Logo Assembly Logo Hemicycle

21 June 2022 afternoon

2022 - Third part-session Print sitting

Sitting video(s) 1 / 1

Opening of the sitting No. 20

Address: Communication from the Committee of Ministers

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

15:32:30

The sitting is open.

Dear colleagues, I would now like to welcome to our hemicycle the President of the Committee of Ministers, Minister for Foreign Affairs and for Defence of Ireland, his excellency Mr Simon COVENEY.

Welcome, Mr Minister, I am very pleased to welcome you today for the third partition of the Parliamentary Assembly.

Today we continue our discussions following our initial meeting in Torino at the ministerial conference when Ireland assumed the presidency of the Committee of Ministers, and in Dublin where you participated in our very fruitful Standing Committee at the end of May and you impressed us, I can say that here, with your commitment to the Council of Europe and its goals.

After excellent cooperation with our Italian friends and the Italian Presidency, we are looking forward now to continue this fruitful cooperation during the Irish Presidency.

This presidency, your presidency, takes place in most challenging times. The Russian Federation has waged an illegal war of aggression against our member state Ukraine and its citizens. To end this horrible war, to restore peace in Ukraine, and rebuild effective and sustainable multilateralism in Europe have to be our priorities. We are looking forward to your analysis and proposals.

We are also eager to hear more about from you about your ambitious agenda which has summarised in the following three phrases: one our founding freedoms reinforcing human rights and the protection of civilians in Europe, two, hear our voices, promoting participatory democracy and youth engagement and, I hope I pronounced it right, fáilte to fostering a Europe of welcome, inclusion and diversity.

Mr Minister, the challenges that we are facing are vast, which is why we rely not only on the continued good cooperation between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers, but also on the trialogue format of consultations with the Secretary General.

As I said earlier, alone we tend to be rather weak. Together we could develop the strength needed for Europe's oldest and broadest treaty organisation created to prevent war, pursue peace and guarantee fundamental rights and freedoms to all European citizens.

We are very much looking forward to this exchange of views and, please, the floor is yours.

Mr Simon COVENEY

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the CM of the CoE

15:35:17

President Mr Tiny KOX, Secretary General Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, Parliamentarians, Friends,

Two weeks ago, your counterparts at the European Parliament unveiled a bust of a great man from the city of Derry in Northern Ireland who knew this city well. John Hume served a quarter of a century as a Member of the European Parliament, and a lifetime as an advocate for peace and human rights.

Accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998, he recalled his frequent walks across the bridge to Kehl. A symbol, he marvelled, “so simple yet so profound and so applicable to conflict resolution anywhere in the world”. In that same address, he observed that, ultimately, ‘‘all conflict is about difference’’. But while some see difference as a threat, John – like the visionaries who bridged the Rhine – recognised it as ‘‘the essence of humanity’’. And that ‘‘the answer to difference is to respect it.’’

John was seldom wrong. But in this case, he was never more right. Respecting difference while working together to a common law – that is the key to the Council of Europe, and the European Court of Human Rights which has always been its – and our – guiding compass.

Today, as war rages in Ukraine, the Council – the European continent itself – stands at a crossroads. At such times, we should hold our compass close, and orientate ourselves by first principles. Ireland’s compass is the multilateral system we’ve helped to build. Our first principles are democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Principles first codified on this continent by the Council of Europe, and promoted and protected by it still.

Fifty years ago last month, the Irish people voted to join what is now the European Union. But a quarter century before we did so, we lived and shaped European values.

In London, in 1949, we were amongst the ten original signatories to the Statute that created the Council of Europe and the European Convention and Court of Human Rights.

It was Ireland’s request that resulted in a commitment to ‘‘the pursuit of peace’’ that was added to the Statute’s preamble. And it’s that ‘‘pursuit of peace’’ – and accountability for its violation – which needs to occupy this Chamber's minds today.

Like President Mr Tiny KOX, Secretary General Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, and others here, I’ve visited Kyiv and I've walked the blackened streets of Bucha. Words cannot capture the inhumanity of what the Kremlin has done there. What it continues to do in the Donbas. As Commissioner Ms Dunja Mijatović put it, the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are nothing short of ‘‘staggering’’.

I commend this Assembly for how you responded to this depravity. Regrettable as it was, your recommendation to expel the Russian Federation was the right one. Their disavowal of the Council’s values and commitments left you with no alternative.

In Ireland, we’ve long considered the Council as ‘‘the conscience of Europe.’’ Here, you acted as such. We need now to show the same conviction, the same conscience, the same urgency in supporting Ukraine.

As Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, Ireland has no higher priority.

The revised Action Plan the Secretary General unveiled last month is an essential step. It recognises, rightly, that the Council is neither a security nor a humanitarian organisation, and we shouldn't try to be, and focuses on your core expertise, promoting democratic security.

As Presidency, Ireland will support the Plan and help to fund its delivery. Next month in Dublin, we will also seek to fast-track Ukraine’s admission to the Council’s Development Bank, building on the billions the Bank has provided in loans to aid refugees and displaced Ukrainians across the continent today.

But more is needed. I said it in Turin, I said it in Dublin, and I will say it again here in Strasbourg.

The Council of Europe was founded in the wake of war on our continent. Now, in the wake of war again today, it’s time for our Heads of State and Government to reconvene. To reaffirm our conviction in the rule of law. To recommit to the human rights enshrined in our Convention. To answer autocracy by doubling down on democracy.

President Mr Tiny KOX and parliamentarians across this Assembly were the first to lead these calls. It was your call. And in Turin, I was heartened to hear minister after minister echo that sentiment. I know some harbour doubts still, that's the nature of politics and process. To them, I say simply: If not now, when? If not us, who?

In our lifetime, in the lifetime of this Council, never has our continent needed its conscience more. We must rise to meet this moment.

I commend Secretary General Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ for doing just that. Drawing on the work of this Assembly, the High-Level Group she has convened will reflect on what should constitute our summit’s substance.

In our former President Ms Mary ROBINSON, the Group will benefit from the wisdom of a global champion of human rights, gender equality and climate justice, working with six other equally qualified people. Addressing this Assembly in the wake of the Council’s first summit, three decades ago, she described Strasbourg by invoking Ireland’s mythical ‘‘fifth province” or ‘‘cúige’’, as it is in the Irish language.

This, she told your predecessors, is Europe’s fifth province, ‘‘the meeting point between East and West, the centre of humanist values.’’ If we’re to hold a fourth summit this year, Europe’s fifth province might be a fitting location. And November, as we pass the Presidency to our Icelandic friends, may be a fitting time. Other options exist, of course. I'm a pragmatist on that.

Whether in Strasbourg or Reykjavik, late this year or early next year, under our Presidency or Iceland’s, it matters less to me where the summit is held or under whose auspices. What matters is that we hold one, that we do so soon – and that we deliver real substance, framing the work of this body for years to come. What might that substance be? Of course the High-Level Group will provide its expert guidance. But let me offer some thoughts.

I listened with intent to President Macron’s speech in Strasbourg last month. In reflecting on the future of the EU, he called for the ‘‘reinvigoration’’ of our values. And made a compelling case for “defending the integrity of our democratic process and the rule of law everywhere across our territory”. He spoke, thoughtfully and with care, to the challenges of enlargement and the need for creativity in addressing them. Reflecting on his comments, one thing seems clear to me: however the debate on the future of the EU develops, the Council of Europe must be at its heart. The institutions share a flag and anthem. A source of some confusion at times. But one that highlights how closely they align, in values and in history.

The Council of Europe predates the EU, of course. And serves a vital function independent of it. But it’s true also that membership of the Council – and adherence to the Convention – are essential for any state aspiring to membership of the EU. This was the case for Ireland half a century ago. It’s the case for Ukraine and others today.

Acknowledging this, our leaders should decide how we can better align the institutions’ work. Both in supporting those, like Ukraine, on their path to EU membership, and in engaging states who, in one way or another, are failing to uphold the commitments that they have signed up to.

To this end, a fourth summit should be the successful conclusion of negotiations concerning the accession of the EU to the European Convention on Human Rights, in line with the Lisbon Treaty.

In the same spirit, our institutions and their members should recommit to tackling together the most egregious violations of human rights across our continent. We are not short of examples of that.

In September, Ireland will host a meeting of Justice Ministers devoted to countering domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

As Minister Baerbock suggested in Turin, a summit should see heads of state and government build on that, reviewing and renewing the pillars of the Istanbul Convention. Critically, it should also see us recommit to the Council’s first principles – above all the effective functioning of the European Court of Human Rights and the execution of its judgments everywhere.

The Court is where the conscience of Europe truly lies. Ireland was the first state to accept its jurisdiction. And we’ve always abided by it. Through the decades, we’ve had our share of judgments too. Some were historic. Several were, at their time, contentious. But all were respected. This was not always easy politically, but it was always right. Because a ruling ignored is a right infringed. And if we’re selective in applying the rule of law, lawlessness will soon be the rule.

Protecting the Court and the Convention has a special meaning for Ireland. In the wake of a violent past, John Hume and others pushed to ensure the institutions formed a cornerstone of the Good Friday peace agreement signed nearly 25 years ago, serving to build and bolster public confidence in policing and political structures across Northern Ireland, badly needed at the time.

Just last week, the Global Peace Index ranked Ireland as the world's third most peaceful country. A source of pride and a measure of how good the Good Friday Agreement has actually been for people and society across our island, north and south. We dare not imperil it. Which is why we have reacted with such concern at the unilateral actions and legislation of the UK Government in recent weeks, on both legacy, and also to dis-apply elements of an international treaty which has a deep and difficult implication for Ireland.

Of course we continue to seek partnership through friendship as a neighbour, but also through dialogue and negotiation to resolve outstanding issues, which in my point of view are absolutely resolvable if both sides come to the table in that spirit.

So to review, our summit should seek to redouble the Council’s support for Ukraine. Refocus relations with the EU, including through its accession to the Convention. It should recommit our leaders to first principles, above all the rulings of our Court, and renew our collective determination to tackle the worst human rights abuses across our continent. Delivering such an agenda will require resources. I’m determined that the Council of Europe should have those resources and not suffer for having had the courage to expel a significant contributor.

As a member state, Ireland will play our part. This morning, alongside the Secretary General, I announced a voluntary contribution of €865,000 towards a range of key Presidency priorities, including the Action Plan for Ukraine, the Human Rights Trust Fund, the implementation of Court rulings and the Istanbul Convention. We will help fill the gap in the Council’s budget this year. And, as Chair of the Committee of Ministers, lead negotiations to do the same for next year.

A summit should see leaders recommit to resourcing the institution over the longer term. We should not be wasting a lot of valuable time discussing, negotiating and pleading for improved budgets.

Beyond these, there are many other vital subjects that warrant consideration at a summit. But one seems to me particularly essential today: how should we engage with and support civil society and human rights defenders in countries lilke Belarus and Russia, states of this continent, but outside this Council?

Alongside President Mr Tiny KOX, Secretary General Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, and my Finnish counterpart, Pekka Haavisto, I had the honour of sharing a platform earlier with Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA. Last July we had the privilege of welcoming her back to Ireland, where, as a young woman, she spent many happy summers. For while Belarus is not a member of the Council of Europe, the democratic opposition she leads, and which so many brave Belarussians back, represent this institution’s best principles. For that reason and others, it is imperative that this body support her work and support her. And that we find ways to actively engage with those striving to promote our values in Minsk, Moscow and beyond.

I began these remarks quoting a great Derry city person, a great Irish person. Let me end by doing something similar. Like John Hume, Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet that many will know, but who knew Strasbourg well, and lived the values it represents. One of his most celebrated works is entitled ‘‘From The Republic of Conscience’’. Dedicated to Amnesty International, it ends with the refrain that the Embassies of that Republic: ‘‘were everywhere / but operated independently / and no ambassador would ever be relieved.’’

As all here know, Ms Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA's husband, Sergei, is one of many prisoners of conscience in Belarus today. An ambassador, in many ways, for the rights that we all cherish. I hope he will be relieved before too long. But I know the sacrifice he is making for his people and their cause. Today, in his honour, and in Seamus Heaney’s memory, I want to present a print of that special verse to President Mr Tiny KOX and to this Assembly. Framed in solid oak which I think is appropriate.

From our Republic, to your Council – the Conscience of Europe.

Thank you President. Thank you all.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

15:53:28

Thank you so much, Mr Minister and to your excellent intervention in this Assembly with a poem that I will carefully study and I will learn lessons from it, I am quite sure. 

As you are in a Parliamentary Assembly, Mr Minister, you know that parliamentarians like to listen, but they also like to react and to answer and ask questions. So we will now have questions from the Assembly. 

We begin with the speakers on behalf of the political groups and we have a long list of other delegates who want to ask you questions. Asking questions does not mean making statements and speaking time is limited to one minute. 

First, I call on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group, Mr Frank SCHWABE from Germany.

Frank, you have the floor.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

15:54:41

Thank you very much, Mr President.

Dear Minister,

Thank you very much for your chairmanship and your leadership. You mentioned the fourth summit, something that is really in a way, hopefully, in the end historical for this organisation. Historical in a very good way. We do not need to renew our values because the values are good. We have to renew the willingness to fight for those values and to make it very clear that all those countries have to follow those values and the judgments of the court 100%.

This process is very important. It should be as inclusive as possible. Many parts of the organisation of countries would like to be proud to prepare this fourth summit. This Assembly, for sure, as well. I really ask you to do everything you can so that we could be part of it. I would like to ask you how you can take care so that we can be heard with our position in this process.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

15:55:37

Mr Minister.

Mr Simon COVENEY

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the CM of the CoE

15:55:58

I just want to thank Mr Frank SCHWABE for that question and I think it is a very fair question.

If we are going to have a fourth summit, it has got to work. And so it should not be rushed but at the same time it should not be put off unnecessarily either because of procedures and processes. And I know that, given the political time of year that we are now about to enter in terms of coming into the summer months, it is in some ways a more difficult thing to do to plan for something as significant as 46 heads of state coming together with a very clear agenda, with very clear outputs planned for and delivered. And that is what needs to happen. But it has also got to be fully inclusive.

So if this is going to be a new direction for the Council of Europe, well all of the institutions within the Council of Europe need to contribute to that. So what has happened to date is, first of all, this concept or this idea came from this chamber, it was then effectively approved by Ministers in Turin and the Secretary General was given a very clear direction to move quickly on that and she has done that in a very impressive way by putting together a sort of a group of wise people to be able to advise us on a future direction and most of them are heads of state or former foreign ministers in different countries around the continent of Europe. There are seven of them. They meet for the first time next week.

We have had some conversations with you, President, on this. I think it is important that we find a way of ensuring that there is a structured engagement also with the Assembly to make sure that the perspectives that are debated and discussed and held here are factored into the considerations of this group. The idea of the group though is that they are independent of all of us. Ministers are not going to be trying to influence it, the Parliamentary Assembly, I think, should input into it to make sure their issues are part of the considerations but then, of course, we will get a set of recommendations back. So this body is not a decision-making body, it is an advisory body, and those recommendations will come back then for the decision of ministers and obviously, for consultation as well with the Parliamentary Assembly.

So the process is underway and it remains to be seen what is a realistic timeline for how we deliver a fourth summit of this Council of Europe. But I think, you know, it would be extraordinary if, given the current challenges that our continent faces, we could not organise ourselves to persuade heads of governments to come and make a clear, unambiguous commitment to the values and, of course, the law that actually is enshrined in the Council of Europe and its mandate and remit.

So I think this is important. I think this is a moment in history, and really the question we have to ask ourselves is is the Council of Europe going to be part of that or are we going to leave it to others; other multilateral fora or individual countries? And that really is the question and, I think, hopefully, from what I said today you know the answer that Ireland wants to promote, which is let's get on with this and let's manage in a practical way to try and deliver a new vision and also a reinvigorated sort of sense of energy around the Council of Europe and all of its institutions together to be a force for good and a protector of both democracy and people's human rights on our continent.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:00:01

Thank you, Mr Minister.

The next question comes from someone with whom you are quite familiar, Mr Joseph O'REILLY from Ireland who speaks on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Joe, you have the floor.

Mr Joseph O'REILLY

Ireland, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

16:00:13

Dear president, I welcome you here Minister COVENEY on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Now to my questions.

In what way does the proposed unilateral legislation on the Protocol by the UK government put the Good Friday Agreement at risk?

Does the minister think a workable compromise can still be reached?

And on a related matter, Minister, if the British government were to leave the European Convention on Human Rights, has this also implications for the Good Friday Agreement which is underpinned by that convention?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:00:49

Thank you, Mr Joseph O'REILLY

Mr Minister?

Mr Simon COVENEY

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the CM of the CoE

16:00:56

I'm impressed by your timing there, Mr Joseph O'REILLY, right on the bell.

First of all, can I say that it is really unfortunate that we have to talk about this issue at all given the scale of the other challenges that we face on this continent right now : hundreds of people dying every day, millions of people on the move because of war in Ukraine, and the extraordinary challenges of the people of Belarus face. I could name other big issues that we need to deal with together, but we do have to respond to this issue. I want to respond in a positive way rather than a critical one.

I believe that if both the British government and the EU engage seriously, I believe we can resolve the problems of the Northern Ireland protocol, which of course is enshrined in the withdrawal treaty, which is international law. The way not to proceed is for the British government to continue on the road that it is currently travelling on, which is to introduce legislation unilaterally to discipline international law. I think that is going to cause a lot more problems than it solves, but I think with some goodwill and a rebuilding of trust it is possible to respond to the legitimate concerns of many in Northern Ireland who want to see the protocol, which was agreed between all sides and ratified and signed up to.

To see that implemented with a lot of flexibility and pragmatism, to respond to genuine concerns amongst many in the unionist community in Northern Ireland, I think we can accommodate those concerns. We need the British government as a partner, and at the moment we do not have that, if I am honest.

The peace process on the island of Ireland has always worked best when the British and Irish governments worked together. We are willing to compromise and provide a platform for both dialogue and compromise for the political parties in Northern Ireland, which have a deeply divisive past. We need to get back to that space of partnership as opposed to provocation, which unfortunately is the space we are in right now.

Yes, Joe, is the answer. Issues can be solved through negotiation. I believe they can. If negotiation does not succeed, then I think we are in a very difficult space because this problem does not go away if you remove elements of international law that were agreed and put in place for good reason to solve problems. Then you reopen those problems. That's where this will go, which is the last thing we want between Britain and Ireland and between the UK and the EU. We are up for discussion, compromise, and, hopefully, agreement.

I hope we'll be able to do that in the months ahead.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:04:00

Thank you, Mr Minister, the next question will be asked by Lord Alexander DUNDEE from the United Kingdom. And he speaks on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

Alexander.

Lord Alexander DUNDEE

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

16:04:12

Minister, although Russia and its government have left the Council of Europe, nevertheless what plans does the Irish presidency have: firstly, to increase support for democracy among the peoples of Russia and Belarus, their civil society and media; and secondly for launching now such initiatives which may then be continued by successive Council of Europe national presidencies ?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:04:51

Thank you, Alexander.

Mr Minister.

Mr Simon COVENEY

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the CM of the CoE

16:04:56

Thank you, Lord Alexander DUNDEE. I appreciate that question.

If I am honest, I think it is a difficult question to give a credible answer on, because when a country leaves the Council of Europe, holding them to account under the structures of the Council of Europe becomes increasingly difficult. That is why I think the call that we heard earlier today for increased involvement with civil society structures with forces for democracy in both Belarus and Russia, I think, needs to be a new and proactive strategy for this Council.

I also think we need to continue to raise the profile of political prisoners and the causes that they have been imprisoned for. Therefore, I think it is about speaking out, and it is about linkages with other institutions as well. Ireland is a small country, but we have influence beyond our size at the moment, because of the positions we hold. We sit on the UN Security Council, we, obviously, hold the presidency of one of the institutions of the Council of Europe, and we are a very vocal voice within the EU.

I think this is about countries that believe in democratic standards and the rule of law and multilateralism, applying as much pressure as they possibly can on Russia in particular to end this barbaric war that we are seeing in Ukraine as soon as possible.

I think multilateralism is really being tested in that regard. We need to ensure that this institution along with others work together to try and bring that about.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:06:47

Thank you, Mr Minister.

Now you have to watch through the screen because the next question comes online, as you know that we have allowed our Ukrainian delegation to participate either here or online due to the war situation the country is in.

The next question will be asked by Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA from Ukraine and she speaks on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group. 

Yuliia, are you with us? Yes, you are there.

Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA

Ukraine, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

16:07:13

Thank you.

Concerning the political prisons in the Russian Federation, my question is about possible steps for free people who spread the truth about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, like Vladimir Kara-Murza. Do you believe that the global community can do anything for Vladimir?

And the next part is Ukrainian kidnappings: Ukrainian kids are kept as political prisoners like Vlad Buriak, the son of the head of the Zaporizhzhia District Administration, Oleh Buriak. What should the Council of Europe do now to free Vlad?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:07:52

Thank you very much, Yuliia. The connection was good. The voice was... I hope that the Minister could understand the question.

Mr Simon COVENEY

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the CM of the CoE

16:08:08

First of all, Yuliia, thank you for taking the time to be with us today. I am sure you have a lot on your on your mind as indeed do all of your political colleagues in Ukraine right now.

Let me try and answer your question, first of all, on the kidnapping of children and on the deportation of populations from parts of eastern Ukraine into Russia. I think that is really concerning. It seems to me that it is history repeating itself. You go to a country like Estonia, and they will tell you their own experience of losing almost 20% of their population after the Second World War, who were forcibly removed and some disappeared. We are seeing a similar approach now. It is very hard to put our finger on the actual numbers involved, but whatever the number is, it is far too many. I think one of the things that the Council of Europe can do is raise the profile and the illegality of forcibly moving people on the justification that Russia seems to be putting out there.

I think more generally we have not been good enough during this war at responding to disinformation. We had a debate on this in the EU amongst foreign ministers this week. Whether it is across the continent of Africa, whether it is across Latin America, the blame for food shortages and increased food prices is often being targeted at sanctions. The EU and others were imposing sanctions as opposed to targeting Russia for continuing an illegal conflict.

I think we need to become more vocal and more organised in terms of responding to disinformation more generally. In terms of those who have been in put in jail for speaking out, I think the best thing we can do for them is keep talking about them so that they know they are not forgotten and that we continue to highlight these issues in a way that makes Russia feel uncomfortable, if that is possible, on all of the multilateral organisations that they continue to sit on.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:10:40

Thank you, Mr Minister.

And the last question on behalf of the political groups comes from a person with whom you are also familiar, Mr Paul GAVAN from Ireland, and he speaks on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Paul, you have the floor.

Mr Paul GAVAN

Ireland, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

16:10:56

Thank you.

Minister, it's good to see you, very welcome.

The Irish Presidency has identified as a priority the importance of youth participation. Does the minister intend, on behalf of the Council of Europe, to support the rights of Palestinian children who have known no other life than that lived under military occupation?

Many Palestinian children are exposed to dangers on a daily basis due to attacks on schools. The Norwegian Refugee Council reports an average of ten attacks on education per month by Israeli authorities. Today the occupied Palestinian territories is regarded as one of the riskiest places on Earth for children to go to school.

Minister, will you hold Israel to account for these crimes against Palestinian children?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:11:36

Mister Minister.

Mr Simon COVENEY

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the CM of the CoE

16:11:40

Thanks Paul for that question and I know you and I have debated these issues in the Irish Parliament as well. And as you know, I have very strong views on this. I think one of the great injustices in the world today, which has been continued for far too long, is the continued occupation of Palestinian lands and the expansion of settlements, the demolition of properties, and the forced eviction of families from their own lands. Not only in my view is it illegal, but it is also immoral. And it is going to lead to yet another cycle of violence and killing between Israelis and Palestinians if we cannot find a way to turn the tide.

Honestly, I am not sure what the Council of Europe can do in relation to this particular issue, but I can assure you on the UN Security Council and within the EU, in terms of our relationship with both Israel and Palestine, we are raising these issues very directly. If there are ways within the remit and jurisdiction of the Council of Europe that we can credibly raise some of these issues, well then I am open. I am certainly open to suggestions there but I think it will probably be other formats that would be most impactful if I am honest. But Israel is an important partner for the continent of Europe but so too is Palestine.

We need to find a way of breaking a cycle of misery which is continuing to impact on young Palestinians. I have been to many Palestinian schools and by the way, we continue to increase our funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and further education programmes across Palestinian territories, but the truth here is that this is a political challenge and I think we need to find ways of being more effective. The place to start is to speak with one single voice so that Israel would listen and that has not been possible I am afraid on the continent of Europe for quite some time.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:13:50

Thank you, Mister Minister.

If you allow us now, we will have 3 questions combined, and then you answer the 3 delegates.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:13:59

The next question comes from Mr Alain MILON from France.

Mr Alain MILON

France, EPP/CD

16:14:06

Thank you, Mister President.

Minister, Ireland, as part of its chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers, has focused on the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights and the work of the Court. Unfortunately, there is regular criticism of the Court's decisions.

Can you share with us your vision on how to strengthen the credibility of the decisions of this fundamental body for the Organisation, especially in view of a future summit of Heads of State?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:14:35

Thank you, Alain.

The next question comes from Mr Ruben RUBINYAN from Armenia.

Ruben.

Mr Ruben RUBINYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

16:14:42

Thank you, Minister.

I would like to welcome you and extend our support to the Irish presidency in the pursuit of our shared goals.

On 1 September in Galway, the Irish presidency will organise a conference dedicated to the effective application of ECHR decisions in so-called gray zones. Do you consider, Minister, to engage and to hear also directly from the individuals from Nagorno-Karabakh and similar areas whose human rights we all are trying to protect better?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:15:13

Thank you.

The third question comes from Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND from Hungary.

Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND

Hungary, EC/DA

16:15:19

Thank you, Mister President.

Your Excellency,

Enlargement policy is a very important dimension of the European Union. The external borders of the Union, peace, stability, security still remain a challenge. Therefore, European integration is crucially important. These countries see prosperity and security for themselves in the European Union. Europe must show that this is the case.

Many states in Europe are calling to grant candidate status for Ukraine, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Georgia.

Dear Excellency,

What is your opinion on this issue?

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:15:50

Thank you, Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND.

Mister Minister?

Mr Simon COVENEY

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the CM of the CoE

16:15:54

First of all, if member States of the Council of Europe who are signatories to the Convention on Human Rights and who are committed to the European Court of Human Rights, if they themselves cannot respect judgments because it is politically difficult or inconvenient for them to do so, then they undermine the credibility of our whole structure.

I think it is very important that if we do hold a leaders' summit, that, first and foremost, there is a really clear, unambiguous declaration from every leader that if there is a ruling in the European Court of Human Rights, then it will be respected in all of the member States of the Council of Europe. Without that, we are going nowhere because if countries can say, "Well, sorry, we will implement this one but we will not implement that one because we do not like it or it is awkward or it is costly", then, the whole purpose of having an international benchmark in terms of rule of law and standards is undermined.

I know that from my own country because some of the rulings that the European Court of Human Rights has made in relation to Ireland, at the time, were highly controversial – or for some, they were highly controversial. Looking back on them now, people wonder what all the fuss was about. In truth that was part of our journey to EU membership: recognising diversity, difference of opinion, freedom of expression, the rule of law, independence of the judiciary, separating church and state, you know, everything from sexual orientation to immigration issues and so on.

I know these issues are not always easy politically, but the whole point of having a court that makes independent rulings on the basis of interpreting a convention that we have all signed up to is that that then becomes the benchmark. Not to be questioned or undermined politically, it is the benchmark upon which we should build policy. If we do not have that basic principle then I think everyone in this Chamber needs to start asking themselves some pretty fundamental questions as to what we are doing here.

I hope I am clearing up on that and, by the way, that is not me having a go at one or more member States. It is just a point of principle that I think is important to say.

In relation to Nagorno-Karabakh, yes. We are organising a conference on the west coast of Ireland, in a city called Galway, which is lovely for any of you who have not been there – you should travel. The focus is actually on this difficult area of grey areas: how the Council of Europe and its bodies impact positively on protecting human rights in areas where there is ambiguity in terms of sovereignty or democratic accountability or political control and so on. It is a particularly difficult area. The example that you raise, I think, will probably be a focal point at that conference, because it is an obvious area for discussion.

The final point then is on enlargement. I have very strong personal views on this issue. I know how my country has just been transformed by its membership of the European Union, not only economically and from a trade perspective, which has been dramatic in its own right, but also in terms of quality of life, on gender issues and workers' rights issues and environmental issues. So much of modern Ireland today has been changed and transformed by adherence to agreed common positions within the European Union. That has given extraordinary stability through very, very difficult times.

I want that stability for other countries in Europe who desperately yearn for it, and those opportunities to to travel, to work, to study, to trade, to look for the protection of the EU. I do not think it is a coincidence, by the way, that Ukraine has prioritised EU membership over NATO membership, because they see the extraordinary value that it can bring in the future. My view is that any country on the continent of Europe that is willing to make the changes to meet the benchmarks needed to join the European Union should be welcomed into that process on that journey and should be assisted.

That is why Ireland is a very strong supporter of the pathway to EU membership for Ukraine from Moldova, from Georgia, for the Western Balkans, more generally. I hope we can work and partner with countries on a bilateral basis but also continue to make a credible case within the EU system. I think most countries want that, of course.

There is caution because expanding too quickly does create huge potential risk. I think we owe it to countries that want to make that journey to give them the opportunity to do so. Is it difficult to get into the EU? Yes, it is. Should it be difficult to get into the EU in terms of the standards that you are expected to meet? Yes, it should. If countries and democratic systems are willing to make those changes, then they should be welcomed and supported and funded and given the opportunity for the extraordinary stability and progress that so many of us who are privileged to be in the European Union have felt over the decades that we have been there.

I hope that is a clear answer. I think it is.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:22:29

Thank you, Mister Minister.

We can have three more questions, I think that the schedule allows that.

First, I call Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV from Azerbaijan.

Rafael.

Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV

Azerbaijan, ALDE

16:22:38

Thank you, President.

Dear Minister,

It is commendable that not only the presnt but also the future of democracy and, in this context, attention to the future of Europe, children, youth, and global education are among the priorities of the Irish chairmanship.

The younger generation of journalists in member States is an important tool that can be a bridge in this direction, but they also need to improve their professionalism constantly in order to become a worthful force in the democratic process.

Which decisive steps can Ireland take during its chairmanship in order to make this fragmentary work that exists as an element of separate projects grow into a stable and systematic process.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:23:24

Thank you, Rafael.

The next question comes again from someone you are familiar with, Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN.

Fiona.

Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN

Ireland, ALDE

16:23:34

Thank you, Mister President.

You are very welcome, Minister COVENEY. As you know, this is Pride Month. It has been 53 years since the start of the modern LGBT rights movement on the streets of New York. Much has changed since then but sadly not enough. There are many within the LGBTI community in Europe who are isolated, harassed, stigmatised and bullied because of their sexual identity.

Increasingly, we are seeing a rise in homophobia, transphobia, and violence against the LGBTI community across Europe. There are many countries where same-sex marriage is not legal and where rainbow families are not accepted.

The fight continues, and the cause endures.

How do you propose to ensure to tackle discrimination, build inclusive societies, and ensure equality rights for the LGBTI community will be first and foremost during the Irish presidency?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:24:33

Thank you, Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN.

The last question comes from Ms Laura CASTEL, from Spain.

Ms Laura CASTEL

Spain, UEL

16:24:37

Thank you.

Thank you, Chair.

One of the challenges of this organisation is supreme courts rejecting to implement European Court judgments. This paves the way for the government of judges. We need stronger sanctioning proceedings, and maybe disciplinary responsibility for the court involved and ineligibility for the judges.

What is your opinion of this as a way to combat this lack of implementation?

Thank you very much.

Mr Nicos TORNARITIS

Cyprus, EPP/CD

19:52:16

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Dear Minister,

Thank you for your presence here today.

His Excellency, the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Eireann, Mr. Seán Ó Fearghaíl while on his recent official visit to the Republic of Cyprus, clearly underlined that Turkey’s illegal actions in the fenced area of Famagusta are unacceptable and undermine efforts for a just and viable settlement of the Cyprus problem. What actions does the Irish Chairmanship envision to urge Turkey to stop acting aggressively, in Cyprus, Greece and the wider region and to conform with international law? Additionally, how could you support peace efforts in Cyprus, currently stalled, due to Turkey’s escalating intractability and its claim for a two-state solution, which runs counter to pertinent UN Security Council Resolutions and the agreed basis of a bi-communal bi-communal federation and has been explicitly rejected by the international community?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:25:05

Thank you Ms Laura CASTEL.

Mister Minister, you still have 5 minutes to respond. Then we have to close because the Secretary General is taking the floor.

Mr Simon COVENEY

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the CM of the CoE

16:25:15

I certainly won't stand in her way anyway, I can assure you.

Yeah, first of all, the first question around involving young people, education, getting youth involved in the right kind of politics in terms of progress and so on. I mean, I think what I'd say there is that I think members of the Council of Europe should share what works and what doesn't with each other.

I mean, we've had extraordinary social change in Ireland which actually leads into Fiona's questions as well. The fact that an Irish parliamentarian would be standing up and speaking so forcefully on Pride week in defence of the right to sexual identity and so on is probably not something you would have heard 20 or 30 years ago. Maybe, but not universally across the Irish political system.

But one of the things that has worked very well for us is to set up a what are called Citizens' Sssemblies, which effectively are bodies that are normally headed by a senior judge but then invite members of the public into debate over a lengthy period of time: controversial and difficult social issues, exploring opportunities, but also debunking myths and so on. And it's been a process that has led to a lot of political change, facilitated that change in a way that has been far less adversarial than perhaps we thought it might be, on some very difficult issues, like abortion and different types of family structures, LGBTQI+ rights and so on.

And I just think one of the things we should do in this in this body because it's so diverse in terms of different countries with different approaches to so many things, and we need to try and respect that diversity but we should also share experience because certainly I can say that the case study of my own country in terms of social change and the debate is often incredibly divisive that have led to that social change, that is an interesting case study in itself, which of course we're very happy to share.

The truth is that discriminating against somebody on the basis of their sexuality is illegal, so let's just be clear about this. This is not a policy decision, it's the law. And so any form of discrimination against somebody on the basis of skin colour or sexual identity or culture or religion and so on is something that the European Court of Human Rights needs to be and is quite clear on. But beyond that, it's about building political consensus, I think, about the need for tolerance, diversity and progress.

And particularly this week I think that's something we should focus on because there are many who still suffer on this continent because of their sexual identity and even more who hide it because of that persecution.

The final question then, I have to apologise, because it's hard for me to comment on this without seeing an actual legal case. So, of course courts in our own member states have an obligation to make rulings that are consistent, I think, with the European Court of Human Rights. That's what the Convention requires of us all, but I'd have to see individual examples of the issues that you're raising, maybe before I could give an accurate commentary on it, because there may be a legal reason for a high court to give an alternative ruling or whatever.

But I mean, in general, the whole point of having an internationally respected convention is that that becomes the benchmark then for other court judgments within different jurisdictions in a way that's consistent with the Convention on Human Rights. If you look at our peace agreement for example, the European Convention on Human Rights is central to the implementation of that peace agreement in terms of how people's rights are protected and so on, linked to its implementation.

And it's been one of the reasons why I think many people have trusted that agreement through some difficult years, since it was agreed. So those protections I think are important for the future as well.

So, two things I would say. One is: governments shouldn't be legislating in a way that they know is inconsistent with rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. And secondly, the expectation of course is that court rulings would also be consistent with that Convention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:30:22

Thank you, Mister Minister.

This concludes the questions of our colleagues to you and your intervention in this Hemicycle. We are looking forward to seeing you back in October, hopefully, to update us on developments with regard to the evaluation of the function of the Council of Europe and the progress made in preparation of the fourth summit.

For now, thank you very much for being here with us. We appreciate it very much.

I now go to the next item. The next item is the questions to our Secretary General Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ‑BURIĆ.

I remind the Assembly that questions have to be limited to 30 seconds.

We agreed in the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy and in the Presidential Committee, and with the Secretary General, that we will take the first five questions of political groups together so that the Secretary General can combine her answer to these questions.

The first question comes from Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE, from Türkiye, on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

 

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

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Türkiye, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

16:31:37

Thank you very much.

Dear Secretary General,

On behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group, we would like to hear your views on the role of PACE in the fourth summit. Specifically in your capacity as a Secretary General, how will you ensure an inclusive as possible process in terms of both all countries on all parts of the organisation being involved, and how do you plan to ensure the well-placed active role for PACE and sufficient time for a fruitful collaboration?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:32:07

Thank you, Madam Selin SAYEK BÖKE.

The next question comes from Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN from the Netherlands on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Ria?

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

16:32:29

I am sorry. It will not cost me time, I hope, Mister Chairman.

Dear Secretary General,

Are you willing to look at the composition of the reflection group and prepare for a change with reflection to this Assembly?

For the rest, can you also assure us that this group in the conference on the future of Europe will have strict observation in the Council's statutory second pillar? That is this Assembly.

Do you also agree with us that regarding the Council's communication policy, firm steps must be taken internally and externally to ensure targeted highlighting of the role and values of our Organisation?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:33:23

Thank you, Madam Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN.

The third question comes from Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND from Hungary. He speaks on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND

Hungary, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

16:33:31

Madam Secretary General,

In Central European countries like Hungary, millions of people fleeing in front of the Russian aggression have been received with open arms. We stand in unity and solidarity with refugees from Ukraine.

On the other hand, also the borders are under attack by illegal migrants crossing numerous safe countries and trying to enter our countries by force.

In our understanding there should be a differentiation. On one hand, we have to take care of the defenceless refugees; on the other hand, we must protect our external borders.

Madam Secretary General, what is your opinion on these aspects?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:34:03

Thank you, Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND.

The fourth question comes from Mr Iulian BULAI from Romania. He speaks on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Iulian?

Mr Iulian BULAI

Romania, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

16:34:10

Dear Secretary General,

Congratulations on planning this summit for the future of Council of Europe.

Times of crisis means times of opportunities. We all support this initiative and understand the interest of a high-reflection working group.

We regret, though, the absence of representatives from Eastern European countries, the Balkans, the Baltics, the Caucasus, and, very importantly, Muslim countries.

We need to have a clear agreement about the way we work for the first part of the preparation. Classical trialogues are not sufficient. Starting now we will organise ourselves within PACE to come up with concrete proposals. We have to agree, consequently, on the way to work directly with you, with the committee of ministers, and with a high-reflection group till October.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:34:56

Thank you very much, Mr Iulian BULAI.

The last question on behalf of the political groups before the Secretary General is going to answer these five comes from Mr Andrej HUNKO from Germany on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

16:35:07

Thank you very much, Mister President,

Madam Secretary General,

Australian journalist Julian Assange has been in maximum security prison in Belmarsh for over three years and fears extradition to the U.S., where he faces 175 years in prison for publishing war crimes, which is in the general interest.

This Assembly called for his immediate release in January 2020. Even more recently, the Commissioner for Human Rights has spoken out in favor of non‑extradition in a letter to the British Home Secretary Ms Priti Patel.

Madam Secretary General, what can you do to end this injustice?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:35:51

Thank you very much, Mr Andrej HUNKO.

Did you get the last question as well, Madam Secretary General? Then, I give you the floor to answer these five.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatia, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

16:35:59

Thank you very much.

So let me start with the summit combined with the reflection group because although they are not one depending on the other, the reflection group is supposed to feed the reflection on the summit. I think the Chair of the Committee of Ministers was very clear about how the Committee of Ministers in Turin decided how to proceed regarding both. First, regarding the summit, so the idea of the summit came from this Chamber and it was very important and, I think very, very good for the Committee of Ministers to take this recommendation and then to have the first reflection on that.

On my part, I was very vocal at all stances that I think it is very important to have the fourth summit and in that respect, I think, we agree. It is also very important to prepare it well. It is also very important to seize the moment because now we live in a particular time for Europe, in a time of crisis, a time of war, a time where many of our values are questioned. So, if we are to rely on the experiences which were taken for the preparation of the first three summits, and the last one was in 2005, I think it would be difficult to rely on the ways how it was dealt with previously. However, when we come to the reflection group and the idea of the reflection group at each of these stages, as well as the stages of important reform or thinking of important reform for the Council of Europe, there was always one way to prepare for reflection inside the Council of Europe by a person or persons, coming, as the Minister very kindly explained, as an outsider; so an outside or external look to what is needed to be done. So there was a past when there was only one person working on that. When the Committee of Ministers came with this proposal, and actually, if you read decisions from Turin, it is very clear they tasked me to set up the group and to inform the Committee of Ministers accordingly. So I did exactly as it was written and it was asked by the Committee of Ministers. I reacted quite swiftly and as I shared with the Bureau in Dublin, I think our conversation was on different issues; it was very long - more than two hours. I told you at that stage what the criteria were and how I intend to proceed and on Monday at the Bureau here, I informed you of the group that consists of seven people who are coming from the ranks of presidents, former presidents, former prime ministers, former deputy prime ministers, ministers of foreign affairs. The highly qualified group; because for me, the message was clear: they are not government representatives, they are not representatives only of their own quality as people, who in the past served or took and had very important offices and who had a lot of experience in human rights, but also in multilateral work. So I believe that this group of seven people, [about whom] I informed the Committee of Ministers and, also, the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly, is well balanced and can produce a good result. But this is only a body that will present recommendations, as was the case in previous times where the Council of Europe asked for such a group and such a group has produced recommendations and, as you can imagine, there may be more recommendations that could be eventually taken further by the Council of Europe.

But now coming back to the summit, many ministers were very vocal on the need to summon the new summit. However, another decision of the Turin ministerial is that ministers task the deputies sitting on the Committee of Ministers to start a discussion on the summit; so a formal discussion, informally and formally started. The decision has not been taken for that and I recall that to decide on the summit, it needs to be done by the Committee of Ministers, and by all countries agreeing on that. So we are now 46 and I hope that the Committee of Ministers can come up with that, but I cannot say more now. I know that, from what I see, we need to balance between the momentum and seizing this opportunity to move forward and actually show the strength and unity that we showed already when we expelled the Russian Federation when it was right to do so. And I hope with the same determination, and with the same unity, and the same idea to make the Council of Europe credible, stronger and more prepared for the new challenges that we will have ahead. I hope that this decision for the summit will be taken and [that it will] fit in by this reflection group. [It] would certainly be that task but ultimately, of course, it is for the Council of Europe to decide how to move forward. In that, it is clear that we need to be inclusive, and that the Parliamentary Assembly needs to voice its part of concerns or proposals for the future of the Council of Europe. So, as I said, for the reflection group, when I meet with them next week, I will certainly convey this message: that it is important while working, that they include, in some way, some inputs from the Parliamentary Assembly. The way how to probably or eventually do that, we need to discuss, but certainly, once the group has finished, I need to present the results to the Committee of Ministers and that cannot be later as the decisions will say the next passing over from this chairmanship; from Irish chairmanship to the Icelandic one.

So there is a short period of time ahead of me which is why I needed to act very quickly. If the group is to produce a meaningful result, and I can assure you that at whatever stage there would be, my feeling is that is important to convey the message or to come into the discussion with you, I will do so, as I have always done. But the task of forming the group and responsibilities for forming the group and for helping them and assisting the way how they will work has been tasked to me, so that task is for the Secretary General.

Regarding the communication policies, of course, I agree in today's world with more and more social media and information being given and provided and consumed in a different way than, only 10 years ago; we need to adjust our systems. So in order to do that, I have already tasked the Deputy Secretary General in the group he led with streamlining of social media because, as you may know, social media are probably the most used today and will continue to be so. So that, at this moment, we have too many social media, by too many entities that are used across the Council of Europe, and some streamlining in that work needs to be done in order that the messages are coherent and they do not confuse and so that whoever wants to use information knows how to get it and can get it easily. On the side of generally communicating, I think that the events of this year, in particular, the horrible aggression of the Russian Federation on Ukraine and the fact that we are, so far, the only international organisation that has excluded the Russian Federation from its ranks and again very quickly, it puts us under the lights of many media that otherwise, probably, we would have been in a much more difficult situation to get through to. So, as one of the ministers said when we were in Turin discussing the summit, and internal policy, as one Minister said, "if before in my country people would confuse the European Council, the Council of European Union and the Council of Europe, now that country and people in that country they know which is the Council of Europe because of this very, very important decision that has been taken and it passed through so that means that also communication was very clear". Also linked with the issue – and I think the most visible, at the moment, is the action that we have in relating to assisting Ukraine with regard to the war. So I was there for Europe Day and rightly so, as I mentioned earlier because we wanted to send the message that Ukraine is Europe and will be Europe and that we will do everything to assist our member State, Ukraine, for its European endeavour. 

Now for the questions about refugees. The question started about refugees from Ukraine, and rightly so because the number of people fleeing Ukraine at the beginning of the war has been unprecedented and unseen and also it continues. It has never been in such a short period of time, that so many people cross the borders and, of course, the first countries that were in at the Ukrainian borders, meaning Poland at the head, the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Republic of Moldova, but also, later on, all the other member States started to receive Ukrainian refugees. Now, how can the Council of Europe assist in what is right? How to protect those who should be protected under the European Convention on Human Rights or other international treaties that are very clear on that? I think from our point of view it is crucial to apply the standards of the Council of Europe, namely the European Convention on Human Rights, but then also some other anti-trafficking conventions - if violations are happening to women and girls; the Istanbul Convention, the Lanzarote Convention to protect kids and so on. So I think we have a number of instruments at hand that are of the Council of Europe standard and also, at the recent Turin ministerial, the ministers decided and adopted the recommendation on refugee, migrant women and girls, so recommending to member States how to deal and how to assist in the best way and in accordance with the European standards to those who will find themselves in a difficult position. I, myself, have a special representative on migration and refugees who is nowadays very, very active in assisting, in particular, neighbouring member States of Ukraine on how to assist, from the point of view of how to apply our standards but, also, she is willing and can also go to other member States to assist them with this. So from the point of the Council of Europe, it is important that, whatever countries at the border do when it comes to refugees and migrants, it is in accordance with the applicable European standards of the Council of Europe and also international standards. 

Now, for the situation of Mr Assange.

As I mentioned on earlier occasions when it was asked, whoever finds him or herself on the territory of a Council of Europe member State should be protected in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights. Of course, I am following that there is the procedure that you described in your question that also the Home Secretary decided to extradite Mr Assange; although the Commissioner on Human Rights rightly called not to do so as he may be in possible danger for ill-treatment but also more generally, that it may be chilling for media freedom. But having said that, there is an appeal, as far as I know, on the national level by Mr Assange and he can also appeal ultimately to the Strasbourg Court and, as the Secretary General, I think at this point, I would not comment anymore because as long as there are remedies, and the European Court of Human Rights is one and a possible last instance that can take place. I think I should refrain, as the Secretary General, to comment on it.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:52:18

Thank you very much, Madam Secretary General.

Half an hour is short, but we still can take three more questions. We group them.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:52:27

The next question comes from Ms Nicole TRISSE, from France.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE

16:52:35

Thank you, Mr President.

Madam Secretary General,

I'm going to go directly to the question. I know that you travelled to Ukraine last month, as far as I am aware. Could you please tell us about the content of the exchanges you had there, and provide some clarifications about the consequences and the prospects for the Council of Europe with the Ukrainian population and also, about the collaboration with the European Union there - since we know that Ukraine wishes to join the EU? If you could explain to me how all this is going to work, please?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:53:18

Thank you, Nicole.

The next question comes from Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY.

Emine, you have the floor.

Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY

Türkiye, NR

16:53:25

Thank you.

Dear Madam Secretary General,

Today we are discussing a very important report about security in Europe.

As you may know, there are two significant recommendations on the basis of democratic security in the report.

First, is to set up a democratic resilience initiative which will monitor democratic developments in the member States.

Second, an early warning mechanism. In this regard, I would like to ask what is your approach to these two mechanisms? Could they provide concrete solutions to democratic backsliding in Europe? Or rather do you think that we could get more tangible results from the current institutions and mechanisms by empowering and strengthening them, such as the Venice Commission, GRECO, and CPT?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:54:21

Thank you, Madam Emine Nur GÜNAY.

Our last question comes from Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO, from Ukraine.

 

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

16:54:26

Thank you, Mister President.

My question is the following. An awful situation is in the occupied Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia: murderers, sexual violence, disappearances, filtration camps like in times of Nazi Germany.

What is the role of the Council of Europe to help to protect those people who are in occupied territories?

Secondly, we have thousands of Ukrainian prisoners today, first of all from Azovstal and from Mariupol. What can be the role of the Council of Europe to help, first, to protect them now and, secondly, to exchange them?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

16:55:01

Thank you very much.

Three not so easy questions, Madam Secretary General.

Nevertheless, I have to say to you as well as to Minister Simon COVENEY, you have 5 minutes for the answers, because then we have to continue with our agenda.

You have the floor, madam.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatia, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

16:55:14

Thank you very much, Ms Nicole TRISSE, for the question on what we did and thank you for mentioning once again the question of the visit to Ukraine. In fact, it was my third visit in less than a year. I went to the Crimean platform, I went there in November for an official visit and I went there, as I said before, on 9 May, for a visit to Kyiv.

In each of these instances, in fact, I had many discussions with my contacts but as you can imagine, for the first two, we insisted a lot on the reform aspect, on the implementation of our action plan that we had already had for some time in Ukraine, while the last one was first of all a visit where I wanted to show the solidarity and the support of the Council of Europe to the authorities, to President Zelensky and to the Ukrainian authorities but also to the Ukrainian people.

An important part of this visit was to finalise the adjusted action plan because what had been put in place before had to be changed quickly and adapted to the situation on the ground. Both worked well; it was the Committee of Ministers that finally adopted this action plan. But what we are doing on the ground and what we have done from the beginning is to assist the General Prosecutor in the collection of evidence that can be used in the future: there will be a time when the war is over and the national or international legal bodies will look at and judge those responsible for the horrors that are happening in Ukraine at the moment

We also wanted to support, in times of war, good governance, whether at the regional, local or national level, and of course also the good governance of legal bodies, because that is what is happening. There were even requests from the courts in Ukraine to help them or to find experts who could help them to work in the conditions of war, where there are certain sectors of justice that they have never been able to know and they have to take the responsibility to do it now.

As for the protection of the media, I spoke a little bit about this today at the opening of an event about Ukraine and the situation of the media and journalists in Ukraine. I believe that the safety of journalists is always important, but in times of war and in Ukraine, the situation is much worse than in normal circumstances, so the situation of the media is very important.

So, we continue to work and, what is important, we are already prepared for the post-war period with an even more ambitious action plan that is worth 50 million euros. So we are going to discuss the priorities because we all want to help Ukraine, of course, to rebuild the country and to rebuild it at the democratic level too.

That's it in a nutshell. I'm also going to go to what should have been the next reform conference in Ukraine; it has been renamed, it's now not the reform conference but the reconstruction conference. I'm going there in a week or ten days, to Lugano, so this would also be an opportunity to see how, in this framework, we will work together.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatia, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

17:00:28

For security in Europe, I think that you are absolutely right. You are absolutely right to mention democratic backsliding. That was exactly the main title of my last year's Annual Report. What we can really see through the monitoring reports, you mentioned a number of our monitoring bodies, but also through other documents that in a number of our member States there is a slight backsliding in democracy.

Actually, certainly some of this democratic resilience, which is, I think, part of the standards that we have, an early warning.

I have not seen the report, but I would be very interested.

I think also in a way, we have an early warning in each and particular monitoring report when we get it. Probably something more systematic could be introduced. When asked what would be the remedy for this democratic backsliding, I said, and I think something like that was also voiced by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers, we do not need to invent anything; we just need to apply the standards that we have.

In this respect, the political commitment is crucial. The standards are there, and we need to apply the standards that are really important for democratic security in Europe.

For the last question on what can we do in occupied territories, actually whatever we do relates to all Ukraine. Everything that we do under our action plan refers to all the territories.

I recently also issued the first report on the situation of illegally annexed Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. I will continue to do so.

If you noticed when the three people were sentenced to death recently in Luhansk, I immediately issued a declaration saying that the European Convention applies for the territory of Ukraine and that the death penalty is not allowed in any of the member States of the Council of Europe.

For prisoners who are in Russia, I know that there were some exchanges of prisoners. Certainly more are there.

The Russian Federation is no longer a member of the Council of Europe. Institutionally speaking, we do not actually have access to the Russian Federation. We believe as a general rule that all those who are detained in war, and if they are considered prisoners of war, that there are international standards that apply to them and should in any way be observed by any member of the UN. These are the international standards to be applied there. I can associate, and I can feel the big pressure and your big worry and concern, but also all of ours for all those whose whereabouts are probably unknown, or who are probably somewhere that we do not know any longer.

All these we follow; we follow the situation in the Russian Federation now in a different way. Of course, this huge further backsliding and crackdown on democratic standards is worrying. Actually, in times of war it is certainly very important to continue to be a voice for all those who are there.

This morning or yesterday evening I also met with the wife of journalist Kara-Murza, who is an anti-war protester but now prisoner of conscience in the Russian Federation. There was one call. I think that's the one thing that one should do. We should never forget about people who are there and who are against the war, not only the Council of Europe, but the whole of the international community's voice, and ask for their release.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:05:26

Thank you very much, Madam Secretary General.

Half an hour is...

Lord George FOULKES?

Lord George FOULKES

United Kingdom, SOC

17:05:36

Thank you very much, Mister President.

I understand that the Secretary General did not consult the officers of the Parliamentary Assembly before making appointments of the group of seven, which is...

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:05:50

Sorry, this is not a point of order, George.

Lord George FOULKES

United Kingdom, SOC

17:05:52

Yes, because the Secretary General is accountable to this Parliament.

I was going to ask a question to one that has been apparent filibustering by the Secretary General. She is responsible. She is....

Can we have more time in the future to ask questions so that we can get the Secretary General to be properly accountable to this Parliament as she should be?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:06:20

Thank you very much. A point of order should be a point of order. We have allocated half an hour. This has been communicated with the Assembly. If we need more time with our General Secretary, we should allocate more time. In half an hour we answered eight questions on the on the list. This is what it is. I do not see it as a point of order, but we will come back to that in the preparation of our next meeting.

Thank you very much, Madam Secretary General, for answering the questions of this Assembly. Next time you will be back again because it is not only one time in a year half an hour; it is every session.

We will now continue our debate on the Recent Challenges to Security in Europe: What Role for the Council of Europe?

I will be replaced by another vice-president. Thank you very much.

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

Mr Mihail POPSOI

Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:07:53

The next item on the Agenda is a continuation of the debate on the Recent Challenges to Security in Europe: What Role for the Council of Europe?

We will continue from where the debate was paused this morning.

In order to finish by 6:15 p.m., I will interrupt the list of speakers at about 5:55 p.m. to allow time for the reply and the vote on the draft resolution and recommendations.

In the debate I call on Mr Kamil AYDIN to take the floor.

Mr Kamil AYDIN

Türkiye, NR

17:08:36

Dear President and Colleagues,

We all undoubtedly agree that democracy, human rights and rule of law are the core values of this Assembly. Moreover, these values can only be saved and perpetuated by mutual understanding, appreciation and respect.

Bearing in mind such unwritten etiquette rule of actual democracy, I will not take this democratic right of speech to use as a kind of selfish opportunity to express populist, personal or national ideology, as, unfortunately, some colleagues have done so far. Rather, I will stick to the current agenda item to emphasise that democracy is not only composed of rhetoric but also other steps to take.

Firstly, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur for presenting us this important report in such a very short time.

Our core values are under serious strain which has emanated from significant challenges. In addition, the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine levelled the risks on the unity, security and stability of the European continent.

All these challenges require our attention to enhance our co-operation based on effective multilateralism. This multilateralism also needs to strengthen respective roles and competences of international organisations, particularly the Council of Europe.

In this respect, the report offers two novelties: an early warning mechanism and a Democratic Resilience Initiative.

Similar to this Initiative, a structure has been proposed by the NATOPA with a very much identical name, the Center for Democratic Resilience, to be established in the NATO structure.

Considering most of the NATO members are also member States of the Council of Europe, we should be aware of the risks of duplication of our work. In this respect, I support the recommendation in the report that it is important to enhance co-operation with other international organisations such as NATOPA and OSCEPA, as a member of both.

Considering the recent discussions on creating a united front among democratic countries against the exceptional challenges to democratic security, not just in Europe but also in the globe, establishing such an initiative may seem to make sense in the beginning. However, we should discuss thoroughly such initiatives on a concrete basis: whether it is really necessary and what real benefit it will present to member States.

Therefore, we should ask ourselves what is missing or what is needed to strengthen our Organisation to be the backbone of peace, security and stability of the continent, which is why this Organisation has been created in the first place, after the horrors of war.

I believe that we should pay due attention on how to strengthen our current mechanisms, instruments and institutions; and how to make them more effective and efficient rather than creating unproductive new institutions, which may only offer small or no added value in return.

Thank you.

Mr Mihail POPSOI

Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:11:49

Thank you.

Next on the speakers list is Ms Sibel ARSLAN.

You have the floor.

Ms Sibel ARSLAN

Switzerland, SOC

17:12:02

Mister Chairman,

Esteemed Colleagues,

I, too, would like to thank the rapporteur for this report. I would also like to thank him for producing such a good report so quickly, which is of course very important in view of the current situation. In particular, it is important that we keep mentioning this democratic security and also strengthen this definition. Based on our values, such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights, it is, I believe, all the more important that we should also pay attention to this democracy, which is always vulnerable and which we have to defend, in this report, perhaps also from the security point of view.

The war of aggression on the part of Russia against Ukraine has clearly shown that wars are not in the distance, but can take place in the middle of Europe, especially in our country; and that we must refrain from a false tolerance. This false tolerance, which also arms and opens ways for such aggressions, should be prevented. Consequently, it is also important that we not only discuss probable future fields of action, but also point out what was perhaps not properly addressed in the past. What was also not properly addressed was that the enemies of democracy were not named, that they were not prevented, that they lead to instability in the world community, and that this false tolerance has led to the pursuit of peace also becoming increasingly difficult.

Consequently, it is also important to, perhaps, mention again in this report that it is not only the consequences of war that are important and that we create security here, but how we protect the people who are traumatised when this war is over, when other wars in the world are over; and how the reappraisal will take place. This actually shows that weapons, which at the moment only have to be used for defense, which is understandable, is not the concept that we should support and sustain. Rather, it is the strengthening of civil society, the strengthening of democracy, the population and the concept of information should be strengthened much more.

This war has also led to women being used as weapons of war. Children have had to be on the run. When we see women being used as weapons, I hope from these men in this room that they will stand up and say, we do not want to have such weapons used anymore.

One last word. The whole situation has also put countries like us, Switzerland, in difficult situations, that we have to decide again about the definition of neutrality. What does stability mean, what does neutrality mean from this point of view, and where does a country have to act? This is a bit regrettable, but nevertheless, I think, important.

Thank you very much for this report.

Mr Mihail POPSOI

Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:15:16

Thank you.

Next is Mr Domagoj HAJDUKOVIĆ, from Croatia.

Mr Domagoj HAJDUKOVIĆ

Croatia, SOC

17:15:24

Thank you.

Thank you, Mister Chair.

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have spoken about this before in this Hemicycle, but I think it still is an understatement that the world, and indeed our continent, after the 24 February is not the same and will not be the same in the foreseeable future. Therefore, this report comes timely before us. I wish to thank the rapporteur Mr Bogdan KLICH for doing an excellent work.

The world is changing rapidly. With this invasion the whole geopolitical makeup of the world has changed almost from the foundation. This Organisation, our Organisation, needs to change as well.

We have to keep pace of these changes in order to keep our Organisation effective and to make our Organisation deliver what we should deliver. That is peace and stability for this continent.

Indeed, this is regrettably war between two... well, one former and one still a member of the Council of Europe states; not the first, but let's hope that it is the last.

In any case, what should the role of Council of Europe in this respect be?

One learned person said that democracies favour peace while autocracies favour war. In other words, that democracies will rarely go to war with one another, but autocracies thrive on war.

In this respect I think that the strengthening of our Organisation in securing the rule of law, human rights, democracy, societal resistance to misinformation, fake news, fighting off apathy, and other contributions to fairer and more resilient societies in our member States are in order.

In other words, dear colleagues, our fight for democracy and European values, human rights, the values of the European Human Rights Charter, are actually the way to go. We should look into how to strengthen our Organisation, how to strengthen our tools to implement  and preserve those values, and how to encourage our members to stick to those values, because democracy is the guarantor for peace.

Thank you.

Mr Mihail POPSOI

Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:18:02

Next I call Mr Nicos TORNARITIS from Cyprus.

Please.

Mr Nicos TORNARITIS

Cyprus, EPP/CD

17:18:10

Dear Colleagues,

Today Europe and its wider neighbourhood face rising geopolitical tensions, new major conflicts, and a number of other complex security threats that must be urgently addressed.

Russia's war against Ukraine has prompted the international community's immediate and strong reaction of solidarity and support. It has awakened Europe to unite against authoritarian leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, who poses the biggest security challenge in Europe and beyond.

However, it is highly hypocritical to hold President Putin accountable for his aggressive actions in Ukraine and, at the same time, fail to hold Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the same amount of accountability for the hostility against the Republic of Cyprus due to the ongoing occupation of 38% of its territory, the violations of Cyprus' exclusive economic zone, and, more recently, the legal actions in the fenced area of Famagusta.

This aggressive behaviour has recently escalated also against Greece and its sovereign rights in the Aegean Sea. The forgiving stance on behalf of the International Community allows Türkiye to continue to promote its geo-strategic vision for regional domination.

Dear Colleagues,

Do you intend to continue showing the same appeasing stance towards authoritarian regimes? Will double standards continue to prevail? If this continues, it is probable that Europe will very soon face yet another crisis with far-reaching the dangerous consequences.

The Council of Europe must demand full commitment by all its members to its shared fundamental values and principles, and condemn any provocative action, wherever this may come from, that violates international law and undermine the universal standards that allow for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law to prevail.

Thank you very much.

Mr Mihail POPSOI

Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:21:25

Thank you.

Next is Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS is of Greece.

Please, you have the floor.

Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS

Greece, EPP/CD

17:21:32

Thank you Mr Chairman, I will speak in Greek.

 

[Speaks in Greek - No English translation available]

 

Should I speak in English?

Mr Mihail POPSOI

Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:22:11

You have...

In order for all the colleagues to understand, English is advised, thank you.

Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS

Greece, EPP/CD

17:22:18

Okay. Can you restart the time please?

Mister Chairman,

Dear Colleagues,

I wanted to speak to you today about the basic axiom on which the report is based. A basic rule of international relations. The fact that democracies promote peace and stability, and that authoritarianism, especially hybrid regimes that back-pedal towards authoritarianism and breed instability and war. What we are seeing today in Ukraine is the result of this process of de-democratisation that took place in Russia during the last 20 years.

Unfortunately, I will not speak further on that issue. I will have to respond to what my esteemed colleagues from Türkiye spoke about and say the following. The problem of Türkiye is not a Greek-Turkish problem. It is not a problem of Greece alone. It is a Euro-Turkish problem.

It is not me who says so, it is the report that we have, time and again, now from the Monitoring Committee, because Türkiye is under a monitoring process. According to this report by Mr John HOWELL and Mr Boriss CILEVIČS, there are a number of issues on the rule of law, human rights, democracy, and the destruction of Türkiye's democracy during the last few years.

It is not me, and it is not the Greeks who speak. It is Europe that says so, including the famous case of Osman Kavala.

Now, if Türkiye wants to doubt international treaties, international law, and the post-war international order, it should be told that this is what Russia did and that this is imitating the revisionism of Russia.

We were told this morning that Türkiye wants dialogue. We want dialogue. It was Turkish President Erdogan who said Mitsotakis is a joke, dialogue is a joke, no dialogue with Greece. We have all the arguments and all the rights for this dialogue. We are open to dialogue on the basis of international law. After all we have signed the international law of the sea, which Türkiye did not. We have signed on the jurisdiction of the Hague, which Türkiye has not. We have signed time and again treaties with neighbouring countries on the delimitation of the continental shelf and economic zone, which Türkiye has not. We have a position shared by all countries of the United Nations on the rights of islands, which Türkiye does not share.

Now suddenly, they discover the issue of de-militarisation. Really? Since when? For the last hundred years this was not an issue. This is now an issue.

Finally, hypocrisy. They condemn Russia. They speak about Russia. What did they do after 12 hours of talking about Russia? They walked out of this room, and they did not vote for the expulsion of Russia from this esteemed institution. The only NATO country that did not. The only NATO country that did not impose sanctions on Türkiye [meaning Russia]. The only NATO country and European country that makes a profit out of this war, a profit by busting sanctions, by turning Istanbul into an international trade for Russian business, a war profiteer out of the tragedy of the Ukrainian people. Then they have the audacity to come in this esteemed body and talk to us about how much they are in support of human rights, international order, and how much they oppose Russia when they play Putin's game in NATO, in Madrid.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are for peace. We are for stability. We are for European values and for international law. We abide by the report of my esteemed colleague on democratic security and democratic peace.

Thank you very much and excuse me for my English.

Mr Mihail POPSOI

Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:26:54

Next on the speaker's list is Ms Nigar ARPADARAI from Azerbaijan.

Ms Nigar ARPADARAI

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

17:27:13

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues,

The current crisis in the European security system is the toughest one since the Second World War.

Very few deny that the consequences of the current crisis are going to stretch over many years to come and will eventually reshape the way that security in Europe works. In essence we will have a new security architecture. The events may take various turns but regardless, it is time to review the mistakes of the past that led to today's situation and project the right decisions.

Firstly, if the Council of Europe is to play a positive role in this – and it can, being the oldest and most famous organisation of this kind in the world – it must be assess its mission. New challenges should be reflected in it.

It is rightly mentioned in the report that security is a wider concept than defence; but what is it exactly in the era of the internet, the pandemic and the interruption of global supply chains?

Internet-related challenges are poorly reflected in the mission of the organisation. Social media and artificial intelligence change the situation for human rights. We must adapt.

We as an Assembly were poorly prepared for the challenges posed by the pandemic. Did we do enough to curtail corporate greed and did we do enough to protect human rights during the pandemic?

Today global trade is under permanent pressure: food supplies issues, interruption of traditional logistical leaks. All these lead to inflation, worsening people's quality of life. These are real threats, and they should be part of what we deal with.

If the Council of Europe wants to become the centre of gravity for European integration again, it should do its best to be to a mere extension of EU and NATO.

The Council of Europe has a broader membership which gives it a good base to become central in the process of establishing the pan-European vision. It is even more important in view of the fact that most security risks Europe faces and most of the conflict zones are geographically located in wider Europe, but beyond the borders of EU and NATO.

Dear Colleagues,

If we want a safe Europe, we need to give a new life to the principles of international law such as territorial integrity and inviolability of borders. We need to create a real mechanism to fight militarised and aggressive separatism and secessionism, which are too often used as a pretext for conflict and war in Europe. There must be a clear sanction mechanism for the members or individuals who support separatism through illegal means. There must be a commitment by all members not to support it in other countries.

The Council of Europe should be the place where principles are applied similarly.

For three decades the Armenian occupation of part of Azerbaijan was a marginal problem for the Council of Europe. It failed to act upon the fact of occupation. Today the Council of Europe must act upon the need to reach lasting peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Today Armenia is avoiding implementing one of the key elements of the peace settlement: opening of the unimpeded link between western regions of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani exclave Nakhchivan, which was under Armenian blockade for three decades. This is despite the written obligation by Armenia to do so.

I bring this example to illustrate the point. The Council of Europe should apply similar principles to all parts of its space if it wants to avoid the old mistakes and if it wants to contribute to a truly pan-European security system, and if it wants a new European security system to work.

Thank you.

Mr Mihail POPSOI

Republic of Moldova, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:30:34

Thank you.

Next is Mr Antón GÓMEZ-REINO from Spain.

Please, you have the floor.

Mr Antón GÓMEZ-REINO

Spain, UEL

17:30:40

Thank you, Mister President.

I think it is not okay to normalise the fact that a few hundred kilometres away from us in Europe, there are bombs hitting people.

A cruel invasion by Mr Vladimir Putin, and it is leading to so much suffering, to millions of people, in Ukraine, but also in other European countries.

We cannot remain silent on this. We need to call this out; we need to walk towards a solution; we need to put an end to this situation. We cannot let war win.

All our actions, all our thoughts, all our debates cannot be just taken over by the logic of war.

We need to put an end to war. It iss not in anyone's interest to have war. It's not in the interest of Europe, the European Union, or anyone.

Connected to that, I think it is also important to point out that not all international organisations can lead with security and defence.

Yes, of course, we are in favour of democracy, rule of law and human rights, but we also need to think in terms of the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law within our own context. I personally do not think that we should then lead this into a debate on security necessarily, not from our vantage point.

We need to make sure we have spaces available where war is not the dominant discourse.

Even in these conflicts I think it is important to call out, of course, those who are responsible for the conflict, for the invasion in this case. Yes of course: Russia, Mr Vladimir Putin. At the same time, we also need to dedicate ourselves to our noble tasks: namely to defend rule of law, human rights and democracy.

Therefore, I would argue that we should be active in strengthening democracy, making sure that our democracies are as attractive as possible so that all countries around the world want to build democracies similar to ours and that we attract them.

We here at the Council of Europe, of course, want to defend peace, human rights. We do this in our own countries. We can defend them as principles but without interventionism. 

We need to show diplomacy, a diplomacy based on solidarity to all those countries that are not member States of this Organisation, so that even in these darkest times, in this darkest hour, in these most difficult periods, we always need to work for peace.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:33:18

Thank you very much.

Now I will give the floor to Mr Francesco SORBARA from Canada. He must be online.

You have the floor.

Mr Francesco SORBARA

Canada

17:33:34

Thank you, Madam Chair. It is great to be here with the honourable colleagues.

Thank you to the rapporteur for the report.

Fellow Parliamentarians and Esteemed Colleagues,

After a two-year, three-year absence it is wonderful to be back here in Strasbourg at this honoured place.

I am honoured to be here today to debate the recent security challenges in Europe. The committee’s report convincingly sets out the case for looking at security with a wider lens. “Democratic security” recognises that issues like democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are central to promoting and maintaining peace. As the report states, security is more than defence, and this broader concept of security must be kept in mind as we are forced to once again deal with a war in Europe.

With a mandate to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,” – a mandate sadly unfulfilled – the United Nations has grappled for decades with the challenge of how to address conflict. How do we prevent conflicts from breaking out? Where conflicts have started, how do we bring about peace? Once peace is achieved, how do we ensure that conflicts don't begin again?

The conclusion to which the UN has repeatedly come is that in order to sustain peace, you must address the root causes of conflict. The root causes of conflict are often a lack of what the Council of Europe has spent more than 70 years promoting: strong public institutions based on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

From this perspective, we can see how years of eroding democracy, human rights and rule of law in Russia have led to its current aggression against Ukraine. We can also see how advances in these same areas and the strength of Ukrainian institutions have contributed to Ukraine’s resistance to this aggression.

When we ask: What role for the Council of Europe? We need not look for a new purpose, but reaffirm the principles and objectives that already guide this institution. What the Statute of the Council of Europe calls the “the pursuit of peace based upon justice and international co-operation.”

Canada has long known the importance of such values to promoting security. In the same year that countries in Europe were coming together to form the Council of Europe, Canada and others on both sides of the Atlantic were negotiating another treaty, to create NATO. While the North Atlantic Treaty deals mostly with defence issues, so-called “hard security,” Article 2 of the treaty calls on parties to strengthen “their free institutions” and encourage “economic collaboration” as a means of further developing “peaceful and friendly international relations.” This article is sometimes called “the Canadian Article” because it was Canada, led by then foreign minister, and future prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, who insisted on its insertion, by doing so, promoting the same ideas of democratic security that were also informing the creation of the Council of Europe.

Dear Colleagues,

As I finish up, I wish to say as a Member of Parliament of the governing party in Canada that we are fully committed to supporting Ukraine and the Ukrainian people and to continue to defend their territorial integrity from this unprovoked aggression by the Russian Federation.

We will be there today, will be there tomorrow, and into the future. The Canadian public and all parties are committed to that.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:36:33

Thank you for your commitment.

After the meeting I would like to have a small talk with you, as I'm working on CETA nowadays. We have the debate in the Dutch Parliament.

I now give the floor to a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV.

You have the floor.

Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV

Azerbaijan, ALDE

17:36:51

Thank you, Chair.

Dear Colleagues,

The strongest man in the world cannot tear a sheet of paper by pulling it wider. However, fold this sheet a few times, then smooth it out and give it to a child. The child will easily tear the already folded paper. So is society. It is difficult until the hard layer collapses. Once a crack has formed, it gradually deepens and causes new cracks to form.

Serious security threats in Europe require decisive action to make the future more certain. Europe is already seriously considering urgent and effective measures to combat threats by joint efforts. Of course, this is exactly what needs to be done. However, for this, was it necessary to be simply an observer along with waiting for the deepening of the crack, remaining indifferent to the dramatic events taking place so far?

If the current decisive initiatives to ensure the common security of Europe had taken place a year ago, five years ago, or even better, 20 years ago, most of the threats that we face today would never have arisen, and now we would be facing a completely different Europe.

If only it had been considered as an issue not concerning only us, when we as a country subjected to aggression were raising our voice consistently since the very beginning of the 2000s. If there had been a concerted effort to close this seemingly small gap in Europe, the scale would not have been expanded so much including the new regions and, ultimately, Europe would not have faced such a troubling security crisis.

We have had alone to deal with state terrorism, the most dangerous level of transnational terrorism that Europe seeks to combat as the most serious threat, as well as violent extremism in the last 30 years. Today, Europe is calling for a concerted effort to fight these diseases.

If you live in a big house, you need to treat everyone without discrimination in that house with the same sensitivity and promptness as if you were worried about your own fate.

Europe is also our common house. The first condition for a safe and healthy house is to shoot at the same target and reach unanimity.

Today revanchism should be considered one of the most destructive ideologies at a time when member States are working to establish and maintain democratic values and a democratic atmosphere on larger scale, as well as to prevent them from getting loose also to encourage broader co-operation.

Therefore, along with other measures that we are trying to implement with joint effort, we must unite our forces against this trend and manifest strongest resistance!

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:39:45

Thank you very much.

I would like to give the floor to Ms Zeynep YILDIZ, from Türkiye.

Ms Zeynep YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR

17:39:52

Thank you, dear Chairperson.

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to thank the rapporteur for his important report. The current security environment is different from the past. It is much more complex and immediate in parallel to the evolution of the security environment.

We are surrounded with significant political, economic, and social challenges. In addition to these challenges, Russia’s military agression in Ukraine drastically threatens stability in Europe.

The threats we face today combine military and non-military means such as disinformation, cyberattacks, economic pressure, and deployment of irregular armed groups, sometimes mixed with regular forces. On the other hand, it can be used by state and non-state actors although their means and actions vary widely.

I want to underline that our security concerns are common as sovereign states. We need to keep in mind that it is only possible to make security sustainable by condemning all formations of terrorism together.

As discussed in the context of this report, it has been underlined many times that we need multilateral co­‑operation to tackle these problems effectively. It has increasingly become obvious that nations cannot address security problems on their own. In order to respond quickly and effectively against hybrid threats, we need to work together, share our information and experience.

Our core values of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights have paramount importance to maintain and strengthen its resilience. In this respect, although it is not a security organisation, I consider that the Council of Europe’s role and contribution in this field should be underlined.

As the Council of Europe, the benchmark for democracy and the rule of law in our region, we have plenty of mechanisms, including but not limited to GRECO and the Venice Commission.

In this respect, I believe that we should pay due attention on how to strengthen our current mechanisms, instruments and institutions; and how to make them more effective rather than consuming our energy by creating new institutions.

Dear Colleagues,

We gathered here today to discuss the security of Europe, to make Europe as safer place together.

We all know very well that preventing security is possible by acting together and having a strong co­‑operation.

However, in the morning session, a personalised statement of our Greek college that directly blamed a member State of this Assembly is far from serving European peace. To express personal approaches on behalf of a political group is actually to instrumentalise political groups and the Council of Europe in order to realise national policies rather than having a real concern about establishing the security environment and multilateral dialogue medium that Europe actual needs.

You all know here, that as our Cypriot colleague mentioned, you all know here that Erdogan is a democratically elected leader who received the majority of the votes of the people of Türkiye.

Besides, when talking about democratic standards, it is hypocrisy not to see the Turkish people present in Northern Cyprus, who are also represented in this Assembly, and continue to apply unlawful embargoes against them.

This platform is for democracy. We need to take position on the side of democracy.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:43:28

Thank you very much.

I now give the floor to Sir Tony LLOYD, UK.

Sir Tony LLOYD

United Kingdom, SOC

17:43:39

Thank you Chair,

I think every one of us has been shocked by the brutality of Mr Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine; the absolute cynicism that we have seen in Mariupol, in Bucha - but none of us really should be shocked that that war took place because Mr Vladimir Putin gave us plenty of warning - he gave us warning in 2014, when he annexed the Crimea illegally.

Had we reacted at that time as we've now begun to react, then I think it is very credible to say we could have prevented the tragedy that Ukraine is now living through. The answer to Ukraine's problems now most certainly is, for those of us who can, to provide arms to the brave people fighting for Ukraine - that's true - military might has to be resisted, I'm afraid, at this moment.

It's true as well that the security of countries like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia on the frontline themselves comes through NATO, but NATO will not solve many of the long-term security problems that we face here in Europe. Problems like climate change, problems like corruption, problems like people trafficking, modern-day slavery, problems that exist across this continent of Europe that we know we have to deal with together. Problems of terrorism, problems of organised crime, problems potentially like water shortages and most certainly now food shortages - these will be solved elsewhere.

This is where the Council of Europe can play a very constructive role; building solidarity first of all across Europe is important, but taking the message of the Council of Europe, its values of democracy, human rights and respect for the rule of law beyond the Council of Europe.

We have our friends with us who have already spoken from Mexico, from Canada - nations who we hope and we know buy into the same values that we do.

But across the Parliamentary Assembly we've got to make sure that we export those values that we hold dear, because they matter so much.

We cannot as the Council of Europe solve every problem that Europe and the world faces. We can make a significant contribution by building the framework in which these can be analysed, can be predicted, and can be discussed because if we take action now in that fourth summit, if we begin to set out the challenges of security that Europe faces, we can be part of the solution.

Frankly, Madam Chair, we must be part of that solution.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:46:23

Thank you very much.

Now I give the floor to Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN. If he is in the hemicycle. I do not see him. Oh yes, there he is.

Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

17:46:34

Madam Chair, I am still here.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:46:35

You are not in your place.

Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

17:46:37

No, it was mentioned that I should sit here.

In any case, for many years, we deemed that we finally enjoyed peaceful and tranquil times in Europe. We did believe that due to the Second World War's tragic experience at least our generation will be secured from any armed conflict, global catastrophes and disasters. Today, everybody is alarmed. War has returned to Europe.

Nevertheless, ladies and gentlemen, peace was just an illusion. Even during the times that seemed peaceful and safe, war was always in and around Europe. Catastrophes were amongst us, but we turned a blind eye to them. Why were we indifferent and deaf in knowing, watching following and reading about armed conflicts in Cyprus, in the Balkans, in Moldova and in Georgia, in Tajikistan, in Kosovo, in Nagorno-Karabakh, in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq, in Türkiye and elsewhere?

The question is very complicated. The answer is quite clear. These aggressions, wars, armed conflicts, and civil wars were less visible since most of us thought that they occurred far away from us. We wanted to believe that wars were waged only on TV, just by switching the TV channel, people could ignore the reality on the ground.

The current state of world of international politics and recent developments forced us to understand that no state is immune. No state is secure from war even the wealthiest and protected ones. It means that we should be quite sensitive to even a single deviation from democracy, fundamental human rights and the rule of law, which undermine pillars of peace and sustainability and pave a fertile ground for war. Quite often when I refer Nagorno-Karabakh conflict-related issues I witness the silent and indifferent faces of my colleagues confessing that they are tired of these discussions. I am not pointing out a single conflict. I am alarmed about the violation of core values of our organisations such as the respect for the rule of law, the protection of human rights, the promotion of democracy and upholding human dignity.

Dear colleagues, do not worry, I am not going to address the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in my speech. Just be aware that blindness towards particular violations, small violations of our core principles, leads to global catastrophes. This hemisphere is created not only as a space for speaking. It is also a space for listening to each other. Please, do not be blind. Do not be silent and do not be deaf when we are speaking about our core values.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:50:03

Thank you very much. I always like to listen to you.

Then I give now the floor to Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND from Hungary.

Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND

Hungary, EC/DA

17:50:14

Thank you Madam President,

All eyes are cast on the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine, this war caused severe damage to the international order and fundamentally challenged European Security and Defence Policy.

It is absolutely essential that the war in Ukraine ends as soon as possible and the conflict must be prevented from escalating.

We are facing the emergence of a new world order. We see that the Helsinki architecture is coming to an end, and we do not know... we do not want the old order system built and sphere of interest to come back, and we do not want the new Soviet Union to come back.

Despite the fact that the Council of Europe is not a security organisation per se, it has a lot of things to contribute to today's extremely challenging environment. The Council of Europe should enhance the comprehensive and long-term security of its member states and contribute to making them more resilient in countering threats and preventing conflicts.

The Council of Europe can also play a role in building confidence among its member states. Dedicated programmes of confidence-building measures can contribute to the overall security situation of Europe. The strength of the organisation is that it makes possible a better understanding of each other. That is why the importance of soft diplomacy tools should be underlined.

The war in Ukraine has highlighted the need for a Europe based on strong nations capable of protecting their own citizens from all dangers. In the current situation, Europe has to act immediately and show that we are strong together. The Hungarian position is clear: we must establish a European unity built on sovereign nation states. We must have Ukraine and achieve peace. However, it is important that the sanctions do not cause unbearable damage to the European economy.

Dear colleagues, security is a wider concept than defence. In addition to war, we face many other problems.

There are several other long-term open or frozen conflicts and various situations of tension like Covid-19 pandemic, terrorism and violent extremism, cyber attacks, or the migration crisis. In this new security context, member states should renew their commitment to European values such as human rights or even national minority rights.

In our view, an effective monitoring mechanism can serve as an early warning system of rights violations. This is also why this Assembly supported the creation of an online platform for the monitoring of human rights abuses against national minorities. It's also important not to use fake statements for selfish political purposes. We must act correctly and unbiased. We have to be honest.

I'm sad that Ms Zita GURMAI brings to this debate Hungarian interior politics, and she is not telling the truth in a time when we have to be united and to tell the truth.

Finally, we need to strengthen the future role of the Council of Europe so that it can effectively provide a space for dialogue, for peaceful coexistence, and be a strong organisation of European values.

I also want to congratulate Mr Bogdan KLICH for the report, and also Mr Zsolt NÉMETH for presenting this excellent report.

Thank you again.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:53:05

Thank you very much.

I now call Ms Christiana EROTOKRITOU from Cyprus.

Ms Christiana EROTOKRITOU

Cyprus, SOC

17:53:12

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Before I comment on the excellent report of my esteemed colleague, Mr Bogdan KLICH, I would like to refer just for a few seconds to a few comments made by my also esteemed colleague, Ms Zeynep YILDIZ.

Let me just say that there is no Northern Cyprus. There is only an occupied Cyprus, and we don't say that. The United Nations resolutions say that. There are no embargoes. The international community refuses to trade with occupied Cyprus. Now, that might be an embargo in the eyes of Mr Erdoğan, but to the rest of the international community it is the application of international law and United Nations resolutions.

Instead of crying wolf, come to the table. Let's talk, let's apply international law, let's apply human rights. Are you up to the challenge? Because we are.

Madam Chair,

Dear Colleagues,

Having already discussed this item a number of times, it is becoming apparent that the war in Ukraine has changed the world. The consequences of this long war both for Europe but equally so for the rest of the world will undoubtedly shape the security architecture for the years to come. The war in Ukraine has revealed a number of shortcomings, which I believe are important to bear in mind.

Firstly, our bubble has burst. The false sense of security we all eagerly relied on no longer exists. Our preoccupation with macroeconomic stability has proven vane. We should have invested firstly in engaging unequivocally on achieving peace, security, and the rule of law. Securing these prerequisites is a sine-qua-non condition for growth and prosperity to occur.

Our focus and priorities must therefore shift.

Secondly, we have downplayed a number of developments occurring within our member States that could, however, have explosive implications if not urgently and effectively addressed. Cyberattacks and the degradation of the environment are prime examples. Another, pursued by some members States, is the instrumentalisation of the refugee and migrant crisis. The radicalisation of segments of refugee and migrant populations in Europe and the creation of pillars of political Islam within these societies are seriously stabilising factors.

The challenges to security in Europe were, are, and always will be fundamentally the same: respect for international law, rule of law, and upholding human rights.

Had we collectively and unilaterally adhered to these principles, peace, security, and stability would have been achieved.

Russia's aggression in Ukraine will undoubtedly shape the security architecture for the years to come. However, we have an obligation to be brutally honest and admit the truth. The facts are there. The analogy is clear. Member States that violate international law and invade their neighbours also violate the rule of law in their own countries and invade the democratic values and human rights of their own citizens.

It is a common characteristic of aggressors.

It is not surprising that Russia's backsliding of democracy has been going on for years. Freedom of speech has not really existed, human rights have not been respected, the Judiciary was not independent, the press censored, and the rule of law ignored. Unfortunately, Russia is not the only one. If we continue to turn a blind eye to similar occurrences in other member States as well, we shall be holding this debate for years to come.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

17:56:47

Thank you very much.

Now the last speaker in this debate is Ms Ingjerd SCHOU.

You have the floor.

 

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD

17:57:27

Thank you, President and colleagues.

Democratic security - the notion which our rapporteur Mr Bogdan KLICH discusses in detail in his report was endorsed at the 1993 Vienna Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe.

The Vienna Summit was the first. Nearly 30 years later we are preparing a new summit, the fourth.

The notion of democratic security is as relevant as ever.

The aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine is the most gruesome example of this relevance; the backsliding of democracy in other member states is also relevant.

This shows that each and every one of us - especially we as elected representatives - must remain vigilant and work hard to safeguard our democracies.

As pointed out by our former Secretary General, Mr Thorbjørn Jagland, history has shown that healthy democracies rarely - if ever - go to war with each other. Democratic practices protect states from internal strife.

This is the very essence of what I believe the Council of Europe can contribute when it comes to the ongoing discussion on security in Europe.

In his last annual report Mr Thorbjørn Jagland underlined the need to re-enforce the Council of Europe instruments. He said our convention system has replaced conflict with co-operation; it is the bedrock of our democratic security and a success story for modern multilateralism.

The High Level Reflection Group of the Committee of Ministers has been established. Commendations are in order to Secretary General Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ for a speedy process.

With their experience from government the Reflection Group will bring their perspective and visions for the future of our organisation.

We - we, as parliamentarians and as elected representatives of the current European electorate must bring forward ours.

We must ensure that our Assembly has a voice in the path leading up to the summit and what our organisation will be in the future.

President,

The mandate of our organisation is clear. Our work is on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

Our organisation is not a security of defence organisation - but without strong democracies, respect for human rights and the the rule of law, maintaining peace and security is more difficult.

This is why we must remain true to our mandates and at last, Madam President, we must complement our organisations so that the multilateral architecture of Europe is such that peace and prosperity on our continent can be achieved.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:00:51

Thank you very much Ms Ingjerd SCHOU.

Dear colleagues,

I have interrupted the list of speakers – the members who couldn't deliver their speech can send them to the Table Office but you have to do it in four hours after this debate.

I would like to call now Mr Bogdan KLICH, the rapporteur, to reply to the debate.

You have five minutes.

Mr Bogdan KLICH

Poland, EPP/CD, Rapporteur

18:01:23

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

This is a great opportunity to speak about the condition of the Council of Europe and about the future of our Organisation, because in fact this report is not only about the future of the European security system, but it is about us.

It is about us: about our credibility, and about our ability to act in the future and to protect those values that are the basis for our Organisation.

I take into consideration the recent months before the the aggression, invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine. This disappointment of many of us of the behaviour of the Russian delegation here in this Chamber, when we knew about the ability of using force by Russian troops overseas - not only in Europe, in Georgia, in Ukraine in 2014, but also in Syria, for example - about this involvement of Russian foreign policy in dividing us inside Europe, within European organisations and the Euro-Atlantic community, and the lack of reaction of many of us on that.

I am pretty sure that after 24 February, after the right decision to exclude the Russian delegation from this Assembly and the Russian Federation from the Council of Europe, there is a chance for the Council of Europe.

This report is about this window of opportunity for the Council of Europe to be more effective, less blind, and more, let's say, influential as the problems of values like democracy, protection of human rights, civil liberties and solidarity are taken into account.

That is why this report is about not only our recommendation to organise the committee of the fourth summit of heads of state and government; not only about the creation of a new institution that I propose here; but also about the reinforcement of our tools and instruments that we have still at our disposal, in two crucial areas: to protect our political systems and to make them better, less vulnerable against democratic backsliding, and to be much more effective in protection of peace and stability within Europe.

There were many opinions presented here during this debate. Thank you very much for expressing your concerns and your positive opinions during this debate. I will refer to some of them:

Mr Reinhold LOPATKA is absolutely right saying that the relationship between the European Union and NATO will determine the the co-operation between those two heavy organisations for the benefit of the Euro-Atlantic area. Let's not forget about the role of the Council of Europe.

Mr Serhii SOBOLIEV underlining that it is only the beginning of our work is absolutely right as well. We are beginning the reconstruction of the Council of Europe in this international organisation's circle. He's also right speaking about the necessity of creation of an international tribunal that would try crimes against humanity, war crimes and even genocide in Ukraine. Let's not forget about the necessity of the creation of an international tribunal that would try the crime of aggression and all those responsible for that aggression against the independent state of Ukraine, I mean Mr Vladimir Putin himself and his surrounding collaborators.

Many of you spoke about a return to values. Yes! But this is the organisation called the Council of Europe that is not only to speak about values; it is to implement those values. That is why this idea of a Democratic Resilience Institution - that doesn't have anything with the OSCE proposal of the creation of a similar centre - is to make us more effective and more influential. More influential because of the necessity of better co-ordination between the institutions that are within this Assembly and within this Council of Europe as a whole.

Finally, what Ms Nigar ARPADARAI from Azerbaijan underlined: yes, this report is about a pan-European system of security. As long as democracy does not prevail everywhere, there will not be such a system in Europe. We will have to return to this system and what should be done now? We have to reinforce democratic and liberal values through the re-enforcement of our organisation. This report is about that. That is why I ask you, dear colleagues, to support this report.

Thank you.

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:08:30

I was in a good mood, Mr Bogdan KLICH, otherwise.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, you have the floor. You want to have the floor.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

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

18:08:41

Dear colleagues,

We have had a long day I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Bogdan KLICH, the former defence minister of Poland, who played a very important role in discussing democratic security by preparing this report and I would like to express my gratitude to the Secretariat as well.

Today, we had an interesting mix of a long debate that started in the morning and was interrupted by the high-level panel about the same subject. I am glad that we are having these practices and I was very glad that we had Sviatlana TSIKHANOUSKAYA with us today. Democratic security is going to be a term which we are trying to understand in the coming months and I think it will be the focus of our discussion but the other very important conclusion of this high-level panel is that the European future is further European integration. And what we know about this European future is that, in the context of democratic security, it should have a secure future from imperial intentions, and at the same time, it should be also democratic. This is the heart of the democratic security concept. I believe as the Council of Europe played a very important role 33 years ago when the Berlin Wall fell and then this organisation started to thrive, the fourth summit coming close to us under the present a new, a totally new, security environment is offering an opportunity for the Council of Europe.

I wish that the Council of Europe is able to exploit this unique opportunity to give the right answer for the continent for the existing challenges and I hope also that inside the organisation, the Parliamentary Assembly will also have the opportunity and will be able to exploit this opportunity because I am sure that the Parliamentary Assembly should be an integral part of the fourth summit in answering these challenges.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Ms Jorida TABAKU

Albania, EPP/CD

19:51:11

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Dear Mr. Chair,

Dear colleagues

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has raised the problem of Europe security and the possibility of aggravation.

The Russian aggression has destroyed a certain order that has been imposed in our continent after World War II and especially after the Cold War. Therefore, we could not be as we were before this invasion.

Countries like Russia have not become suddenly nemesis of our values for one night or one year. They have paved their way towards the menace of Ukraine and more for decades; firstly attacking democracy, human rights, voting system and creating a corruption climate and money laundering scheme.

For more they have contributed in other countries demolition of democracy and values that unites us. They managed to undermine and attack our system of check and balance trying to find holes and attack the system.

This is the reason why I believe that we should defend ourselves not only in a military way but more and foremost we opt to defend ourselves through defending our democracy and our freedoms.

Europe security is not infringed only in through military operation but also via operation to dismantle our democracy and attack our values.

Human rights: It is important that we raise the bar of our defence against the breach of human rights and the abuse that autocratic or quasi autocratic government do to the fundamental rights.

As we have seen many of the WB countries are sliding in their ranking on human rights and other fundamental freedom, this means that many of the country’s leaders are becoming more and more autocratic and like to undermine our democracies.

Anticorruption: When they attack human rights, the point is to enhance corruption methods so they could find loopholes to attack the system. WB countries are perceived as one of the most corrupted countries in Europe despite all the money poured from EU in our region still the fight against corruption lack in many ways.

We need to be more iron hand towards those countries that backslide in the war against corruption and request a firmer attack from judiciary and prosecution office in their war against corruption.

We cannot and should not accept countries that are considered the most corrupted in region without taking in account those one.

Organized Crime & Money laundering: Organized Crime and Money Laundering are things that goes toe to toe. Corruption fuel both and now Europe is facing a problem of money laundering in many big cities from Russian oligarchs. But we should not forget that these oligarchs may use and use countries in Balkans too to launder they money.

Europe should be in the fore front of the fighting against law and criticizing government that opt to legalise the so-called amnesty of money or that want to “sell” passport to the “so called investors”.

Backsliding of democracy/autocracy: Corrupted countries are keener to slide in autocracy and therefore the war on corruption should be crucial if we want to save our democracy also not create natural allies for rouge regime that threatens our democracy.

Again, countries in WB and especially Albania are sliding back in their democracy when one-man rules remind us of the cult of the leader and the absolute rules of monarchs which is a very distant past for Europe and its society.

We are aware that one of the main problems that Russia faces today is that of the absence of democracy, balance of power and above all independent institution.

WB advancement to EU: How can Europe avoid the dissolution of democracy and how can we protect ourselves from the enemy of illiberal democracy? WB should be integrated as soon as possible in the EU ascension path.

It is, for me, understandable that many of the EU countries are worried about their inner problem and could not afford an enlargement of EU in WB region. But we should not forget that united we can do more against our common nemesis that divided.

WB sure have more lack of democracy, but we can be a better democracy if we have the tools and control of Brussels. Opposition in our countries can do more if they manage to have another tool in their hands to as for more scrutiny in the government way of operating.

Kosovo membership: Another important issue that I must note before ending is Kosovo membership first in Council of Europe and Visa liberalisation process. It is important that the country should be accepted and give full membership in these important multilateral institutions.

Kosovo should not be anymore the black sheep of WB region and we should accept that if we want the security of Europe than we should integrated and accept Kosovo membership.

Thank you!

Ms Klotilda BUSHKA

Albania, SOC

19:51:16

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Dear Mr. Chair of the sitting,

Dear colleagues,

I fully endorse the report and kindly thank the rapporteur for his work.

Democracy security is a benchmark for peace

The aggression in Ukraine reminded us that the declining of democracy brings conflicts and conflicts bring war

The decline of democracy does not happen immediately in a day but it comes slowly when rule of law, human rights and participatory democracy die a little every day because of compromise with authoritarianism and lack of diligence, apathy and lack of commitment of those who believe in democracy as the only system for peace and sustainability.

Having said that I would like to raise three issues I believe important for all of us in Europe:

Focus on Westerns Balkans in two aspects: EU integration and empowerment for democracy. When still in risk for peace some countries need support for reconciliation; changes of mind-set to redesign the future, not forgetting the past - but the past should not be a barrier for peaceful future and prosperity

Enlargement of COE so more citizens enjoy protection from the conventions system and states obey to same standards. Big applause to Ukraine for ratification of Istanbul convention - more protection for women in war – a concrete example of how binding instruments of CoE help protection of human rights.

Awareness of citizens on the importance of rule of law, democracy, human rights and mechanism for relevant protection - these values are not effective when only in papers and state policies, but when citizens and especially youth are educated and embrace the same. Therefore more efforts in this direction are necessary.

Thank you for your attention!

Ms Blerina GJYLAMETI

Albania, SOC

19:51:21

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Distinguished Chair,

Distinguished colleagues,

This session takes place a time when security foundations not only in Europe, but more broadly have been shaken by Russian aggression towards a sovereign state like Ukraine. For many what is happening in Ukraine, may seem something distant. Indeed, the murder of innocent civilians, children, rape of women are scenes that are happening in our continent reminding us once again that peace should never be taken for granted.

Good neighbourly relations between states are not an eternal thing, but a goal to work for every day and where this Assembly has also an unquestionable role.

Unquestionably, this war presents the greatest challenge for the Council of Europe.

It should be a moment of reflection for their mechanisms and effectiveness in preventing armed conflicts.

Council of Europe member states must renew their commitment to the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. They must reiterate their support for the Council of Europe and reaffirm its unity around the values that are and must continue to be the foundation of multilateral architecture.

Protecting the principles of democracy, free elections, supporting civil society organisations, respecting human rights, rule of law should be in the focus of the work of the Council of Europe.

Achieving these goals is also the best way to eliminate hate speech and use military means.

Therefore, one of the tasks of the Council of Europe should be to increase parliamentary diplomacy as a means of easing tensions, promoting dialogue, strengthening mutual understanding and improving confidence-building and conflict prevention. Unfortunately, the war in Ukraine reminds us that the "behaviour of the strongest" in violation of all international rules still continues.

Our Europe has still some unresolved long-term conflicts, often fuelled by dangerous political narratives that continue to create instability and could potentially escalate. The people living in the Balkans know this very well.

Despite these different types of conflicts affecting Europe, it is clear that the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine is on a completely different scale. Nothing compares to what we are witnessing in Ukraine, to the attempt for complete conquest of a sovereign country.

Geneva Conventions on International Humanitarian Law are being openly breached, with civilians being targeted and numerous cases of war crimes being registered.

It is sad that still in 2022, Europe is facing waves of emigration as a result of armed conflicts within itself.

Moreover, the war between Ukraine and Russia is having its effects not only on the continent's energy supply, but the whole world risks scarcity of food supply.

As Pope Francis put it, political leaders must listen to the voice of the people who want peace, and should avoid escalation of the conflict.

Therefore, it is the duty of this Council to learn lessons from this war of aggression. In this new hostile environment, where the scale of the conflict is different from anything our continent has seen since World War II, the Organization must step up its efforts to contribute to increasing security.

The Council of Europe should also serve as a platform for dialogue, diplomacy, confidence building and conflict prevention.

The current crisis in Ukraine will make clear the rules and principles on which Europeans live in the twenty-first century.

It is not just the destiny of one country that is decided in Ukraine, but also that of our countries’ democracies, of what our society will be like tomorrow.

Will Europe be governed by the principles of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law and the inviolability of national borders? Or will violence triumph?

In this new, volatile and tense geopolitical context, it is necessary to give a new impetus to the Council of Europe.

The Council of Europe must have its rightful place in the European political and institutional architecture, to support the democratic security of its member states based on clear rules.

As the saying goes, "To educate people for peace, we can use words or we can speak with our lives”.

Therefore, the member states of the Council of Europe must condemn any act of violence and human rights violations before it is too late.

History has shown that reluctance to condemn violence does not stop it, rather, makes it escalate to tragedy.

Let us not allow the mistakes of the past to be repeated in the 21st century.

Thank you!

Ms Catarina ROCHA FERREIRA

Portugal, EPP/CD

19:51:26

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Thank you, Mr President, Dear Colleagues,

Russia’s war in Ukraine is about democracy.

Nevertheless, it is also, of course, about Putin’s delusions of reclaiming a fallen empire, illusions of ethno-Russian nationalism, fear about the consequences of NATO and European Union expansion.

But at the core, Vladimir Putin’s biggest fear is democracy.

For the reason, that Democracy represents a great risk to his autocratic rule.

And the democratic community’s response has been a message not only to Russia, but it is a message to the world.

Since we all know others who try to undermine democracies with economic coercion, civil society subversion, cyber operations and destructive finance.

Russia had been using all these tactics in Ukraine.

To start, democratic nations must understand democracy as a matter of world security and not simply a values proposition.

The global health pandemic is not over, we have a war and can face a catastrophic climate crisis that might reshape society through increasing conflict, migration and resource scarcity.

Autocrats weaponize such crises to undermine public belief in institutions, governance, and democratic processes, the very things needed to address these challenges.

So, how democracies respond both internally and globally matters.

A coordinated global democracy network is needed.

Especially in Europe and, therefore, the Council of Europe’s reaction was the right one, regarding the Article 8 of the Statute to end the membership of a member State.

And yes, the Council of Europe member States are interdependent for their security and stability.

And yes, they are interdependent for ensuring the pursuit of peace based upon justice and international co-operation, which, as the Statute reads, is vital for the preservation of society and European civilization, as “democracy lighthouse”.

We must defend democracy.

Thank you.

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

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Netherlands, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:11:51

Thank you very much, Mr Zsolt NÉMETH. It was perfect in time.

I close now the debate and we go to the consideration of the amendments.

The Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy has presented a draft resolution to which three amendments have been tabled and also draft recommendation to which no amendments have been tabled.

I remind that speeches on amendments are limited strictly to 30 seconds.

We will start with consideration of the draft resolution and then we will consider the draft recommendation.

So, the draft resolution. Unanimous approval of amendments.

I understand that the Chair of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy  will propose the Assembly that Amendment 1 to the draft resolution, which was unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

That's the case Mr Zsolt NÉMETH?

Yes.

Does anyone object? I don't see.

As there is no objection I declare that Amendment 1 to the draft resolution has been agreed.

Then I go to the amendments in the Committee by two-thirds majority. Under Rule 34.12, any amendment which has been rejected by the committee seized for report by two-thirds majority of the votes cast, shall not be put to the vote in the Plenary and shall be declared as definitively rejected unless ten or more members of the Assembly object.

I understand that the Chair of the Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 2 and 3 to the draft resolution, which were rejected by the Committee with a two-thirds majority, will be declared as rejected.

Is that so Mr Zsolt NÉMETH?

Okay.

Does anyone object?

I don't see that. So as there are no objections, I declare that Amendments 2 and 3 to the a draft resolution are rejected.

Then I go on.

We will now proceed to the vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 15541 as it is amended. A simple majority is required.

I would like to open the vote now.

I can close the vote now.

The result of the vote should be displayed here.

67 in favour, 4 against, and 2 abstentions.

Then I go now... We have to proceed now to the vote...

Congratulations already.

We have to proceed now to the draft recommendation. We will now proceed to that. That is also contained in Document 15541. A two-thirds majority is required and the vote is now open.

The vote is now closed.

The results will be displayed.

72 in favour, nobody against, and no abstentions.

Congratulations to the rapporteur, the staff and the Committee Chair.

Thank you very much.

We now go to the next debate. Someone is coming.

Joint debate: The continuing need to restore human rights and the rule of law in the North Caucasus region / Reported cases of political prisoners in the Russian Federation

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

18:17:42

Dear colleagues,

We now come to the joint debate on two reports from the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. The first is titled “The continuing need to restore human rights and the rule of law in the North Caucasus region” (Doc. 15544) presented by Mr Frank SCHWABE; the second is titled “Reported cases of political prisoners in the Russian Federation” (Doc. 15545) presented by Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR.

In order to finish by 8 p.m., we must interrupt the list of speakers at about 7:25 p.m. to allow time for the reply and the vote.

I call Mr Frank SCHWABE, rapporteur, to present the first report. You have seven minutes to present the report and then will have a further five minutes to reply to the debate at the end.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Rapporteur

18:18:40

It is not so easy, Mr President, but now we made it.

Mr President,

Dear Colleagues,

People in Dagestan and Ossetia and Chechnya were suffering. A lot of them are really suffering in this time. You cannot speak about the human rights situation in Russia without mentioning the Russian war against Ukraine. It is in these minutes where Russia is committing a crime of the aggression of war and war crimes on the territory of Ukraine. I think you cannot understand the aggression outside of the country without seeing the relationship to the aggression inside the country. Because of this I think we should stay with monitoring and reporting about the situation and the human rights violations in Russia, even when Russia is no longer a member of this Organisation.

This report on the need to restore the rule of law in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation is the product of almost five years of work, since I tabled the motion for a resolution in June 2017.

Interestingly I was able to carry out a brief visit to Moscow and Grozny in September 2019. It was a time when Russia was back in the Organisation. There was a little window where they tried to show that they maybe wanted to deal with us here, in a way, to really respect the rules, but we know what was happening later. To be honest, the visit was a very strange one, but I was in Grozny and have an impression about this.

A second mission, to Ingushetia and Dagestan, was twice postponed at the last moment and then cancelled for good reasons after Russia was expelled from the Council of Europe. It was always, to be honest, a kind of game because they did not want to co-operate really, and they did not want to let me and others in the country.

I held several very informative hearings in committee and online, with representatives of those communities whose rights have been trampled on in the most awful way. These include LGBTI persons, human rights defenders and journalists, but also ordinary people who do not agree with the regime of Mr Ramzan Kadyrov, as well as women who merely try to escape violent husbands, fathers or brothers.

My report takes into account the Assembly’s earlier work on this subject and, to be honest we have to proceed, the case law of the Court of Human Rights and the work of the Committee of Ministers attempting to implement the numerous judgments documenting human rights violations. These violations include unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture, unfair trials and the brutal repression of the freedoms of speech and association: all the worst you could imagine, every violation of human rights you could find in this region.

We have now understood that the heavy-handed methods of repression “tested” in this region have spread further: first to other regions of the Russian Federation, then to illegally annexed Crimea and the so-called “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk, and now, as we speak, in the areas of Ukraine newly occupied by Russian troops since the beginning of the war of aggression against Ukraine.

It is not a coincidence that the so-called head of the Chechen Republic, Mr Ramzan Kadyrov, and some of his notoriously brutal “Kadyrovite” fighters are now actively involved in the attack on Ukraine. I remember when I was there he made a public statement one day before I arrived there. It was unbelievable the kind of wording and accusations. Today, I must say I am a little bit proud of this.

We as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe can only appeal to Russia to finally fulfil its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. I should like to recall that it is still binding on Russia until 16 September 2022. Whatever the Russian state Duma thinks they should decide and what kind of law they should organise, they signed once and the rules are still valid for them: the end of the cooling-off period of six months foreseen by the Convention itself.

After this, Russia remains bound by its international human rights commitments under the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. For sure we are under no illusions about what it means to fulfil this.

We can also appeal to our member States to ensure that those threatened by persecution and who managed to escape shall not be sent back to Russia. They should be granted asylum and protection from extraterritorial repression of the kind we have witnessed in Vienna, in Berlin and elsewhere. As many examples in my report show, they are not safe in other regions of Russia. I think we should do everything, and we should ask our member States, really to check the human rights situation, to really do monitoring, and in the end to do everything to make people responsible who commit war crimes.

Finally, and this is a particularly important point, we can appeal to the Court of Human Rights to continue treating with special care all the cases that are still pending and all the applications that can still be brought for violations happening until 16 September 2022.

The Court should do this even if the present government in Russia says that it will not co-operate with the Court, nor implement its judgments.

The victims of such terrible violations such as those coming from the North Caucasus region have a right to the truth being said officially by the Court. This will give much-needed relief and closure to the surviving victims and their families. It will also create an authoritative record of these violations by a neutral international body. This well-documented record will in turn greatly facilitate the task of a future democratic Russia.

We all hope a democratic Russia will eventually emerge to face up to the crimes of the current regime and rehabilitate the victims.

It is not very much, but it is what we can do and what we have to do.

Thank you so much.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

18:25:46

Thank you, Mr Frank SCHWABE.

Now I call Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, rapporteur, to present the second report.

You have 7 minutes to present the report and then you will have a further 5 minutes to reply to the debate at the end.

The floor is yours.

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC, Rapporteur

18:26:04

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

Imprisoning people for expressing themselves is a lethal weapon against democracy. Criminalising dissent is one of the most effective measures to drain the life out of any democratic society. Creating an atmosphere of fear, repression and persecution of any opposition is the necessary precondition for totalitarian rule. And, as Mr Vladimir Kara-Murza, one of Russia´s political prisoners so eloquently puts it; internal suppression leads to external aggression.

Indeed, the ongoing and devastating war of aggression against Ukraine demonstrates that only genuine democracies with free opposition and free political debate can guarantee democratic security and peace with neighbouring countries.

Consequently, it was a necessary precondition for Putin to crush, in advance, any potential anti-war movement and opposition to enable his horrific and murderous grand plan. But even that was not enough.

Since the beginning of its large scale invasion into Ukraine, Russian authorities have suppressed what remained of civil society and independent media in Russia. The most flagrant examples of this are the closure of Novaya Gazeta and Memorial, whose representatives testified before our Committee, and the new law criminalising the spread of so called “fake information” about the Russian military with penalties of up to 15 years in prison, under which our expert and well-known Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza is currently being prosecuted and detained.

Colleagues, the numbers speak volumes.

According to the latest information received from Memorial Human Rights Centre, at this time there are 478 political prisoners, including 365 persons imprisoned on religious grounds. This number will most likely increase.

Dear Colleagues,

Despite the expulsion of the Russian Federation from the Council of Europe on 16 March 2022, our Assembly has decided to continue to support and engage with Russian human rights defenders, democratic forces, free media, and independent civil society respecting and defending the values of our organisation. This applies first and foremost, of course, to those who are detained in Russian prisons precisely for defending these values now or in the past, and to those who fall under our Assembly’s definition of ‘political prisoner’ as set out in Resolution 1900 (2012).

Dear colleagues, during the preparation of my report, the Russian authorities refused to co-operate, in contravention to their international obligations. But despite this lack of co-operation, I present to you a thorough, well researched, and detailed report based on evidence provided by the different experts who testified in three hearings before our Committee, as well as on public information concerning cases examined by various Council of Europe bodies, including the European Court of Human Rights.

This report includes an overview of individual cases examined by our Assembly, by the Commissioner for Human Rights, and by the European Court. These concern political opponents, civil society activists, human rights defenders, but also ordinary citizens peacefully demonstrating, who are or have been detained in breach of their convention rights.

It is clear from some of the Court’s judgments, in particular those concerning Alexei Navalny, that the Russian authorities have become increasingly repressive towards political opponents in the past several years, and that they are following a pattern of systematic opression.

Dear Colleagues,

In the draft resolution before you, first of all we make a call on the Russian authorities to:

Implement all judgments of the Court concerning applicants who meet our definition of ‘political prisoner’, notably by ensuring the immediate release of those who are still detained, like Alexei Navalny and Alexey Pichugin, and by discontinuing all pending criminal proceedings and detention of Jehovah’s Witnesses (recent judgment 7 June 2022);

We call on them to re-examine the cases of all persons appearing on the lists of Memorial and release those found to be political prisoners;

And that pending their release, ensure full respect of their rights, including their right not to be tortured or treated inhumanely.

And, of course, to adopt general measures to address the structural causes of the existence of political prisoners in Russia, by repealing or amending the laws that are being applied to them, for instance the laws on “foreign agents", the law on “undesirable organisations”, “extremism”, and “fake information on the Russian military”. Just stop it.

 

Dear Colleagues, this resolution reconfirms our condemnation, in the strongest terms, of the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine. And it calls on the Russian Federation to immediately release all kidnapped mayors and local representatives, activists, volunteers, journalists, and other abducted civilians, and comply strictly with its obligations under international law, including international human rights and international humanitarian law. We also recall the horrible crimes committed against Crimean Tatars, many of whom are political prisoners and have endured unspeakable violence at the hands of the Russian authorities.

We then include several recommendations to member and observer states, including granting visas or considering asylum requests from former political prisoners; and refusing politically motivated extradition requests, and imposing targeted sanctions.

We also invite the Court to continue processing pending and future cases against Russia while it is still possible.

I am aware that this resolution might not lead to the immediate release of political prisoners in Russia, in Ukraine, Moldova, or Georgia. Nevertheless, it is our goal as guardians of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law to continue the fight for their release.

As our expert Vladimir Kara-Murza said when he addressed our Committee in April, some weeks before he was arrested in Russia and joined the ranks of Russian political prisoners, "the greatest fear of any political prisoner is to be forgotten". By adopting this report, dear colleagues, you are ensuring that they will not be forgotten.

Thank you.

 

 

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

18:33:07

Thank you.

In the debate, I call first Mr Jacques MAIRE from France on behalf of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

The floor is yours. 

Mr Jacques MAIRE

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

18:33:18

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

First of all, let me thank very much our two rapporteurs, Mr Frank SCHWABE and Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR. Their work, which has been constant and regular for years, is essential.

Our role is first and foremost to defend those who need it most, those fighters who are there to embody our values, to embody our rules of law. And the worst thing that can happen to these prisoners of conscience, as Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR said just now, is that they are forgotten.

These political prisoners are also a temperature gauge for the state of societies. As it was also said, a democratic Russia would probably not have let Putin massacre foreign populations and sacrifice his country. So we must continue to mobilise, to make sure that the Court of Justice can judge the pending cases concerning Russia, but also the complaints that are accumulating day after day. And even if the Russians do not cooperate in the implementation of the judgments, these judgments are owed to these victims so that their status is recognised.

On 4 March of this year, in response to protests in Russia against the war of aggression in Ukraine, Putin signed new laws. These lawscriminalise acts that go against the official Russian position by 15 years in prison; 15 000 people arrested, 2 400 administrative charges, 58 criminal proceedings; from now on, Russia no longer pretends, it no longer hides behind the mask of convenience. Totalitarian practices are being put in place.

Our group received today, in this Assembly, for a side event, Yevgeniya Kara-Murza as well as a representative of the association Memorial. Vladimir Kara-Murza is a much loved, much esteemed actor in this Assembly; he has helped us in his past reports, he has also helped us to get to the truth about the Novichok poisonings. Yevgeniya's testimony was extremely important for us.

I would also like to return to the case of Alexei Navalny. He has just been transferred to a high-security prison, the IK-6, which is known for abuses and torture. I would also like to mention what Yevgeniya told us earlier, that psychiatric internments for prisoners of conscience are beginning to take place. We are back to the time of the gulag.

In short, the work of Mr Frank SCHWABE and Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR shows it: the situation continues to worsen, Russia is excluded, but we must continue to act for Alexeï Navalny, for Vladimir Kara-Murza and for all political prisoners.

That is why my group will strongly support the recommendations of our two rapporteurs.

Thank you.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

18:36:34

Thank you.

I call Ms Mai KIVELÄ from Finland on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

The floor is yours. You have three minutes.

Ms Mai KIVELÄ

Finland, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

18:36:47

Thank you Mr President.

Firstly, I want to thank the rapporteurs for their important and thorough work.

I regret that despite numerous PACE resolutions, the human rights situation in the North Caucasus region has not improved since the last report. There has been no real progress in the implementation of the Court’s judgments and Russia is not co-operating with the Council of Europe’s monitoring bodies such as the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT). Especially journalists, human rights defenders and LGBTI people, women and girls are at risk.

The report includes a draft recommendation calling all member and observer States of the Council of Europe to examine asylum applications emanating from persons from the North Caucasus, especially for those who belong to vulnerable groups. The Group of the Unified European Left supports this suggestion as well as the recommendation that the people of the North Caucasus should also be given sufficient protection after being granted asylum.

Concerning the political prisoners in the Russian Federation, the situation has been awful and has gotten even worse now, as we know. Political prisoners in Russia are ordinary people expressing their opinions, members of minorities and political activists such as Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Murza.

These arbitrary arrests are an explicit violation of human rights. Even though Russia is no longer a member of the Council of Europe, it is important that we continue to supervise the situation of political prisoners in the Russian Federation.

To achieve change in Russia, the civil society needs our support to be able to react and act. We welcome the inclusion of civil society in the report on the priorities of the Secretary General.

Civil society in Russia, including human rights defenders and human rights institutions, should continue having access to the Council of Europe and to the Human Rights Commissioner. The Council of Europe should work to push Russia to meet its international human rights commitments both in the case of the North Caucasus as well as the political prisoners and other human rights violations.

Thank you.

 

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

18:39:37

Thank you. 

Next is Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN from Finland on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Please take the floor. You have 3 minutes.

Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN

Finland, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

18:39:50

Mister President,

It is so nice to speak after Ms Mai KIVELÄ, my country lady. The same country, the same subject. I start in the same way. Mister Frank SCHWABE and Madam Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, thanks very, very much for your excellent and very profound reports on a subject that is very actual and important for all of us today.

I am actually just now reading a novel by a Russian writer who is living here in France: Andreï Makine. There is a motto in the novel and the motto is the following: "So immense and so sad, fatherland Russia." Today, here was a side event in our building in the Council of Europe called "New wave of repression targeting anti-war protests in Russia". That was a side event among tabled discussions and one of the key speakers there was Yevgeniya Kara-Murza, the wife of jailed Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza. She stated to us and told the story. A person was demonstrating in Russia and in her hand was a novel or a famous Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy. The novel was The Special Operation and Peace, she stated. The lady was detained for 15 years imprisonment because of war propaganda – war propaganda. So immense and sad, Russia. The country does not have democratic history at all. There has never been a regime change through democratic elections. Today we are witnessing a country where people are disappearing. Political opponents are murdered. That country, actually our neighbouring country, is ruled by fear. They are carrying out war against Ukraine, but they actually carrying a war against their own people and not only Chechnya's. Mr Frank SCHWABE described the history, but today the immense repression is actually a war against its own people.

I started my statement with Leo Tolstoy. I will finish my statement with the great-, great-grandson of Leo Tolstoy: Pyotr Tolstoy. He was actually the head of the Russian delegation here in the Council of Europe. I remember very well 13 March when he slammed the door here saying, "We will never come back to this organisation". I responded to him, "Pyotr, actually, you will come back to this organisation because your people share the same values we share about democracy, human rights and rule of law. That is why they will come here. That is the future we must trust and that they will pay on."

Thank you.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

18:42:59

Thank you.

The next one is Mr Davor Ivo STIER, from Croatia, on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Mr Davor Ivo STIER

Croatia, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

18:43:09

Thank you, Chair.

Let me start by thanking Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR and Mr Frank SCHWABE for their work.

Both your reports describe the systematic violations of human rights by the authorities of the Russian Federation.

Yesterday, at the group meeting of the European People's Party we hosted Evgenia Kara-Murza, the wife of the imprisoned Russian activist and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza, as well as Sergei Davidis, the head of the political prisoner programme of the human rights organisation Memorial. They reminded us of that key message that Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR also mentioned, and that is the direct connection between the internal repression and the external aggression.

In Mr Frank SCHWABE's report, we can read how the climate of impunity is for human rights violations in Chechnya, in Dagestan, in Ingushetia. The persecution instead of the protection of vulnerable groups.

In Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR's report, we see how the systematic repression of opposition leaders in today's Russia is. There are 478 political prisoners out of which 365 are so because of their religious beliefs. So a systemic violation of freedom of speech, of assembly, of association, of freedom of religion and belief.

When freedom is denied by an authoritarian regime to its own people, to its own citizens, then the next step is to deny it as well to its neighbours. This is at the core of what we are witnessing today with Russia's aggression to Ukraine. This is why it's so important also to approve these two reports. They are crucial to the role of the Council of Europe. A Council of Europe that by defending freedom, by defending human rights, is defending peace and preventing war.

As Christian Democrats we are still inspired by the founding fathers of modern Europe: Schuman, De Gasperi, Adenauer... We know very well that for us, the state is there to serve and secure the freedom, the dignity of every human person, and not the other way around. This is at the core of what we are trying to do here at the Council of Europe, and this is the key reason also why it's so important to approve these two reports. The European People's Party will do it, we invite all members of this Assembly to do the same.

Thank you.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

18:46:09

Thank you.

The next one is Mr John HOWELL, from the United Kingdom, on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

The floors is yours.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

18:46:20

Thank you very much. I too have met Yevgeniya Kara-Murza, and I want to comment on the second report, but before I do that let me thank Mr Frank SCHWABE and Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR for their two valuable reports, which had a tremendous amount of interesting information.

If I turn to the second report, first, I think it's really important not to gloss over what happened to Vladimir Kara-Murza when he was arrested. It's important to go into the detail because it shows so much about how the Russians deal with people.

According to Yevgeniya Kara-Murza, Vladimir was first arrested by the police because they said he had committed a simple police offence, he had done something wrong, he had driven away from the police coming towards him. That was impossible. But he was dragged off to prison, dragged off to the police station where he was put into a cell for a little while and that was going to last for a matter of weeks until the police, with the help of the Russian Parliament, produced their new law and he was then arrested essentially for spreading misinformation about the war.

Now, I think that that shows the extent to which the Russians will go to any lengths to silence people in Russia. And a number of other people have already mentioned the number of political prisoners that there are there. And of course there are calls all the time for those political prisoners to be released and I share those calls, but one of the most important things is the point that Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR made – that people should not be forgotten.

And when it comes to political prisoners in the neighbouring country of Belarus, I'm part of a group that simply does not forget them. We can do things in this Assembly as part of that, but we can also do something individually as politicians. And for the Belarusian political prisoners, I'm one of those who has effectively adopted a political prisoner and writes to them in order to make sure that they are still seen as part of the real world.

And if we can do more of that with political prisoners we can really make them feel at home as much as passing any resolution in this place will do. And I would urge us all to look at that as a possibility for the future.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

18:49:23

Thank you.

The next one is Mr Bernard FOURNIER, from France. You have three minutes.

Mr Bernard FOURNIER

France, EPP/CD

18:49:34

Thank you, Mr President.

President, dear colleagues,

I would like to thank our rapporteur for her report on the cases of political prisoners in the Russian Federation. I would also like to take this opportunity to pay a heartfelt tribute to my French colleague Mr Jacques MAIRE, who has been particularly involved in the case of Alexeï Navalny.

Here we are taking the measure of the extent of the violation of human rights in this country, the violation of all democratic procedures.

According to the information of the NGO Memorial, quoted in the report, today there are 447 political prisoners in the Russian Federation, including 87 political prisoners and 360 imprisoned for religious reasons. We must call for their release and also renew our concerns about the situation of the Crimean Tatars.

The measures taken by the Russian authorities since the beginning of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine have only further restricted freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association, and increased the repression of civil society.

We cannot accept this and we must remind the Russian Federation that it remains subject to the European Convention on Human Rights until 16 September 2022. As such, the continued detention of political prisoners is a violation of the Convention, as well as other international treaties. It will be held accountable.

For our part, as our rapporteur points out, I think it is important that our Assembly continues to monitor the situation of political prisoners in the Russian Federation. We must show Russian civil society that we are not abandoning them, even if the Russian Federation is no longer a member of the Council of Europe.

Thank you very much.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

18:51:52

Thank you.

The next one is Mr Dmytro NATALUKHA, from Ukraine. You have three minutes - he's not here. The next one is online? We'll come back to him.

The next one is Ms Nicole TRISSE, from France. You have three minutes.

Ms Nicole TRISSE

France, ALDE

18:52:31

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you, Mister Frank #SCHWABE and Madam Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, for these two reports.

As I said in March during our special session, the Russian Federation, when it joined the Council of Europe, committed itself to pursuing a humanist ideal and progress and, of course, to pursuing the prohibition of detaining a person for his or her opinions or political commitment.

Its current President, by deliberately choosing to launch a war of aggression against Ukraine, has flouted these values. He has broken his word and plunged the whole of Europe into crisis. That is why we decided to exclude the Russian Federation on March 16. These reasons, unfortunately, are still valid, since the fantasy of "Greater Russia" continues. The regime has more than ever the right to life or death over each of its inhabitants, and the number of political prisoners is increasing. We cannot remain indifferent to this situation even if Russia is no longer part of the institution.

We must continue to support human rights defenders, democratic forces, free media and independent civil society in the Russian Federation. We must engage with them. We are not fighting the Russian people, but the behaviour of the Russian regime against the Ukrainian people, but also against its own population, a growing number of whom fit the famous definition of political prisoner as defined in a resolution that was adopted by our Assembly, I quote:

"A person deprived of his or her personal liberty shall be considered a "political prisoner": (...)

b. if the detention has been imposed for purely political reasons unrelated to an offence ;

c. if, for political reasons, the duration of the detention or its conditions are manifestly disproportionate to the crime of which the person has been convicted."

This commitment is essential: not to forget these ordinary heroes, to continue to fight for them, again and again, while waiting to find, who knows, a more peaceful relationship with the Russian Federation when all these political prisoners are released.

In any case, I wish us and them well. I thank the rapporteurs once again for having forcefully reaffirmed principles that are essential to the Council of Europe.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

18:54:50

Thank you.

The next one is Mr Didier MARIE from France.

The floor is yours, you have three minutes.

Mr Didier MARIE

France, SOC

18:55:01

Thank you, Mr President.

I would also like to thank our colleagues Mr Frank SCHWABE and Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR for their unfortunately very gloomy and worrying reports on the situation in the North Caucasus, the Chechen Republic, Dagestan and Ingushetia.

Our Assembly has adopted several resolutions in the past which, unfortunately, have had no concrete effect: impunity for agents of the regional and federal authorities for serious human rights violations persists and fear remains widespread.

The persecution of representatives of the opposition to the government, journalists, human rights defenders, LGBTI people and women who refuse to submit to the demands of "traditional" values is frightening and leaves us with an unpleasant feeling of powerlessness.

Unfortunately, we have to admit that if the Russian Federation did not take the necessary measures when it belonged to the Council of Europe, if it did not execute the Court's judgments when it was subject to them, it is not now that it has left the organisation and that it challenges its values head-on that it will comply.

But can we resign ourselves to seeing these people and their loved ones continue to be persecuted, to risk their lives, simply because they want to live as they wish? The answer is obviously no.

Even after the exclusion of the Russian Federation from the Council of Europe, we must remind the Russian federal and local authorities of their permanent international obligations to respect the fundamental rights of all persons under their authority. This is our mission and our honour.

Today, the Russian Federation remains a party to the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It must cooperate with the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

However, in view of the danger that threatens them, each of our States must carefully and sympathetically examine the asylum requests from residents of the North Caucasus and, if necessary, provide them with the necessary protection.

In view of the exchanges we have had this morning, we must reaffirm that we are not abandoning civil society in the North Caucasus, and more generally in the Russian Federation, which is currently being crushed by an authoritarian regime.

We will of course vote for this report with conviction.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

18:57:32

Thank you.

The next one is Ms Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN, from Finland. 

You have three minutes.

Ms Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN

Finland, EPP/CD

18:57:41

Dear President,

Dear Colleagues,

I want to thank Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR for her excellent report.

The report is essentially about democracy in Russia. The report discloses its absence, but only that. It depicts a clear perversion of democracy. Examples in this report are about a society where fear is the predominant state amongst people. The fate of political prisoners portrays the brute reality of today’s Russian society. In today’s Russia, the consequence of carrying out the most normal democratic procedure – mobilising a political alternative – means the fate of Alexei Navalny for anyone daring to try.

We all recognise that, for the Kremlin, guaranteeing even the lowest level of civil rights for the Russian people represents a threat for the regime. We are disillusioned by the fact that the Russian Federation has no interest to advance democracy because that would require allowing real political opposition.

Thus, our message today is likely to be interpreted by the Kremlin as western hostility towards Russia. It is not. It is about speaking up to the possibility of real dialogue within Russia. The measures introduced in the report are about protecting individual citizens from not being imprisoned for the sake of using their voice.

Dear Colleagues,

On the measures of the report, I would first like to emphasise that the facilitation of visa schemes is needed for former political prisoners or threatened opposition leaders, civil society activists, journalists or human rights defenders. This helps these people to avoid being imprisoned for an activity that should be business as usual, no matter the country.

Second, politically-motivated refoulement requests for Russian citizens by the Russian Federation must not be accepted. All Red Notice requests from the Russian National Central Bureau should be examined carefully by Interpol.

Third, the European Union must decide more and stronger economic sanctions against the leaders and officials of the Russian Federation for both the persecution of political opponents and the detention of political prisoners in Russia.

Dear Colleagues,

I also support the recommendation to commemorate 30 October as the International Day of Political Prisoners, people standing up to injustice at the cost of their lives have deserved that. This bravery by hundreds of Russians shall be remembered: for standing up for freedom, democracy and justice.

Thank you.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

19:00:36

Thank you.

Now I invite Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA from Ukraine to take the floor.

Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA

Ukraine, EPP/CD

19:00:45

Thank you dear president and thank you colleagues,

There is no room for negotiations left here, because remembering just one year ago in the June session we were talking about the indigenous people, Crimean Tatars and that was the report of our dear colleague Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR and today Mr Frank SCHWABE and Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR jointly presenting two remarkable reports which are not only talking about the Crimean Tatars who are forcibly displaced from their homeland in the peninsula of Crimea; we're seeing and fighting together with you not to close the memorial of the human rights but they still shut it down.

So the the figures are not spreading across Russia.

And the latest figures are saying that the number of political prisoners has grown over several years. It's 121 people in 2017 and in 2021 it's already 373. And that's only those stories which are put on the website, the stories of those whom we know.

Our dear friend, Vladimir Karamazov, whose last words before imprisonment were specifically about political prisoners.

You can be an activist, a public figure, and you can be going to the Red Square with a blank paper with dots on it - meaning "no war" - and you can become a prisoner right away, not even saying the word.

Today we're not only talking about the Crimean Tatars but also those who are being called in Russia in their own country extremists, undesirable organisations, and it goes to the understanding of the free media or actually the absence of the free media, the personal vendetta of Mr Mikhail Khodorkovsky who's trying to spread the word today - mentioned by me also - Crimean Tatars, young Muslims who are being accused of terrorism and they are being put in prison for 15, 20 years, at 5:00 a.m. in front of their children and wives.

Of course Mr Vladimir Putin's Russia has nothing to do with democracy, as you rightly said colleagues. Maybe there will be a day of course for this "coming back" to this organisation while fulfilling all the obligations under the international law - which probably means nothing to Mr Putin when he's just laughing at us, at all of us, by saying that he is trying to implement a democracy for freedom of speech or the freedom of religion.

We have been witnessing these instruments of war from back in the 1990s up until today.

And of course, before celebrating the day of the Crimean Tatar flag on Sunday 26 June 2022, I would like to remind you that there are 234 cases of criminal prosecutions in the Crimea, 164 of whom are indigenous Tatar people.

We hope that the day will come when we will be talking to partners - not the evil which is presented now by Mr Vladimir Putin's Russia.

Thank you.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

19:03:59

Thank you, Mariia.

The next one is Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO from Ukraine.

The floor is yours.

Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

19:04:08

Thank you very much.

First of all, thank you to Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR and Mr Frank SCHWABE for a very good work and to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and great Secretariat of this Committee for a very good work. And I want to tell you that it is extremely important reports and I want to stress your attention on North Caucasus. That's very important.

That's shows to all of us what is the Russian Empire, what is the Russian Federation. In 19th century it was said it is prison of nations, and it is absolutely true. And those nations who try to rebel and to free themselves they are suppressed with unbelievable brutality. And these in North Caucasus we saw it. In the 19th century there was a genocide of Circassian people there, in the 20th century there was a genocide of Chechen and Ingush people, when they, just imagine, all nations, two nations were taken to the trains for livestock and sent in thousands of kilometres. One third of these people died on the way to Kazakhstan, where they were sent. Just imagine this genocide. And at the end of 20th century, when they again tried to rebel for their future and freedom, they again were tortured.

Almost 200 000 Chechen people were killed. And for what? To make from Chechen people just fighters for Putin to attack new countries, like Ukraine. Unborn in 2000 Chechen boys are now fighting in Ukraine against Ukrainians, led by collaborator butcher and traitor of his own people Ramzan Kadyrov, but that is who made in Chechnya something unbelievable. I mean, there is not even Russian law there. People live in North Caucasus like in medieval times. Murdering, raping, everything just you can imagine, the killing of people, and they're doing it, and it's here not far from us.

So our duty as an organisation for human rights, we need to support these people, these nations, small nations of North Caucasus in their fight for their freedom, because that is the idea of this Russian Empire, to take one nation after other, and to use it against others. They now attacked Ukraine to take Ukrainians to use them then to attack Finnish people, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian people.

That is the idea of this awful empire. And that is something we need to stop once and forever, because these people, they do not deserve such future, and that is what's going on under our eyes. So let us help these people. Let us free these suppressed nations in the Russian Federation. Let us kill the zombie empire once and forever. Let us free people and give them possibility to live in normal life not in medieval times, not being just a meat for Putin like he is using them now.

Thank you very much.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

19:07:09

Thank you, Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO.

Next is Mr Mehmet Mehdi EKER, from Türkiye.

You have 3 minutes.

Mr Mehmet Mehdi EKER

Türkiye, NR

19:07:18

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to begin by thanking the rapporteurs for their excellent work.

These reports successfully draw our attention to the situation of political prisoners in the Russian Federation and the victims of human rights abuses in the North Caucasus region, and contribute to the previous work of our Assembly on these matters.

Beside other issues mentioned in the reports, I regret that the human rights situation of the Crimean Tatars continues to deteriorate. Despite the numerous calls by this Assembly and the decisions of the Strasbourg Court, we hardly see any sign of improvement.

For this reason, I am pleased that the rapporteur has put an emphasis on the grave human rights violations against Crimean Tatars. Crimean Tatars have been exposed to political pressure, judicial harassment and unjust detainment, and convictions based on fabricated cases for long years. Unfortunately, arbitrary arrests and prosecutions of Crimean Tatars based on political motivations and false accusations still persist and have become systematic.

I deplore the systematic pressure and judicial harassment on Crimean Tatars as well as other groups who share the same fate. In addition, we all condemn the illegal annexation of Crimea and the repression of Crimean Tatars.

Despite the fact that the Russian Federation ceased to be a member of the Council of Europe, this organisation and this Assembly must continue to monitor and follow-up on the developments regarding the human rights situation of Crimean Tatars.

We call on Russian authorities not to block accession to the region for inquiry and not to prevent efforts for prompt and effective investigation into the human rights violations against the Crimean Tatars.

Having said that, I believe that we have an obligation to do our best to protect those who are victims of oppression in the region and to make them feel that they are not alone.

Finally, I would like to congratulate rapporteurs once again and to express my support for the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Thank you very much.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

19:10:20

Thank you.

The next one is Ms Ingjerd SCHOU, from Norway. Take the floor please.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD

19:10:27

Thank you, President.

Dear colleagues,

This is not the first time we are debating political prisoners in the Russian Federation. We have had several debates just on the arrest and continued detention of Mr Alexei Navalny. What is first today, however, is discussing this issue without Russia as a member.

Russia being excluded does not mean that we should stop following the developments in the country. We owe the Russian people, what is left of civil society and independent media representatives, to continue to examine what is happening. We must continue to speak up. We must find ways to reach out to agents of change in the Russian society. And we must find ways to communicate to the Russian people. They are fellow Europeans who also deserve to live in a democracy respecting human rights and the rule of law.

President,

At the start of the session week, our political group had the honour of welcoming Ms Yevgeniya Kara-Murza. Her words made a great impact on me. She is fighting for justice and freedom for her husband. He has not committed a crime, he has voiced his criticism of the regime. He has exercised what should have been his right to free speech. Healthy democracies do not arrest individuals because they voice their opinion and disagree with the political leadership. Healthy democracies encourage debate. Through debate and dissent, we develop.

The message from Yevgeniya Kara-Murza was clear: Do not forget Vladimir Kara-Murza. Continue to give attention to his case. Continue to call for his immediate and unconditional release. With the ongoing war, dissenting opinions have been silenced on an even larger scale. Demonstrators have been arrested. The number of political prisoners is increasing. Ukrainians in the Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine are being arrested on political grounds. We, as an Assembly, must call for their immediate release.

Mr President,

By having this debate, and by having debates on political prisoners in Russia also in the future, we will continue to give attention to the case of Mr Navalny, Mr Kara-Murza and the hundreds of detainees in Russia imprisoned for political reasons.

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

19:13:17

Thank you very much.

Next is Mr Stéphane BERGERON from Canada.

Vote: The continuing need to restore human rights and the rule of law in the North Caucasus region / Reported cases of political prisoners in the Russian Federation

Mr Stéphane BERGERON

Canada

19:13:25

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

Hello again, I should say, good evening, colleagues,

Thank you very much, rapporteurs.

I would like to focus on the second topic.

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity to address you several times on the subject of Alexei Navalny, who is undoubtedly the best-known political prisoner in Russia. Mr Navalny clearly meets the definition of a political prisoner adopted by this House in 2012, as his detention "was imposed for purely political reasons". Yet, despite the high-profile nature of his long-standing persecution, Mr Navalny is unfortunately not the exception: he is the norm in Russia.

Citing data from the Memorial Human Rights Center, which was shamefully closed down by the Russian authorities last December 2021, the report presented by the rapporteur Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR lists, as mentioned earlier, some 477 political prisoners in Russia, "of whom 87 are actually political prisoners and 360 of whom are imprisoned on religious grounds". 

If, like Mr Navalny, many of these people were imprisoned before the wave of repression that followed the invasion of Ukraine, it is clear that new repressive laws – such as the one on so-called "false information" – will add to their ranks. In this regard, I would like to thank the rapporteur Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR for drawing our attention in particular to the case of Vladimir Kara-Murza, which illustrates this more recent wave of repression which has been directed in particular at people who demonstrate peacefully against the war in Ukraine.

While the safest and most comfortable path for them would have been exile, Mr Kara-Murza, Mr Navalny, their late colleague Boris Nemtsov – and many others – chose instead to stay and bear witness to what is happening in their country, regardless of the consequences, which are proving to be relentless. When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Nemtsov predicted that his country would face international isolation, impoverishment of its people and political repression. He will not have been able to see for himself that he was right.

I confess, that I sometimes have the impression that nothing will change. One never ceases to condemn Russia in the harshest terms and to demand from it the implementation of resolutions that one knows it will ostensibly ignore.

But Vladimir Putin's regime is counting on this feeling of powerlessness, on this impression that what we are doing is perfectly futile, but we cannot give in to cynicism. The tools mentioned in the report of Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR may seem imperfect, but the fact that we are using them nevertheless demonstrates our determination to do everything possible to ensure that these political prisoners can regain their freedom and that a democratic Russia that respects human rights can emerge.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

19:16:42

Thank you.

Next is Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK from Ukraine.

The floor is yours. You have 3 minutes.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE

19:16:53

Dear Colleagues,

It is very obvious that the Russian regime is very bad at building democracy and very good at building Gulags.

Filtration camps, torture, kidnapping, forced deportations, putting people into prison for 10 or 15 years just for calling a war a war, closing independent media: that is what the modern Russia of the 21st century looks like right now, but also the territories that it occupies.

Crimea experienced these gross violations of human rights eight years ago. Crimean Tatars and Ukrainian activists have been a target for Russian authorities since the annexation.

Now we see the same thing happening in the freshly occupied territories:  the Kherson region, the Zaporizhzhia region, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where people who even for posting a Ukrainian flag on their social media can be called in for a "conversation", and some never come back.

The usual is to target local mayors, members of local councils, journalists, activists, veterans of war. We have already discussed the topic of detainees and political prisoners in Russia in this Assembly many, many times.

A lot of you met Evgenia, the wife of Vladimir Kara-Murza, a member of the political opposition in Russia who is now in prison because he called the war in Ukraine a "war". I really admire her courage. I admire the courage of her colleagues from Memorial, but it is such a pity that such brave people are a minority in Russia right now. They have been arrested. They have to go and flee and live abroad, or at the very least, they have to be silent so as not to be put in jail.

Of course, the words of support that we all say are very important and the resolutions - I congratulate both of the rapporteurs on these resolutions - will add up, build up for the later justice and punishment for those who do the crimes.

But we should ask ourselves: are we doing enough by just delivering speeches?

I recall this situation with this famous fairy tale that is in every folklore. There is a dragon that terrorises the village, you know, and it asks every year for maidens. It eats these maidens, kills them, and everyone is afraid. Finally there is a hero who stands up and fights this dragon and wins.

Well guess what? Ukrainians are doing this right now: fighting the terrorist state that Russia has become.

We ask you for this support because a Ukrainian victory is key in this thing. Please put such sanctions to Russia so that the Russian regime will not have support inside of the country because they will be so painful and everyone will understand. Then you will really help those political prisoners whom we talked about for many hours in this Assembly.

Thank you.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

19:20:05

Thank you.

The next one is Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA, from Ukraine. And she is online.

Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA

Ukraine, ALDE

19:20:19

Dear colleagues, can you hear me?

I'm sorry, there was a problem with the camera.

Unfortunately, Russia continues to violate international law grossly as evidenced by the numerous decisions of the European Court of Human Rights on the violation of European Convention of Human Rights.

The European Court of Human Rights should intensify the continued pending and forthcoming cases against Russia for alleged violations of the convention, including the illegally occupied territories of Ukraine, Georgia, and the Republic of Moldova.

The fundamental issue is the current political imprisonment in Russia of those who dare spread the truths about the Russian invasion of the territory of Ukraine, like Vladimir Kara-Murza, the NGO Memorial, they should be released, and that's the role of the global diplomacy of the Council of Europe to make a possible efforts to make them free.

Since February 24th, the global world has been observing how the Russian troops are destroying the Ukrainian schools, hospitals, burning Ukrainian books, museums, and cultural heritage. How they persecute teachers and school principals, and force introduction of Russian propaganda everywhere. Illegal kidnapping and forced resettlement of Ukrainian people and children goes on.

The Russian Federation proved multiple times that they are the world's criminals. They don't stop before, and abduct children and detain them as political prisoners. Just imagine Ukrainian children are at this moment political prisoners. Just 74 days ago, a 16-year-old boy Vlad Buriak, son of the head of Zaporizhzhia District administration Oleh Buriak, was kidnapped in the late morning of the 8th of April at the Russian checkpoint in Vasylivka.

The teenage schoolboy has been detained in the occupied territory of the Zaporizhzhia region. Russian soldiers first kept him in solitary confinement in the pre-trial detention centre, then changed the settlement and security. His father made numerous speeches and international meetings, but nothing happened.

Now I want you to call all on the PACE to issue a special call to release Vlad Buriak. It mustn't happen in the 21st century, even in this situation of war. Children cannot be kept as political prisoners. I call on our colleagues from the parliaments of the PACE member states to raise evidence on the numbers of those abducted during Russia's aggressive war against Ukraine.

Mayors and local representatives, activists, volunteers, journalists, and other civilians. And take urgent action. Kidnapping civilians is against even the logic of war.

Please, don't stay indifferent. Tomorrow that can be your compatriots. Russia will not stop until we together will stop them.

Thank you.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

19:23:38

Thank you, Madam Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA.

Next is Mr Francesco SORBARA from Canada.

You have three minutes. The floor is yours.

Mr Francesco SORBARA

Canada

19:23:49

Good evening everyone.

Good evening fellow parliamentarians and esteemed colleagues.

Thank you to the rapporteur for this report, and thank you for the opportunity today to speak on this very important issue.

Garry Kasparov, former world chess champion turned Russian political dissident testified before in the Canadian parliament that: “No one can or should be objective about repression, torture, or war. We do not owe Putin’s victims objectivity; we owe them the truth”.

That was in 2016, by which point Mr Kasparov had been warning of the realities of President Putin’s rule for a decade. The truth is, in 2022, we can be appalled by the growing number of political prisoners in Russia, but we sadly cannot be surprised. Brave Russian activists, like Mr. Kasparov, have been sounding the alarm for far too long.

The Council of Europe knows this all too well. As the Committee’s report sets out at disheartening length, Council institutions have been at the forefront of international efforts for nearly two decades to support political freedoms in Russia and denounce Russian repression.

With the expulsion of Russia from the Council of Europe, we here at PACE today must consider the next phase of these efforts. How best can we work collectively to support democracy and political pluralism in Russia when the consequences for those on the ground are so severe? Where the space for political action so limited?

If we owe political prisoners the truth, as Mr Kasparov suggested, then part of that truth must be that our best efforts to date have not succeeded. Between the passing of the motion for this resolution in 2020 and our debate today, the list of political prisoners in Russia has grown by almost 150 names. Many others, like Mr Kasparov, live in exile, out of fear of facing a similar fate if they return to Russia.

We must also keep in mind that this problem is not unique to Russia. The use of state power, including domestic judicial systems, against political opponents and human rights defenders occurs around the world. In October of last year, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders reported that her office was following the cases of 148 defenders sentenced, or at risk of being, to prison terms exceeding 10 years. Three of whom were in Russia.

Mr Kasparov said something else back in 2016 in his visit to Canada that has proven prophetic: “Putin is very good at finding places where no one with the power to stop him will stand up to him. The danger is that he may eventually misjudge where he can go, because he has encountered so little resistance so far”.

Well, President Putin has misjudged. The collective will of the brave Ukrainian people have demonstrated finally, and definitively, that his brutality can be opposed. Resistance is possible. And if it is possible in Ukraine, it is possible in Russia.

If we want to support this resistance, we must continue to choose truth over objectivity. PACE and the Council of Europe have spent nearly two decades exposing the truth about political prisoners in Russia. However, the next phase of this mission unfolds, we must continue to do so.

Thank you.

Merci.

Grazie.

Mr Darko KAEVSKI

North Macedonia, SOC, President of the Assembly

19:27:03

Thank you, Mister Francesco SORBARA.

We are at the end of the list of speakers.

Now I invite Mr Frank SCHWABE, the rapporteur, to reply.

You have 5 minutes. The floor is yours.

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Rapporteur

19:27:25

Thank you so much, Mr President.

It is a little bit unexpected. I do not know if I need it, so I really would like to thank all of you, I think it is very clear and it is very clear again that we are very united on the question of not just Russia's aggression towards Ukraine but on the human rights violations in Russia and how to deal with it, as well.

I would like to thank those, in this organisation, who are really committed to human rights and who are working very hard on the issues and this time, I namely want to ask Günter Schirmer and David Milner because we really had some very, let's say, challenging and disturbing moments in preparing this report, but I understand in the past there were similar situations. When you really deal with the situation of human rights and democracy and rule of law in Chechnya, you are already in another world. You cannot believe where you are and what is going on there. So again, this organisation is not just successful because members of parliament are working here but a lot of people in this organisation who are really committed to the values of this organisation.

The last word, maybe I would like to use to really give tribute to those brave people who I could meet in the North Caucasus, but online as well, I could not meet them here in Strasbourg, I could not meet them in Berlin, it is Memorial, for sure, but a lot of other organisations reasons I cannot name all of them, who despite the situation, this horrible situation, are still working and knowing what could happen every day and every hour to them even now and even in this situation now. And I would like to say sorry as well. I  do not know if I can say it in the name of some European countries, we do not really take the situation seriously enough and we don't give them enough possibilities to get asylum in other European countries. There are a lot of documented cases where we send, even from Germany, people back to Russia thinking that they can be safe and somewhere else in the paths of the Russian Federation, but now we know this is not true and I really would like to say sorry.

I would like to ask again and underline that Russia still has the obligation to fulfil the judgments of the Court and it is still possible to go to the Court and that we really ask the Court what they for sure will do to deal very seriously with these people who go to the Court. And we do not decide today on it but, for sure, I think it is necessary after the adoption of this report and the other report that we really need to follow it up. Because if we do not put light on this very horrible human rights situation in the North Caucasus, who will do this? So I think it is our duty and it is our obligation to proceed. So I would like to ask you, and I see this would be possible to support this report, but, again, as well, to think about the next one already.

Thank you so much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

19:31:07

Thank you very much, Mister Frank SCHWABE.

Now I call Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, the rapporteur, to reply.

You have 5 minutes, Madam Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR.

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC, Rapporteur

19:31:18

Thank you, Mister President, for this generous time.

Thank you to all of the speakers and for the resounding support that I have heard for my report, but not only my report, but also Mr Frank SCHWABE's report.

It is very important to hear that the Assembly has a very strong support for this report because, regardless of whether or not Russia is a member of this Organisation, we must continue to remind them of their international obligations, and we must continue to fight for the realisation of the fundamental human rights in this region.

I would also like to say that this is not the endpoint of our coverage of these issues. This report that I am asking you to adopt now will not be the final stage of our focus on the issue of political prisoners in Russia, and in more places, of course.

First of all we have a motion that will be coming to our Committee about the widespread political repression that has been going on towards anti-war protesters in Russia. I think this is a very important report for us to complete because the suppression of anti-war protests is also something that is enabling the war to continue. We need to shed a light on what is happening in this respect.

I want to thank my Ukrainian colleague Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA for bringing up Crimean Tatars. As you know, I spoke for a different report not too long ago about the situation of Crimean Tatars, which is truly horrendous. It should have served as a stark example. It does serve as a really horrifying exam of the horrors that await other peoples and occupied territories that are temporarily under the control of the Russian Federation.

I think we must be aware that it does not end here, and we need to continue this work.

Now, our Chair will also be completing a report about the humanitarian consequences and the international legal consequences of the war of aggression against Ukraine. I think it is also an important contribution because impunity, whereas before I said that imprisoning people for expressing their opinions is a lethal weapon against democracy, impunity is the enabler of this weapon. Impunity for committing grievous human rights offences is what maintains these human rights offences.

By negating impunity, by fulfilling responsibility and criminal responsibility under international criminal law, but also with targeted sanctions as I suggest in my report, this is the way that we can combat these crimes, because the perpetrators, these violent offenders, these brutal murderers, will not stop unless they are ensured that they will face dire consequences for their crimes.

We have seen this time and time again. With impunity comes criminal activity, come these horrible human rights violations, these crimes against humanity that we are witnessing.

We might think, and I have heard some colleagues say, it is a bit hard to hear, of course, but I understand where it comes from. We might say "oh, this might not do much", or "you know, what is it all for?" But we are maintaining an international legal order that needs to come into play and needs to play a strong role in ending impunity for these kinds of crimes. That is why this report and the reports that will come after it are important. We need to build up momentum to ensure accountability for very grave human rights offences, but also for war crimes, crimes against humanity and even possibly genocide.

I realised that my report is not specifically about this, but it has a deep connection to it. As I said, internal suppression leads to external aggression. Once we manage to or at least work towards lifting this internal suppression, we might work towards stopping the external aggression.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

19:36:02

Thank you very much Madam Rapporteur.

(Applause)

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

19:36:08

Does the Chairman of the Commission wish to reply?

You have the floor, Mr Damien COTTIER.

Mr Damien COTTIER

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

19:36:16

Thank you, Mr President.

A few messages to simply support on behalf of the Committee, the comments just made by the two rapporteurs and the importance of this work and to thank the two rapporteurs for the excellent work they have done. I believe this has been said by all the speakers, and to emphasise the quality of this work, which is well demonstrated by the Committee's vote, which was unanimous in favour of these two reports.

I would also like to thank the Secretariat for the excellent and systematic support given to the work of the Committee and to the activities of the rapporteurs, sometimes under difficult conditions and with resources that are not really extensive.

We have a duty to deal with these subjects and to discuss them seriously and in-depth because it is linked to the mandate of our Assembly and of the Council of Europe and also perhaps more directly to the people we have worked with.

The name of Vladimir Kara-Murza has often been mentioned today and it is true that it is with particular emotion that we speak of him since he came to testify before our committee in Paris on Monday 4 April 2022 in the context of the work of this report: that of Mrs Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR. Ms. Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR quoted earlier the words he said about political prisoners, which are so strong, saying "you absolutely have to talk about them because there is nothing worse for a political prisoner than to be forgotten." So let's talk about them, let's continue to follow these cases, it is of great importance.

After leaving the commission, Vladimir Kara-Murza returned to Russia. A few days later, he was arrested. Several members of the commission, by the way, told him not to go back, but he wanted to do so. This was testified in the two days before. Yesterday and today we had the opportunity to meet several times with his wife who is here. It was said by several speakers and she said: "he wanted to go back because he feels it is his ethics to fight where his friends are fighting, and not to do it from abroad." He knowingly took this risk and now he is in this situation of being imprisoned on absurd grounds and under this new Russian legislation that we are very concerned about. The Committee is pleased that the Bureau has sent it a new draft resolution to follow up on these particular cases of this new Russian legislation, which is now leading to several hundred, if not several thousand, politically motivated arrests.

Finally, it seems to us extremely important that we continue to work but that the Court also continues to work. This has been said by the two rapporteurs and several speakers – continue to work on the Russian cases. Russia is still subject to the European Convention on Human Rights, even though it says it is not: it has international obligations until Friday 16 September 2022. It is still bound by The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and it is absolutely necessary, even if they are not necessarily immediately followed up, that these cases continue to be treated. I believe that we owe it to the people concerned and to the values of this organisation.

Thank you, Mister President.

I thank the Assembly for welcoming these two reports and for the support you will give to these resolutions.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

19:39:35

Thank you to the Chair.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

19:39:39

Now the debate is closed.

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented the draft resolution you find in Document 15544, to which one amendment has been tabled.

I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendment 1 to the draft resolution, which was unanimously adopted by the Committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

Is that so, Mr President?

Mr Damien COTTIER

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

19:40:15

It is, Mr President.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

19:40:18

Does anybody object?

I do not see.

So as there is no objection, I declare that the amendment to the draft resolution has been agreed.

We will now proceed - (I have such a good assistant here, keep going, keep going!)

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 15544 as amended and a simple majority is required.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

The resolution is adopted unanimously.

(Applause)

I saw that the rapporteur was taking a picture of the result - great, Mr Frank SCHWABE.

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft document, Document 15545 to which six amendments have been tabled and a draft recommendation to which one amendment has been tabled.

We will start with the consideration of the draft resolution and then the draft recommendation. 30 seconds for amendments. I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wish to propose to the Assembly that the Amendments 7, 5, 1, 3, 4 and 6 to the draft resolution which were adopted unanimously in the Committee should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

Is that so, Mister President?

Mr Damien COTTIER

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

19:42:16

This is so for all amendments, actually, yes, Mr President.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

19:42:20

Does anybody wish to object?

I do not see, so as there is no objection I declare that Amendments 7, 5, 1, 3, 4 and 6 to the draft resolution have been agreed.

So now, as all the amendments have been approved and adopted, we will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 15545 as amended. A simple majority is required.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed:

The resolution is adopted unanimously.

Congratulations Madam Rapporteur.

(Applause)

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wishes to propose to the Assembly that the Amendment 2 to the draft recommendation which was unanimously approved by the Committee should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

Is that so, Mr President?

Mr Damien COTTIER

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

19:43:49

I  gladly confirm, Mister President.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

19:43:51

Thank you very much, Mister President.

Is there any objection?

As I do not see any objection, I declare that the amendment to the draft recommendation has been agreed.

Now we can and should and shall proceed to vote on the draft recommendation contained in Document 15545 as amended. I remind the Assembly a two-thirds majority is required because it is a recommendation.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

May I call the results to be displayed?

The recommendation is adopted unanimously.

Congratulations. Now the rapporteurs and the president are taking pictures, and they have good reasons for this excellent result.

The Assembly will hold its next public seating tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m.

A point of order. Sir Tony LLOYD, yes, of course.

Sir Tony LLOYD

United Kingdom, SOC

19:45:10

I am grateful, Mister President.

On the the previous debate on the recent challenges to security in Europe, I miscast my vote on the resolution. If we could just, for the record, make it clear that I intended to vote "Yes" in favour of that resolution.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

19:45:29

Thank you very much Sir Tony LLOYD.

And another point of order?

Mr Reinhold LOPATKA

Austria, EPP/CD

19:45:37

And I want to change my vote.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

19:45:42

Thank you very much.

Your vote will not be changed, but it will be put in the minutes. Of course, we are questioning you sitting there close together. What were you doing when you had to cast your vote?

Well, it is properly registered. Thank you very much for mentioning it.

That means that by now the sitting is adjourned.

The sitting is closed at 7:45 p.m.