe" here.

I just want to remind you that in 1949 this organisation was created to prevent a new awful war in Europe, after the awful Second World War with millions of victims. The idea was to prevent a new war in Europe – and let's acknowledge it, we failed.

Today we again have an awful war in the middle of Europe; again, thousands of people and tens of thousands of people are killed; again, a neo-fascist regime rules in Russia, and now there is a threat for the whole continent.

That is our failure, so let's learn lessons from it. I think there is only one lesson: we need courage. We need courage enough to make courageous steps, as was made in 1949 by founders of this organisation - it was a courageous step. Let's make courageous steps, and we can do it every day.

I address those representatives of European Union member states who are here – at the end of the week there will be a summit of the European Union. Please support Ukraine as a candidate to the European Union, please support Moldova as a candidate to the European Union. Yes, Georgia – they have problems now but please don't let the Georgian people be hostage of one oligarch. So we should support you and we should say Georgian people should be inside Europe; give candidacy to Georgia too.

Then next week there will be a summit of NATO. I address Türkiye: please support Finland and Sweden.

I address all member states of NATO: please support Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and give a membership action plan to us.

We should be united. We should be strong enough to fight all the threats we have today. I'm absolutely sure that there is only one answer to all the challenges we have today, to all the threats we have today: our courage.

Be brave like Ukraine. Today Ukrainians – we were not afraid of Putin like many here were afraid, and many in Europe were afraid. They said Kyiv would fail – we did not fail. And we will not fail ever, because we have courage enough to fight for our land and to fight for our country.

I address you: let's be courageous enough together. Let's make the free world strong enough to stop dictators throughout the whole planet. That is a crucial moment – all we will have until the end of the century is a free world in the whole planet. If we don't expand each year by having more and more nations inside our organisations, we will shrink and we will disappear under attacks of dictators.

So please be brave like Ukraine and be courageous enough, and I'm sure we will win.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:15:09

Thank you very much, Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO.

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

You have the floor.

Mr Jacques MAIRE

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

10:15:17

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

After the previous intervention, I must say that at least in March we had the right reaction: we decided unanimously, with a consensus of the Committee of Ministers, to exclude Russia.

So, some might consider that we have done the job and that now we have to go back to, I would say, a "business as usual" situation. Yesterday, I heard members of the Committee of Ministers say: "We simply need to reassert our fundamentals and start a new cycle". I think that if we do not draw the conclusions, as Mr Bogdan KLICH's report has done, of the consequences of this crisis on our organisation, we are not up to the task. Now, the Committee of Ministers is offering us a challenge, an important challenge: it is a Summit of Heads of State and Government.

This Summit of Heads of State and Government is really an opportunity for us to draw the consequences of the various crises that we see here at the Council of Europe. First, obviously, a geopolitical crisis: a war between member states of the Council of Europe is a failure of the convergence process of our organisation in terms of rule of law and respect of sovereignty. And then, a crisis of efficiency: the length of judicial procedures, the very fact that we are waiting month after month for a decision on a very important case concerning Türkiye, shows that the subject is not at all limited to Russia. And then, the third factor, a crisis of attractiveness; as you know, today there are states that are wondering whether we should stay or leave the Council of Europe. Finally, what is the cost of leaving the Council of Europe? Losing a label on a business card but not necessarily losing the fundamental elements that connect us to our colleagues.

In relation to all this, we must be present in the security architecture, and this is a challenge. There is a proposal that has been much talked about recently: the proposal of a European political community. I agree with my Ukrainian, Georgian and Moldovan colleagues: nothing will replace the prospect of membership in the European Union. At the same time, it is clear that there is a lack of integration, co-operation, dialogue and political space. Can the Council of Europe respond to this demand for a European political community? This is one of the challenges on which, I think, we must have an answer.

So I have only one wish, Mr President: of course, beyond the report of Mr Bogdan KLICH, it is that the whole organisation, our Assembly, be mobilised in the days, weeks and months to come in order to contribute rapidly to the process and to the substance of what should be the level of ambition of this Summit of Heads of State and Government. Let us not delude ourselves: if we do not come up with strong proposals that require significant human and budgetary resources, if we do not fill the basket of this Summit of Heads of State and Government, it will not take place.

The ball is also in our court: we must seize it.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:18:17

Thank you, Mr Jacques MAIRE.

The next speaker is Mr Thomas PRINGLE, from Ireland, speaking on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

You have the floor.

Mr Thomas PRINGLE

Ireland, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

10:18:28

Go raibh maith agat, a Uachtarán (Thank you President)

The role of the Council of Europe is very much the focus of attention now with the conflict in the Ukraine.

Indeed sometimes one would be forgiven for thinking that the Council has a military arm when listening to the recent debates in the situation in Ukraine. It is understandable from the members from Ukraine to a certain extent but from some of the other members it is hard to take.

I agree with the the Secretary General Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ when she says that the Council of Europe is not a security organisation. And let us be clear that it will not be the Council alone that will stop the aggression that is taking place.

The question for the Council of Europe I fear is whether the adjustments that are taking place will be focused on democratic security. What is democratic security as well needs to be considered. We have to be very careful that we do not see that being eroded through our own activities.

The discussion on deep/soft security measures that pepper this document and its approaches needs to be handled carefully. Deep/soft security can have many meanings as far as I can see. And that needs to be protected against as well. What I would see as bordering on military security and breaching the role of the Council of Europe could possibly be construed as okay by another member.

There are enough warmongers around without having this organisation adding to them. The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is probably one that springs to mind.

We need to be very careful in relation to working with them as their role may not be the furthering of peace and we should not confuse that as being the same as what this organisation is working towards.

I believe that the Council of Europe has a very important role to carry out and I would agree with the statement that states should renew their commitment to the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

As a body, we must be aware that the threat to the security and the safety of all of our citizens do not always come from outside. Equality rightly is significant in terms of how citizens live and achieve contentment. Growing inequality is among one of the factors that lead to a feeling of disenchantment with democracy in Europe as has been pointed to in the report. We all need to focus on our own states and the need to ensure that security is not undermined by inequality and attacks on human rights.

There is also the issue of disinformation and the potential impact that it can have on populations. I believe that it is not only the actions of the Russian Federation and China that citizens need to be protected against. And I'm not sure if this organisation can address that either. But maybe having an educated and nuanced population where people can make their own minds up in relation to disinformation is the only way to ultimately protect everybody.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:21:08

Thank you, Mr Thomas PRINGLE.

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

Ahmet, you have the floor.

Mr Ahmet Ünal ÇEVİKÖZ

Türkiye, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

10:21:19

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

Distinguished members of the Assembly,

As we are getting closer to the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, it is quite obvious that the international system is transforming. Some blame the pandemic for the changes we are going through. Some try to identify other reasons.

But in any case, it is hard to ignore the effect of Russia's military aggression against Ukraine and many agree that European security will never be what it used to be.

Things are changing. The existing European and Euro-Atlantic institutions are adapting themselves to the new conditions. NATO is preparing its new strategic concept which will be adopted next week in Madrid. The European Union has already introduced its Strategic Compass a month ago, to respond to the requirements for a new Common Security and Defence Policy in Europe.

Migration is becoming the malaise of this century. It is mainly instigated by terrorism. Yet, the recent Russian aggression is triggering a new series of challenges such as energy shortage, food security, and all these become new elements to increase wider population movements.

We are now preparing the fourth summit in the history of this organisation. It is quite clear that this report that we are reviewing today is a basic prelude to such forthcoming summit. It underlines the fact that security is a wider concept than defence. It reiterates the need that the backsliding of democracy in Europe should be urgently addressed. It calls for support to the role of civil society, support to reinforcing adherence to the rule of law.

This organisation is all about these values, which are under serious threat of a growing authoritarianism, depreciation of good neighbourly relations, loss of trust and confidence among neighbours.

The Council of Europe is a fundamental pillar of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. But do we really think that we can reassure the protection of these values for future generations? Are we addressing the root causes of democratic backsliding? Are we mobilising citizen engagement and creating the conditions for an agile civil society?

It is time for this organisation to assume the responsibilities that it so courageously undertook 72 years ago, and to redefine its role in this new international environment. We, as parliamentarians, have an important role to play in defusing tensions and preventing conflicts.

We have to enhance our coordination and cooperation with other international parliamentary assemblies. We have to develop new mechanisms for strengthening such cooperation. This report, dear members of the Assembly, has a very accurate reading of what we are heading to and has very appropriate recommendations to find the remedy that we all need.

The Council of Europe is the fundamental pillar of European democracy and we have to show our commitment to democratic resilience that our community of democratic nations needs.

With my sincere thanks and appreciation to the rapporteur.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:24:18

Thank you, Ahmet.

And now the last speaker in the list of those who speak on behalf of the political groups is Ms Theodora BAKOYANNIS from Greece and she speaks on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Dora, you have the floor.

Ms Theodora BAKOYANNIS

Greece, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

10:24:31

Thank you, Mr President.

I want to congratulate and thank Mr Bogdan KLICH on the draft report and recommendations he presented to us today. As I told him in Chania during the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy meeting, this report will be crucial for the future of this organisation. It constitutes one of the few opportunities we have to situate the Council of Europe at the heart of the European architecture during difficult times, times of revisionism and war.

I want to underline the way this report acknowledges the various aspects of what security means, what security is, and what therefore can be perceived as a threat to it, as a challenge.

Democracy, respect, promotion and protection of human rights, of the freedom of speech, independent judiciary and rule of law, fair and free elections. In one sentence: the values and way of life that have or, more accurately, had unfortunately guaranteed peace in Europe for more than 70 years.

This is our mandate. This is what it's all about. Values which now are violated, revisited, and threatened. Not only by Russia, but by other current members of this Council that adopt that kind of attitude. There is a report of the Monitoring Committee on Türkiye saying that the country is headed to, it's an autocracy and not a democracy. A member state that defies democratic values, jails political opponents and activist, labels journalists as dissidents, and threatens on a daily basis the territorial integrity and sovereignty rights of neighbouring countries and their people, be it Greece or Cyprus.

The report of Mr Bogdan KLICH argues that the Council should enhance the long-term security of its member states within the scope of its mandate. So I really believe, dear colleagues, and I conclude, that we must be honest, we must really protect our values – democracy is the answer to autocracy, democracy is the future and this is a fight we must win.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:27:00

Thank you very much, Ms Theodora BAKOYANNIS.

The next speaker is Ms Marietta KARAMANLI from France. You have the floor.

Is she not here?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:27:22

Our next speaker is Mr Frédéric REISS from France.

You have the floor.

Mr Frédéric REISS

France, EPP/CD

10:27:34

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr rapporteur,

Dear colleagues,

The European security context has become much more acute in recent years. After terrorism, migratory crises and computer interference in electoral processes, the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine on 24 February this year has finally destabilised the multilateral balance of our continent. We cannot be insensitive to the passionate intervention of our Ukrainian colleague: it is a call for help. As we can see, international law is increasingly ignored and the international order is weakened.

Faced with these threats, which could jeopardise democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the Council of Europe must react. It is true that defence issues are not part of its remit, but the defence of democratic security and multilateralism does fall within its sphere of activity.

The fight against misinformation is essential, especially when this phenomenon interferes in electoral processes. But as I had the opportunity to explain in a report on the control of online communication, the deletion of content should be a last resort and only concern clearly illegal content in order to preserve freedom of expression and freedom of information. Rather than introducing downstream censorship tools, Council of Europe member states must act upstream to protect professional journalism and ensure an independent and pluralistic media ecosystem. Educating students is also very important. Protecting them is not enough. We must also give them the means to protect themselves from disinformation campaigns and manipulation.

There is a growing distrust of our institutions. The high abstention rate in yesterday's French parliamentary elections is significant. This is a particularly worrying element of democratic fragility. How can we restore citizens' confidence? By involving civil society more in the decision-making process and by reaffirming the fundamentals, again and again. Mr rapporteur, you invite the member states to "renew their commitment to the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law". Yes, this is a necessity: the Council of Europe must clearly reaffirm its values.

The holding of a 4th Summit of Heads of State and Government devoted to this subject can only be encouraged.

I will of course vote in favour of the resolution and recommendation submitted to us.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:30:23

Thank you, dear Mr Frédéric REISS.

The next speaker on our list is Mr Armen GEVORGYAN, from Armenia.

Mr Armen GEVORGYAN, you have the floor.

Mr Armen GEVORGYAN

Armenia, EC/DA

10:30:31

Thank you.

Mr President,

In the past decades our organisation has tried to pursue issues like minority rights, gender equality, diversity, and other important issues for democratic statehood. But we also failed to address more fundamental aspects of democratic peace. That is the protection of the right to life and the right of people's self-determination.

It seems to me, we have began to treat human destiny rather selectively and very often in the context of geopolitics.

Some debates in this Assembly show that we have allowed political expediency to make suffering of some Europeans more important than for other Europeans. To make the right of some European people's for self-determination unconditional, while for others only decorative.

We have put much effort to abolish capital punishment in member states, but turning a blind eye on how high-tech industry creates new deadly weaponry and is freely sold in the market. I have never heard of any investigation or fact-finding missions to explore how certain member states use prohibited types of weaponry, such as, for example, white phosphorus bombs.

Certain member states have demonstrated that by the using of force and money some issues can be resolved while ignoring fundamental rights and freedoms.

Mr President, it has become a strange tradition for our organisation to avoid discussing violations of certain fundamental rights and freedoms, explaining that the Council of Europe does not deal with security issues. This is a very unacceptable position which essentially encourages new violations.

Where and how it is decided that the right of people to self-determination is outside the interest of the Council of Europe? That any military aggression by any member of our organisation that kills thousands of innocent people is not our mandate?

I try and fail to understand how can the European Parliament speak the language of values and human rights by adopting the relevant language and resolutions, for example, on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while the Council of Europe and its bodies, including this Assembly, hide behind political correctness and fail to call things by their name.

Mr President, I'm raising all these issues with only one aspiration: to contribute to the development of our organisation and making it a better fit to our troubled world. I believe it's through the re-establishing of an environment of respect trust and dialogue that we can make our organisation a relevant forum for international cooperation and the protection of values of the free world.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:33:21

Thank you Mr Armen GEVORGYAN.

The next speaker in our debate is Ms Nicole DURANTON from France.

Nicole, you have the floor.

Ms Nicole DURANTON

France, ALDE

10:33:30

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

The armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine has deeply shaken our continent and has partly destabilised our organisation. Separating from a member is never trivial, but crises can lead to positive developments, provided that appropriate measures are adopted.

In this respect, I am convinced of the relevance of the Council of Europe as a European multilateral organisation for defending democracy, human rights and the rule of law. I am equally convinced that the status quo is not possible.

Our debates show the magnitude of the democratic and security challenges facing Europe, whether it be hybrid threats, cyber security, media freedom, the weakening of the rule of law or civic apathy, which is unfortunately gaining ground, as evidenced by the unsatisfactory voter turnout in many countries.

Our colleague Mr Bogdan KLICH reminds us that democratic security has many dimensions, including the commitment of citizens and civil society. I believe that our Assembly, in conjunction with the national parliaments from which we come, should strengthen its analysis of new ways of involving citizens in the decision-making process, while reaffirming the role and place of representative democracy, which I believe is an essential mechanism for "political settlement" and the pacification of internal political conflicts.

I do not believe solely in the virtues of participatory democracy, which is often manipulated in the age of social media and which does not intrinsically lead to the emergence of political compromises.

It also seems to me that the reflection on the role and place of the Council of Europe should be an opportunity to rethink the meaning of our common membership in this organisation, to reaffirm our values and what they entail in terms of consequences and, let's be clear, constraints for the member states. In saying this, I am thinking in particular of respect for the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, which must be implemented.

But we cannot restore meaning solely on the promise of increased constraints, even if the objective is noble. We must offer positive prospects for restoring meaning and credibility to the organisation in the new geopolitical context, and therefore reflect on how to strengthen the attractiveness of membership in the Council of Europe, including by considering additional competences.

I hope that our discussions today will contribute to this and lead to a 4th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe member states, which seems absolutely necessary today.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:36:28

Thank you very much, Ms Nicole DURANTON.

The next speaker in our debate in Mr Max LUCKS from Germany.

Mr Max LUCKS, you have the floor... ah sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry - I was too quick.

First we call to the debate Ms Arusyak JULHAKYAN from Armenia, and then we will have Mr Max LUCKS from Germany.

Ms Arusyak JULHAKYAN

Armenia, NR

10:36:49

Thank you, Mr Chair.

Distinguished members of the Assembly,

My conclusion from the analysis of different conflicts, and especially from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, is that the key to global security peace is democracy.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has arisen as a human rights issue. At this stage it is still a human rights issue which is being considered, which is being negotiated from one side by a society that is on the path of democracy, which is open, where it is very difficult to dictate false agendas, where all issues are discussed relationally; and on the other side by an authoritarian regime - a system where it is very easy to mislead society, to impose false agendas, to overestimate the external threat.

In the context of all of this, it becomes obvious that these types of conflicts must be resolved in favour of democracy because democratic societies do not generate conflicts - they solve conflicts.

Among democracies even the most difficult issues can be easily resolved if the goal of both sides is peace.

If both sides really strive for peace, then the most pressing issues will find solutions. But when we oppose these two systems - democracy and autocracy - it becomes clear that on the one hand we are dealing with a real desire for peace, and on the other hand we only have an imitation of its aspirations for peace, which are only attempts to please the international community.

That is why it is so difficult for democratic societies to achieve peace in a conflict with an authoritarian state.

Categories that have long been rejected by modern Europe such as historical justice, historical lands - they are just a means to mislead people, to create opportunities for foreign interference in the policy-making of a given state, a given society.

That is why the Council of Europe must stand by the newly established developing young democracies as opposed to authoritarianism.

The Council of Europe must prove to the societies that have taken the path of democracy that the pursuit of peace is right. We must not allow authoritarian regimes to achieve their goal.

Democratic societies are sometimes disappointed; false, nationalist, or other demanding ideas start to become dominant in those societies as they see autocracies succeed in their efforts.

In this regard, the Council of Europe has an important mission, dear colleagues.

We have to prove to democratic societies that, despite the fact the path they have chosen is difficult, they have the support of the civilised world.

Dear colleagues,

Another important thing the Council of Europe must and the Parliamentary Assembly in particular can do is ensuring that at least the resolutions and the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly are implemented.

This could be another tool kit for ensuring democratic security in the region. From this point of view, we have a lot of work to do.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:40:03

Thank you, Madam.

Next in the debate, I call now Mr Max LUCKS from Germany. 

The floor is yours, Max.

Mr Max LUCKS

Germany, SOC

10:40:13

Thank you very much, Mister President,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The war in Ukraine has not just been going on for four months. It began in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea in violation of international law, and it began in response to everything that this House stands for here. It began as a reaction to the courageous young people, in particular, who fought for their democracy and their freedom on the Euromaidan with the power of song and with the power of peaceful protest. Some of those who were in the streets in 2014 and who protested with the power of songs are also here today as part of this gathering for the Ukrainian Parliament. Even though there is war in their country, our brave colleagues from Ukraine are traveling here and that shows once again how much everything is at stake: what the Council of Europe stands for and what the European human rights system stands for.

I think that in view of this, the time when we pretend that we can defend human rights in 45 member States completely independently of Ukraine must be over once and for all. We must be aware that we can only defend human rights together in Europe, and we must also be aware of this against the background that we know exactly what has happened in recent years. We know how the Kremlin has actively supported anti‑European campaigns, disinformation campaigns. We know the financial flows between the Kremlin and a fascist‑like Marine Le Pen in France. I think we really have to ask ourselves honestly how we realign this Council of Europe against this background. That is why I think it is very right that we should also talk about security issues in this framework here.

The European human rights system is the greatest civilizational achievement on this planet. If it is attacked with violence, then we must also honestly ask ourselves what our role should be. I think that as a self‑confident and political organisation, our role must, of course, be not to act as if security issues were completely separate from us, but to place them at the centre of our debates. I think it is very good that at the ministerial meeting in Turin it was decided that a high-level expert group will make proposals on this by the end of the year.

I think we need to be aware that we have to look our colleagues in the national parliaments, our national governments, our citizens in the constituencies in the eye just as we look our Ukrainian colleagues in the eye here.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:43:25

Thank you, Mr Max LUCKS.

Next in the debate, I call Mr Reinhold LOPATKA from Austria.

Reinhold, you have the floor.

Mr Reinhold LOPATKA

Austria, EPP/CD

10:43:32

Dear President,

Dear colleagues,

In March 2022 the EU approved its new Strategic Compass for security and defence. At the time when we witness the return of war in Europe, many of us like me, we thought after 1989 it cannot happen again. What a big mistake.

But the Compass now gives the European Union an ambitious plan for action, for strengthening the EU Common Security and Defence Policy by 2030. The more hostile environment requires our countries to make a big leap forward and increase our capacity and willingness to act and invest more and better in our defence capabilities.

Russia's invasion in Ukraine has reaffirmed NATO's importance, vitalising the alliance and strengthening its pre-eminent role as a provider of hard security. The alliance will gain additional members with Sweden and Finland, which are both exposed to potential Russian destabilisation attempts or aggression.

Putin's attack on Ukraine acts as a catalyst for a new era of security co-operation between the EU and NATO, and between the EU and non-EU NATO allies like Türkiye.

Despite NATO's revival, I have concerns about the US commitment for Europe's defence under a president like Trump. The conflict has again shown the degree of European reliance on the US. But we have to do everything to be strong. That is how France, I think, sees it. We have to strengthen the EU as a defence actor by itself and an insurance policy against a possible US disengagement from Europe.

At the same time, there has been much closer dialogue between the EU and NATO, and especially since the invasion there are still obstacles of greater formal co-operation between the EU and NATO. Here, the Council of Europe, of course it's not a security organisation, can also play a role.

We have a broader spectrum of member states in our Assembly, and we should use this. NATO countries and neutral countries like Austria and Ireland, we should work together, because always, diplomacy and political dialogue will find the solution. Never war can be the solution.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:46:52

Thank you very much, Mr Reinhold LOPATKA.

Before we call in the next speaker, I have to inform the Assembly that our rapporteur Mr Bogdan KLICH did manage to come from Frankfurt to Strasbourg, thank you very much for being here with us, Bogdan. But you were replaced very well by the Chair of the Committee, but it is always better that we have the rapporteur here with us.

Now in the debate, I call Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN from Finland.

Kimmo, you have the floor.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC

10:47:21

Mister President,

The subject of our discussion today is the "Recent Security Challenges in Europe: the role of the Council of Europe".

I think it is very important for us to try to remember and understand what is the basis of European security structure.

Today after the post-Cold War period when we created the - let's say the new security architecture here - Helsinki Final Act, obviously the Paris Charter stipulates the basics.

Obviously one of the basics is the respect of sovereignty, national security and territorial integrity of every member State. Obviously, these are the cornerstones.

In a similar way, each country does have their sovereign right to choose the security arrangements the country itself feels crucial ones. These are the cornerstones. Furthermore, the basics of European security architecture is based on the idea of comprehensive indivisible security.

The idea clearly is the common security in a way that you do not build up your own security at the cost of others, at the cost of your neighbours. Once a security problem is a common security problem, we try to solve it together. This obviously is the basis.

The title today is "Recent Security Challenges". We see that one of the previous member States of this organisation is brutally, brutally breaking the idea of what common security is by attacking another country here.

Obviously, common security comes from the argument - you have heard obviously that foreign minister Mr Sergey Lavrov last autumn argued that, yes, common security is the basis for the Russian approach, also. You should respect that one. You do not enlarge NATO at the cost of our security etc. When they are now bombing Ukraine, when they are killing people in Ukraine, they are actually building up their own security, sacrificing Ukrainians' security.

That obviously makes the situation so that common security became an uncommon security or common insecurity. We are now feeling that very strongly here, all of us. We are, obviously, clearly condemning Russian aggression.

The problem to remember is that it is actually not only the question about security in its limited format. Today it is also very much the democratisation and Europeanisation of Ukraine, which is a challenge. It is a challenge not for Russia or Russian people; it is a challenge for the power structures in Russia. In that way we should understand why the democracy issue is the key for our discussion to continue and our values.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:50:35

Thank you, Kimmo.

Now we are going to listen to Mr Serhii SOBOLIEV from Ukraine.

Serhii, you have the floor.

Mr Serhii SOBOLIEV

Ukraine, EPP/CD

10:50:42

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear Colleagues,

I think that it is only the beginning of the serious work that we started from this report. It is impossible to have security in Europe and the whole world without the security of whole organisations that had to provide peace and stability in Europe and the whole world. Who could imagine at the beginning of the 2000s, that a dictator would come to power in Russia and become a fascist dictator? We cannot even imagine that, at the beginning of the 21st century we would again have concentration camps, but Putin calls them "filtration camps", where hundreds of thousands of people from occupatied territories had to go through a special regime of filtration. Where children, women, old people, everybody had to be a in special regime in order to prove that they are loyal to Putin's regime.

We know a lot about Bucha, about other occupied territories that are now liberated by our troops but we cannot even imagine what we will see on the territory of Mariupol, Severodonetsk and other hundreds and hundreds of small villages and cities where the atrocities of the fascist regime and the fascist Russian Army are now under such rise that I think that we really need an international tribunal over this regime. I think that the security of energy, of food, is only the beginning of a big plan that we need to fulfil very quickly.

It is impossible to do something only by one organisation. The union of such organisations as ours, of NATO, of the European Union, is the only way that we can protect peace in Europe and the whole world. How can we do this when, for example, Ukraine, the first and the only state in the world that provides disarmament of nuclear weapons, is now the centre of the atrocities of Putin's regime? I think that our future membership in the European Union and NATO, as well as the future membership of other so-called neutral countries that cannot be neutral in these circumstances, is the only way that how we can protect peace.

Thank you. 

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:53:49

Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr Samad SEYIDOV from Azerbaijan.

Mr Samad SEYIDOV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

10:54:00

Thank you, Mr President.

First of all let me express my gratitude to the rapporteur for this very in time and excellent report.

Really security is a matter. Really we have to understand what kind of sources could create this instability and insecurity, not only in Europe: all over the world.

And it's very obvious. Territorial claims of one state to another, occupation by one state of another state, ethnic cleansing of population, violation of fundamental human rights, and other very very unacceptable for this organisation factors, problems and diseases.

We are, in our region, we have experienced all these factors. We were under occupation. We lost our territories. We became a subject of ethnic cleansing. We had and we still have 1 million refugees in Azerbaijan. We were in a very unsecurable, unstable situation. And what we did? We returned back everything, we restored international law, we came to the very stable situation in the region and we proposed the peace to all our neighbours including, first of all, or to our immediate neighbour Armenia.

Unfortunately my dear friends, my dear colleagues, starting from yesterday my Armenian friends and colleagues tried to present everything upside down. They tried to present the situation in the region in absolutely different way. My advice to my Armenian colleagues is to find courage to sit together with Azerbaijanis, just to sit together with Azerbaijanis, just to think about peace, not about presentation at the Council of Europe and attempts to mislead the organisation, just to seriously speak about economic development of all countries in the region, including Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia.

And by doing so, to do everything in order to open communications. To delimitate and demarcate the borders, to accept the new realities which have been created after the liberation of occupied territories, to be serious with the future of your nation, and not to mislead international organisations, not to create more unsecurable situation in the region by talking about security.

Thank you very much.

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

10:57:03

Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Mr Damien COTTIER.

Mr Damien COTTIER

Switzerland, ALDE

10:57:08

Danke, Herr Präsident.

Mr President,

24 February this year was an important turning point in the history of our continent, a fundamental paradigm shift that finally reminds us of the challenges our organisation faced in the 1990s, and that is why our Assembly is right to call for a Summit of Heads of State and Government, as it has already done in several resolutions and as it does again in the resolution before us today.

Some people wonder if this is the right time for a summit, but one of the officials of the Irish presidency of the Committee of Ministers said a few days ago: if not now, then when? Faced with the challenges facing our continent and our organisation, it is absolutely necessary to meet and redefine the role and means available to the Council of Europe to do its work for more democracy, the rule of law and the defence of human rights on our continent. Basically, we will only be able to resolve – and this is my deep conviction – crises such as the one we are going through if we strengthen the values, the values of our continent, and these values are those carried by this organisation; I would even say those embodied by this organisation. Who else but the Council of Europe is there to truly defend, hold this torch and represent these values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law?

So, in parallel, the states must reflect on the security architecture of the continent; I say "in parallel, the states" because that is not the role of this organisation. There are other organisations that are security organisations: we are not, but the states from which we come have this responsibility to ask themselves the question, notably within the OSCE and other organisations, notably of a redefinition, perhaps a reinvention of the European security space and architecture.

And all countries are asking themselves these questions, including neutral countries. Some now want to join NATO. My country, Switzerland, which is a country of permanent neutrality, is also rethinking its position in terms of security, not in order to abandon neutrality, which, moreover, is defined by international law – and here I am responding to one of my colleagues who spoke earlier – and which does not apply in the case of the war of aggression in Ukraine, since it is a gross violation of international law. This reflection is taking place, but perhaps with a view to strengthening cooperation with NATO countries on the Swiss side.

So, as we can see, reflections are underway, but our organisation must focus on other elements, diplomacy and in particular parliamentary diplomacy, the reinforcement of multilateralism and therefore the reinforcement of the Council of Europe itself, not because it is good for our organisation or for us, but because it is necessary for Europe.

We must therefore have the courage to have this debate and to invite the Heads of State and Government to lead it.

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:00:14

Thank you, Mister Damien COTTIER.

The next speaker is Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY.

Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY

Türkiye, NR

11:00:22

Thank you, Chair.

Dear President,

Distinguished Members of the Assembly,

Please allow me, first and foremost, to express my thanks and appreciation to rapporteur Mr Bogdan KLICH for the excellent reports he has prepared and presented.

With the start of the unjustified war of aggression against Ukraine, the international order has been shaken again. The recent crisis has challenged all the international institutions, including the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the EU, and NATO. In this sense, the timely and unanimous position taken after the start of the war by the bodies of the Council of Europe deserves appreciation.

However, this war has also led to changes in the international political arena, such as increasing military spending and seeking new alliances and memberships.

We need to show our dedication to the core values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Also, in this new international context, we need to look for security policies as well, which is a broader concept than defence. Especially while we are reasserting our unity and commitments to our values and principles, we should continue our engagements to work more on political dialogues to help member States and expand the Council of Europe’s activities, especially with regard to conflict prevention.

In this sense, I have listened, once again, with regret for the baseless accusations of the Greek chairperson towards my country. Unfortunately, our Greek colleagues continue to use old bilateral and multilateral fora to accuse Türkiye. I believe it would be more constructive if they choose to discuss these issues bilaterally and try to solve them. However, instead, they continue to deny the existence of some problems, discontinue the dialogue in others and continue their baseless accusations. I wonder if this approach is the right way to contribute to the stability of Europe and our region? As Türkiye, we always believe in sincere diplomacy, solidarity and territorial integrity in restructuring European security and will continue to do so.

A very constructive dialogue started between Erdoğan and Mitsotakis in April this year. Then what happened? We really cannot understand. 

In short, I believe that the recommendations stated in this valuable report are worthwhile. It shows the roles that fall upon us and the Council of Europe bodies.

As clearly stated in the report, I agree that if we would like to have an impact on democratic security, we should work together to reverse the current trend of backsliding of democracy by focusing on the root causes.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:03:44

The next speaker is Mr Didier MARIE.

Mr Didier MARIE

France, SOC

11:03:52

Mr President,

Dear colleagues,

I would like to thank our colleague Mr Bogdan KLICH for this report which invites us to rethink the role of the Council of Europe with regard to the new security challenges.

The savage and inadmissible aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine is a major shock for Europe and a challenge for its security, but I share the analysis of the report which underlines that many other tensions and threats exist.

In the face of these dangers, we need a renewed approach to security issues, following the OSCE's global conception, associating the politico-military, economic, environmental and human dimensions. Thus, according to this approach, the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and economic and environmental governance are as important for lasting peace and security as politico-military cooperation.

This renewed approach requires a new connection and increased co-operation between multilateral organisations working in Europe, and this can only be achieved with the endorsement of the Heads of State and Government of the Member States. I therefore support the prospect of a 4th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe member states, while stressing the need to prepare it actively, to clearly determine its objectives and to involve our Parliamentary Assembly in an appropriate manner.

For my part, I would like to focus on the issue of our organisation's relations with the European Union, at a time when the Commission has just recommended and given membership prospects to Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia.

It seems to me that in view of this issue, but also of the new intensity of the debates on the rule of law within the European Union, it is urgent to move forward on the path of the European Union's accession to the European Convention on Human Rights and to rethink the complementarity between the two organisations.

The President of the French Republic recently took up an old idea on 9 May, when he mentioned the possibility of a European political community. This idea has been received in different ways and has not necessarily been understood. After all, doesn't this European political community already exist? Is it not the Council of Europe – subject to the assessment of the relevance of its geographical perimeter with regard to the issue at stake and the possible granting of additional powers?

I am obviously not deciding this question, but I am asking it because it seems to me that the future relationship between the Council of Europe and the European Union is a central issue, while considering that our organisation must not, in my opinion, deviate from its primary mission of defending public freedoms, the rule of law and democracy.

This core business must not be watered down in any way, but in these new circumstances we will have to manage the time required for the accession procedure for new member states, which may be long, and for relations with those who will not join the European Union but will remain partners. It would seem to me detrimental to create a new structure that would risk confusing Europe's multilateral architecture at a time when it needs to be clarified and optimised.

Thank you.

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:06:59

Thank you.

The floor is now given to Mr Alain MILON.

Mr Alain MILON

France, EPP/CD

11:07:08

Thank you, Mister President.

I remember the passionate exchanges we had in Chania, during the meeting of the Political Affairs Committee. The war launched by the Russian Federation against Ukraine was a shock for the whole of Europe and calls for a re-evaluation, and even a thorough re-thinking, of the issues of security, and in particular of democratic security, as defined by the Vienna Summit in 1993.

As our rapporteur points out, it is not only a question of defence issues, but also of analysing the issues at stake in terms of respect for democratic processes, human rights and the rule of law.

In order to do this, I am convinced that the role and place of the Council of Europe must be re-affirmed, and I believe that this requires two elements:

On the one hand, a clear budgetary commitment from the member States so that the departure of the Russian Federation does not diminish the Council's capacity for action at a time when it is needed more than ever. On the other hand, a re-evaluation of the Council's missions and mode of operation, so that it makes better use of its bodies and mechanisms and has greater flexibility and a capacity for rapid reaction.

An in-depth adaptation of the Organization, which is the only way to respond to the new security challenges, can only be done at a Summit of Heads of State and Government.

This subject was raised at the Standing Committee in Dublin, and also at the ministerial conference in Turin. It is not a question of holding a summit for the sake of holding a summit: it must be actively prepared. A Committee of Wise Men has been set up, but our Assembly must also make its voice heard. In this perspective, I think it would be useful for each national delegation to be able to engage in an in-depth dialogue with its government but also with the members of this Committee of Wise Men.

But as our colleague points out, beyond the Council of Europe, it is the whole of the European multilateral architecture that should also be re-examined in order to make it more responsive.

As far as our Assembly in particular is concerned, closer co-operation with the European Parliament, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly would be welcome.

Thank you to our rapporteur, and thank you for listening.

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:09:37

Thank you.

And now has the floor our colleague from Canada, Mr Stéphane BERGERON.

Mr Stéphane BERGERON

Canada

11:09:47

Thank you, Mr President.

Thank you to the rapporteur.

Dear colleagues,

It is a great honour for me to finally have the opportunity to address you in person.

At various times in our recent history, many have prematurely proclaimed the victory of liberal democracy. This was the case with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, some even suggesting that this heralded the "end of history". The entry of Communist China into the market economy and the rise of the internet on its territory suggested that Chinese society would soon open up and adopt our way of life.

In short, many of us wanted to believe in this comforting illusion, even going so far as to be complacent about so-called hybrid regimes that were only meant to be transitional steps on the road to democracy.

Despite the overwhelming evidence presented year after year by organisations such as Freedom House that democracy was being rolled back, many clung to this notion of inexorable democratic progress. But Russia's unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine and its alliance with the increasingly belligerent China was a rude awakening for many, revealing the fragility of our democratic freedoms and institutions, which are enjoyed by only a fraction of humanity.

And it is clear that authoritarianism is not losing ground, far from it, since some so-called democratic states are even tempted to succumb to these sirens. The growing weariness and disengagement of the citizens of our democracies also constitute a mortal danger that must imperatively hold our attention.

What is the link with security? – some will ask. The report presented by the Rapporteur Mr Bogdan KLICH reminds us that security is a concept that transcends only issues related to defence. It "depends to a large extent on respect for democratic processes, human rights and the rule of law", the report says, and goes on to say, and I quote: "We cannot reasonably expect a country that violates democratic principles at home to be a reliable partner in its relations with its neighbours."

And the rapporteur Mr Bogdan KLICH provides us with some concrete proposals to ensure that the Council of Europe can face these new challenges, such as, for example, creating a new structure to strengthen the democratic resilience of member states and to monitor, among other things, the evolution of freedom of association and civil participation.

What are we going to do with these very interesting proposals and all the good ideas that have been put forward today? The time for good intentions is over: now it's time for action.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:12:44

Thank you, dear colleague.

Now, Mr Kamal JAFAROV has the floor.

Mr Kamal JAFAROV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

11:12:51

Thank you very much, Mister President.

Dear Colleagues,

I have to say that I am very disappointed with the report not being comprehensive enough.

Security is a wider concept than the defence, by the way, which is not a direct mandate of the Council of Europe.

In coffee breaks here in PACE we often discuss about rising energy prices, rising rising food prices, and inflation, which this report failed to mention at all. Furthermore, that today the world is already different with unpredictable consequences. Therefore, new approaches are needed to define and address the global food and energy security.

By new approaches I mean to have open discussions between contradicting different opinions, which this report also fails to include. The first key question is what kind of role the Council of Europe prescribes itself for addressing the global energy and food security.

Dear Friends,

Furthermore it is a natural human impulse and even a political one to turn inward when threatened by a crisis that appears beyond our control. These threats could hasten the retreat that many countries are already making their way from globalisation and the co‑operation.

For example, the economists journal states that wheat prices went up by 6% after India knows that it will suspend its export. This is the wrong lesson to draw. The global food crisis clearly shows that the world's problems are intimately linked as are the solutions. More international co‑ordination and co‑operation are required from all stakeholders to navigate the path forward through the crisis.

The second key question is how the Council of Europe will facilitate the co‑ordination and co‑operation for the resolution of global food and energy security.

Dear Colleagues,

I am of the strong belief that we need to have an urgent debate on the global food crisis. We need to prepare a new separate comprehensive report about these issues, and we need to show our strong position as soon as possible.

Thank you.

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:15:27

Now, Ms Zita GURMAI, two minutes.

Ms Zita GURMAI

Hungary, SOC

11:15:35

Thank you very much.

Dear colleagues,

The link between security and human rights is important. The link is reinforced if we consider that human rights define human security.

Individual international and national development requires the protection of human rights. Therefore, you cannot have security without the protection of human rights. Development requires the respect for human rights, and the respect for human rights prevents conflicts.

Peacemaking must be built on human rights foundation, and peacemaking and peacebuilding must likewise give a central place to human rights consideration as indeed must incorporate human rights strategies, said Dr Bertrand Ramcharan, former acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Indeed, as we look forward to restore and rebuild peace in the continent, we have to strengthen the protection mechanism of human rights further than before.

Russia's unprovoked war of aggression results in genocide and war crimes in the land of Ukraine by the aggressor. Meanwhile, we face an economic and social crisis as a result of the war; both the war and the resulting social and economic crisis is affecting those who are in need the most.

The most susceptible part of society does not have the financial ability to flee, or those who do not have the ability to maintain their level of life because of lack of savings and lack of opportunities, are the ones paying the price as in every crisis.

The report's goal, which aims to strengthen equality, also in the social and economic dimension, is very welcome. It is important to note, however, that the strengthening of such rights is not only important, because without them, people lose their trust in politics and politicians, but also because without socio-economic equality, the protection of human rights is impossible. Those who might face infringement in relation to their human rights do not have the ability and opportunity to protect themselves otherwise.

We in Hungary have a first-hand experience of the control that a government can hold over a vulnerable population. Even the slightest mention of loss of security and the smallest possibility of loss in quality of life resulted in massive support regardless of the truth of the original statement. The statement alone that Hungary would join NATO troops into Ukraine, if we are obliged to do so, resulted in a considerable increase of support for the government who opposed this idea.

Of course, to achieve this, Viktor Orban had to use his media empire which he has created and maintained in a way that is a violation of human rights and the rule of law to begin with. But the results are clear, as Viktor Orban was given yet another super-majority which he immediately abused to put Hungary in the special legal order because of the war in Ukraine. In this legal order he's allowed to do whatever he wants, including the infringement of human rights in a more substantial way than would normally be allowed by necessity and proportionality.

In short, the report is right. We need to strengthen human rights, social and economic security, and the rule of law, or we risk to lose them all.

Thank you very much.

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:18:44

Thank you.

Now, Mr François CALVET.

Mr François CALVET

France, EPP/CD

11:18:52

Miste President,

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to thank our colleague Mr Bogdan KLICH for this report which underlines the extent to which our States are interdependent for their security and stability, and which points out the challenges that the Council of Europe must face in order to continue to play its role as a democratic watchdog fully, but also to make its contribution to the democratic security of Europe.

I would like to mention three points raised by this report in particular.

The first concerns the fight against corruption, which is undermining the rule of law in a number of member States, as our work shows. I share our colleague's conviction that the Council of Europe must place greater emphasis on this subject, in particular by making even greater use of GRECO's work, and that we must also review the Council of Europe's monitoring procedures to strengthen them.

My second remark concerns the "Democratic Resilience Initiative" that our colleague advocates in order to monitor democratic developments in member States, building on the work of existing Council of Europe bodies and mechanisms, to prevent violations of Council of Europe standards and to propose measures to strengthen democracy and the rule of law.

This is certainly an interesting idea, which implies permanent background work and which must involve the members of our Assembly. I also agree with the idea of further strengthening the links with civil society in order to detect the early signs of a weakening of democratic procedures.

All this will only lead to tangible results if we are collectively convinced, in each of our States, of the relevance of belonging to the Council of Europe if we are able to reaffirm our common values and stick to them, even and especially when we are condemned by the European Court of Human Rights.

This is why I strongly support the prospect of a new Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Member States of the Council of Europe, which would make it possible to re-found, as it were, the meaning of this common house and to grant competences and means adapted to the challenges of our time.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:21:41

The floor goes to Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK of Ukraine. 

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

11:21:50

Thank you, Chair.

Dear Colleagues,

Let me first recall the title of this report and, respectively, the draft resolution: "Recent Challenges to Security in Europe: What Role for the Council of Europe".

I want to express my gratitude to the rapporteur for putting it exactly like this.

Answering the question regarding the role of the Council of Europe, we have to work on updating the understanding of the basic mechanisms of its functioning and our co‑operation in it. This new vision and new understanding will give us the opportunity to rebuild and update the system that obviously failed to prevent one member State from the military aggression of the other.

Today all the free and democratic world is concerned with the human rights violations and actual genocide that came with the war of Russian aggression against Ukraine. This issue is challenging not only the Council of Europe but all the multilateral architecture of the rule of law and protection of human rights, including the OSCE and NATO as well.

It goes without saying that the European Union should become a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. It should also strengthen its sanctions regime against those who have breached human rights massively, repeatedly and continuously. Thus, the regimes that support anti-democratic actions should pay the highest possible cost for gross human violations, rights breaches, and breaches of international law.

It is essential that finally, after so many years of disagreements, the Council of Europe and the European Union should establish and maintain in the most efficient manner the unique and single legal space for protection of human rights in Europe.

The spectator role of the Council of Europe was the wrong choice. The decision of excluding the Russian Federation from the organisation was right, but too late.

It is not a good time for Europe to fall into uncertainty. Europe should be united. Europe should seek to establish international security by working on making the compliance with international law, rule of law, human rights an essential component of external relations, the foundation for economic and other types for co‑operation. Without such an approach, sustainable peace and security cannot be established.

Finally, I want to thank the distinguished rapporteur for this important and timely document. This is significant work on the mistakes that were made and a big contribution to save the future of people in Europe.

Thank you so much,

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:24:21

Thank you.

Now, Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ.

Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ

Türkiye, NR

11:24:29

Thank you, Mister Chair.

Dear Colleagues,

Dear President,

To begin with, I would like to thank the rapporteur for preparing this important report at the time when all European countries are discussing the changing security environment in our continent.

All the past years we have been facing an increasingly complex and diverse set of transition threats, such as climate change, pandemics, increasing migratory movements, disinformation campaign, and so on. Against all these exceptional challenges countries have adopted a more wider understanding of security focusing more on soft security than hard security in recent decades.

However, Russian aggression against Ukraine has diverted once again the attention on conventional military conflict. Traditional notion of deterrence and defence, once again, are at the top of our agenda in Europe.

Considering the transnational nature of these threats, we need a collective response based on effective multilateralism. In this regard the Council of Europe offers us an important platform to tackle these problems collectively.

Dear Friends,

However, you all have seen a speech made by a delegate of PACE who is supposed to be speaking on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party and on the issue of overall European security. Yet, unfortunately, she has chosen to misuse her role to be able to mislead the Assembly by raising bilateral issues instead.

There is no doubt that NATO is the main pillar of European Security in terms of deterrence and collective defence. We must unite with NATO and strengthen its deterrences.

Türkiye as the one of the most dedicated and powerful members of NATO has proven to be essential part of European security architecture even in critical times. I blame the statement made by the Greek delegation member putting her cynical threat perceptions ahead of common security challenges, which I think we should deal with, here in the Assembly, in real, common, and general issues to secure all of Europe.

I thank you.

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:27:41

The next speaker is Lord George FOULKES.

Lord George FOULKES

United Kingdom, SOC

11:27:48

Thank you, Mister President.

I have been listening very closely to every contribution to this debate. Can I say, I warmly welcome the report by Mr Bogdan KLICH? I think it is the way forward, but, frankly, I have been disappointed by some of the contributions. For example, the contribution from Ireland, from Mr Thomas PRINGLE and from Mr Damien COTTIER from Switzerland, who imply – or who argue – in favour of the very narrow definition of security that Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ put forward, unfortunately, that security only involves the architecture of security and the deployment of troops, and that aspect of it. Security is much more than that. That is why Mr Bogdan KLICH's report is absolutely right.

What is our responsibility? Our responsibility: the rule of law, human rights and democracy. Now, on the rule of law, what do we see? We see people being murdered in Ukraine. Children are being murdered. We see the Geneva Conventions being ignored. As we discussed last time, war crimes are being committed. This is our responsibility. This is part of the rule of law, and this is security as well.

The second aspect of human rights: the right to education, the right to a decent health service, the right to life! That is our responsibility. Those are human rights. Think of the children, as I argued on the last occasion. These children are being killed. They could grow up to be architects, to be scientists, to be medics, to contribute to all of our futures and they are being killed. They are being massacred. Is that not part of our responsibility? Is that not part of security?

And then democracy! The Ukrainians are fighting to protect their democracy, of course, but they are also fighting to protect our democracy, all of us because it is there in the front line now. Who will be in the front line next?

That must be our responsibility. That is why all the organs – and I say this to Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ – all the organs of the Council of Europe must be mobilised. The Convention, the Court of Human Rights, of course, this Parliamentary Assembly, but also the whole structure of the Council of Europe, must be mobilised to ensure that Russia is defeated and that Ukraine and the Ukrainian people are protected. That must be our responsibility.

 

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:30:41

Thank you very much.

Now, Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ.

Ms Hajnalka JUHÁSZ

Hungary, EPP/CD

11:30:46

Thank you, Mister President.

European history reached the nightmare of 24 February this year. We all said that in the context of the Council of Europe we are on the way to create a future where the above phenomenon should not exist.

The Council of Europe can play a role in building confidence among its member States, dedicated programs of confidence-building measures can contribute to the overall security situation in Europe. The strength of the organisation is to work for better understanding of each other.

Furthermore, the Council of Europe has been contributing the standard setting in important security policy areas for decades, including the fight against terrorism, trafficking in human beings, and cybercrime.

The Organisation is a global standard setter on cybersecurity security. We would like to underline that the adoption of the new second additional protocol to the Budapest Convention adopted during the Hungarian presidency of the Committee of Ministers.

I profoundly agree with the rapporteur when it comes to democratic security the protection of the rights of national minorities should not be omitted from our focus. Unsettled conflicts can amplify tensions within the Council of Europe and, hence, misunderstanding and deepen mistrust among member States.

In accordance with the Vienna declaration in 1994 and that's highlighted by the Security General in her 2022 annual report, the protection of national minorities is an essential and constitutive element of stability and democratic security in our continent.

Although within the remit of our organisation we have well-developed system of monitoring and scrutiny mechanism and procedures in place, effective monitoring mechanism can serve as an early warning system of rights violations. It is evident more than ever that security should not be taken for granted.

This applies both to economic security, characterised by steadily increasing inflation, soaring energy prices and utility cost in the past several months, public health security regarding the Covid-19 pandemic globally and its aftermath in the last two years, and lately military security given the unacceptable and unlawful Russian aggression against Ukraine.

In such turbulent times full of multi-faceted challenges, our organisation should act in the spirit of the statue and seek to make all efforts possible and mobilise all means available to achieve lasting peace in Europe.

This is the ultimate objective we ought to pursue and the most important mission for the Council of Europe to live up to nowadays.

Thank you very much, indeed.

Mr Armin LASCHET

Germany, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:33:57

Thank you very much.

Dear Colleagues,

Now we expect the high-level panel.

I have to interrupt the list of speakers. We will return to the debate this afternoon.

We now wait for our special guests.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:36:11

Dear Colleagues,

As we have some delay in the arrival of our guests for the high-level panel, we are able to take one more speaker.

Next in the debate I call Ms Sevinj FATALIYEVA.

You have the floor, Madam Sevinj FATALIYEVA.

 

Ms Sevinj FATALIYEVA

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

11:36:35

Thank you very much, Mister President.

Let me start by expressing my appreciation to the rapporteur for these important discussions and raising such important issues as cybersecurity, disinformation, migration issues, extremism, energy security, and many others. I think that these all provide security of people, security of state, in every state.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The problem of security is relevant at all times for every state. All countries of the world are carefully working out their national security systems in order to withstand all the challenges of the development of the modern world.

However, the processes of globalisation progressively influencing the development of all spheres of society and the state contribute to the creation of completely new and more sophisticated threats not only to international peace and law and order, but also to international security, to energy security, and even ecological security.

Speaking about international security in a broad sense, it should be understood as a system of international relations based on the observance by all the states of all universally recognised principles and norms of international law, without which it is impossible to develop collective regional and national systems.

Also, we have to speak about co‑operation, whether it is international or regional.

Today, as a representative of Azerbaijan, I want to speak about the post-war situation in our region.

After the restoring of territorial integrity of our country, Azerbaijan today promotes peace because we want a stable region and because we want sustainable development of the region. We want to move forward to aim at a normal co‑existence with Armenia. We are ready to guarantee the rights of security of all people of Azerbaijan, including those who want to live in Karabakh regardless of their ethnicity.

In the current situation, of course, we promote an absolutely new agenda, which is coming out from the new realities and which contains issues of regional importance, such as ecological security, transboundary rivers, which damage the regional environment, transportation issues, new opportunities with respect to transit, especially taking in account that Azerbaijan is now coming closer to the completion of its portion of the Zangezur Corridor. We speak about new routes. We speak about energy security.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I strongly believe that international security is not possible without international co‑operation. If we speak about the rules of international organisations in any particular Council of Europe, I think that we have to do our best to be ready to give a prompt and just reaction on the processes going on in member States, and make our decision and direct it to peace and stability, to be implemented immediately.

Thank you very much.

Debate: High Level Panel and interactive debate

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:39:46

Thank you very much, dear Ms Sevinj FATALIYEVA.

Now I have to interrupt this debate. We will now start with the High‑Level Panel. Please remain in your seats because we will continue in a minute.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues,

Dear Guests to our High‑Level Panel,

It is now my honour to open this next event – a High‑Level Panel – an interactive debate with you, colleagues, on "Upholding Democratic Security in Europe".

The notion of democratic security is not new. It was first endorsed by the heads of state and government of the Council of Europe at the 1993 Vienna Summit. It is as relevant as it was then as it is today. It has been severely damaged by the Russian aggression against Ukraine. The blatant violation of international law is a direct and real threat to peace and stability on our continent. It has severely damaged the existing mechanisms of multilateral co-operation. It puts at risk the lives and well-being of millions of European citizens, first and foremost, Ukrainians, with whom we stand in solidarity here today. It also does affect hundreds of millions of European citizens who are not directly touched by the war, including those in the Russian Federation but also in Belarus who oppose the war and strive to uphold democracy and fundamental rights against authoritarian and undemocratic governments. With them, we stand in solidarity today as well. The Council of Europe, as you know, is not in charge of hard security. Its role in addressing the consequences of the war of aggression which is waging on the continent is, nevertheless, very important because sustainable peace cannot be built without respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. That is what democratic security is about.

In this morning's debate, we debated ways of promoting the democratic resilience of our societies and rejuvenating the functioning of democracy. To enrich our debate further, we now invite our distinguished speakers to share with us their vision upon upholding democratic security in Europe on the basis of their comprehensive political experience and insight into multilateral diplomacy. 

Now first on my list is his Excellency, Mr Simon COVENEY, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Mister COVENEY, we are very thankful for the commitment of your country towards a renewed, improved and reinforced Council of Europe. In times of crisis, as we spoke about this morning, leadership is key. Mister Minister, you do now lead our Committee of Ministers, so we are very eager to get first your statement on behalf of the Presidency and then we will have our panel with Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA from Belarus with the Minister of Foreign Affairs from Finland and our own Secretary General.

First, Mister Minister, I invite you to make your opening remarks.

Mr Simon COVENEY

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

11:44:14

Thank you, President Mr Tiny KOX.

I'm honoured to be speaking with a distinguished panel, with Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA, with Mr Pekka HAAVISTO, and also with with Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ, of course.

This week 59 years ago, another president addressed our parliament in Dublin. John F. Kennedy spoke of our nation's values, our commitment to human rights and multilateralism, democracy and the rule of law.

He observed that while Ireland pursues an independent course on foreign policy, it's not neutral between liberty and tyranny, and never will be. That was true then and it's true now.

Ireland has been unequivocal in our support for Ukraine's liberty and our condemnation of the Kremlin's tyranny.

Now 50 years after our own accession to the European Community, we firmly endorse Ukraine's candidate status for EU membership, because we recognise the people of Ukraine are doing more than defending their state's territorial integrity, vital as it is. They're protecting the values Kennedy spoke to, reminding us at once how fragile our freedoms continue to be, and how precious they are.

In my few words this morning I wanted to touch on three factors I consider critical to securing democracy on our continent today.

Firstly, how we protect the integrity of our public institutions.

Secondly, how we promote the prosperity of our citizens.

And thirdly, how we understand the demos in democracy: how we understand our people better, their psychology and what motivates them in the political choices that they make.

First, our institutions. We must be clear in what we strive to protect. Democracy demands more than majority rule. It is a three-legged stool if you like. To stand it needs not only free elections, but adherence to an impartial rule of law, and respect for human rights. Understood this way, illiberal democracy is a contradiction in terms. An illiberal politician may be a majoritarian, but they cannot be a democrat.

Securing democracy demands that we protect the tapestry of institutions that collectively hold states and all of us to account. It means safeguarding freedom of expression, association and assembly. It means promoting an independent, impartial, and efficient judiciary. It means guaranteeing the absolute integrity of our electoral systems.

Democracy is a precious metal, but it tarnishes easily. Without a press freedom, without a vibrant civil society, without independent courts, democracy corrodes. We've seen the consequences when that happens. Over time, gradually, then suddenly it can collapse into autocracy. If we're to avoid this trend, as democratically elected leaders we must recommit to the first principles of the Council of Europe.

That is why in the wake of war on our continent I believe it's time to convene a fourth summit of Council leaders. That is why Ireland has made support for the Council's core institutions, above all the European Court of Human Rights, the first priority of our presidency in the months ahead, and why I welcome and hope to see implemented so many of the recommendations from Mr Bogdan KLICH's excellent report on Recent challenges to security in Europe, including his proposal to establish a democratic resilience initiative.

One of democracy's great virtues is its inherent capacity for self-correction. In the long run, this unique mechanism means democracies are better placed to deliver stability and prosperity for all of our citizens.

But as Keynes put it, in the long run we are all dead. If democracies are to thrive today, we need to convince citizens, young people in particular, of our capacity to deliver over short time horizons, as well as planning for the long term.

Key to that is improving the quality of governance, public services, and decisions taken in the exercise of public authority. How do we do this? There are many steps. One is to listen more directly to our citizens, and above all, our younger generations. More than that, to make them heard and to empower them.

Ireland's experimentation with citizen's assemblies over the past decade has been a hugely positive experience for us in that respect. While far from a panacea, for us at least it has proved a way of deepening democratic engagement, bolstering trust, and improving public policy more generally. Collectively, I believe, we need to learn from such experiences and share them widely.

Equally and finally, we must strive to better understand the essence of democracy, the demos or the people that we represent. Here in Strasbourg, human rights and the rule of law are concrete terms. But for most of the Council of Europe's 675 million citizens, they're somewhat abstract. If we're to convince a new generation of their value, we need to communicate them differently.

Through a decade and a half of democratic decline, autocrats have understood this well and acted on it both at home and abroad. Communicating concretely, shaping stories, sometimes completely false. Promising simple solutions to complex problems. Appealing to emotions most often to, most powerfully, fear, but also our desire for connection, self-worth and identity. Much of this might be dismissed as disinformation by us, and certainly we need new and better tools to counter untruths, above all on digital platforms. But we must also understand why those appeals do resonate to increasing numbers of people, and draw lessons when we come to make the case for inclusive, diverse democracies. We will not defeat falsehoods with fact-checking alone. We need to counter them with positive and compelling narratives of our own.

Populists and autocrats have no real vision for the future. Their defining narratives are rooted in an imagined, often imperialist, past. In such hands, history can be a terrible weapon.

A year ago we read Vladimir Putin's long essay on Russia and its ties to Ukraine. His version of history is false. But for him it provided a pretext for invasion. It falls to us as democrats to counter such false histories. But we must also celebrate great truths.

So let me finish now not with history but with her story. All here know the bravery of Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA, leader of democratic Belarus. But what some of you may not know is her connection to my country, to Ireland.

As a young man, before I entered politics, I helped raise funds in support of a charity called the Chernobyl Children's Project, which has come to be the single largest contributor to try to respond to the consequences of that Chernobyl disaster. Sviatlana in some ways, in Ireland, is known as a Chernobyl child, one of those thousands of children who come to Ireland for respite in the wake of disaster.

She was hosted in a small Tipperary town – for those of you who know Ireland, called Roscrea – by the Deane family, Marion and Henry. She returned to them summer after summer, in time helping to mentor other children, many of them traumatised.

One of the qualities we value most in Ireland is hospitality. Indeed, one of our three presidency priorities to foster a Europe of inclusion and diversity is framed in the title fáilte, a word that Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA knows very well which means "welcome" in Irish.

Her story reflects some of what makes our democracies great: the capacity for empathy, connection, kindness, values shared across many miles that separate Minsk from Tipperary, or for that matter Cork to Kyiv. That carried over ages.

Democracy is never a final achievement, President Kennedy once said, it is a call to untiring effort. So let us never forget, and let us better explain what makes this effort so very worthwhile, particularly in the context of the continent that we need to protect today, a continent at war, a continent that has seen six million refugees having to travel because of war, and violence, and brutality, and aggression, into other parts of our continent where they are receiving hospitality and protection.

This institution needs to rise to the occasion, in my view, in terms of the responsibilities that we have, to protect democracy, to protect the rule of law, and to protect human rights in the context of the history that is unfolding in our time. So I look forward to your questions and comments.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:55:46

Thank you very much, Mister Minister. I think that I can speak on behalf of the Assembly that we are very happy that we are in your hands for the coming months under your leadership on the Irish Presidency of the Council of Europe. Thank you very much for your introductory remarks. 

Now, we will have three keynote speakers on the issue. Our first speaker is not a head of state, is not a minister. Normally, this Assembly is addressed by heads of states and ministers. What does not exist now could happen in the future. Her name was already mentioned by the Minister, and her name has been mentioned often in this hemicycle although it is a quite difficult name for many of us to pronounce, Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA. Nevertheless, we are most eager to listen to the leader of the Russian–Belarusian opposition whose name has been mentioned in reports, in discussions, and who will now address us. Madam Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA, you have the floor.

Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA

Leader of Belarus opposition

11:57:02

Dear President Tiny KOX, Secretary-General Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ, Minister Mr Simon COVENEY, Minister Mr Pekka HAAVISTO, venerable members of the Assembly,

Today we speak about Senator Mr Bogdan KLICH's report on the role of the Council of Europe.

It made me think of the man who first publicly proposed the creation of this organisation to unite Europeans around democratic values: Sir Winston Churchill.

A few days ago I watched his address given in Zurich not long after the Second World War. In his speech Churchill spoke of the tragedy of Europe, how our noble continent – despite all its remarkable achievements – was unable to avoid a series of horrible destructive wars.

But it was not a speech of despair; rather, Churchill spoke of hope, that former aggressors and victims could become a new European family united in peace, freedom, and prosperity; that tragedy could be transformed into promise through values-based co-operation in international organisations like the one I'm addressing today.

Nearly 80 years later, we see how right he was. Yet despite this remarkable progress, the tragedy of Europe is not yet over. The fires of war burn again on our continent. And again, voices are heard urging us to appease rather than oppose behaviour that is the antithesis of everything this organisation stands for.

Ladies and gentlemen.

We must once and for all end the tragedy of Europe.

In Belarus it is unjust imprisonment, torture and the death penalty, dictatorship and censorship, corruption and the theft of our national resources, the sale of our serenity to maintain power, hijacking of international flights to cease active citizens, abuse of migrants to create chaos on our borders, and the use of our country as a launching pad to attack and threaten our neighbours.

This is not what we Belarusians want for our country and for Europe. Our victory in the 2020 election was a message loud and clear: we are Europeans and we want our country back. Back to Belarusians and back to Europe.

Last year my address at the European Parliament here in Strasbourg was a warning that the tragedy of Belarus will become a new tragedy of Europe if it's not met with a determined, principled and practical response.

In light of the events since then, I was right. This message has only become more urgent.

Will the tragedy of Europe continue because good governments give up on their values and fail to act in time?

Ukrainians haven't given up on those values. They have shown the courage to act. They know that an attack on their serenity is an attack on the serenity of all. They know that giving the bear a bite only whets its appetite. Ukrainians continue to fight and believe, as the tragedy of Europe continues.

We Belarusians haven't given up on those values either. Our people continue to resist, even after widespread crackdowns in the last two years. Some 2 000 people have been detained for protesting the war on Ukraine. More than 80 acts of sabotage against the Russian military have been carried out by our partisans inside Belarus, and up to 1 500 Belarusian volunteers have joined the Ukrainian Army.

One of them is Mr Timur Mickiewicz. He was 17 years old when police beat him unconscious in the first days of our peaceful protest in 2020. He was in a coma for a week. His mother died of stress. Our people helped Mr Timur Mickiewicz to flee to the Czech Republic where doctors got him back on his feet. And this spring he went to defend Ukraine. Mr Timur Mickiewicz understands that the threat Ukraine faces today is bigger than a threat to just one country; that the fight in Ukraine is a fight for your freedom and ours. Mr Timur Mickiewicz, like many Belarusians, continues to fight and to hope, as the tragedy of Europe continues.

If the aggressors are allowed to prevail, prospects for freedom and security in Europe will diminish substantially. An emboldened empire with more than a foot inside Europe's door; new threats across the region; new resources to manipulate.

If however, the current threat is contained, if we come together to demonstrate that respect for freedom and human rights are the basis for peace and prosperity, we may yet overcome the tragedy of Europe. In order for that to happen, we must sanction the aggressors that threaten us. At the same time, we must extend a hand of friendship and support to the people of those countries.

This is an important thing to distinguish: the regime that does wrong should be punished. At the same time ordinary people who do right should be encouraged – encouraged, because of one simple fact: we belong to Europe.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

We need to have more Council of Europe in the lives of Belarusians and more Belarus in the Council of Europe. This co-operation should be built along two major avenues: institutional building and society development.

I'm asking today for the Council of Europe to establish a steering committee on the relations with Belarus. It should be composed of the various bodies of the Council of Europe and the representatives of the democratic forces and civil society of Belarus. This group would jointly determine the priority areas of co-operation. It will conceive, prepare and launch assistance programmes and projects and oversee the implementation.

This is one, but a very concrete and practical step, and it is also my simple answer to today's question of the discussion on what is the role of the Council of Europe: the role of the Council of Europe is to bring Belarus closer already now.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have the history of our continent to show us the way; our values, our strength. And today we must use every bit of our strength to defend those values for the sake of the whole of Europe.

We have the power to end the tragedy of Europe once and for all, and to hold out the promise of Europe to all who aspire to live together in freedom, peace and prosperity.

So let us do it.

Thank you. Zhivi Belarus, Slava Ukraini, and long live Europe.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:06:31

Before starting, Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA was asking other people in the room. You have seen there are people in the room. They listened very carefully to your first address in this esteemed hemicycle. You said that we want to have more Council of Europe in Belarus and we need more Belarus in the Council of Europe. You made a concrete proposal that you also had your first address here, and you have seen and listened to the applause. I think it has been appreciated very much. Thank you very much for your contribution.

Now we are going to listen to the representative of a country that is often seen as lying somewhere in the north far away from everything, with the happiest people on Earth, but for the rest, you do not hear much about it. Now it is in the heart of Europe because it lies very close to the member State that we had to exclude here. It shares an enormous border. It is also involved in how to find its way in international organisations and international co‑operation that has a long-standing experience in dealing with difficult questions. Therefore, I am most happy that I can now ask to come to the rostrum, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Pekka HAAVISTO from Finland.

You have the floor, Pekka.

Mr Pekka HAAVISTO

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland

12:08:01

Mr President of the Parliamentary Assembly, President of the Committee of Ministers, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to be here today at this time and to explore common ways to uphold democratic security in Europe. And particularly when I was walking to this building in the morning, I remembered that I have been here 33 years ago, in 1989, when Finland was not a member of the Council of Europe, we were part of the parliamentary delegation from Finland to explore what this organisation was about and when we returned home you made a recommendation that Finland should be a member of the Council of Europe and that happened.

First of all, Russia's aggression against Ukraine has profoundly shaken everyone's sense of security. First, we have to focus on supporting and helping Ukraine, not least on the issue of accountability. In the long run, we must continue strengthening democratic security for all in Europe.

We must ensure that the Council of Europe remains the benchmark for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. It is a strong defender of our democracies, our institutions and courts, and indeed the free voices of our citizens. We want a strong organisation that can protect its core values, as it clearly has done this spring. The ability to vote and to take majority decisions is an advantage of our organisation. At the same time, we need to make use of the lessons learned and end democratic backsliding in Europe.

The major neglect of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Russia was a precursor to the war against Ukraine, the lack of press freedom, the banning of NGOs, foreign agents' laws, disregard of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, etc., the list is unfortunately long.

Therefore, considering the new reality in many parts of Europe with increasing populism and nationalism, disregard of minority rights or hate speech, and deliberate weakening at once independent institutions, we need to return to the core values of the Council of Europe and review the priorities of the organisation as we agreed in Turin. This requires more openness and transparency.

Secondly, for Finland, enhancing the participation of civil society and national human rights institutions in the work of the Council of Europe, as well as protecting human rights defenders, is a priority. Civil society and national human rights institutions are already actively consulted in standard-setting, but they should also be involved in the shaping of the future of the organisation. The Committee of Ministers needs to open up more and exchange views with a broad variety of stakeholders. I thank foreign minister Mr Simon COVENEY and the Irish Presidency for their many efforts or more transparency. At least some of these exchanges must be made public in the spirit of the 2019 Helsinki decisions on civil society.

Excellencies, dear colleagues, civil society and human rights defenders in Belarus and beyond need our support. In Belarus, the regime has liquidated over 300 NGOs, more than 1 200 people are currently political prisoners, including many minors. These people should be released immediately and without preconditions. In Turin, several colleagues stressed that the Council of Europe needs to work with civil society. As Secretary General Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ stated, we need to empower those who do not agree with the brutal politics of aggression practised by their political leaders.

This is exactly what the Council of Europe and its member States need to do now. We are at a historic junction where support for democratic forces is in high demand. We have to be innovative to find ways to support civil society, human rights defenders and free media in Belarus, and quite separately, also in Russia. This can be done through dialogue and tools that we have available and tools that are yet to be created.

I would like to turn to Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA and say that opposition groups and parties are equally worthy of support. The Council of Europe can have a role in demonstrating concrete support to opposition groups that are working for democracy and human rights. Democracy needs people who work relentlessly to counter the actions of authoritarian leaders. You are one of those courageous persons.

My hope is that all European countries could become members of the Council of Europe but there are two overall preconditions for this. First, they respect the Statute of the organisation and secondly, they respect its core values. This can never be compromised.

Finally, excellencies and colleagues, the Council of Europe can be one of the guarantors of democratic security in Europe. It should respect and use the tools it offers in order to give the organisation a chance to help us uphold our commitments. Monitoring activities could be further developed so that we can make sure that commonly agreed standards are met. A strong Council of Europe is needed to ensure human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and to prevent future wars and conflicts. These values must be the building blocks of our common European future.

Thank you. 

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:13:38

Thank you very much, Mr Minister, for your wise words.

And the last keynote speaker does not need an introduction because we ourselves have elected her to be our Secretary General. So I now give the floor to Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, our Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe

12:14:04

Mr President of the Parliamentary Assembly

Mr Chairman of the Committee of Ministers

Mr Minister,

Leader of the Belarusian opposition,

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Parliament,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Council of Europe was created 73 years ago in the wake of two devastating world wars and on the promise of peace. As our Statute states, this requires greater unity among our member states.

Over the years, we have worked to strengthen this union through common standards of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In this way, cooperation has often replaced conflict, allowing our people to enjoy the democratic security to which they are entitled. This approach has had considerable positive effects.

Our organisation has grown from ten member states in 1949 to 46 today. We have a European Convention on Human Rights which all states have ratified. This Convention is interpreted by a Court whose judgments are binding. We have produced 223 legal instruments that continue to improve our lives, as do each of the Court's judgments. All parts of the Council of Europe, including the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress and the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights, play a specific role in promoting our common goals.

What we have achieved in this way has no equivalent on any other continent, but this edifice is under great pressure. The rise of populist and nationalist extremism is a direct threat to our values, to multilateralism and to democratic security. The most obvious example is of course the brutal aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, one of our member states.

Last month, on the occasion of Europe Day, I personally visited Ukraine in order to clearly show where its present and future lie, and to see for myself the devastation of the violence in the country. I will never forget what I heard from President Zelensky and many other Ukrainians, whose courage is matched only by their commitment to their country and their faith in its democratic and European future, nor will I forget what I saw in Borodyanka and Irpin.

The suffering endured confirms that the decision to exclude Russia from the Council of Europe was the right one. All parts of our organisation supported it, just as we are now all united on the side of Ukraine. That is why we have taken the decision to reopen our office in Kyiv, to assist the Office of the Prosecutor General in the investigation of gross human rights violations and to adapt our action plan for Ukraine in the light of the realities on the ground.

At the Turin ministerial session last month, member states endorsed these adjustments; they also made clear that the Council of Europe will use all its instruments to hold the Russian Federation accountable for all human rights violations committed.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe

12:18:51

This is the right approach.

Upholding the principles of democratic security requires political will. The determination to support Europeans who believe in our values and those who are deprived of them in practice.

So, I was pleased also that the ministers who gathered in Turin reaffirmed that civil society plays a vital role in achieving this organisation's aims.

This is true also for the Russian Federation and for Belarus where national leaders have spurned them.

Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA, you have spoken again today with clarity, courage, and conviction about the situation in your country, and moving forward we will find the best ways in which to engage with the opposition in exile and the range of civil society voices that still exist among Belarusians despite the pressure that they endure.

This was discussed last week at our rapporteur group on democracy and again here today. And I know that you will soon appear in front of our Committee of Ministers, as we all considered the most effective way forward in line with our mandate as an intergovernmental organisation.

It is a tragedy that the Russian Federation has broken with modern Europe. And that Belarus has closed its eyes to a European perspective despite this organisations long-held hope, confirmed at our 2005 Warsaw Summit, that the country would reform and take its place in our European family. Clearly, that moment is not now. But their long-term goal of democratic security on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, and uniting all parts of our continent must and will remain.

But in seeking this future we must ask ourselves whether we are as well equipped as possible to achieve it, whether we have the right approach to these fast-changing times. So I welcome member states requests to set up a high-level reflection group to consider our response to the new realities and challenges on our continent.

I have already selected seven members of the high standing, and the group will start its work next week. But I'm also of the view that we need all of our member states to come together and decide on the future role of this organisation to agree on how we best fit in the newly shaped geo-political architecture of Europe.

That is why I believe that the time has come for a fourth summit of our heads of state and government. This could happen as early as November, and the clarity and unity it should deliver could put democratic security on a firmer footing for the years to come.

Dear friends, there are learned people who argue that we are in a twilight of democracy. I do not agree. The fading of the light in Europe is not inevitable. In 1949 this organisation was established to illuminate a better way forward, a bright and just future for all. Since then we have benefited so much from human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

Let us now work together in these hard times so that future generations benefit further still.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:23:31

Thank you very much... does this function?

Thank you very much, Madam Secretary General, for your inspiring words.

We now have listened to you. You now are going to listen, we are now going to listen to the members of the Assembly, because we are in a Parliamentary Assembly and people have made it clear that they want to make their remarks and comments. They are going to do that, and they are going to show that in one minute you can say a lot.

The first one who is going to say, who is going to prove that you can say a lot in one minute, is Mr Frank SCHWABE, representing the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

Mr Frank SCHWABE, you have the floor for one minute.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

12:24:13

Dear Mr President, dear Minister, dear Secretary General, dear Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA, and I think we have no doubts if Belarus would deal with the values like we understand it, you would be the elected President of Belarus.

So, thank you very much that you are accepting our invitation and thank you very much that we share common values and some common aims for Europe. And we expressed this in a report in April, we decided here in this Assembly. And we agree the best would be that if we would have everywhere in Europe democratic governments that respect our values, but since this is not the case and this is for sure not the case in Belarus, we have to find another space for those ones who are committed to our values in the countries, coming from the countries and at the end respecting and loving our values.

And so Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA you make a proposal of a steering committee and I would like to say, in the name of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group, we agree that we need a common approach, common work together to see how we can create such spaces and opportunities and connections between us.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:25:43

Thank you very much, Mister Frank SCHWABE.

The next minute will be for Mr Aleksander POCIEJ, the Chairperson of the Group of the European People's Party.

Aleks, you have the floor.

Mr Aleksander POCIEJ

Poland, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

12:25:51

Dear Colleagues,

Madam Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA,

President of the Polish EPP Group,

I am very happy, dear Sviatlana, to welcome you in this Assembly, in this common European house, which has the vocation to defend democracy and human rights on the European continent.

I would like to remind our colleagues that you are one of the main icons of the Belarusian opposition to the Lukashenko regime and that your husband, like several hundred compatriots, was heavily condemned in Belarus under the false pretext of disturbing public order. Forced into exile in Lithuania, you are now the face of the Belarusian opposition, and you are the sign that the majority of the Belarusian people have nothing to do with his regime.

We would be very happy to hear from you, dear Sviatlana, about the current situation in Belarus and the consequences of Russia's war against Ukraine. For more than 30 years, three peoples have been together in the same republic. Thus, I will end with three callings:

Poland Is Not Yet Lost! Long live Belarus! Ukraine Has Not Perished!

[pronounced in Polish, Belarusian, and Ukrainian, respectively]

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:27:32

Thank you very much Mr Aleksander POCIEJ.

The next minute goes to Mr Zsolt NÉMETH who represents the European Conservatives Group.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

12:27:39

Thank you very much, Mr President.

We have been discussing the European future for the past hour. So two historical decisions are in the pipeline this week at the European Summit. Ukraine and Moldova are going to get the European candidate status, but unfortunately, there is a thorn in this rose. Georgia, a country which was the first victim of Russian aggression, remains deprived of this candidate status.

Dear European ministers, two of you are here, what a mistake! This is a surprising, and unacceptable, discrimination by the Commission in my reading.

May I ask both of you, can Georgia hope for your support in this question?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:28:56

Thank you very much, Mr Zsolt NÉMETH.

Now we are going to listen to the new President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Mr Iulian BULAI.

One minute.

Mr Iulian BULAI

Romania, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

12:29:09

Thank you, Mr Chair.

Dear members of the panel,

Dear Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA,

Welcome to PACE, we're very happy to have you here in the hemicycle.

Dear Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA, your presence here is an explicit sign of support of this Assembly to the democratic efforts of the Belarusian civil society.

Two years ago, Belarusian people massively protested against injustice and dictatorship. Today, many are in prison. We are proud to come to you, Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA, among the European democratic community, the place of strong civil society fighting dictatorship and defending democratic values belongs to this Assembly.

We now live in a new political context. Totalitarian regimes are back to Europe and they threaten our security.

Dear colleagues,

Dear President of PACE,

Dear Secretary General,

If we want to be relevant in this new context, we should think of new institutional ways to include into the work of our organisation the democratic forces of Belarus.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:30:23

Thank you very much Mr Iulian BULAI.

The last speaker on behalf of the political groups is Ms Nina KASIMATI, who speaks on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Ms Nina KASIMATI, you have the floor.

Ms Nina KASIMATI

Greece, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

12:30:34

Dear learned friends, it has been said in manifold cases by willing observers that Türkiye is an important player in the Ukraine crisis, yet it is by no means a predictable one or a principled one. In fact, Ankara, the evasive neutral, is known for taking arduously advantage of instability in order to promote its own interests.

It is regrettable that Türkiye insists on its illegal and provocative practices. Only recently, they have put forth in a most formal way unfounded claims that Greece's sovereignty on its Eastern Aegean islands depends on their demilitarisation. In their letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, they openly questioned Greece's sovereignty over all the islands facing the Turkish coast from Samothrace to Kastellorizo. The absurdity of this proposition has been signalled by the international community in a most unambiguous way.

We would appreciate it if the international actors, such as the Council of Europe, take action on this matter to give true meaning to the notion of upholding democratic security as well as security on its own soil.

Thank you. 

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:31:47

Thank you very much, Nina.

The next speaker is Mr Alain MILON from France.

Mr Alain MILON

France, EPP/CD

12:31:53

Mr Chairman,

Mr Minister,

Madam Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA,

Dear colleagues,

Last January, thousands of Iraqi migrants were brought to Belarus with the aim of inciting them to illegally enter Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. This use of migrants as a weapon to destabilise neighboring states is deeply repugnant.

Madam TSIKHANOUSKAYA, you are the hope for many Belarusians oppressed by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. Belarus is not a member of the Council of Europe.

What do you expect from our organisation today? How can we help the Belarusian civil society, but also tomorrow the Russian civil society that we do not forget after the departure of Russia from the Council of Europe?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:32:37

Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN from Finland.

Kimmo, one minute for you.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC

12:32:44

Mr President,

I'm more than pleased to see the leader of the democratic Belarus Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA here with us today.

We have obviously followed very, very carefully the developments in your country, particularly after the 2020 presidential elections and the huge demonstrations throughout Belarus, people demanding democratisation. They expressed the will of the people very, very, very clearly.

We have understood that the basic principles in your preference for democratisation is first of all a transformation must be peaceful.

Secondly, without no foreign intervention.

And obviously thirdly to be based on dialogue.

Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA, I would like to ask you, do you still share those views?

Secondly I want to note that we took a very clear note of what you said concerning how to strengthen efforts of the Council of Europe to support the democratisation in your country.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:33:49

Thank you very much, Kimmo.

And now I call Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN from Ireland.

Fiona.

Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN

Ireland, ALDE

12:33:56

Dear President, and thank you to our distinguished panel for your strong commitments to democracy and of course for your inspirational words in this chamber.

We come across very many important challenges and issues, and they always feature highly in our agenda, but I think today's debate is the most important one. And we always have to remember that alone we cannot fix the challenges, but we have the power of the collective.

Minister COVENEY spoke about the meaning of fáilte. Well I'm going to give another few Irish words "caithfimid seasamh le chéile" and that means that we are really really strong together and we have to stand together in the face of tyranny and aggression. When we look at the key pillars of democratic security, every single one of them has been attacked since 24 February.

We also have to ensure that our values endure and our standards and commitment to ensuring the rule of law and democracy must also. It's interesting that John F Kennedy spoke almost 60 years ago about Ireland not being neutral between liberty and tyranny, and while we value our military neutrality, I have to say that we have a proud record in peacekeeping and our colleagues here from Ukraine, and indeed from Belarus, have no doubt that we stand with them.

Slava Ukraini

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:35:34

Thank you Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN.

I now give the floor to Mr Ahmet YILDIZ from Türkiye.

Sorry Mr Ahmet YILDIZ, I went a bit too fast. You have the floor.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR

12:35:40

Thank you Mr President.

Unfortunately another Greek member misused her position as speaker of a political group to basically accuse Türkiye.

If she is curious about the Turkish contribution and help to Ukraine, she can ask, she can get information from Ukraine negotiators and Ukrainian delegation here.

Of course there are many Turkish-Greek disputes to be dealt with negotiations, but one thing is clear: the islands are in demilitarised sub-status by agreements. It is a Turkish right to emphasise it everywhere and and it is my right to do it here.

My question is about the topic of panel about terrorism. Terrorism poses a threat both to security and democracy, and it even complicates international relations recently. Unfortunately the international co-operation on this issue is eroded; even sometimes the states are insensitive and sometimes subcontract their security business to terror organisations.

Should our Council of Europe be in a position to contribute to any work in the UN to put these on track?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:37:10

Thank you very much Mr Ahmet YILDIZ.

Now we are going to listen to Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR from Iceland.

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC

12:37:16

Mr President, thank you.

Ministers, Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA, great to see you here and thank you for this debate.

First of all, as a general rapporteur of this Assembly for the status of human rights defenders, I'd like to say that I've presented or requested that we make a concept note in the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights about how we can strengthen our relationship with civil society in Belarus but also in Russia, so that we can further collaborate with you.

I think that your idea of a steering committee is a good one and I will help as I can to further that idea.

As a rapporteur for political prisoners in Russia, I would also like to say that the weapon of imprisoning people for speaking their minds – and I know that this is also a problem in Belarus – is one of the strongest weapons against democracy. And that is why reports and fights against this kind of scourge in democracy is so important.

That's why we must ensure that we keep the names of political prisoners high on the agenda.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:38:22

Thank you Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR.

Now we are going to listen to my name is Ms Isabel ALVES MOREIRA from Portugal.

Ms Isabel MEIRELLES

Portugal, EPP/CD

12:38:32

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

The backsliding of democracy in Europe is a threat that derives today from the unprovoked and unjustified aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

It is true that hardcore defence issues are excluded from the remit of the Council of Europe, but not the defence of democracy. I would even say that this is its core business. Belarus included, you have our support, Mrs. Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA, and thank you also for coming.

Moreover, the Council of Ministers has for the first time has applied, quite correctly in our opinion, Article 8 of the Statute with a view to withdrawing Russia's membership of the Council of Europe. Here the Council of Europe plays a fundamental role in supporting cross-border cooperation and other efforts to defuse tensions and promote understanding at the local level of civil society.

Finally, the only question I ask is whether, in spite of everything, it is enough to ask the member states to allocate more financial and personnel resources without having a very well defined and structured plan, and not just ad hoc measures for the defense of European democracy.

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:40:00

Many thanks to you, Ms Isabel MEIRELLES.

Now we are going to listen to Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN from Armenia. Vladimir?

He is not there, so we are now going to give the floor to Mr José María SÁNCHEZ GARCÍA from Spain.

Mr José María SÁNCHEZ GARCÍA

Spain, EC/DA

12:40:22

Thank you.

Yes, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Ireland said that democracy is not only a question of a majority of votes obtained through elections, but also a question of independence of the power of the courts, and also a question of respect for free speech.

I must say that even though we are talking about Russia and, of course, this aggression of the Russian Federation against the Republic of Ukraine concerns us all, in fact, there is in some nations of Europe – and this is the case of Spain – a certain attack to the power of judges and their independence, which has been highlighted by the European Commission. But this initiative or movement of the government against the independence of the judge has not ended, unfortunately.

And the same goes for the issue of free speech: there is a certain atmosphere, a certain measure that the government wanted to take against the freedom of communication on social media and, fortunately, it did not end, but we have to be very careful, to think about the fact that the Spanish Government is a coalition where there is a clearly communist party that has an interpretation of democracy that is completely different from the democracy as it is understood by the Council of Europe.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:42:04

Thank you.

Now we call Mr Anastasios CHATZIVASILEIOU, from Greece.

Mr Anastasios CHATZIVASILEIOU

Greece, EPP/CD

12:42:12

Thank you Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

We welcome Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA who always sends a very strong message from Strasbourg in every case.

So after the despicable Russian invasion we should send a strong message that revisionism should not be tolerated and we have to work on our democratic security.

So to my opinion: we need a definition for real and imitation democracies. We need a distinction between democracy and autocracy and it's high time to do that right now. So I believe that we need new instruments that will help us to prevent breaches of our common standards, of our common values.

As I am from Greece I would like to tell you that Türkiye's provocations against third countries, against Greece and Cyprus for example, is not a matter, a bilateral issue as my colleagues from Türkiye have said. It's a European issue. It's a matter of democratic security when you claim sovereignty over a third state, so we have to be more precautious.

So I'd like to ask you: do you agree that we have to move forward to become more resilient, to have new tools and instruments?

Otherwise I'm afraid that an institutional undermining of our organisation is coming and it might happen.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:43:24

Thank you very much.

Now we are going to listen to Ms Salma ZAHID from Canada. Salma.

Ms Salma ZAHID

Canada

12:43:37

As representatives from democratic countries we must do our part to promote the institutions we serve and the real value they provide to our fellow citizens.

As the concept of democratic security suggests, we should promote democracy not as an end in itself, but as a means of achieving outcomes to which every country strives: harmonious societies, prosperous economies and effective public institutions. We need this message more than ever.

According to Freedom House the level of democracy has been declining globally for 16 consecutive years.

Canada has long supported democratic development around the world, and in 2020-21 Canada devoted more than 150 million dollars in development assistance to initiatives related to the promotion of democracy.

Canada also supports electoral observation including through the NGO Canada.

Promoting democracy is about recognising the mutual benefit of building strong institutions and engaging in genuine dialogue. As the Council of Europe has demonstrated, it can make meaningful contributions to all societies.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:44:50

Thank you very much, Ms Salma ZAHID.

Now the last speaker in the debate will be Mr Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI because we need time for our keynote speakers to react.

Aleksandar, you have one minute.

Mr Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI

North Macedonia, EPP/CD

12:45:06

...a crucial debate and thank you for opening it for the Parliamentary Assembly for Council of Europe in this period of war in Europe that nobody expected would happen in 21st century.

I think what we should think a lot is, as it is as well in the title, of holding the democratic security in Europe because the democracy is under threat.

Populist movements rise all around the continent. They play with people's feelings. They play with economic injustice, if you want, even with whether someone is from rural or urban area. That is something that might hit democracy and by that the stability and security on the continent, which is already under a huge danger.

That is why it is good for the Parliamentary Assembly to rethink and to discuss many, as well, of the documents that are the core of this Europe that we know about, not about the substance. The substance is excellent, but how should mechanisms be made that will create an atmosphere for their implementation not only with the European Charter for Human Rights but many other resolutions that we vote for here?

Thank you, again, for the opportunity.

Mr Pierre J. DALPHOND

Canada

13:07:59

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

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:46:29

Thank you Mr Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI.

Sorry that I have to interrupt the list of speakers, but I think it is a matter of rightness that we give the floor now to our keynote speakers to react.

You performed excellently and in one minute you said a lot – now I invite our keynote speakers to also say a lot and also in a few minutes because we have about 15 minutes in total.

Mr Minister Simon COVENEY, could I first give you the floor? There are microphones next to you.

Mr Simon COVENEY

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

12:47:00

Well, first of all, thank you for everybody's comments and I have to say I am really pleased to hear just how strong the support is for Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA in particular, in terms of the challenges and struggles of Belarus in the context of what we have witnessed in recent years, which Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA itemised I think very directly in what she had to say.

So I hope that the Parliamentary Assembly will take up the challenge of putting in place a formal structure that can strengthen the relationship between the Belarusian opposition and this Parliamentary Assembly to ensure that we can provide a platform for democratic ambition and truth when it comes to Belarus. I think there has been, in some ways, a difficulty since the enormity of the war in Ukraine, the messages coming out of Belarus have been harder to hear because of the strength of the message and media coverage and extraordinary human suffering that has resulted in Ukraine as a result of Russian aggression. And we cannot and should not allow ourselves to lose focus on the challenge that we face collectively to facilitate the transition, the peaceful transition through dialogue – we hope – to democracy in Belarus also.

There is a lot of commentary here on the need to protect against populism, against autocracy, and to promote human rights. I think if I am to comment on that – certainly from my experience politically – if we reduce the number of targets that we are going after, well then we are more likely to achieve end goals.

What I mean by that is that the Council of Europe in all of its institutions has a very specific focus around supporting democracy and protecting citizens' human rights through the rule of law and the implementation of court judgments, and of course, consistency with the Convention. And I think that is where our focus needs to be.

And, as and when countries, some of whom are members of this organisation, move away from those key principles then I think there has got to be mechanisms that highlight that quickly and show there is a cost to moving away from the commitments that countries have signed up to. And it is what that cost entails, I think, is what we need to decide over the next 12 months or so, because the war in Ukraine is an extraordinarily significant wake-up call for this organisation, in my view. If we are serious about protecting people's human rights and protecting democracy across the continent of Europe, then we have got to have mechanisms that provide deterrents to countries moving in a populist, anti-democratic direction and that is why, in my view, the only way we can do that in a comprehensive way, is to get our heads of state to recommit to an infrastructure that's necessary to allow these institutions – its Court, its Parliamentary Assembly, its ministers – to actually have effectively a new rule book to operate to in response to the challenges that we face today.

So I hope that is a response to what I get as frustrations and anxiety around the capacity for the Council of Europe to do what European citizens need us to do and it is our generation of politicians that have to make this happen. This is not about history. It is about today and how we learn lessons from the extraordinary tragic history of our continent. Lessons that I think many of us thought we had learnt until this invasion began on the 24 February. But as Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA and others remind us, of course, Ukraine and the aggression there is not the only part of this continent that needs the focus of this institution.

Thank you for your comments and I will have an opportunity to take questions later, perhaps, on some of the detail of what we have just referred to.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:51:58

Thank you very much, Mr Minister.

Now I would like to ask Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA to react on the many comments that were given in her direction.

Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA.

Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA

Leader of Belarus opposition

12:52:10

So, first of all, thank you to everyone who said warm words towards the Belarusian people and our position at the moment.

First of all, one main remark: I ask you stop calling Mr Alexander Lukashenko President of Belarus - he is not; he doesn't represent the view of the Belarusian people. He lost the election in 2020, and since then, Belarusian people are fighting against him and against dictatorship in our country.

Thank you.

Secondly, we still insist that the changes for democracy in Belarus have to be peaceful. Through negotiations, through dialogue. We have always insisted on this and sent a clear message.

But of course we have to understand that there are two red lines in any negotiation. The first one is that before any dialogue, all the political prisoners have to be released out of prisons, because the conditions there are awful. People are really suffering, they are isolated there from communication, they are deprived of normality and they are believing in us, they believe in you. So without all of them on the freedom no context, no negotiations, no dialogue.

And the second one: any negotiations should be between regime and democratic forces of Belarusian people; not between the regime and Europe, not between regime and Russia. Only in this scenario, because Belarusians have to be involved in all processes. We are speaking on behalf of the majority of Belarusians.

And how the Council of Europe can be helpful in our course: of course there are many, many items to work on. First of all it's welcome representatives of democratic forces to the different hearings and events. The louder our voice is, the more power as people we have on the international arena.

Also, help us to prepare a package of reforms, electoral reform, participation of women and youth, and democratic governance, local governance reform, because we understand that now we are fighting against the regime but also we will have to build a new Belarus, and we have to work on this Belarus now, to be prepared when the window of opportunities for us comes, we will be ready to build this new country.

Also, it's very important to touch on the topic of Belarus in the documents of the Parliamentary Assembly, because the war in Ukraine is linked to the situation in Belarus and our fate, the fates of both our countries are interconnected.

Help us in monitoring human rights abuses in Belarus. Sometimes we forget that atrocities, violence, tortures in our country are continuing. Every day new detainees disappear. Every day NGOs are ruined. Recently, all the trade unions have been closed and leadership of trade unions now are in jail. We have to speak loudly about this.

Maybe it's all for now, but of course we have a lot of ideas on how to co-operate closer. As I always say, non-conventional times need non-conventional decisions. This steering committee is one of these unconventional decisions for us to be closer to you and for you to be closer to us.

Thank you once again for this opportunity to speak here on behalf of the free democratic people of our country.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:56:25

Thank you very much, Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA, for your remarks.

You have seen in the way our Assembly reacted that the door is open here for you.

I would like to ask Mr Pekka HAAVISTO to react on the things that he has identified in this rich debate.

Mr Pekka HAAVISTO

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland

12:56:45

Thank you, and thank you for this opportunity and thank you for very insightful comments from the parliamentarians and maybe my first remark is that we are living in a Europe where the security system has really collapsed, we have created in 1975 the Helsinki Final Act, and and all our organisations and OSCE and of course Council of Europe to prevent wars in Europe, and now we are living in a situation that we are in the middle of war and this just comes so close to us when we for example think that whenever there could be peace talks between Ukraine and Russia, how the security guarantees for Ukraine could be organised?

Yeah, we are missing those mechanisms currently, reliable mechanisms. We had two Minsk agreements and these were not followed by Russia, and then who believes to the next agreements and who guarantees the security in the next agreements? These are very very crucial questions.

Then I would like to give my support to what Sviatlana proposed, a steering committee or similar mechanism in the Council of Europe for Belarus. I think it is extremely important to support the democratic Belarus and also the sovereignty of your country because the sovereignty is under threat in these circumstances.

My third comment is actually to the Secretary General. Your comment about the summit and the importance of the summit full support from our side to that. The colleague from Hungary asked about of course more to do with the European Union, but it was about the European perspective of Ukraine and Moldova and the negative decision on Georgia.

I am really concerned of course that if our relations to Georgia somehow weakened our support to democracy and sovereignty of Georgia is not there. And I think we should really find mechanisms to support Georgia. I just met with the speaker of the parliament who visited Finland from Georgia and fully sharing your concern about that. Of course, we have to also understand that there has been some backlash in the democratic development of the country in recent years, and this certainly affected to the Commission's recommendation

To the colleague from Türkiye, you asked about the terrorism and terrorist movements. You asked a very timely question because we have just yesterday spent with the Turkish delegation several hours in the NATO headquarters, Finland and Sweden, discussing also these topics and so forth. Issues like negative decision shown on PKK as terrorists listed of course is self-evident for all European countries, I understand that. But of course it's important that we have a common definition on what terrorism is in all countries, so that we can work work together on these important issues. And I think this is an important debate.

And then finally I think Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR raised the issue of the human rights defenders, which is very close to my heart as well. And actually what we have been witnessing in Belarus situation or Afghanistan situation or Ukraine situation that we are maybe lacking some mechanisms in our system. We know the traditional migration, we know how to seek asylum, but it's not always asylum that human rights defenders are asking for.

For example, those who are coming from Russia, they asked for our support but they want to keep also the possibility to return to their country in certain circumstances, and they need maybe our financial support and so forth. And particularly I'm concerned about women human rights defenders and their role, and probably we should create some new support mechanisms particularly for these people.

And thank you for the work that the Council of Europe has been doing for the human rights defenders.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

13:00:37

Thank you very much, Mr Minister.

Now I would like to ask our Secretary General for the closing remarks of this high-level panel.

Ms Secretary General, does it work?

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Secretary General of the Council of Europe

13:00:50

As I more often have the possibility to address this audience, I will be very short, and I will also talk later on.

One point of general remark is that from what we heard and from what hasn't been said, but it has been said in different occasions, one thing is for sure, we can never be complacent and sure that our democracy is perfect. There is no such a thing as achieved for ever, security, as we can unfortunately witness for our country Ukraine.

But one thing is for sure, that we all, together, and each of us individually in our different capacities, should do everything to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

I insist, collectively, that means within this forum, within the Council of Europe, and individually in different aspects.

One word to Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA and to your concerns. The Council of Europe is ready and will support Belarus' democratic opposition and civil society. The work has started, as I mentioned. I look forward to finding the best way to do it, and I look forward to also meeting you in the afternoon.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

13:02:12

Thank you very much, Madam Secretary General.

May I thank the keynote speakers for their contribution to this panel discussion.

May I compliment the colleagues in the Hemicycle for their disciplined involvement in this debate.

This is not the end but the beginning of a discussion. I think that was said and I appreciated it very much.

We now have to close this panel, and we will be back at 3:30 p.m. here in the Hemicycle to continue our programme.

Thank you very much.

The sitting is closed at 01:00 p.m.