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11 October 2022 afternoon

2022 - Fourth part-session Print sitting

Sitting video(s) 1 / 1

Opening of the sitting No 29

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:22:04

The sitting is open. 

We have a point of order. 

Mr Bertrand BOUYX

France, ALDE

17:22:21

Thank you very much, Mr President.

I would like to make a point of order. The draft resolution tabled by Mr George PAPANDREOU, I wanted to vote on it but my vote was not counted, and therefore I wanted to point out to the Table Office that I was voting in favour this resolution.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:22:39

Thank you very much.

That does not change the vote, but it will be registered in our minutes.

And to start here as a new member is not the easiest things so you will have years to practice this. Thank you very much for mentioning it.

Now on the order of business is questions to our Secretary General Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ.

She is going to answer the questions of a few colleagues and we start with the questions from the representatives of the political groups.

I remind everyone that questions should be limited to 30 seconds. Colleagues should ask questions and NOT make statements.

We start with Mr Frank SCHWABE on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

Frank, are you there? Yes, there he is.

You have the floor, Frank.

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

Mr Frank SCHWABE

Germany, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

17:23:44

Dear President,

Dear Secretary General,

We are discussing the preparation of the fourth summit, we at the Joint Committee with the distinguished ambassadors, a few minutes ago.

I would like to ask you, if you should say today what should be the outcome, if you could have two wishes? For the outcome of this summit, what would your two wishes be? What role do you think the European Union is playing in this kind of progression? What should we expect from them?

The second question is about Osman Kavala in general. How is the general situation due to the case of Mr Osman Kavala?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:24:19

Madam Secretary General.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatia, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

17:24:22

Thank you for a few questions.

Let me start with the summit.

Indeed, we've just come from the meeting of the joint committee which was, I think, a very useful one for two statutory bodies to exchange views on the summit.

Let me just remind all that we are advanced in reflection, including the work on the report of the high-level reflection group that I was tasked to set, and that reported and gave several pieces that can be taken for preparing the summit and for deliverables of the summit. But it is, of course, for the Committee of Ministers and our member states to decide to have a summit by unanimous vote.

Now, on the outcomes. It will be difficult because the menu is large. From what we've just heard, there are different ideas. It all depends on when the summit will take place.

You know, in previous times before, a year ago, when I asked for the summit, my main wish as a deliverable for this summit was that there would be EU accession to the ECHR - European Convention on Human Rights.

Now, the negotiations in the form of 46+1 are taking place. It is, of course, depending on the will of the parties. We are not... We have advanced, but still, there is time to go to have that. But if that would be, I think it would be very visible, clear and one of the decisions that actually would follow some of the previous summit's wishes, to have a coherent European human rights architecture, including accession of the European Union to the Convention.

Another piece we can take from the report of the high-level reflection group is actually how our relations with the European Union would be in the future. Indeed, you are right. In view of the huge geopolitical changes that are happening after the aggression of the Russian Federation on Ukraine and after this body excluded Russia as a member state. In the meantime, many other things happened. So we really are facing a lot of challenges.

I think we should rethink our strategic relationship with the EU. The memorandum from 2007 was actually one of the products of the Third Summit which was worked through. If we are to follow the thinking of the high-level reflection group, we should level-up our relations with the EU. I share that view.

I think we already have a very strategic relationship on many terms. We worked together on a number of issues. I think there is room for more strategic engagement with the European Union.

Now, when it comes to the Kavala case, what we witnessed on the 11th of July, the European Court of Human Rights was asked, and it has delivered its ruling. Their final word is that in the case of Kavala vs Türkiye, Türkiye didn't abide by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Court has done what they were asked for, they made a judgment. Now, the execution comes back to the Committee of Ministers which by the Convention, under Article 46, is the prerogative of the Committee of Ministers. Since this judgement, there was already a meeting in the format of human rights, where one of the decisions was to task the Committee of Ministers to engage with Türkiye. From what I know, the current Chair, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence of Ireland has already talked to Minister Çavuşoğlu, in September in New York, to step up communication with Türkiye with regard to implementing.

From my part, I can only say that the judgments of the Court are non-negotiable. Judgments of the Court have to be executed. In that respect I can only call for Mr Kavala to be freed as per the decision of the Court as soon as possible.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:29:53

Thank you, Madam Secretary General.

The next question comes from Mr Lőrinc NACSA from Hungary. He speaks on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party. You have the floor.

Mr Lőrinc NACSA

Hungary, EPP/CD

17:30:02

Thank you Mister President, Madam Secretary General.

The Council of Europe has called for the Fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government based on the report of the high-level reflection group.

We in the Group of the European People's Party think that the Parliamentary Assembly could have a great added value to the summit and to the outcome, such as the thinking about the future role of our institution, the Council of Europe.

Madam Secretary General, could you please share with us your opinion about involving the Parliamentary Assembly more in the organising process and about inviting the Parliamentary Assembly to the summit?

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:30:33

Thank you.

Madam Secretary General.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatia, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

17:30:35

Thank you very much.

I think in that respect was very useful the meeting that we just attended.

I think the willingness not only from your group but from the more parliamentary side, was to be more included.

I think in the concluding remarks it was clear that the Irish incoming chair assured what is according to the division of labour, if I may say, it will be done by the Irish preparation for the summit.

But I think, you know, we need.. and this gives me also an opportunity to underline the fact, we are preparing, we are discussing, the Committee of Ministers has its working group on preparation of the summit, the Assembly has the special rapporteur who will also have a Parliamentary Assembly view on what should be the themes of the summit and where the summit should be held, and a number of other issues.

So I think the parliamentary side is already doing quite a lot. And from what I've seen from the draft report it's very inclusive. I goes, which is understandable and desirable, it goes further than what is in the high level reflection group because the idea is to have all the ideas on the table.

So I think the Parliamentary Assembly is already in my view at this stage more included than was the case before, but it remains the decision of the Committee of Ministers to first to have a decision to call the summit and then to decide how to organise the summit.

But, if you ask me, I think someone pleaded also for young people, youth, to be included. I think in the times that we live in a more inclusive summit would certainly be better reflecting the needs and the views of all Europeans.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:32:47

Thank you very much, Madam Secretary General.

The next question comes from Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND from Hungary. He speaks on behalf of the European Conservatives Group. You have the floor, sir.

Mr Barna Pál ZSIGMOND

Hungary, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

17:32:57

Thank you, Mister Chair.

Dear Madam Secretary General,

In these hard times we see the image of a new form of Europe, the European Political Community, which basically comprises the states forming the Council of Europe.

We may say that in the field of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, a pan-European Community already exists. It is the Council of Europe.

In this context, Madam Secretary General, I would like to ask you:

What is your vision of the future of the Council of Europe?

What steps should be taken by the Council of Europe in order not to find ourselves in the shadow of the new European initiative. Is it a rival or a partner?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:33:31

Thank you, Madam Secretary General.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatia, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

17:33:33

Thank you very much. 

We also tackled quite extensively EPC, I think, at least in the meeting we just attended. EPC is a new initiative. It held its first meeting for the summit only last week and for the moment we cannot say from the themes that were discussed at the first EPC summit and from the communication that was given after the summit, I think it is clear, and I agree with your statement, that the political community in regard to European political community as regards human rights, rule of law and democracy is the Council of Europe. 

However, as the High-Level Reflection Group proposed, there should be closer co-ordination with the EPC but closer co-ordination with other similar organisations something that the co-ordination we have very regularly with the EU, with OSCE, with the United Nations in order to exchange where we are to see where we can do things in synergy and certainly not to overlap. 

So, this, I think, is a good approach also with EPC. It is now launched and indeed 43 out of 46 member states at the highest level were present there, and I am really happy to see our leaders gathered to show unity in front of the horrible aggression of the Russian Federation on Ukraine. So, on that point, I think that was good to see all the leaders of almost all of our member states staying together and giving this firm message.

However, I would also like to see 46 of our High Level leaders at the next summit of the Council of Europe and I think what we need to decide together and I think the Parliamentary Assembly, Committee of Ministers, certainly our leaders – ministers, but also heads of state and governments – should re-commit to what the values of the Council of Europe are, because in my last two reports you can very clearly see there was a backsliding in democracy and rule of law in some of our member states. And I think if we go back to why the Council of Europe was created was, first, as a peace project but peace being established on the basis of legal instruments that we developed 73 years ago.

So, I think we need to see whether all of what was meant and what is in our Statute in other documents or whether all of our 223 legal instruments including conventions are really up to what we need now. How should we go in the future? Certainly, we are already on the way to developing more in new areas like the environment and artificial intelligence, so I think we are clearly on the route, and in that respect the Parliamentary Assembly was very active in the last years for the environment. I think across the board all the bodies, the Committee of Ministers, several Presidencies, the Parliamentary Assembly, with the number of reports and resolutions and recommendations, Court... We had last year the World Forum for Democracy dedicated to the environment, our youth bodies started to discuss. So, I think there is certainly a need to do more in new areas in connection to the environment, human rights and artificial intelligence.

My vision of the Council of Europe is to strengthen our position and see together with our leaders what would be the most important strategic orientations for the organisation in the times to come. I think that it would be difficult. Two years ago we were discussing and the Parliament Assembly also had its reflection on that part of the strategic priorities of the Council of Europe. If you look at it now, even after all these very big changes on the geopolitical scene that are there, it would be difficult to drop out of any of them. So I believe we need to recommit to actually implementing our standards and this is sometimes not easy, but this is the only way how we can move forward and how we can re-commit to peace which we need in Ukraine and which we need all around Europe.

And as someone said, without peace there is no prosperity. Without peace, there is no possibility for people to live normal and decent lives. So I think the values that are enshrined in our conventions and legal instruments are really there to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law of every citizen across our 46 member states.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:39:10

Thank you very much, Madam Secretary General.

The next question comes from Ms Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI, from Estonia, who speaks on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

You have the floor.

Ms Maria JUFEREVA-SKURATOVSKI

Estonia, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

17:39:21

Thank you, Mister President, honoured Secretary General.

The Ukrainian Parliament Verkhovna Rada has prepared a project of appeal to international and the European democratic institutions to create a special international tribunal to try Russia's crimes of aggression against Ukraine.

Which steps are you going to undertake on the level of the Council of Europe in order to contribute to the creation of this special international tribunal?

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:39:51

Thank you.

Madam Secretary General.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatia, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

17:39:53

This was the issue that actually took quite a part of my visit, which I paid to give with president Zelenskyy and with the foreign minister Kuleba. Indeed, their proposal and argumentation that such a tribunal doesn't exist, that accountability including the crime of aggression would be an important advancement of, if you wanted, of accountability on international level. So they pleaded for the Council of Europe, as Council of Europe was in the forefront of international organisations, to react very promptly on breach of the statutes and values of the Council of Europe by excluding Russian Federation.

On my way back, I immediately asked and ask the colleagues in the legal services to see what is because there is no such... there is no set precedence and what could be a legal way to do it, in general, and for the Council of Europe as well.

The colleagues did very thorough, and for me it's really this is a very important and serious issue. While we were discussing it, also the discussions were held at different other levels. There was one ministerial conference in The Hague, where the Council of Europe participated. We were all in Lugano for the Lugano Ukraine Recovery and Resilience Conference, and this issue indeed was raised there. I also met there with the speaker of the parliament Mr Ruslan Stefanchuk.

What is sure is that our Committee of Ministers, because there was the recommendation also of this body to the Committee of Ministers to reflect upon that. First discussion has been held lately by the Committee of Ministers with the decision to stay committed to working together with the other international actors on this important issue.

This is where we are at at this moment.

Accountabilities: absolutely the most what we should stand for in different areas, because one day the justice, one day the peace will come, justice needs to be made, and any peace, if it wants to be sustainable, cannot be done without proper accountability. Taking all those who are responsible to be held accountable by international or national fora and then work further on assisting Ukraine to rebuild a strong and resilient society.

I think I'm quite clear in that we remain committed to the accountability in all its senses of the word. One of the first actual activities in which we were apart from deciding at the Council of Europe on the impossibility of keeping the member State who aggressed without other member States was to start working with the prospector general of Ukraine on gathering evidence for gross human rights violations and war crimes, because, obviously, no regular prosecutors were dealing with that before. Fortunately but unfortunately now, they have to do it.

At the end of this week I will meet the new prosecutor generals again, so I will continue this engagement. The Council of Europe will certainly be one of those international organisations that will be helping Ukraine to get all those who should be accountable accountable by assisting Ukraine in any way we can.

 

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:44:05

Thank you very much Madam Secretary General.

The next question comes from Mr Andrej HUNKO from Germany. He speaks on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr Andrej HUNKO.

Mr Andrej HUNKO

Germany, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

17:44:14

Madam Secretary General,

The question I have concerns the Fourth Summit. I would like this Fourth Summit to be a big step forward and a big success.

Now, comparing this to the European Political Community, in terms of membership, member states, pretty much the same composition, but no parliamentary dimension, no convention.

Therefore, Madam Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, is it fair to say that you were not invited to go to Prague? And, a follow-up question: the Second Summit, which will be held just before our own Reykjavík summit, how can you make sure that there is no clash between the two?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:44:52

Thank you very much.

Madam Secretary General.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatia, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

17:44:57

Thank you for coming back to the EPC.

There was one part which I didn't respond to before.

So those who were invited were at the summit, so there were 43 member states, not all, unfortunately not all of our member states, and the EU President of the European Council and President of the Commission.

That doesn't mean that we should not remain in contact with the EPC as I mentioned earlier. I think co-ordination is always needed where there are different international fora which may be of interest for cooperation, and clearly there is a one.

In what concerns, and I think you rightly pointed out to the fact that it may coincide the two summits, because the next summit and the summit is for the moment the substance of the EPC. It may, of course, evolve into into more, but for the time being the next summit is decided and set.

We are still to decide first, whether to have it, and then when. In order to prepare that, and not to have a clash in timing that we would be too close to one another or in another way to make problems to gather for our possible summit of 46, I will be in contact with the future organiser of the summit of the EPC who is the Republic of Moldova, President Maia Sandu. She will be in a month's time here in Strasbourg for our Democracy Forum, so I will exchange with her to see how we go about this.

At the end of November I will be with the Parliamentary Assembly Bureau in Reykjavik. I will be at that occasion meeting the Prime Minister of Iceland, so I will also, at that time, Iceland will be the Chair of the Committee of Ministers, so I will also raise this issue with with her.

But be assured that I already started to talk to our high-level leaders. Yesterday, with the President of the Swiss Confederation, today the President of Ireland. So I spoke with both of them on this issue and I will continue to do so in the time to come, because I think it's very important to to have a summit, to have a well prepared summit with good results, but also not to make it impossible for the leaders to come to the EPC summit and our summit. But as for the moment, we don't know yet when the meeting, if it will be held and when it will be held. It will be difficult to say what to do, but certainly we need to think about this.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:48:00

Thank you, Madam Secretary General.

We still have five minutes left so I would ask two more questions.

I will ask that you deal with them together.

The first question comes from Mr Ruben RUBINYAN from Armenia.

Mr Ruben RUBINYAN, your question.

Mr Ruben RUBINYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

17:48:19

Thank you Mr President.

Madam Secretary General,

You know very well the consequences of the recent Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia which happened this September.

There are effective tools and mechanisms enshrined in the convention and the Statute to require the member states to fully abide by their commitments and obligations.

What prevents this organisation from undertaking targeted and effective steps to constrain aggressive behaviour of Azerbaijan, that results in grave human rights violations and sufferings of those who are under the protection of the European Convention of Human Rights?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:48:55

Thank you, Mister Ruben RUBINYAN.

Now the next question comes from Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO from Ukraine.

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, EC/DA

17:49:02

Can something be done by our organisation to defend the rights of the Uyghurs and to put an end to the genocide in Xinjiang?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:49:15

 Madam Secretary General.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatia, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

17:49:17

Thank you very much.

For the issue of Armenia and Azerbaijan, you know I made some statements at different stages of the conflicts and escalation that happened, but also our other bodies of the Council of Europe have reacted on different levels, at different situations, including the court with the interim measures, asking for prisoners of war to be exchanged.

The Commissioner of Human Rights has also clearly made some recommendations for what is from her point of view gross human rights violations, so I can only subscribe to what the Commissioner of Human Rights asked in this respect.

I think the humanitarian gestures should be very welcome for all prisoners. I welcome that recently there were some exchanges of prisoners that happened.

I would also welcome, and I will encourage high-level meetings. I think there were quite a few that were held recently. This is actually what we always ask of our member States, who at the time when they were joining were committing to resolving the issues that they had in a peaceful way.

Now for some of the information that recently came to my knowledge, reports of human rights violations, including allegations of ill treatment and extrajudicial killings, are certainly a source of great concern and must be investigated by competent authorities as required by the European Convention on Human Rights so that perpetrators can be brought to justice.

Because of the video footage that was brought to my attention, I asked the Azerbaijani side to provide information on how they were going to go about these alleged infringements of the gross human rights violations happening recently.

If I were not to get the answer to that, I think there would be another way to to address this issue. At this moment I really look forward to having answers from the Azerbaijani side for these alleged gross human rights violations.

For the Uyghurs, as you may know, it is outside of our remit. We cover 46 European States. We have within our remit the rights of minorities, which I think we know very well, and the Framework Convention on National Minorities.

Unfortunately, not all of our conventions, many are not open for those countries who are outside. So if the countries are not parties to the conventions that we have and standards that we have, from the Council of Europe's side it's impossible to have a meaningful impact on that.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Uyghurs, it is outside of the territory of the 46 member States.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:53:02

Madam Secretary General,

Please allow me one more question to have the beginning of a gender balance in questions, and also because the next question then comes from our dear colleague Ms Zita GURMAI from Hungary.

Ms Zita GURMAI.

Ms Zita GURMAI

Hungary, SOC

17:53:16

Thank you very much.

First of all, as a woman president, I just would like to make sure that you are doing the utmost, what we did with the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, just to make sure that you are making a strong voice, to make sure that these Iranian women are safe and secure, and we cannot allow any other women to be that. That's first.

Second, as a Hungarian, of course, I really would like to make sure that for Hungary providing credible support for the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkans along a clear European perspective is a strategic priority.

Your Excellency,

Where do you see the added value of the Council of Europe in this process?

Thank you very much for being with us.

Then this is the breast cancer, [inaudible] I mean, to organise this excellent event, and thanks to all who attended.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:54:04

 Madam Secretary General, this was the last question.

Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatia, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

17:54:07

Thank you very much.

Concerning the horrible things that are happening and happened recently in Japan, sorry, in Iran, it's really appalling. One cannot but say, and I think that the Istanbul Convention is one of those that goes against violence against women and girls and domestic violence.

Indeed, again, we are 46, and Iran is not part of that. But some of our conventions are gold standard in its field, and this is the one.

Secondly, this is one of those that aims to reach outside of our remit. I can say that there are four countries: Tunisia, Israel recently, and Morocco, I think Mexico as well, who have asked to become members, so that's encouraging. One should see whether that will materialise, but that shows that it is important.

Another thing, in my recent visit to New York, to the United Nations General Assembly, I met, among others, the new director for UN Women. One of the major topics that we exchanged on was the Istanbul Convention. Of course, they praised it, because the UN doesn't have such a document yet. We agreed that together we will do more, whatever the UN also can from its side to do that.

So I think, partially, although we cannot directly influence in Iran, hopefully, that UN Women can do something.

As you would recall this morning, we were together in this powerful message of support from the Parliamentary Assembly, but from the Council of Europe as well. I was there to protest against these horrible human rights violations and human rights, in this respect women's rights.

In what concerns your second question for Western Balkan countries, I know that you discussed this issue. I was not present here, because I had some other commitments, including with the Irish President. But be assured that in all of the Western Balkans countries that have, that are on the way to European integration, we have offices. We are already engaged there. We help them, because a number of our standards, including the Istanbul Convention, are standards that are required by their accession or their negotiations for the European Union.

In that respect, we will do all we can and step up if it is needed. That is why I think our more strategic and more cooperation should be invested from both sides, from the European Union in particular. I think that the summit and decision on stepping up this strategic partnership with the European Union will be helpful.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

17:57:30

Madam Secretary General,

May I thank you all wholeheartedly for answering the questions of our colleagues on so many different issues. You are always with us, so thank you very much for participating in our Parliamentary Assembly and next time you are, again, back on our agendas every part session.

Thank you very much.

The next item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report titled “Raising awareness of and countering Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim racism, in Europe”. You'll find it in your Document 15616 presented by Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

In order to allow time for the second debate this afternoon, I will interrupt the list of speakers at about 7:20 p.m. to allow time for the reply and the vote on the draft resolution.

Before we start I would like to congratulate Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW for his birthday today, if I am well informed.

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday, Mister Momodou Malcolm JALLOW. That is the good part of the news.

The other part of the news is that this is probably the last report which will be presented by our dear colleague Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW because he is becoming something really important at home because of the Swedish elections. I learned that also the Chair of the Committee has intentions to leave us and go back to Sweden, so we will investigate, Madam Secretary General, whether we can do something against the great country of Sweden, because it has taken away all of our good colleagues!

For the time being, thank you both very much, happy birthday, Mister Momodou Malcolm JALLOW.

Now I give you the floor for your presentation. You have 7 minutes, and 5 minutes for your reply at the end of the debate. You have the floor, Mister Momodou Malcolm JALLOW.

Debate: Raising awareness of and countering Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim racism, in Europe

Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW

Sweden, UEL, Rapporteur

17:59:32

Thank you very much, Mr President.

Thank you for your kind words, and as you mentioned, this might be my last session here, so I'm going to miss all the colleagues here.

Before I start, let me just take the opportunity to thank the Secretariat because I might forget, because I have a lot in my head and we're running out of time, for the amazing, amazing, amazing support and assistance they've shown me throughout this process of writing this report. Mr Giorgio Lodo has been really patient and professional in this process, so I want to take this opportunity to thank him.

Dear colleagues, it is time to talk about Islamophobia.

Too many decision-makers and a large part of the public are not aware of what Islamophobia is, how widespread it is, and how severely it affects the basic rights and the dignity of millions of Muslims in Europe.

I say millions of Muslims but it affects not only Muslims but also many others who are perceived as Muslims.

Mr President, as a particular and specific form of racism, it is important to have an understanding as what it is we are talking about in my report, and that is simply why I decided to suggest and support a definition of Islamophobia that was adopted in the United Kingdom by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims. This definition makes a clear reference to the racist nature and the deep racist roots of Islamophobia. That is also why the title of this report includes as an alternative option the term “anti-Muslim racism”. As the draft resolution indicates, the two terms are used interchangeably in the text.

I see this report and resolution as a part of a “trilogy” of Assembly texts that aim to counter different forms of racism and discrimination: Afrophobia or anti-Black racism, a resolution that I wrote and was adopted last year, antisemitism, earlier this year, based on a report of our colleague Ms Petra BAYR, and now, Islamophobia.

It is important to address all forms of discrimination and intolerance, as they are all deeply harmful to our European societies, and they are closely interconnected. The most shameful Islamophobes are in most cases also virulent antisemites and racist in any other sense. Moreover, they try to sow division between the groups they target, playing one against the other, and the general population against them all.

Mr President, they run their electoral campaigns this way and, sadly, they win more and more seats in our parliaments.

Mr President, we need to remain vigilant, with a European political landscape that is increasingly inconsistent with the values of human rights, democracy, equality and non-discrimination.

Mr President, this is what we stand for, and we should do everything possible to make sure that Islamophobia is eradicated in Europe, because it is not in line with our principles.

I carried out two fact-finding visits, respectively, to France and the United Kingdom, two countries that feature large Muslim communities. The situation of my own country, Sweden, is presented through the findings of the hearing we held in Stockholm in May this year.

During the fact-finding visits, I met with a variety of civil society organisations, individual experts, mainly from academia, journalists, lawyers and, of course, with representatives of the public authorities, mostly fellow parliamentarians. The situation they described was worrying. We have a reason to be deeply concerned.

The impression is that life is not getting easier for Muslims in Europe. On the contrary, they face increasing obstacles in their quest for an accomplished and dignified life in their own countries. Listening to representatives of the authorities I got the impression, once again, that there was a lack of empathy and understanding; and in some cases, a lack of information about the challenges that Muslims face in our societies. Sometimes there was even a hint of victim-blaming and gaslighting.

Mr President, some would even go to the extreme by questioning and even denying the existence of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred. I was asked: Are Muslim women really discriminated against? Are they not simply complaining too much?

I received an extensive submission from Amnesty International, which presents cases of discrimination against Muslims across Europe and relevant recommendations. Many examples mentioned in the report, concerning countries such as Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, were taken from this submission.

An important source of inspiration for the recommended measures was the revised General Policy Recommendation No.5 on preventing and combating anti-Muslim racism and discrimination by ECRI.

I paid particular attention to two aspects of Islamophobia in Europe. The gender aspect – Muslim women are disproportionately affected by Islamophobia, both because they are often more easily recognisable and visible as being part of this group, and they are targeted by policies such as clothing restrictions.

The other issue that I dealt with was the impact of anti-terrorism legislation and policies on Muslim people. It appears that anti-radicalisation and anti-terrorist measures often have the unintended effect of stigmatising Muslims, or those perceived as such, thus contributing to their discrimination and exclusion.

The draft resolution that I am presenting and asking you to vote is soundly anchored to previous texts adopted by our Assembly and it reiterates the principles laid out in them.

Some of them are the importance of adopting an intersectional approach in countering racism, intolerance and all forms of discrimination. As Audre Lorde said, if you allow me, "There is no thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives".

Gender is a crucial element when it comes to Islamophobia, but it quite often intersects with other grounds of discrimination that must also be taken into account: migration origin, social origin, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity, for example. Their intersection produces unique challenges for the people who face them.

In this report, just as the Assembly has done many times before, I emphasised that the principles upon which the fight against terrorism are rooted on, must be conducted ensuring respect for human rights, the rule of law and the common values upheld by the Council of Europe.

The support for civil society organisations, acknowledging the important role that they play in countering racism and intolerance.

The need to increase diversity and to strive for fair representation of all groups in elected bodies and other institutions.

Like I said, these principles are clearly expressed in texts adopted by the Assembly.

Politicians, lastly Mr President, have an important role to play in preventing and combating Islamophobia. They should be the first to avoid stereotyping and stigmatising of Muslims. Too often, political leaders and other public figures have contributed to spreading the misconception that Muslims and Islam are alien and incompatible with European culture and values. This can only exacerbate stigmatisation and exclusion.

Mr President, on the contrary, politicians should speak out against Islamophobia and all other forms of intolerance, because political parties should sign the Charter of European Political Parties for an Inclusive and Non-Racist Society, which our Assembly adopted earlier this year.

Through the resolution that we are voting today, we, the Parliamentary Assembly, reiterate in clear and no uncertain terms our stance against Islamophobia.

We state that we are concerned by the constant increase of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe, with a dramatic spike in recent years.

This is also a call for action. We need to ask Council of Europe member states to consider Islamophobia as a specific form of racism and to mention it explicitly in their anti-racism action plans. We also need to call on them to consider combating Islamophobia as a priority.

Thank you so much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

18:08:10

Thank you, Mr Rapporteur.

Now I open the debate.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

18:08:17

The first speaker is Ms Béatrice FRESKO-ROLFO, from Monaco, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Béatrice, you have the floor.

Ms Béatrice FRESKO-ROLFO

Monaco, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

18:08:34

Thank you very much, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

The ALDE Group would like to thank Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW for the work on this report.

Mr Rapporteur, the explanatory memorandum and the resolution were not supported by all the members of the ALDE group, and some of them had strong reservations. They will have an opportunity to speak later. Nevertheless, the vast majority, including myself, support the draft resolution.

Mr Rapporteur, your explanatory memorandum is almost like a statement for the prosecution. It highlights a number of shortcomings in our fight against discrimination - multiple discrimination - for the Muslim community. I believe that this is exactly what was needed to wake up the consciences of the members of this Assembly regarding a problem which is, unfortunately, recurrent.

Yes, Islamophobia exists, and yes, it is a threat to our societies. In the same way, it is, I think, harmful to draw a parallel between the simple practice of religion and the radicalism from which the most serious abuses can result. This is the International Day of the Girl Child, and therefore it is impossible for me not to mention the distress of women and girls in Afghanistan, which you have condemned of course, Mr Rapporteur, but also to speak of the sadness that affects us when we talk about the repression that women are currently suffering in Iran. In both cases, to varying degrees, we are talking about an attack on the human rights and the freedoms of these women.

However, these facts, I think, need to be decoupled from the draft resolution. The draft resolution on which we are voting today is not a blank check for fundamentalists who want to enslave women. Nor is this draft resolution a blank check for radicals who wish to undermine our societal model.

This resolution - it was drawn up in a constructive spirit - is the framework indicating what we must do in order to guarantee respect for the most basic rights, such as freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, so that we can have a fulfilled population and so that we can fight against all forms of discrimination.

In conclusion, on behalf of the ALDE Group, I would like to reaffirm that we must learn to live together peacefully and thus prevent divisions in our societies.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:10:49

Thank you, Madam Béatrice FRESKO-ROLFO.

Now I give the floor to Mr Andreas Sjalg UNNELAND on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

The floor is yours.

Mr Andreas Sjalg UNNELAND

Norway, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

18:11:03

Thank you, Mister President.

I would like to compliment the rapporteur for his work and for such a concise and important report. 

We are now in a building and we are members of an institution dedicated to peace and the struggle for human rights.

The Council of Europe was created in the wake of a devastating world war. A world war in which racism, antisemitism, hatred for minorities were such a strong motivator that our continent was left in ruins. We are all a product of the historic lesson that hatred for other people and religions will end with death and destruction.

Therefore, it is shameful that we still see political movements that try to mobilise hatred and xenophobia even though we all know how destructive that can be.

Islamophobia or discrimination against Muslims and those perceived as Muslims is widespread and increasing in the member States. Knowing that fact, it leaves us with a big responsibility to act. This report is a call to action.

For instance, the conspiracy theories based on fabrications that immigrant Muslim populations are going to "outbreed" or replace native populations are widespread in Europe, North America, and beyond. The "Great Replacement" theory was mentioned explicitly as a motivation for several terrorist acts globally. This was the view of the far-right extremist, who on 22 July 2011 killed 77 people in Norway, mostly youths at a political summer camp for the Labour Party. This was also the view of the gunman who broke into the Al Noor mosque in Norway in 2019 with the intention of killing Muslims inspired by the Christchurch shooting that killed 49 people earlier that year. These are extreme and brutal events.

But these ideas are not created in a vacuum. People do not just wake up and suddenly hate, discriminate or try to kill Muslims. These are the attitudes created by politicians, extreme ideologies, racism and fear. These attitudes are dangerous and create a dynamic where Islamophobia is accepted in society. We see it, for example, with the increase in racist hate crimes.

We are satisfied that the report clearly states that Islamophobia is a problem. When the existence of Islamophobia is denied, the lack of awareness hinders the possibility of adopting relevant anti‑discrimination policies.

Islamophobia manifests itself in a variety of forms. Islamophobia disproportionately affects Muslim women. They face a challenging situation resulting from multiple and intersectional discrimination. This perspective is important, and we are glad that it is included in the report.

Islamophobia is a severe violation of human rights and dignity that not only affects people who are Muslim or are perceived as such, but it also creates divisions in national communities, undermining social cohesion and the peaceful living together that all Council of Europe member States have the ambition to achieve.

The resolution was unanimously adopted by the committee, and that sends a strong message. I hope that this Assembly will do the same today.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:14:14

Thank you.

Now on behalf of the Socialist Group, Mr Fourat BEN CHIKHA.

The floor is yours.

Mr Fourat BEN CHIKHA

Belgium, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

18:14:22

Thank you, Madam Chairman, hem.. woman, excuse me.

Dear Rapporteur,

Thank you so much for all your work, not only on this report but in the few years that we have been working together. It was a pleasure and an honour. Thank you so much, Malcolm.

Dear Colleagues,

My name is Fourat Ben Chikha, and I am a proud queer Muslim. As a queer person, I have always felt the support of the members of the Assembly in the fight for our rights and equality. As a Muslim, I hope that the members of this Assembly will be equally supportive today.

The importance of this report cannot be underestimated. It provides us with a clear definition of islamophobia, or rather anti-Muslim racism.

Such a definition is important in order to recognise this particular kind of racism, and research proves that this kind of racism is on the rise all over Europe.

This is not a coincidence. Far right and populist politicians benefit from dividing the population, between “proper” Europeans, and those “who don’t belong here” and who are “a threat” to our security.

This has been going on for decades. It has ruined so many children's roots, so many dreams of youngsters, and it keeps going on. We need to stop it.

While, at the same time, it is important that we fight all powers that want to destroy the European way of life, we have to acknowledge that the narrative of division and incompatibility is counterproductive and leads to bad policy and makes young men turn their backs on our institutions and society.

I greatly appreciate the intersectional approach and especially the attention to female Muslims in this report. Muslimas face even more problems related to anti-Muslim racism. They are often the victim of institutionalised discrimination.

European nations insist they want to emancipate Muslim women, but obstruct their emancipation by banning the headscarf in schools and workplaces. It is about time that we recognise that women are capable of making their own choices and that feminism and emancipation include all women. This what true inclusive feminism looks like, or should.

Diversity is the strength and reality of Europe. With strong policies against faith‑based discrimination on the housing market, the workplace, law enforcement, in schools, etc., Europe can strengthen her efforts for equal opportunities for each and all of us citizens and put a stop to the dangerous rise of anti-Muslim racism so that the child of this queer muslim of color can walk on our streets and go to our schools without fear and with a sense of belonging here.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:17:14

Thank you, Mister Fourat BEN CHIKHA.

Now on behalf of Group of the European People's Party, Ms Boriana ÅBERG.

Ms Boriana ÅBERG

Sweden, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

18:17:21

Madam President,

Dear Colleagues,

In this Parliamentary Assembly we all agree that racism is evil. We all agree that discrimination due to ethnicity or religious beliefs should be combatted by all necessary means.

Unfortunately, Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW's report equates even a fully‑legitimate criticism of Islam with Islamophobia. He employs well-known left-wing rhetoric by describing society in terms of the oppressed and the oppressors.

In this report, Muslims are the oppressed and Western society, the oppressor. Justice is achieved when society adapts itself to a loud and demanding minority that hardly represents all Muslims. In contrast to the traditional left-wing, Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW has abandoned secular ideals.

It is extremely concerning that when the Koran riots in Sweden are mentioned in the report, there is no condemnation of the reckless violence against the police. Rather, he questions the freedom of expression, that according to him should not include any offence to Islam.

Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW finds a “worrying development over the last few years” due to the closure of Muslim organisations in France.

But he does not seem to be worried about the Islamist organisations that propagate oppression of women, anti-semitism, and LGBT-hate.

It is worth remembering all the European islamists who travelled to join the Islamic State to rape, torture, and burn caged people. Where were these Islamists radicalised?

Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW mentioned the headscarf ban in French schools, but does not bring up the fact that the ban had the support of many French Muslims. The organisation Ni Putes Ni Soumises, started by young women of North African origin, also took a stand against the headscarf due to its oppressive symbolism.

I agree that there is prejudice against Muslims in Europe, and this prejudice must be fought. But establishing a culture that teaches people that if they assume the victim role and become offended, the rest of society may divert from their principles is the wrong path.

Freedom of expression and equality between men and women and are not negotiable. The values of Western society are not negotiable.

To label the justified critique against Islam as racist and Islamophobic doesn't combat prejudice against Muslims. On the contrary, it adds fuel to the polarisation of our society.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:20:57

Thank you, Madam Boriana ÅBERG.

On behalf of European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance, Mr Bob van PAREREN.

The floor is yours. 

Mr Bob van PAREREN

Netherlands, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

18:21:07

Mister Chair,

The title of the report leads us to confusion. There's no answer in this total report on how Islamophobia arises. The major point, prevention, is missing.

I'm a father of difficult children, four children, and one of them is married to a Muslim. Myself, I'm Jewish, and my grandson is homosexual, so we look at the same issue from different points.

But still, the "why" question is missing. Let us take some typical examples:

A white girl passes by a Muslim boy.

A Jewish man, like me, with a kippah on his head – I don't have it now – passes by a group of Muslim boys.

Or a Muslim girl with her Muslim name applies for a job.

Or a Muslim boy of 23 drives an expensive Porsche.

We all can fill in the comments in each situation. Is that Islamophobia or is it Whitephobia?

In the report all words are spent on the downside of Islamophobia. But how does that Islamophobia start?

Most of us can also fill this in.

To be frank, the public relations of the Islam is not so supportive to this fact, to prevent it. I just have to mention, and the Secretary General mentioned it before, Iran, Afghanistan, and the brave and heroic ladies that put up their hijab just to be free. Free from the oppression they have every day of every year.

Closer to our homes we find mosques where there is big hate, in some mosques, towards the Western society. That also happens in Muslim schools sometimes. That's not good, because that's not the way how we work as people together. We want to be connected and not enemies.

Yes, it is a case that most immigrants have a simple job. Also, many are unemployed, and their family culture is different to the Western culture. But that shouldn't be a point of concern.

Our concern is that we don't work on the real thing. That is integration. No segregation, but integration that is needed. Otherwise, we will continue to have this problem and, unfortunately, we will realise that left politicians try to look away from the real problem.

That is not good. Let's work together to solve this situation from the very beginning, and not at the end with a lot of rules and penalties.

Thank you, Mister Chair.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:24:25

Thank you.

Now we finish the list of speakers on behalf of political groups. 

We start the list of other speakers. First and the list is Ms Ada MARRA from Switzerland.

Ms Ada MARRA

Switzerland, SOC

18:24:39

Thank you, Madam President.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The issue addressed by our colleague Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW is sensitive. You can see that straight away when reading the reasons behind this and the resolution.

It crystallises the war of words and definitions, a strategy which is being cunningly used by those who knowingly deny a reality which is quite simple in our societies: If you have black or dark skin, if your name appears to be Arabic or African, if you are of the Muslim religion, life is simply more complicated in our countries, more complicated to find work, to find housing, sometimes respect. This is not a feeling, it is not a wish to be a victim: it is a reality borne out by numerous studies, as we just heard recently. In particular, if it's obvious because of people's clothes. So, the war of words.

Let me take an example from France, because we heard this morning that someone from that country was arriving in this hemicycle. In France, after decolonisation, people arriving in France from Northern Africa to work were rightly called workers; then, in the 1980s, people came to call them Arabs; and then, from the year 2000 onwards, they were referred to as Muslims. So we can see at the moment, when you essentialise one of people's component parts which makes up our identity, you demean them. You open up the avenue for racism, sexism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and more.

The other aspect which has always amazed me, whether in my country or elsewhere, is to think that Islam had always been imported by foreigners. Muslims are foreigners, and yet people deny that there are Swiss, French, British, Swedish or others, white people who are also of the Muslim religion. It's not something imported, but something perfectly at home, but that is not a semantic but a political tactic to create divisions: divide and rule.

Just to take up what our colleague Mr Antón GÓMEZ-REINO said this morning in another debate, that on the European perspective for the Balkans. Europe is made up of peoples whose religion is Islam: it is also for that reason that the resolution from our friend Mr JALLOW has huge meaning, for Muslim people who've come from outside Europe and also for those who are firmly rooted here.

I take this opportunity to welcome this resolution and also our colleague Mr JALLOW, at his last part-session, to say to him just how much his commitment here has always struck me and we will miss him - at least I will.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:27:27

Thank you, madam.

Next in the debate I call Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR from Hungary.

Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR

Hungary, EC/DA

18:27:37

Thank you, Madam President.

Dear Colleagues,

Hungary is a welcoming nation. This is proven by the fact that we Hungarians were the first in history to announce the law on freedom of conscience and religious tolerance in 1568 at the Diet of Torda in Transylvania. The legal recognition of Islam in the Hungarian Parliament took place more than 100 years ago, in 1916.

In our country, we register 32 religious communities as established churches. Among them, two Islamic communities also enjoy such a status.

In Hungary, Muslims do not suffer from discrimination because of their faith. The Hungarian government also provides financial support to the two Islamic churches. It not only provides a legal possibility for the Hungarian Islamic community to maintain institutions in the field of public education and social welfare, but also ensures their financing in the same way and to the same extent as other church institutions.

At the same time, it is also true that Hungary is not a multicultural society, and we have not accepted immigrants from our colonies, because we were not a colonising country.

We do not have a large number of Muslim immigrants living in our country, so the problem of anti-Muslim sentiment, which is mainly a problem in Western Europe, arising from the integration of Muslim immigrants, is not a challenge for us.

As in the European Union, Islamophobia is considered by our country as a form of racism, so organisations usually do not deal with this topic separately but rather investigate actions against all minorities and hate speech as a whole.

The Hungarian government has declared zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism and racism, which it strictly enforces.

In view of the above, we consider it unjustified and do not support the separate highlighting of Islamophobia from the topic of racism.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:30:20

Now the floor goes to Mr Fazil MUSTAFA from Azerbaijan.

Mr Fazil MUSTAFA

Azerbaijan, ALDE

18:30:31

Dear Colleagues,

Islamophobia is a specific form of racism that must be talked about.

Muslims suffer from discrimination, stigmatisation and exclusion in all areas of life, such as employment, education, vocational training, services, and political participation, but also from racist violence and speech.

However, research based on proxies has estimated that around 19 million Muslims live in Europe, which represents 6% of the total European population.

Consequently, even those who choose not to practice Islam, but who are perceived as Muslim because of their ethnicity, migration background, or the wearing of other religious symbols are subjected to discrimination.

Muslim women are disproportionately affected by Islamophobia as a result of multiple grounds of discrimination, especially if they wear religious clothing or symbols. They experience multiple forms of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, ethnicity, social class, and migration background.

In some countries laws impose a central prohibition of religious and cultural symbols and traces, disproportionality impacting women wearing the head scarf.

These policies are discriminatory and such a prohibition negates their right to freedom of inspection of those women who choose to wear religious and cultural symbols and traces.

European Union laws against racism and discrimination already exist, including the Racial Equality Directive, and the Framework Decision on combatting racism and xenophobia.

In conclusion, I think that we must call for national strategies to combat Islamophobia and promote the inclusion of Muslims.

The framework will serve as a means to ensure that member States take policy measures to combat Islamophobia and protect the rights of Muslims in Europe.

Thanks.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:33:48

Thank you. Now I call Mr Halil ÖZŞAVLI from Turkey.

Mr Halil ÖZŞAVLI

Türkiye, NR

18:33:55

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Dear colleagues, I am really so sad and disappointed because a few minutes ago there was such a racist speech against Islam and against Muslim people and unfortunately, some colleagues cheered for this. I just say shame on you, nothing else.

Dear colleagues, I would like to start by thanking Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW for his excellent report emphasising the importance of the issue of Islamophobia or more precisely anti-Muslim racism in Europe. The negative atmosphere against Muslims at present has been worsened by increasing immigration flows during the last years.

After the Syrian Civil War that started in 2011, millions of people had to leave their country and start to enter European countries, primarily Türkiye, through various means. While Türkiye is trying to provide humane living conditions for all immigrants, especially those coming from Syria, most European countries have considered Syrians a national security threat, instead of providing protection to these people and preserving their rights by complying with the obligations imposed by international law. With the increase in the number of Muslim immigrants, anti-Islamic policies began to become widespread and institutionalised in many European countries and the discourse of multiculturalism began to be abundant. It can be said that European politicians and parties, the media and intelligentsia have created fear – this fear within their society, rather than the alleged anti-Islam and anti-Muslim oppositions in some segments of the population.

As a matter of fact, the relationship between the migration crisis and Islamophobia became more evident during the refugee crisis that started after the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. The perception of Ukrainian immigrants who wanted to take refuge in Europe stands out as a kind of opposite reflection of the European Union's perception of Muslim immigrants. Commentators have described Ukrainian refugees as Christians, white, similar to people living in Poland, Europeans with blond hair and blue eyes, people who watch Netflix and have Instagram accounts. In brief, people who were not Muslims.

The past years have shown us that it is not refugees that scare Europe; it is mostly their religion, race and the colour of their skin. Racism is using migration as a code, and denying most migrants the basic human rights to flee conflict and take refuge. We must concern ourselves with this reality and work towards combatting anti-Muslim racism in Europe.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:37:12

Thank you.

Now I call Ms Lise SELNES, from Norway on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Ms Lise SELNES

Norway, SOC

18:37:20

Madam President,

First of all to the rapporteur, thank you for this very important report.

The increase of negative attitudes towards Muslims in Europe is frightful. This is now more and more addressed as Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism.

Using these words are changing the debate radically. We now acknowledge that Muslims in Europe encounter racism.

The Council of Europe's core activities are human rights. This includes important freedoms and diversity that our European's tight societies need to embrace. Saying this, I of course also say this: all citizens living in a democracy have the right to be heard in the making of the law, but neither religion or culture can be accepted as an excuse for breaking it.

We have experienced attacks by right-wing terrorists in Norway. Everyone knows about Utøya in 2011. In 2019 a young Norwegian man shot his adopted stepsister before continuing to an Al-Noor mosque near Oslo, where he tried to attack people praying.

Fortunately, he did not succeed in killing anyone in the mosque. The mosque has now been rebuilt and restored after the shooting and has taken on an additional mission to create a safe place for dialogue and debate where there is room for discussion on freedom of speech, active citizenship, and intercultural understanding.

Workshops for youths on democracy and human rights are now being held at both Utøya, which was attacked in 2011, and in the Al-Noor mosque, which was attacked in 2019.

This is a brilliant example on how actions of hate of a right-wing extremists results in more dialogue, more focus on the democracy, and more focus on human rights. The growing increase of hate speech and anti-Muslim racism is something that we, as an organisation and parliamentarians, are obliged to address.

We must look upon it as a structural challenge and use this report to create politics that embrace diversity and human rights, not hatred and racism.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:39:53

Thank you.

I call next Ms Margreet De BOER, Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group, from The Netherlands.

Ms Margreet De BOER

Netherlands, SOC

18:40:01

Thank you.

I want to thank Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW for initiating and delivering this important report.

As the report states, Islamophobia or anti-Muslim racism is often overlooked and underestimated, and as we can hear here, also here, even denied.

Whereas the existence of anti-Afro racism and anti-Semitism is widely acknowledged, the discrimination of Muslims or perceived Muslims often is not seen as a form of racism, which in fact it is.

Ending Muslim racism does not just concern discrimination, unequal treatment of those who are different. It often takes the form of Muslim hate, of deliberately offending, accusing and disqualifying men and women who are seen as Muslims.

As the report clearly states, Muslim women who wear a head scarf are particularly vulnerable to Muslim hate. A hate that is not seldomly disguised as support for women who are being oppressed within the religion. We must must not let this disguise fool us.

Of course, women who are being oppressed in name of any religion deserve our support, but the hate that women wearing a headscarf face has nothing to do with it.

In the past week, we could see several examples in which the important cause of giving women the freedom not to wear a headscarf was abused in order to tell women that they are collaborating with the oppressor by wearing a headscarf.

Let us make it very clear, what women wear or do not wear should be the decision of women themselves, not of the states, not of the religious leaders not of the parents or the husbands. It is most definitely unacceptable that white men on social media harassed independent journalists by telling them that they cannot be in solidarity with women in Iran if they wear a headscarf. This was the case in the Netherlands last week.

We have to keep our eyes on the ball. We have to fight both sexism and racism, including anti-Muslim racism. We should stay away from those who pretend to fight the one by doing the other.

I'm glad we have a strong ally in Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW for this cause. If it is not here, than somewhere else.

Thank you, Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:42:42

Thank you.

Now I call Mr Alexander CHRISTIANSSON from Sweden. The floor is yours.

Mr Alexander CHRISTIANSSON

Sweden, EC/DA

18:42:52

President,

In the short time available to me, I would like to focus, firstly, on the main word in the title of the report namely “Islamophobia,” where "phobia", according to the dictionary, stands for "fear unfounded".

This debate requires two thoughts at the same time, something that seems to be challenging for some people.

To claim that someone who criticises, for instance, a religion – Christianity, Islam for instance – is a phobe can easily be a ruler technique and a way of reducing a person's opinion. This is not to be tolerated in a healthy democracy. It is bullying, and it is manipulating. It’s the difference between being a “Islamophobe” and submitting a religion to careful scrutiny.

For example, two weeks ago the French Minister of the Interior decided to immediately close down a mosque located about 20 kilometres from here in the city of Obernai. He did so on the following grounds, namely that the local, Salafist imam in his sermons over many years had, one, called for the legalisation of polygamy; two, advocated discrimination of Jews, homosexuals, and women; three, praised terrorist acts; and four, encouraged young members of his community to participate in jihad, which several of them also did.

Nearly a dozen other Salafist imams are active in this region of France alone.

In Sweden we have the same situation with increasing honour culture and moral police.

These kinds of doctrines are the real threat to our societies. All Muslims in our countries must contribute their share. I am certain that the large majority of law-abiding, moderate Muslims will agree with me on this aim common to us all.

The following sentence in Paragraph 12 of the Draft Resolution says:

“Council of Europe member States are required to ensure respect for the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association”.

“Freedom of expression” is indeed fundamental for our Western civilisation.

This is the reason why, for instance, the Danish-Swedish politician Mr Rasmus Paludan was not arrested after burning copies of the Koran at recent manifestations in Sweden. He was protected by the Convention, as well as centuries-old legislation in Sweden guaranteeing freedom of expression.

What’s worrying is the debate that followed, where some influential voices pleaded for limiting free speech in favour of stone-throwing rioters. Rioters who were women and men, older ladies joining young boys in throwing rocks at the police.

Many of us, and I myself indeed, may not approve of Mr Rasmus Paludan’s excessive provocation. I surely don't. But as Voltaire said some three hundred years ago to a political adversary: "I may not share your opinion, but I would sacrifice my life for your right to express it!"

Let us not forget all those who sacrificed themselves for our right to freedom of opinion and expression. Let us not take our democratic rights for granted.

My recommendation is to vote against this report.

Thank you, Madam President.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:46:17

Now I call Mr Jacques LE NAY from France.

Mr Jacques LE NAY

France, ALDE

18:46:23

Madam President,

Mister Rapporteur,

Dear Colleagues,

Freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the prohibition of all discrimination are two essential aspects of the European Convention on Human Rights, guaranteed by its Articles 9 and 14.

Our Assembly, through numerous reports, has done a lot of work on the issue of the fight against racism in all its forms, and I welcome this.

Nevertheless, I do not agree today with the orientation of the report proposed to us, which underlies the motion for a resolution submitted to us.

The rapporteur, our colleague Momodou Malcolm JALLOW, has his own conception, which I respect, of the fight against racism and, in this case, of anti-Muslim racism, which he describes as Islamophobia. His communitarian approach leads him to advocate the establishment of ethnic statistics, which is strictly impossible in France, in the name of a universalist conception written into our constitution.

If I respect his conception, I contest on the other hand the way he comes, in the name of this conception, to systematically disqualify the French universalist approach. I also totally dispute his analysis of the situation of certain mosques which the French government has rightly asked to be closed because they were a serious threat to public order. This was not a "wave of repression", as the report states. As for his analysis of the wearing of certain outfits, it fundamentally ignores the fact that certain organisations clearly defy the French conception of secularism in order to impose their agenda of political Islam.

The reading of our colleague seems to me to be totally erroneous with regard to the situation in France.

As for his considerations on terrorism, I want to remind him that in France, it is indeed Islamist terrorism that has bruised our country in many places and on too many occasions in recent years. I say this all the more forcefully because at the end of this week the Samuel Paty Prize will be awarded, named after the teacher who was murdered for defending freedom of expression.

Our rapporteur had these debates with fellow senators who did not share his convictions. This is reflected in the report, but I regret that their analysis was not reported in a completely accurate manner. Cutting a sentence can distort the thought. Changing the order of the speeches, as was done for his consideration of terrorism, can alter the dynamics of an exchange. As our colleague Jacqueline Eustache Brinio stated, Islamophobia does not exist "in French law", unlike racism or anti-Semitism.

For these different reasons, I will oppose the text that is proposed to us because it is based on a fundamentally erroneous and biased analysis.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:49:33

Thank you. [in French]

I call next Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ from Türkiye.

Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ

Türkiye, NR

18:49:43

Dear President,

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to extend my sincere thanks to the rapporteur Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW for all his efforts in preparing this report, as well as our colleagues today who support this report and stand against the anti‑Muslim sentiments in Europe.

As elaborated by the rapporteur, Islamophobia is a new form of racism and xenophobia that stems from unfounded fear, mistrust and hatred towards Muslims and Islam.

Anti-Muslim racism in Europe is a multifaceted issue. Manifesting itself on interpersonal public and cultural levels, Islamophobia is destructive and disruptive for the lives and livelihoods of millions of Muslims in Europe.

While anti-Muslim sentiments were already present, they were heightened after the terrorist attacks of the early aughts. In the aftermath of such deplorable events perception of Islam became more associated with terrorism and as a result of other recent economic and political developments, far right parties became stronger in many European countries, and anti-Muslim discourse has become widespread.

The effect of media on the public discourse has been particularly harmful, shaping people's beliefs, thoughts and attitudes towards Muslims and Islam.

There are many presenters in the traditional media who propagated the perception that Islam is a violent and war-prone culture.

Associating all Muslims and Muslim organisations with terrorism and using the power of media to target Muslims have, unfortunately, become all too common.

As the rapporteur has thoughtfully put forth in his report, the public attitude of alienation and racism of a part of a country is very damaging to the fabric of Europe. It is vital to firstly identify and accept this problem, then take a multi-layered approach in combatting anti-Muslim racism.

Common efforts towards a shift in the political and cultural climate of Europe are needed. There won't be a good quick and easy fix and solution, which makes it all the more important for us to start working together as soon as possible, sooner than later.

I thank you all.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:52:49

 In the debate I call now Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS from United Kingdom.

Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS

United Kingdom, SOC

18:52:55

Madam Chair and Colleagues,

It's a privilege to take part in this debate, and I hear the variety of points of view being expressed as we seek to find our way to a statement that will give all of us a baseline from which to take action in the future.

I endorse the line of action that's recommended and hope sincerely that it will carry the day at the end of this debate.

I'm a religious leader in the United Kingdom and have worked extensively with Muslims in a variety of ways.

For 20 years running a school for girls in an inner city borough in London where 85% of the girls wear the hijab, and there is no problem whatsoever. A school uniform has been designed that meets the needs both of the girls in question and from other racial and social backgrounds, without any tensions at all.

I have worked with the Muslim Council of Britain, especially through their Islamic Relief Organisation.

I do a lot of work in Haiti, in the Caribbean, which is in dire straits just now. Muslims across Britain responded fantastically generously to the terrible earthquake that happened there 10 years ago, and I and sheikh, a Muslim leader, led a little delegation to Haiti to show solidarity with the victims of that.

I've just had an intern work with me who spent his vacations in Calais working with those in "the Jungle" awaiting an opportunity to cross the channel to the United Kingdom and frustrated because he spoke French and was able to talk to some of them, didn't speak Arabic and couldn't talk to so many others. He has now gone to the Middle East and is paying his own way to learn Arabic with the express desire of coming back to be more useful in the refugee work in Calais.

In all these ways I have only formed positive impressions of everything that can be achieved when we find a way of going beyond attitudinising in order to discover the people on the other side of the attitudes that so often divide us. It is a miracle every time it happens.

There's just one word of caution I would address to the perpetrators of this particular effort. I am a Christian theologian, I remember how a creed was intended to solve all the differences in the Mediterranean in the 4th and 5th centuries. I know that once the creed was formed, more people were excluded by the creed than included. The great irony was that when the Roman Empire collapsed, it was at the hands of migrants who had been excluded by the creed.

We must not worship the creed; we must have it. But nothing substitutes for meeting people and integrating with them.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:56:26

Thank you. Now I call Mr Thomas PRINGLE from Ireland.

Mr Thomas PRINGLE

Ireland, UEL

18:56:34

Thank you Madam Speaker.

I'd like to thank Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW for his report. I'm happy to support it here tonight.

As noted within the explanatory memorandum, the concept of the "other" is utilised and weaponised throughout the political strategy.

As we witness the increasing rise of right and far-right politics within member States, it is vital that we do not fall into a trap of ideological neutrality and ambivalence.

Indeed it would do us well to remember an interview given by Mr Silvio Berlusconi in the 1990s, where he boasts of his invention of the centre right through his allyship with the League and fascists. In doing so he legitimised their presence and their politics.

This political legitimisation is insidious.

Working from a top-down approach we see the likes of the Swiss ban on coverings to the French laws that claim to uphold secularism, yet clearly serve to vilify the French Muslim Community.

That is disparity between stated aims and actual outcomes; where we can see the right-wing motives and acts to legitimise Islamophobia.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) general policy recommendation number five, on preventing and combating anti-muslim racism and discrimination, indicates that Islamophobia includes structural forms of racism.

A clear example of this is happening through counterterrorism laws. As noted within the report, a specific feature of Islamophobia is its connection with counterterrorism policies.

The EU's Agency for Fundamental Rights Directive on Combatting Terrorism, Impact of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms confirms that counterterrorism strategies notably impact the human rights of Muslims within the EU.

Tellingly, the Amnesty International Guide on Racial and Religious Discrimination and Counterterrorism goes so far as to call upon states to refrain from classifying certain crimes of terrorism when based solely on their presumed political or ideological motives.

Instead, rely on the ordinary criminal justice system, and where necessary, on war crimes and international criminal law.

In public discourse, terrorism was almost exclusively linked to Islam, yet right-wing violence was rarely described as terrorism.

What this indicates is a strategization, at policy and legislative level, that both feeds and is ultimately sustained by social willingness to demonise the other.

A separate Amnesty International submission to the Council of Europe outlines in clear terms that the narrative associating Muslims with terrorism influences the way in which those with power make decisions.

While there may be a growing awareness and acknowledgment and certain levels of the existence of Islamophobia, it is crucial that we remain actively vigilant in the face of it.

Make no mistake - the prevalence of Islamophobia within our States is mandated by those who benefit from the rhetoric of the other, and of the age old method of divide and conquer that we must protect against.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

18:59:26

Next in the debate I call Mr Bernard SABELLA from Palestine.

If he is not here, then we will continue.

Mr Laurent JACOBELLI from France.

Mr Laurent JACOBELLI

France, EC/DA

18:59:44

Thank you, Madam President, Mister Rapporteur, and Dear Colleagues.

Mister Rapporteur,

You are on the wrong track. It was necessary – I think, and it was urgent – to write a report against the Islamist threat which threatens our societies and the whole of Europe rather than against Islamophobia which is today, let us say it, a fantasy.

In France, Muslims have the right to practice their religion according to the same rules that govern all the religions present on the territory, and that is so much the better.

France, by its intrinsic refusal of communitarianism and separatism, is structurally anti-discrimination. If a group decides to join the national community by respecting its rules and giving precedence to our culture over its culture of origin, by obeying the laws of the Republic and not the laws of its religion, then it is an integral part of the national community. He is not a Muslim, he is not a Jew, he is not a Christian, he is not an atheist: he is simply French.

Don't pretend you don't understand our secular model.

Guilt-tripping speeches, pushed by Islamist lobbies and supported by often cowardly far-left politicians, will have no effect on us.

The facts are there. There are, in 2021, 171 criminal acts against Muslims. This is 171 too many. But let's face it. At the same time, there were 523 anti-Semitic acts and 686 anti-Christian acts.

By making Islamophobia a major European cause, you are playing into the hands of those who want to exploit this fear. You are playing into the hands of Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood. You are trying to convince Muslims living in Europe that the necessary efforts they have made to integrate, for the vast majority of them, are in fact the result of oppression.

Our rules, our laws, our values, everything would be done to persecute Islam. So what is the point of respecting them?

You have the same arguments as the Muslim Brotherhood or certain Islamist and jihadist networks in France. It is because of this type of report that Muslims in social distress let themselves be convinced by the recruiters of radical Islam. It is because of this type of report that the most extreme rhetoric takes root in our suburbs.

I speak of this with great gravity because France, of which I have the honour to be a representative, has suffered in its flesh from the terrorism of radical Islam.

The hundreds of French people killed at the Bataclan, crushed on the Promenade des Anglais, are unfortunately witnesses to this.

This is the real danger that threatens the peoples of Europe, of all faiths: fundamentalism.

My dear colleagues, let us defend democratic and republican values. Let us defend secularism. Let us refuse the dictatorship of minorities. Voting against this report is healthy.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:02:46

Thank you. [in French]

Now I call Mr Simon MOUTQUIN from Belgium. The floor is yours.

Mr Simon MOUTQUIN

Belgium, SOC

19:02:55

Thank you, Madam President.

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to begin by warmly thanking Mr JALLOW for his excellent report, which puts his finger on a reality that is too often denied in our societies, namely the discrimination experienced by Muslim citizens.

For decades, and under the influence of George Bush, the world has been cut in two: a so-called axis of good, that of the West, and a so-called axis of evil, that of Muslims. It is this reading of the clash of civilisations that permeates racist and Islamophobic thinking in our countries.

It is for this reason that we forget that 82% of the victims of Islamist terrorism are in fact Muslims throughout the world. It is also for this reason that we forget that in our countries, the majority of terrorist acts are committed by extreme right-wing, racist, homophobic and masculinist groups. So I'm going to focus on that aspect, the terrorism aspect. Of course, our states need to protect themselves from acts of terrorism of all kinds, including Islamist terrorism, but let's look for a moment at what this fight against terrorism costs these Muslim populations.

A recent study by the prestigious Belgian university KU Leuven, entitled "The secondary effects of the fight against radicalisation on Belgian Muslims" has pointed out the reality that those who are finally subjected to the various security files suffer a reality of consequences.

The first consequences are material, such as police surveillance, night raids, bank account closures, job bans, and work bans. There are also financial consequences, such as loss of income and travel restrictions, as well as psychological consequences, such as latent anxiety, periods of depression, loss of confidence, and inability to travel.

The report concludes with important recommendations, including having clear appeal procedures for these people, but the report especially shows the racist bias, structurally embedded in the workings of our states.

Today, I must say, I am a convinced secularist. I believe deeply in the separation of religion and the State, but I believe above all in the capacity of the State to organise the living together of our societies.

Today, we must reaffirm equality and equity as a fundamental value, and Mr JALLOW's report reminds us of this.

Today, Islamophobia is ignored in most of our countries. Finally, this report makes some interesting recommendations.

I will take the few seconds I have left to respond to some of my colleagues in the Assembly, namely our conservative colleagues.

Today, some who associate themselves with the fascists in Italy, with the fascists in Sweden, are going to give moral lessons to the Muslim population on alleged homophobia, misogyny or other. Today, dear colleagues, it is the militants of the extreme right who, on social networks, call me a "faggot", call me a "dirty homosexual", it is your militants, dear colleagues, of the extreme right who attack me on social networks and not the Muslim population. First take the time to look at what is going on at home before you go criticising Muslim populations.

I thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:06:20

Thank you.

Now I call Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, from Azerbaijan.

Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV

Azerbaijan, ALDE

19:06:26

Thank you Chair. Dear colleagues.

Each type of phobia is a disease in itself and is undesirable. However, phobias against entire nations, races and religions are already a social and very dangerous disease. The targets of racism – these ploys [which are] designed to create deep conflict in society – are appallingly broad.

If there are approximately 1.72 billion Muslims in the world and they live in over 120 countries, then these numbers already clearly display the magnitude of the scale.

Regardless of size, every nation has a greeting in its own language. However, all Muslims have a common greeting which is a first words they say when they meet someone else: salam. This word means "I wish you peace". Can a belief system that first wishes peace and tranquillity to get one you made provide the base for any phobias?

Indeed, in the essence of each of the great religions, lies in the desire to increase love, amity and understanding between human beings. If something happens in real life that does not correspond to this, then it is clear that the fault lies with politics. Evil comes from the devils acting behind the scenes.

If today, at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, the official report of the Council of Europe speaks excitedly about the constant increase in the signs of Islamophobia on the continent and particularly about the sharp growth in recent years, in that case, they are not mere words but confirmation of the diktat rules based on the statistics and analysis.

Today, as always, this report calls for the elimination of the root causes that gave rise to anti-Islamic racism and discrimination. For the sake of a more stable and comfortable life, a more integrated society and a more friendly co-existence in Europe, and to combat negative trends more resolutely. Frankly, I do not accept the phrase "root causes". There are no root causes. On the contrary, what we constantly observe is the work of certain forces to create the illusion of the existence of prime causes. The evil behind some anti-Islamic movements that caused a serious resonance in the world and some terrorist attacks that are committed after Eid and are associated with Muslims is one and the same. It is the same brain, the same centre that controls the process.

Therefore, if we want our struggle to be effective, our calls to be heard and our measures successful, we must not deceive ourselves, we must choose the right goal and intensify the struggle against the cause and not against the manifestation. Certainly, it is very important to improve the overall legislative framework in this direction.

Let us protect our common home, Europe, and the world, from phobias and prior to that from those who created phobias. 

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:09:42

Thank you.

Next in the debate I call Mr Tommy SHEPPARD from the United Kingdom.

Mr Tommy SHEPPARD

United Kingdom, NR

19:09:51

Thank you.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I am disappointed that some colleagues on the right of the debate have approached this report in the negative and defensive manner which they have. At a particular, that they have tried to suggest that what we are discussing is somehow related to freedom of speech, or indeed an attempt to curtail a critical discussion about the role of religion in society.

That is not what we are discussing.

Islamophobia is the discrimination against and depression of people, not in the basis of what they do, but on the basis of what they believe, and their belief in Islam. It is real, and it is wrong.

Unless we identify it, resist it, confront it and defeat it, then it will continue to be a poison in our society, meaning harm not just to the Muslim victims of the process but also acting as a toxin which weakens our society and causes disintegration. I also believe that it is one of the ideological factors for racist violence in our communities.

Now thankfully, in my community, the in east of Edinburgh, racial attacks are not as bad as they once were. But they still exist, they are still a problem, and they still need to be confronted.

Last year, two shopkeepers were put in jail with grievous injuries after having been attacked by 13 young women and men at the end of their shift. Thankfully those incidents are rare but low-level harassment of Muslim families in my community is persistent and exists every day and every week. We need to do something about it.

I think that the report is right to examine the connection between the problems on the ground and our national public discourse. In particular, the role of the media, which the report mentions.

I think also the way in which our national governments approach discussion of immigration and nationality policy is also very important.

I am deeply ashamed as a member of the UK delegation at the actions of the British Government, where it should be offering compassion to refugees seeking sanctuary from persecution, it is offering them the door and giving them a one-way ticket to a country of which they have no knowledge and with which they have no connection.

This report calls for proper government action and analysis.

I'm pleased to report that in Scotland, in my country, the Scottish Government is currently engaged in working out specifically such a plan, and will later this year produce a report which looks at practical action to combat Islamophobia within the context of hate crime in general.

I want to finish, Madam President, by going back and saying that I think it is vital that whilst we take national government action we focus also on the role of individuals and communities. Because two days after those Asian shopkeepers were put in hospital last year, we called a public meeting in the area. More than a hundred people turned up 90% of them, the white neighbours of the people who were attacked. They were appalled and resolved to do something about it, and co‑operated with the police to bring evidence against the perpetrators.

That is our salvation, that ordinary people will no longer put up with this horror and are prepared to act against it.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:13:30

Thank you.

Now I call Mr Roberto RAMPI from Italy.

Mr Roberto RAMPI

Italy, SOC

19:13:35

Madam President,

The fact that we, in this Parliament, have to discuss today Islamophobic behavior and racism toward those who profess a faith or manifest, even physically, even with clothing that they wear, a belief, a religious creed, we could consider it a failure of what has been the process of European unification, the process of the development of human rights, and the development of this Assembly.

Certainly the words that we have had to hear from some of our colleagues here today are of great concern to us, because certain issues that should have been consolidated after World War II, after the tragedies of totalitarianism that used alleged theories of race and alleged differences on the basis of religion, to exterminate millions of people, should have at the very least taught the people of Europe what it means to judge someone on the basis of their faith, their beliefs, their origin, the way they dress. But this is not.

I believe that we face a tremendous effort toward the younger generations.

Our communities are blessed to be multi-ethnic and multireligious. Growing up in a multi-ethnic, multilingual, multireligious context is a great fortune. It is good for the brain, it is good for intelligence, it produces art, it produces culture, it produces innovation, and people are richer.

Instead, closure and hatred impoverishes people. So you see vis-à-vis Islam, there is first of all a theme to emphasise, and I listened to some of my colleagues who said it very beautifully.

I put it this way: there would be no European civilisation if there had not been the great Arab, Islamic philosophers who brought Aristotle into our world. He would have disappeared, we would have lost him, we would have lost the great culture of ancient Greece that lies at our origins without the translation and accompaniment that the great Arab philosophers brought to us.

This we have to remember. When you say clash of civilisations, you say a cultural bestiality because we belong to a great common civilisation which is first of all that of the Mediterranean. As an Italian I particularly feel this belonging, this civilisation.

I have Sicilian friends. Sicily was the land where in the Middle Ages a great culture and architecture was built that held together European and Arab populations, where Arab culture triumphed.

So you see, I believe that we have to transmit these values. Today we have to be concerned if a little girl or a little boy still has to think about what religion they believe in, if a person does not know where he can be buried, as it happens to those who have Islamic faith in Italy, and if a woman wearing the veil should not be proud of her freedom.

Freedom to put it on and freedom to take it off, exactly as she wants in a free country in a free world that welcomes everyone.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:16:54

Thank you. [in Italian]

Next I call Ms Parvin KARIMZADA from Azerbaijan.

Ms Parvin KARIMZADA

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

19:17:07

Thank you, Madam chair.

Dear Colleagues,

Unfortunately, intolerance and discrimination against Muslims is not a new phenomenon. Moreover, in recent years, it has increased and become more widespread. One of the reason for the spread of Islamophobia is the spread of false information against Islam and Muslims by the Western media.

Sometimes public and political figures also join this campaign, and European institutions are mostly indifferent towards this issue. Statements by some media representatives and authorities result in the creation of stereotypes. As a result a wrong policy regarding Muslims is formed in European countries.

Contrary to the common belief that most radicalised individuals are Islamic religious fanatics, various studies show that this view is not true. The fight against radicalisation must not become a fight against Islam.

It is unacceptable to present Islam as a terrorist religion.

Dear Colleagues,

Terrorism and terrorists have no religion. The international community should take these challenge in their account. Reviewing and evaluating the needs and ideas of Muslim communities living in Europe is very important. If we want to rebuild inclusive societies we must be against Islamophobia, xenophobia, anti‑Semitism, and other religion discrimination.

Azerbaijan has faced Islamophobia directly. In the liberated territories we witness that Armenians deliberately destroyed all the cultural and religion monuments in the village and cities of Azerbaijan.

Our mosques have been turned into places where pigs and cows were kept. 65 out of 67 mosques located in the liberated areas had been completely destroyed by the armed forces of Armenia.

Today Azerbaijan is restoring destroyed mosques and churches allocated in the territories liberated from occupation.

By the way, today is the second anniversary of the tragedy in which the armed forces of Armenia initiated rocket strikes into Ganja, my home city, which is the second largest city of Azerbaijan.

At that time, Ganja was located about 100 kilometres away from war zone. Babies, old people, and women were killed during the rocket attack. A Muslim monument and a Christian church were also seriously damaged. No one has been held accountable so far for this war crime in Armenia. No one has wanted justice for these children, women, and elderly.

Anyway, I think together we must promote true values, which are peace, tolerance, and justice.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:20:12

Thank you.

The last speaker in this debate will be Ms Hilkka KEMPPI, from Finland.

Ms Hilkka KEMPPI

Finland, ALDE

19:20:20

Madam President,

Dear Colleagues,

Thank you to our Swedish colleague, who raises a very serious and sometimes silenced issue as well. Thank you. It's a lot. It's a really interesting report.

The report underlines the role of political actors in preventing stigmatisation. This is a meaningful aspect.

We can learn to meet differences only by facing difference. Some people have no experience of meeting Muslims. People also often still often wrongfully link Islam to extremism, such as fears of terrorism, which makes such meetings more difficult.

Prejudices, generalisations, and fears are born from a lack of knowledge. Awareness is crucial when it comes to accepting minorities.

I would like to underline the important role of education. The earlier a child can practice facing difference, the easier it becomes. The role of schools in accepting difference is in fact decisive.

Finnish schools respect the principle of inclusion, meaning that children from different backgrounds and cultures are taught in the same classrooms. I support the principle of inclusion as it helps in facing difference.

However, the schools should ensure not to increase the size of inclusive teaching groups too much. Only in smaller groups will the teacher have time to address the different needs of pupils.

Pluralistic religious education is important for increasing knowledge.

In Finland we have been struggling to find competent teachers of Islam. However, the situation is improving. The right to learn one’s religion still raises discussion in Finland, although 15 000 children are enrolled in Islam education.

Dear Colleagues,

In Finland we have had quite a heated debate on whether or not schools should be allowed to include visits to churches or mosques.

If we forget about systematic cultural and religious education, the children and young people will seek their culture from where it is most easily accessible, for example, commercial consumerism. For this reason, the schools should ensure a diverse cultural education and pluralistic religious education. I am happy that it has now been settled that in accordance with the Finnish constitution schools can visit places of worship as a method of teaching as well.

Thank you for this report.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:23:09

Thank you.

Dear colleagues,

Unfortunately, now I must interrupt the list of speakers.

The speeches of members on the speaker list who have been present during the debate, but who have not been able to speak, may be given to the Table Office for publication in the official report.

I remind colleagues that the texts are to be submitted in typescript electronically, if possible, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.

A point of order. You have the floor.

Mr Serhii SOBOLIEV

Ukraine, EPP/CD

19:23:44

Thank you, Madam Chair.

You say I do not even know how to comment this. When one of the members of Parliament from Türkiye announced their narratives of the bloody dictator Putin that all your countries protected refugees from Ukraine because they have white skin, they are Christians and watching Netflix, I think that you protected all of them because all these people are suffering from Putin's regime when they killed our children and raped our women.

I do not think that is a position of the Turkish delegation. I think, in this case, it is not a position of this report. It is very important to unite Christians and Muslim people in this case.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:24:42

It's not a point of order.

Dear Colleagues,

It's obvious that it's not a point of order; please do not use the possibility of point of order.

Now, before the end of the debate I would like to call the Rapporteur Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW to reply to the debate.

You have 5 minutes.

Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW

Sweden, UEL, Rapporteur

19:25:07

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Interesting contributions. I thank you all for your contributions, especially those of you that believe in human rights and that human rights apply to all, regardless of religion, and regardless of background.

But I also thank all the others that do not think so, because it's important to know that they exist. It's important to know the reason why we are here today, and the importance of this report: that is to send a signal to everybody who does not believe that Muslims also have human rights; to know that this hemicycle, this Parliamentary Assembly believes that human rights are indivisible. It applies to everyone regardless of your religion who lives around the world.

I have made my case as to why we are legally obliged to protect the right to freedom. I have appealed to intellect.

But, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to speak to your hearts and minds, to make a moral case.

Imagine for a second you have a mother or a sister or a daughter who happens to be a Muslim, happens to wear a veil, walking down the streets, highly pregnant. In the middle of the street she meets a man who looks at her and calls her a whore. She continues walking and ignores this man. This man goes again and says you are not welcome in this country, you need to leave: go back to where you come from. But your daughter, your sister, your mother was born and raised in that country. She still continues walking. Then this man comes close and starts yelling and screaming and then pushes this woman – your mother, your sister, your daughter – on the ground, and starts kicking her and starts physically abusing her.

This is a reality for many Muslims. This case that I'm telling you about is not just from my imagination; it's an actual case in the middle of a European city.

Many Muslim women are subjected to harassment, physical and otherwise. Their dignity has been undermined every single day. Those who have not been harassed are fearful every day when they leave their doors, homes, that they will be victims of this kind of harassment, victims of physical harassment, victims of physical abuse, and even death. We've seen this.

Now some of our colleagues here are saying that is imagination. They say that is constructive criticism when you attack people, when you attack a pregnant woman, because she chooses to wear a veil.

Now this might not be your sister, it might not be your mother, it might not be your daughter. But it is a human being who also has the same rights as your mother, as your sister, as your daughter.

As Martin Luther King says:

"In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends."

We cannot be silent today.

We need to show to all this women around Europe who happen to be Muslims that we will protect their rights, just like we do for every other person in Europe.

Ladies and Gentleman,

Today is the International Day for the Girl Child. We also saw how Mahsa Amini was killed in Iran simply because of the lack of freedom to choose what to wear as a Muslim woman.

We say that we support Iranian women. We stand here, we take pictures, we have the pins. But what about the women who are here in Europe who are Muslims, who are fighting for the same freedom that the women in Iran and Afghanistan are fighting for?

When Muslim women are in Afghanistan or in Iran they are forced to wear the hijab and when they come to Europe they are forced to take off the hijab. That's the irony.

My report is about women having the choice to choose what to wear, whether they're in Afghanistan, Iran or Sweden.

That is what my report is about: the right to choose. If we are human rights defenders, we should be able to protect that right by all means necessary.

Today we have a choice, and we have a chance. Let's make sure we use that chance and that choice in line with Article 9 of the Convention, which says every one has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.

This right includes the freedom to change one's religion or belief and freedom either alone or in community with others and in public or private to manifest one's religion or belief in worship, teaching practice and observance.

Article 14 goes on and says the enjoyment of the right and freedom set forth in this Convention shall be secure without discrimination on any ground.

Ladies and Gentleman,

All I'm asking you is for us to abide by these principles.

I'm hoping that we will do that tonight.

Thank you so much.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:30:30

Thank you, Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW.

Does Ms Annicka ENGBLOM, Chairperson of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination want to speak?

Yes, that's the case.

You have 3 minutes.

Ms Annicka ENGBLOM

Sweden, EPP/CD, Chairperson of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

19:30:41

Thank you, Madam President.

Dear colleagues,

It is our mission in the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination to draw your attention to discrimination, intolerance and racism in Europe in whatever form they manifest.

In spite of efforts of national authorities at all levels to eradicate it, racism is still present in Europe and it is unfortunately even on the rise. Islamophobia is no exception.

It has been over a decade since the Assembly first adopted a resolution on Islamism in Islamophobia in Europe, and the situation of the latter has not improved since then.

Muslim women and men still face prejudice in the labour market, public and political life, not to mention online and offline hate speech – including in the political discourse.

The rapporteur Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW, has referred in his report to cases of prejudice and discrimination that have been recorded by civil society organisations, individuals, experts, and equality bodies.

As a parent, no member state is entirely free from Islamophobia.

The text is timely. We need to learn more about Islamophobia. We need to understand that it is a form of discrimination, and we need to  address it as such.

Another matter, President.

On a more personal note, as you have already heard that Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW is leaving the Parliamentary Assembly as he has been appointed committee chair in the Swedish Parliament, and therefore we will no longer be able to partake in the Assembly.

I thank you, Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW, for the work you've been doing in the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, which I'm honoured to share, and thank you for shedding lights on various forms of discrimination in Europe.

With the permission of the rapporteur, I take the opportunity on my own behalf, since this is also my last week here and with you, in the Parliamentary Assembly, so I would like to thank you all fellow parliamentarians, the Secretariat, the staff, the interpreters.

I decided a couple of years ago to not re-run for the election this Autumn. It is time to do something else, a change in life, and the time is right now. But this five years that I have experienced here in PACE, with all of you, with all the fruitful discussions, has been, and I think you agree with me, Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW, the most rewarding time of my life.

Thank you very much.

Mr Kamil AYDIN

Türkiye, NR

20:33:07

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear President,

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to start my speech with a very well-known saying simply paraphrased as “If the passenger is mistaken what is the mistake of path?” In other words, if a Muslim, Christian or Jew are mistaken, why we are tended to accuse the way they believe? So, it is unacceptable to close the Mosque due to the mistaken speech by a Selefi Imam. By the same token, due to the deeds of a seducing priest, we cannot propose to close down the Church he is in charge.

Many thanks to Rapporteur Mr. Jallow for his excellent work in this report that aims to raise awareness of anti-Muslim racism in Europe. I believe this report is going to be a cornerstone document in our common efforts against Islamophobia.

As Mr. Jallow detailed in his report, anti-terrorism efforts are being used to target Muslims and Muslim organizations in Europe. Associating Islam with terrorism, and classifying all crime committed by Muslims as terrorism while anti-Muslim crime is merely written off as acts of deranged or troubled individuals is unacceptable and unjust.

The power of the state is being weaponized against Muslims, an important part of the European community in the name of anti-terrorism. Political actors using Islamophobic rhetoric not only feed into the anti-Muslim racism, but they also reap political power from the fear of terrorism.

Muslim civil society organizations are raising alarms about the rising tide of state-sponsored Islamophobia in Europe. Some countries are implementing policies that are contributing towards a systematic suppression of Muslim civil society across Europe.

It is Member States’ responsibility to see to it that citizens are protected from state racism, surveillance, stigmatization and violence. I am afraid the issue of Islamophobia is no longer just a far-right issue, but is becoming a common practice across the political spectrum.

Mosques, private schools, organizations and even shops are being closed by authorities in order to allegedly “combat Extremist Islam”. As the Rapporteur has touched upon in the report, the reasons for such actions should be clearly justified and not be used beyond their legal purpose, but the almost automatic nature of such actions harm the relationships and trust between Muslim communities and state actors. Anti-terror measures should never be used as state-sponsored weapons of racism and discrimination.

Thank you.

 

 

 

Ms Laura CASTEL

Spain, UEL

20:33:10

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

I want to begin personally congratulating the Rapporteur for this long due and thought-provoking report.

Last month, a member of Catalan parliament from my political group, Najat Driouech Ben Moussa, wearing a hijab, was insulted in a public assembly, and suffered different forms of violent speech against her. The day after, in an open letter, she stated that “it is crucial to build walls against islamophobia, no exceptions should be allowed,”. As the report rightly mentions, women are today affected by Islamophobia in a discriminatory way.

I wanted to stress we have to combat islamophobia from both, society and institutions’ point of view.

As we can see today, it is difficult to admit society and institutions in Europe are racist. We are often silent at laws and aggressions that discriminate and attack Muslims. We say “no, we are not racists”. But in our everyday life we are, we foster segregation without realizing it.

It is not enough “not being racist” it is necessary to be antiracist. A change is needed. Now more than ever, antiracism is the way to combat fascism and xenophobia.

At institutional level, what we can do as parliamentarians? I would like to put an example of good practice. The Catalonia Parliament has recently passed-on a law against islamophobia. It highlights that it is a structural problem and an oppression system; is an institutional, as well as a social, form of racism, which is why, all society top-down and bottom-up should be concerned. This law gives obligations to institutions and private actors alike.

However, much more work is needed, as we can see today here: we find examples of institutional racism and islamophobia in education system law, in the health system or in the massive and arbitrary expulsions carried out in the borders, like in Melilla, Spain. Practices that foster stigmatization and mistrust against Muslims communities.

Modifying or adopting legislation that meet human rights is needed to tackle this.

This report will help raise awareness on the situation, but it must go, hand in hand, with positive actions. Dear Colleagues, let’s work seriously on this, and the first step is to vote in favour of this resolution.

Thanks again to the Rapporteur for putting it, on the table.

Mr David WELLS

Canada

20:33:14

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Honourable colleagues,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to this crucial issue today. I want to thank the Rapporteur for the excellent report. Sadly, we live in a world where hate and discrimination are growing, and islamophobia is no exception. We must continue to fight against the beliefs and ideologies that perpetuate discrimination and hate, emphasizing both their moral repugnancy and the serious harm they cause.

I believe one way of doing this, a sometimes-overlooked argument, is by showing how discrimination has a real and significant economic cost, that effects us all. In Canada, we are facing persistent labour shortages, which some believe to be the “greatest economic threat“ facing my country today. Yet in March of this year, when the government reported that the unemployment rate was at a record low, it also reported that the unemployment rate of racialized populations remain more than a percentage point and a half higher than for non-racialized Canadians. The rate for Black and Arab Canadians was almost four percentage points higher than the non-racialized rate.

At a time when Canadian businesses are struggling to meet demand for lack of workers, racialized Canadians, including from communities with large Muslim populations, continue to face barriers to fair participation in the workforce. A government official testifying before a parliamentary committee recently estimated that increasing the labour market participation rate among under-represented groups, including racialized communities, could add two million workers to Canada’s workforce. Or put another way, add the equivalent of half a decade of immigration at near record levels.

In Canada, we are literally all paying for discrimination and systemic barriers to equal participation. And Canada is not alone. In the United States, a Citibank report estimated that closing gaps faced by Black Americans in wages, education, housing, and investment could add $5 trillion to the economy over five years. In France, a study estimated the benefit of eliminating discrimination at 7% of GDP, or 150 billion euro.

We must continue to make arguments against discrimination based the moral imperative for doing so. But as parliamentarians, we also know that appeals to the economic narrative can be very persuasive, and we shouldn’t ignore the significant costs we all pay for the barriers that continue to limit people based on their religion, ethnicity, or race.

Thank you

Mr Bertrand BOUYX

France, ALDE

20:33:18

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

Mr Percy DOWNE

Canada

20:33:37

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Honourable colleagues,

I would like to thank the rapporteur from Sweden for his work. His report makes a strong case that we must continue to raise awareness about anti-Muslim racism, even though most of us have recognized for decades that it is a problem that must be addressed.

In Canada today, as I believe is the case in many parts of the world, Islamophobia is included within the context of a general increase in hate crimes. In my country, in 2020, nearly 2,700 hate crimes were reported to police, a new record and a 37% increase from the year before. Some of these crimes were specifically targeted at people who practise the Muslim faith, others were pointed at ethnic and racial minorities with large Muslim populations. Hate is multifaceted and indiscriminate, touching people’s lives for many reasons, and for no reason at all.

Tragically, this hate too often turns deadly. In June 2021, four people were murdered in Ontario, Canada when a young man intentionally drove his truck into a Muslim family. In January 2017, another man entered a mosque in Quebec City with a rifle and opened fire, murdering 6 worshippers and injuring 19 more.

While those determined to commit acts of violence must be dealt with through law enforcement and violence prevention initiatives, we must also address the underlying causes of hate and discrimination which give ideological motivation to such attacks. In that sense, Canada has continued to make efforts to counter Islamophobia. In July 2021, the government hosted the first National Summit on Islamophobia, providing an opportunity for policymakers from across the country to hear directly from Muslim Canadians about their lived experience with Islamophobia. The summit was organized by the Anti‑Racism Secretariat, which was established in 2019 to coordinate federal government action against racism as part of a national anti-racism strategy.

Like its counterpart in intolerance, antisemitism, Islamophobia is a cancer incompatible with a modern, free society. Citizen’s views and opinions should always be protected and respected, but not when they are used to incite attacks on others. Canada, like other countries, has embarked on the difficult job of coming to grips with these hatreds. But to overcome them – and those who benefit from their spread – will require concerted effort between nations.

Neither Muslims nor Jews – nor anyone else - should have to experience abuse based on their faith, but the twin evils of Islamophobia and antisemitism continue to endure and spread. Neither has any place in the 21st century, or any other, and so it is that Canada has committed to work with like-minded countries to see that reason defeats ancient hatreds, and tolerance wins out over prejudice.

Mr Emmanuel FERNANDES

France, UEL

20:33:40

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

Mr Larry BROCK

Canada

20:33:47

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Honourable colleagues,

Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. People of all faiths must be free to teach, practise, worship and observe their beliefs without fear of violence or discrimination.

Alarmingly, for Muslims around the world, that freedom is increasingly under threat.

In Europe and in Canada, Islamophobia is on the rise, with devastating consequences for individuals and for democracy itself.

According to the most recent European Islamophobia Report, anti-Muslim racism is becoming normalized and institutionalized by liberal democracies. This is happening due to a combination of hateful rhetoric, stereotypes, and conspiracy theories that are disseminated in the media, online, and in political discourse. Too often, violence and discrimination are the result.

Tragically, we have seen similar trends in Canada. In 2017, six people were killed in a Québec City mosque during prayer, by a man who was inspired and emboldened by hateful online rhetoric. And in 2021, a Muslim family in London, Ontario – not far from my riding – was attacked by a man in a pickup truck while they were going for a walk. The only survivor was a nine-year-old boy.

These horrific attacks have an unthinkable impact on survivors, while also spreading fear through entire communities. For many Muslims, living with this fear is a daily reality.

As parliamentarians, we must do more to protect Muslim communities and people of all faiths.

A 2020 report on the topic of online extremism in Canada found that anti-Muslim rhetoric is one of the most prominent topics of conversation among extremists in Canada across various social media platforms. While hate speech is harmful in itself, we also know that it can escalate into offline violence.

As such, hate speech needs to be addressed early and effectively. We must do more to counter and prevent online hate while safeguarding the right to freedom of expression.

In addition, we need to ensure that our education systems are teaching future generations to be responsible and respectful citizens, and that hateful stereotypes are countered with education, rather than reinforced by ignorance and conspiracy theories.

Finally, we as parliamentarians have a moral obligation to be part of the solution. That includes condemning online hate and Islamophobic rhetoric, while also being conscious of the sources and ideas that we share and promote.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Mehmet Mehdi EKER

Türkiye, NR

20:33:51

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear President,

Dear Colleagues,

Firstly, I would like to congratulate the Rapporteur for his work on this important report.

Today Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim racism, manifests itself as a major social problem in various parts of the world, especially in Europe, America, South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Although Islamophobia and anti-Muslimism have a long history going back to the beginning of Islam, this phenomenon has emerged in a new form and on a new scale in the late 20th century. There are psychological, sociological, historical, political and economic reasons as well as ideological reasons behind this re-emergence.

The far-right party leaders have targeted minorities and Muslims for the unemployment rates that have been on the rise since the 2008 economic crisis. These parties held Muslim immigrants responsible for creating cheap labor and causing a decrease in salaries.

In addition, Muslim immigrants have been accused of disrupting the welfare of the country by receiving unemployment benefits and not being able to adapt to their host countries.

Islamophobia is unfortunately being carried out on institutional levels in Europe, as stated by Mr. Jallow in the report. State-led discrimination against Muslims is not only an infringement on basic human rights, but also creates resentment and disdain in persons who is being failed by the same institutions that are meant to protect and nurture them. Thus, Islamophobia turns into a more serious concern for Europe, threatening European values and its multicultural and embracing lifestyle.

In this context, political will and effort is definitely needed to counter Islamophobia and to alleviate the hardships of Muslims of Europe, who are being targeted for who they are, not for their actions in life.

It is paramount for political figures and leaders to not only refrain from anti-Muslim sentiments and actions, but to take active part in countering Islamophobia in their countries and communities.

Thank you for your attention and thank you Mr. Jallow for this vital report.

Vote: Raising awareness of and countering Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim racism, in Europe

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:33:38

Thank you both.

As a member of this Committee, I also - it can also be a little bit personal - Mr Momodou Malcolm JALLOW and Ms Annicka ENGBLOM and good luck in the future but we have to finish the work.

The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination has presented the draft resolution document 15616 to which one amendment has been tabled. I remind you all that speeches and amendments are limited to 30 seconds.

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendment 1 to the draft resolution which was unanimously approved by the Committee should be declared as agreed by the Assembly. Is that so?

Ms Annicka ENGBLOM

Sweden, EPP/CD, Chairperson of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

19:34:19

Yes, Madam, that is a fact.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:34:22

Thank you.

Does anyone object?

If so, please, raise your hand.

That's not the case.

No objection.

I declare that Amendment 1 to the draft resolution has been agreed.

 

So we will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Doc. 15616 [as amended]. A simple majority is required.

The vote is now open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

The draft resolution as amended in Doc. 15616 is adopted.

Congratulations to the rapporteur.

 

Okay, dear colleagues, thank you for taking part in this debate.

Now we will have a short break, waiting for another committee to change places.

Debate: Misuse of the Schengen Information system by Council of Europe member States as a politically-motivated sanction

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:37:28

Can the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the rapporteur move into the front?

Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ are you ready?

Sorry, can you take the picture in another place? Yes, excellent. Thank you.

The final item of business this afternoon is the debate on the report titled Misuse of the Schengen Information System by Council of Europe member States as a politically-motivated sanction in document 15600, presented by Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

In order to finish by 8:30pm we must interrupt the list of speakers at about 8:15pm to allow time for the reply and the vote on the draft resolution.

I call Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ, the rapporteur. You have 7 minutes now and 5 minutes for your reply at the end of the debate. The floor is yours. Are you ready? Yes. The floor is yours.

Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ

Türkiye, NR, Rapporteur

19:39:19

Dear Chair, dear Colleagues,

The motion for a resolution on which my report is based, stresses that some persons are unjustifiably denied access to the entire Schengen Area, mainly for political reasons.

In my report, I have examined the current functioning of the Schengen Information System (SIS) and its impact on fundamental rights.

Under public international law and the European Convention on Human Rights, states can, in principle, determine the terms and conditions under which non-nationals are admitted to their territory.

Within the European Union, free movement in the Schengen Area and the lack of controls on internal borders are compensated for by stricter controls on its external borders and, in particular, through the issuing of alerts against individuals in the Schengen Information System, the SIS – and now its more advanced version, the SIS II.

Unfortunately, misuse of the SIS by some member states has erected further barriers for the enjoyment of freedom of movement, as well as other fundamental rights.

For this reason, I have only covered one category of persons that could be subject to alerts, i.e., third-country nationals who are refused entry into the Schengen Area. They may be refused entry into or stay within the Schengen Area, because they are considered as a “threat to public policy or public security or to national security”. This means that Schengen Area member States have great leeway in deciding whether and in which circumstances they can introduce alerts into the SIS II.

However, it should be noted that all EU member states are bound by EU law, the Convention, and the Strasbourg Court. Therefore, no member state may arbitrarily use its sovereign power to unjustly prevent people from entering its territory.

All this raises a number of issues under the Convention, and in particular the right to freedom of expression, the right to respect for private and family life, the right to freedom of movement, the right to effective remedy and the prohibition of discrimination.

To this aim, all member states should take all measures to ensure that the use of SIS should not set an obstacle to the achievement of a greater unity between Council of Europe member states.

Dear colleagues, access to effective remedy is particularly crucial in this context. A remedy should be available not only against the State executing the SIS alert, but also against the State which has inserted the alert in the SIS. Moreover, data protection is among the fundamental individual rights. However, in practice, there might be some problems with the exercise of this right, mainly due to the lack of information about the existence of an alert and about the available remedies.

The SIS should under no circumstances be misused in order to restrain third-country nationals’ access to the Schengen Area on political grounds that are in violation with the Convention.

In addition to the infringements to the fundamental rights of third country nationals, misuse of the Schengen system also harms commercial relations and investment opportunities, by imposing unjustified barriers to the entry of businessman and entrepreneurs.

Trade fairs and other commercial events are representative of this business world. However, applications for Schengen visas made for such purposes might not be found convincing and might be rejected as ungrounded. Although the member states in principle have sovereign right in determining the conditions of entry of other citizens into their territory, they are at the same time under treaty obligations when deciding on the matter of observing basic norms of human rights and the rule of law.

Excessively long bureaucratic procedures, complicated application forms, long queues, exaggerated conditionality on the financial situation, interrogative questioning, and unexplained visa denials curtail cross-border movement.

Dear colleagues, this is why in the draft resolution, several concrete recommendations have been made in this respect.

Member states issuing alerts should follow the principles of proportionality and individual assessment. They should not restrict the right to be informed about the inclusion of an alert and should observe data protection rights.

Moreover, all states should restrain from misusing the SIS as part of advancing their political agenda by entering unjustified alerts.

Ad hoc monitoring and verification systems should be put in place. Members states should also adjust their national legislations to ensure that administrative decisions on refusal to issue a Schengen visa due to political or other reasons are subject to judicial review in the relevant member states.

The European Union and its member states should also adopt guidelines on minimum common standards governing SIS II alert procedures, as well as substantive criteria for issuing SIS II alerts, and consider establishing a mediation body, which would examine the issue of whether human rights standards have been observed in relation with the use of alerts.

At this point, I would also like to stress that efficient cooperation in these issues will provide lots of opportunities for all sides. Members states of Schengen area to cooperate with Council of Europe member states which are not members of the European Union.

Last but not least, preventing misuse of the Schengen Information System is not only essential to protect fundamental human rights but also to safeguard trust amongst national authorities and allow them to rely on the accuracy and lawfulness of the information contained in the SIS.

I believe and I hope that with the adoption of this report, all parties to the issue will take a very useful and big step towards strengthening the freedom of movement of individuals, establishing data security, and preventing the misuse of the Schengen system, especially for politically motivated reasons.

And I thank you all.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:47:17

Thank you, Mister Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ.

We continue with the speakers on behalf of the political groups.

The first is Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

You have the floor.

Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY

Türkiye, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

19:47:31

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Let me start by expressing my sincere thanks to Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ for this important report on the "Misuse of the Schengen Information system by Council of Europe member States as a politically-motivated sanction".

This misuse has already hurt many citizens of third-country nationals, including citizens of my own country.

The report is extremely detailed and overly technical, but the main arguments are very simple and clear.

The report emphasises that all countries have the right to make sure that their sovereign territories are protected from all kinds of threats, and their citizens live in safety and peace, and that many countries may have legitimate concerns for public or national security. But such security concerns cannot be used as excuses to justify the criminalisation of certain people and violation of their fundamental rights. In this case, the free movement of persons.

Unfortunately, many Schengen states use vaguely defined notions of public or national security as a wide leeway to arbitrarily issue alerts against people of certain nationalities. This is utterly unacceptable. That is why our group will fully support this resolution. 

Like the Rapporteur Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ, I am also a deputy from Türkiye. I have been receiving many, many complaints from our citizens who are denied Schengen visas for no obvious reason: politicians, students, lawyers, professionals, families, or just tourists. I can't go into the details of specific cases due to time limits, but I am convinced that many of these denials are politically motivated forms of discrimination.

Having said that, I would like to bring to your attention another important issue from my country, as it is directly related to freedom of movement.

Currently, tens of thousands of Turkish citizens are not allowed to travel abroad not because of Schengen authorities, but because the Ministry of Interior in Türkiye, and not even the courts, has issued alerts about them in a database. Among the blacklisted are also members of parliament, one being a member of this very Parliamentary Assembly since 2018, Mr Tayip TEMEL.

The chair of our delegation Mr Ahmet YILDIZ has kindly and sincerely tried to resolve this issue, but my understanding is that he couldn't. Even a letter from the Parliamentary Assembly President didn't help to remove the travel ban on Mr Tayip TEMEL.

Currently dozens of HDP (People’s Democratic Party) deputies and elected Kurdish mayors cannot travel abroad because they are blacklisted in the name of fighting terrorism, public order, and security.

I would like to conclude by underlining a very striking similarity, whether the Turkish Minister of Interior or authorities of a Schengen state, the logic is quite familiar: violating freedom of movement based on vague notions of public and national security, and arbitrary decisions above and beyond the law.

This is authoritarianism par excellence, nothing less, and nothing more.

Please keep in mind that no security and order is sustainable without rights and freedoms.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:50:46

Thank you, Mister Hişyar ÖZSOY.

The next speaker, on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group, is Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU.

The floor is yours.

Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU

Cyprus, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

19:50:57

Thank you.

The Schengen Treaty is a true achievement. It is one of the pillars upon which the European Union is built, upon which European integration is built. It creates a space of freedom, security and justice. Without the Schengen Treaty we cannot speak of free movement of citizens within the European Union, nor can we speak about security or justice.

We are living in very difficult times, ladies and gentlemen. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, the extended war, the consequences have created numerous problems in all countries throughout Europe and the reverberations are felt by citizens as well.

In this difficult period, that which is important is for Europe to maintain its moral advantage.

What is its moral advantage?

Well, of course, democracy, human rights, rule of law, and as socialists, we would add the welfare state and social solidarity.

Only through dedication to these can Europe move forward towards a more profound integration.

It has been shown in practice that dedication and a full respect of human rights are always difficult, particularly in difficult times of crisis. Where there is an accumulation of power and authority, be it public or private, economic, or political, it is there where the possibility of abuse of power exists.

That is taking place potentially with the discretion provided by the Schengen Information System (SIS) to member States and public authorities. This turns into practices that serve other purposes.

Very correctly, the excellent and very substantial report by Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ marks clearly the dangers of abuse that exist in the Schengen Area. It is for that reason that I would like to congratulate Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ for the wonderful proposals as regards to control and prevention, and also the use of the alert system. Never can this particular authority be used in order to violate the very fundamental principles of democracy.

It is unacceptable and alien to a democratic society to use this with the pretext of security, to forbid the movement of people in Europe because they express their view, or because they doubt or question certain stereotypes and clichés, or they question authority, or they act as opposition, or they simply envision a better world.

Finding a mechanism, a prevention and corrections mechanism in cases of misuse of the SIS, this has to be of concern to us.

Now we have to have a system of accountability and remedy, and restoring justice as well. For this reason we wholeheartedly adopt and support the report and proposed resolution.

Once again, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:54:00

Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN from the Group of the European People's Party from Armenia.

The floor is yours.

Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

19:54:09

Thank you Madam Chair.

Every time when I am addressing the issue concerning visa regulations I remember the famous Erich Maria Remarque's Arch of Triumph, I try to understand how it was important for Europe in this last century to pass away from the very complicated system of getting a visa to travel to each other's countries, up to the establishment of the system where each and every EU citizen is allowed to travel inside of the European Union, as well as giving the priority, giving the right of the people of third countries to apply once for all the member states.

The Schengen system is one of the main assets of the European Union. Believe me, as a representative of a country which uses the Schengen system very often and who understands the value of the Schengen visa, it is quite important. It is really a desire to be in a club which is called the Schengen Union or the Schengen Area.

For sure, being so open, the European Union tries to secure the issue concerning entry to the European Union via the Schengen system. And here, for sure, we should take into account that everybody knows that the right to give permission to get into this or that country is totally a prerogative of a single state. But, you know, the Schengen system is not just a single state with the entry. The Schengen system is also a value system. When we are speaking about Schengen, we should speak about the values and it is not just an ordinary right of the state to allow or not to allow a person to enter. For sure, it is the prerogative, the sovereign prerogative of the states, but simultaneously, we should not forget that all the EU member states are covered by the European Commission of Human Rights.

And it is quite important that the system should not be misused – especially in cases when some political consideration may affect it, and especially discrimination, affects the right to enter to the Schengen Zone. 

You know the people in our region do believe that the European Union should be as democratic outside as it is inside and the right to see relatives or travel or to share European values should be respected and all the commitments of the Schengen value system should be a pillar for building a wider and better Europe. Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

19:57:11

Thank you.

The next speaker is on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance, Mr Sorin-Titus MUNCACIU.

He's not in the plenary.

Is there someone else who wants to speak on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance?

No.

Then I continue to the representative of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mr Eerik-Niiles KROSS, from Estonia.

The floor is yours.

Mr Eerik-Niiles KROSS

Estonia, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

19:57:41

Dear Chair, 

Dear Colleagues,

Unfortunately, we have, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, and me personally, we have quite a bit of problems with this report not because we do not support the freedom of movement and not because we don't support human rights and liberal values.

Let's start with the actual title of the report. Now the resolution, it says, "Misuse of the Schengen Information system by Council of Europe member States as a politically-motivated sanction" as if it's a stated fact that there is misuse. Actually, if you read the report attached to the resolution, it doesn't establish there is a systemic misuse of the Schengen system at all. What we read are several cases, and the report actually says alleged cases of violation. Some of them highly dubious.

For example, one case concerns Russian Kremlin controlled TV channel journalists who were banned from Schengen because they were secretly recording Jehovah's Witnesses in Estonia. Now we all know that, or at least should know, that Jehovah's Witnesses are systematically repressed and imprisoned in Russia. The TV channel concerned is actually by now sanctioned in the European Union.

Of course, we do not dispute that the Schengen system should not be misused. The problem is that the misuse has not been established.

As a personal note, I have quite a bit of experience with autocratic governments misusing well‑intended systems wrongfully. For example, I was put on the Interpol red notice system by Russia claiming that I'm involved in high-sea piracy. Probably also blacklisted in many countries, autocratic countries for my previous activities. But I do not dispute the right of those countries to do that.

The core problem of this report and the resolution is a dangerous association. I heard that same phrase many times already from previous speakers. It is a dangerous and actually mistaken association between the freedom of movement, which is one of the core freedoms of the European Union indeed, and the entering of the Schengen visa space.

I recall, and you should all know that the Convention expresses, verbally states, that freedom of movement concerns the freedom of movement inside one's borders and the freedom to leave one's country. It doesn't concern entering other countries.

This association should not be made because that enables autocratic governments to accuse the European Union and the Schengen system in violating the freedom of movement, which it doesn't, by default, do with the visa system.

If there is any misuse, there is a potential misuse of this report if we pass it, by the autocrats blaming Europe for violating rights, which it actually doesn't do. Therefore, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, I call upon everybody to vote against this resolution.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:01:28

Thank you Mr Eerik-Niiles KROSS.

We continue on the speaker's list. The next speakers have three minutes.

The first is Ms Catarina ROCHA FERREIRA from Portugal representing Group of the European People's Party.

The floor is yours.

Ms Catarina ROCHA FERREIRA

Portugal, EPP/CD

20:01:45

Dear Mr President,

Dear Colleagues,

First of all, let me remind this Assembly that the free movement of persons, established by the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, is a cornerstone of  European Union citizenship.

And to this regard, the conclusion of the two Schengen agreements represented a key milestone.

In addition, this is a domain in which the Council of Europe has been active since the early years of its existence.

It is always important to recall, that this Parliamentary Assembly has approved previous work regarding this issue, namely in its Resolution 1894 adopted in 2012 regarding “The inadmissibility of restrictions on freedom of movement as punishment for political positions”. In which it had been stressed that: “(...) freedom of movement should not be restricted as a sanction for the expression of peacefully held political opinions”.

So, this Assembly has a clear position about this issue since 2012 and I trust that after 10 years, the position remains the same.

Besides this Resolution, it is never enough to mention that the states limited themselves in their own sovereignty to determine the conditions of entries into their territory, in order to comply both with international treaties on human rights protection and the rule of law.

In fact, the obligation to protect requires specifically that the states protect individuals and groups against human rights abuses.

So, the use of alerts in the Schengen Information System should not lead to any misuse of the system.

More importantly, the use of alerts should not infringe on fundamental rights and freedoms.

In reality, before entering an alert in the Schengen Information System, an assessment of proportionality must be made.

And there are 3 requirements to be fulfilled. Firstly, the case must be adequate. Secondly, it must be relevant. Thirdly, it must be important enough to warrant entry of the alert in the Schengen Information System.

Nevertheless, in case of misuse or violations identified, they should be immediately addressed.

And Schengen member states are under a duty to genuinely provide for swift judicial review of any entry into the database.

Human rights are a priority in the European integration process and must always be safeguarded.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:04:19

Thank you so much.

The next speaker on behalf of European Conservatives Group is Mr Dmytro NATALUKHA from Ukraine.

He's not here in the plenary?

Then we continue from Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, with Mr Jacques LE NAY from France.

Mr Jacques LE NAY

France, ALDE

20:04:36

Thank you, Madam President.

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank our colleague for his report, which highlights the difficulties raised by the Schengen Information System.

This system aims to strengthen the protection of the external borders of the Schengen Area. It allows the competent authorities of a member state to report a third-country national who poses a threat to public order, public security or state security.

The persons for whom an alert has been issued in the Schengen Information System do not, except in special cases, meet the conditions for entry into the territory of the member states.

The report presented to us today tends to denounce the misuse of this system, in particular to impose political sanctions.

While the member states of the Schengen area remain free to receive on their territory whoever they wish, they must, as members of the Council of Europe, respect the right to private and family life, the right to freedom of expression and the prohibition of discrimination.

However, there may be differences of opinion between member states. Thus, with regard to French law, some of the situations denounced by the report do not seem problematic, while others are rightly denounced. Indeed, the report cites the case of an American pastor known for his anti-LGBTI sermons and for having questioned the evidence of the Holocaust. He was banned from entering the Schengen area by the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Ireland. In France, homophobia and Holocaust denial are not opinions but crimes. It is therefore not certain that France's attitude would have been different.

On the other hand, concerning discrimination, the report cites the example of Estonia, which banned two journalists from the television channel Russia-1 – our colleague Mr Eerik-Niiles KROSS spoke about it – from entering the Schengen area for five years, following the use of hidden cameras to film members of the Jehovah's Witness community in Tallinn. The authorities considered that "the actions of the journalists were aimed at making fun of this religious group and constituted religious discrimination likely to lead to incitement to hatred." However, for France, Jehovah's Witnesses are a sect and not a religion. It is not certain, once again, that France would have adopted the same attitude. These examples illustrate perfectly the different conceptions of what may or may not present a danger to the security of the Schengen area.

It is therefore necessary to guarantee the possibility of an effective appeal against the decisions of the national administrative or judicial authorities that are at the origin of the alert. We must be particularly attentive to this point. As far as France is concerned, it is stated in the annex to the report that the French authorities have not replied to the rapporteur's questions on the right of appeal. I would like to point out that this right of appeal does exist and that it is exercised before the National Commission for Information Technology and Liberties.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:07:40

Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr Halil ÖZŞAVLI from Türkiye.

The floor is yours, sir.

Mr Halil ÖZŞAVLI

Türkiye, NR

20:07:50

Dear Chair,

Dear Colleagues,

First of all, I would like to congratulate the Rapporteur for his remarkable work.

Preventing the misuse of the Schengen system is an extremely important subject for the protection of human rights of third-country nationals and the fair functioning of the system itself.

The Schengen system was thus enacted for European citizens to move freely within the Union without being subject to border checks. This definitely constitutes a success in terms of expanding the freedom of movement for EU citizens. However, over the years, we all observed that the Schengen system was instrumentalised by some states in order to put further obstacles for people from non-EU countries.

Regrettably, some European Union member States abused the system by arbitrarily issuing alerts on the grounds of baseless national security concerns. Such abusive practices not only infringed the rights of those third‑country nationals by denying their entry, but also served as a hidden political sanction to the country concerned.

However, no state may abuse its sovereignty over non-alliance entry for political leverage, and no state should be allowed to violate people's rights for its own political agenda.

What makes the matter rather complicated is that while the Schengen system is established at a European Union level, it also grants large discretion power to each member State in determining the entry of third‑country nationals.

Therefore, it requires resolution both at the national level and the EU level to safeguard the rise of third‑country nationals.

As suggested in the report, effective national legal and administrative remedies must exist with a view to provide for such persons to bring legal action before the courts.

At the European Union level, the misuse of the system must be addressed in order to stop some member States abusing their sovereign power for their hidden political agenda.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:10:08

Thank you sir.

And the next speaker is Mr Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI, from North Macedonia, and on behalf of The European People's Party.

Mr Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI

North Macedonia, EPP/CD

20:10:16

Thank you very much.

I would like to support the report and I think it is coming at very important time, especially when we are talking about introduction of the Schengen Information System and the possibilities to abuse it.

Coming from a country that was subject to visas still until 2008, i.e. we needed visas to enter into the Schengen Area, and I know how it was to wait for hours in front of an embassy to go to obtain visas so you can come, for example, here or to a political meeting or if you want to have a vacation. And then in 2008, we managed to fulfill the criteria with visa liberalisation which allowed many citizens to travel, go abroad, use the possibility to meet different people, different cultures and so on.

And now, with the implementation of the Schengen Information System, I am afraid that through a back door, some of the countries of the Schengen Area are trying to implement visas again. Especially as a political tool, as it is written in the report, and that is why I am supporting Article 6 where the Assembly calls on member states of the Schengen Area to do certain things that are listed here, but as well, I think this system should be again reconsidered in the Schengen Area because it might cost far-lasting political consequences for the European Union. 

Anyhow, the credibility of the European Union is weakened [outside of] the European Union for many reasons, Starting with geopolitical reasons. We have a war happening in the European continent, and there is huge propaganda against the European Union.

Then, third-country factors, like China for example, and to add to that, if there is an additional restriction for the countries that are not members of the Schengen Area and most of them are not members of the EU but are state candidates, then it is a huge political risk for the European Union. 

This morning in this Assembly, we were discussing the support of the European perspective for the Western Balkans. Implementing of this Schengen Information System, I think goes against the idea of support of the European perspective for the Western Balkans, for example.

So there are a lot of threats and challenges and that is why the report comes at a very, very important and crucial time, and I hope it will be carefully studied by the Council of Europe´s Committee of Ministers but as well, that it will be carefully studied by the members of the Schengen Area.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:13:31

Thank you.

The next speaker before I interrupt the list of speakers is Ms Hilkka KEMPPI from Finland.

The floor is yours.

Ms Hilkka KEMPPI

Finland, ALDE

20:13:41

Madam President and Dear Colleagues,

As an MP of a country defending the EU's 1 300-km external border, I support the description given by the notion of free to public policy or public security or to national security in this legal framework. 

However, I agree with the rapporteur that the aim of this notion is not to prevent political dissidents from entering the European Union. 

According to the European Convention on Human Rights, anyone entering a member State has the same human rights and freedoms that are granted within the state's jurisdiction. As the report mentioned, in Finland entry bans are codified in section 146 of the Aliens Act. It clearly sets out that the criteria for the circumstances what an entry ban and thus an alert can come into question. Any other decision can be appealed in the administrative court. In recent weeks, the discussion in my country on Schengen has not been on these alerts but on the Schengen visas granted to Russian citizens. In 2015, we experienced a situation of hybrid warfare when what turned out to be a very organised move from Russia's side brought some thousand asylum seekers to our eastern border. Maintaining instantly its power politics. We do not know what will happen next at the Russian border. Power politics has always been challenged in the national law and the rules-based international order.

As a result, our interpretation of the Schengen border rule has changed. Now we can close our border in hybrid warfare situations. However, let me point out, the right to apply for asylum is not the same as using people as a means of hybrid warfare.

In my view, using migration as a method of a hybrid threat is unacceptable from a human rights and a national security perspective. Such extreme cases require careful consideration of Human Rights, democratic control and post-monitoring ruled by a dictator. It is, of course, in Russia's interest to undermine its rule-based culture of states governed by the rule of law. We should not give in to this. 

We need a rule of law benchmark of the Schengen Information System to help us better interpret the Schengen regulation. This requires sharing best practices and data collecting as well as parliamentary oversight. 

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:16:47

Thank you.

I must now interrupt the list of speakers.

The speeches of members on the speakers list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the official report.

I remind colleagues that the texts are to be submitted in typescript, electronically, and if possible, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.

I call for Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ to reply to the debate. You used 9 minutes last time, and I ask you to manage in 4 minutes now.

Thank you.

The floor is yours.

Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ

Türkiye, NR, Rapporteur

20:17:38

Madam Chair and Dear Colleagues,

I just would like to emphasise that we recognise that states have a sovereign right in deciding who would enter their territories.

However, what we are discussing here is member States must not resort to discriminatory treatment while applying laws and regulations and deciding who are eligible to enter their territories.

Let me reply to Mr Eerik-Niiles KROSS. The resolution recognises the right of states, as I said, to regulate entry to their territory. I just would like to ask Mr KROSS to read paragraph 2 of the Draft Resolution. It says anything and everything on this subject. But under the convention, states must not discriminate in the application of the rules, while they are allowed to put into place. It is only the discrimination that we are talking about, which we try to stop, and against while we are proposed to set up some remedies, I mean legal remedies and practical remedies as well.

My Dear Colleagues,

As you all know, the free moment of persons is one of the four basic freedoms of the European Union. Misuse of the Schengen system, if there is, infringes the human rights of any countries of nationals outside the EU trying to enter Schengen Area in particular trying to respect private and family life and the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of movement and the right to effective remedy, and the right to be protected from exposing discrimination.

I think we are all in this hemicycle under the duty and obligation to protect all our citizens and to keep the above‑mentioned rights of citizens guaranteed by the convention and hinder the nationals from discrimination against.

As I said before, there is no doubt that nationals from a third country entering the Schengen area is on discretion power of the related nation. We would like to put here and as a rule, a just rule-based practice and rule-based application for the nationals who would like to come to the Schengen Area.

Let me just also underline this. Effective and timely remedy for those unlawfully prevented from entering an EU country, establishment of an ombudsman institution, and strengthening co‑operation among national authorities would be remarkable as humans in abolishing unlawful barriers curtailing freedom of movement.

Finally, Madam Chair, I would like to thank all members of the Committee and their Assembly who supported this report with their contributions and proposals for amendments as well. Of course, I would like to express my gratitude to the secretary of the Committee and to the chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, who put enormous efforts into the preparation of this report.

I hope you all will like, approve and support this report.

I thank you all.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:21:57

Thank you Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ, the rapporteur.

Does Mr Damien COTTIER, the Chairperson of the Committee wish to speak?

You have 3 minutes.

Mr Damien COTTIER

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

20:22:07

Thank you, Madam President.

Dear Colleagues,

This report is the result of a motion for a resolution that was tabled in 2018. It was dealt with by no less than three rapporteurs, Ms Olena SOTNYK from Ukraine, Ms Irina RUKAVISHNIKOVA from Russia and Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ from Türkiye.

A fact-finding visit to the European institutions in Brussels took place in February this year. The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights adopted the report unanimously in June this year, and we have just received a written amendment which was also adopted unanimously at our meeting today. As for the two oral amendments that have been transmitted to you, Madam President, they were also adopted unanimously by the Committee.

The report and the draft resolution as presented today are the result of several years of work and of a compromise that the committee considered balanced between the different principles and concerns.

I would like to make three observations.

First of all, states have a sovereign right – as the rapporteur has just reminded us – under international law, to decide who is allowed to enter their territory. We are obviously talking about the migration rights, not refugee rights. The European Convention and the treaties of the Council of Europe do not guarantee a right to enter the territory of a specific state.

Secondly, the Schengen Information System leaves a lot of room for member or participating states to decide what they enter, what alerts they enter into the Schengen Information System on third-country nationals.

Thirdly and finally, as reports have been made of allegedly unjustified alerts which could potentially lead to violations of rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, such as the right to respect for private and family life, the prohibition of discrimination, the right to an effective remedy or the right to freedom of expression, it is legitimate for our Assembly to be concerned about this.

The draft resolution obviously does not call into question the existence of the Schengen Information System or its legitimacy, nor the way it works: it is in fact a valuable instrument for the security of the Schengen countries. The resolution simply invites the states – and not the European Union, since it is well known that it is not yet a member of our institution – to take additional measures to prevent abuse of the system, by ensuring that alerts are not entered for political reasons, which would be contrary to the spirit of the system and potentially contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.

It is therefore a question of protecting principles that are dear and central to our Organisation.

The Committee, Madam President, unanimously proposes that we support this draft resolution as amended and, on its behalf, I would like to thank the rapporteur and the secretariat for the important work that has been carried out.

Ms Serap YAŞAR

Türkiye, NR

20:33:54

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear President, Dear Colleagues,

I would like to start thanking the rapporteur for his excellent contribution to the debate on the freedom of movement.

Sadly, Schengen system, which was initially designed to flourish freedom of movement, has now started to erect barriers to the third country nationals because it was instrumentalised by some EU member States as a politically motivated sanction.

Especially, we see the ramifications of some States’ arbitrary policies in the visa application processes.

Some EU States deliberately use excessively long bureaucratic procedures, complicated application forms and visa denials in order to deter third country nationals from travelling the EU territory.

Long queues at diplomatic representations, exaggerated conditionality on the applicants’ financial situation and interrogative questioning pose significant challenges for those people and further prevent the cross-border movement of persons.

Persons from third countries are unable to attend cultural, social and scientific events in EU countries due to these mentioned obstacles generated mainly by political motivations.

Indeed, some non-EU national students who have Erasmus grants have been unable to pursue education in a Schengen-associated country due to the long waiting times in visa applications.

Despite the fact that a person applying for Schengen visa provide all relevant documents in the process, that application may be rejected inexplicably or delayed. It not only prevents this person from participating cultural, scientific and commercial activities, it also generates a huge financial cost for the concerned person.

Moreover, commercial relations and trade activities are also adversely affected by the abuse of the Schengen System.

To sum up, current shortcomings of the System and its abuse by some States create number of problems which amount to infringement of basic rights and freedoms. Curtailing freedom of movement arbitrarily definitely conflicts with the very core values of Council of Europe.

Thank you.

Mr Stéphane BERGERON

Canada

20:34:00

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

Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY

Türkiye, NR

20:34:07

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear President, Dear Colleagues,

I thank the Rapporteur for bringing up such an important, yet largely overlooked matter, misuse of the Schengen System by EU member States, to the attention of the Assembly.

As you all know, freedom of movement is essential to the enjoyment of other fundamental rights and important precondition for the free development of individuals.

Establishment of the Schengen area back in 1980s paved the way for free movement of citizens of the EU and then the extent and scope of the Schengen system was widened with the enlargement of the EU.

Third country nationals understandably remained subject to tighter controls in their entry to EU territory.

However, over the years, we have witnessed inconsistencies and abuse of the existing Schengen system by the EU member States in their treatment to third country nationals.

This report prepared by Mr Altunyaldız successfully reveals the extent of the problem, difficulties and unjust treatment faced by non-EU nationals while exercising their right to freedom.

Naturally, all States have sovereignty in determining the entry of non-nationals to their territories. But we have to keep in mind that EU member States are bound by both EU law as well as the Council of Europe Convention system in their border managements.

Alerts in the Schengen system could be employed by a member State upon the conditions stipulated in the Regulation. I regret that some EU States increasingly misuse these alerts based on unjustified allegations.

While this is a serious infringement to the rights of third country nationals, it is sad that current system lack checks and balances that could provide effective remedy for the third country nationals and independent monitoring.

I hope that EU institutions and member States would introduce necessary safeguards in order to ensure that human rights of the third country nationals are observed and protected.

Thank you.

Vote: Misuse of the Schengen Information system by Council of Europe member States as a politically-motivated sanction

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:25:19

Thank you, Mr Damien COTTIER. The debate is closed.

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft resolution in Document 15600 to which one amendment and two oral amendments have 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 approved by the Committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly. Is that so Mr COTTIER?

Mr Damien COTTIER

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

20:25:58

It is so, Madam Chair.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:26:01

Thank you, Mister Damien COTTIER.

Does anyone object?

No. No one.

If so, please please ask for the floor by raising your hand, but there is no one? 

No.

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

I received an oral amendment from Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, which reads as follows.

In Paragraph 6.5, after the word "effective" add the words "and timely", so that Paragraph 6.5 reads "provides for persons subject to SIS 2 alert, effective and timely remedies against national administrative or judicial authorities decisions which have been at the origin of the alert".

The President may accept an oral amendment on the grounds of promoting clarity, accuracy and conciliation, and if there is not a position from ten or more members to it being debated.

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

Is there any opposition to the amendment being debated?

I see none.

That is not the case. I therefore call Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR to support the oral amendment.

You have 30 seconds.

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC

20:28:03

Silly of me, Madam President, I should be used to this by now!

It's a very simple oral amendment. It simply meant to stress that when a measure is effective, it is also timely and it's just important to include that thing.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:28:18

Thank you, Madam Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR.

Does anyone want to speak against the oral amendment?

No?

What is the opinion of the Committee on the oral amendment?

Mr Damien COTTIER

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

20:28:31

It was supported the unanimously, Madam President.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:28:35

In favour.

I shall now put the oral amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

The oral amendment is agreed.

I have received a further oral amendment from Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, which reads as follows:

"After paragraph 6.15 in certain new paragraph 6.16 to read" – and I say the words – "pay particular attention to alerts entered by States found in systematic breach of the rule of law by the European Commission or under the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe's monitoring procedure for the functioning of democratic institution and the rule of law".

The President may accept another amendment on the grounds or promoting clarity, accuracy, or conciliation, and if there is not opposition from 10 or more members to it being debated.

In my opinion the oral amendment meets the criteria of rule 34.7.

Is there any opposition to the amendment being debated?

No, it's not seen?

That's not the case?

We will therefore proceed to the vote on the draft resolution.

I therefore call Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR to support the oral amendment.

You have 30 seconds (and it's the silver one).

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC

20:30:17

Thank you, Madam President, for reminding me.

So, I believe that this serves both for clarity and political reconciliation, in the sense that it focuses on paying special importance to states that are maybe prone to misuse this system, and I think it goes to the subject of the report and it clarifies what its meaning should be.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:30:43

Thank you.

Does anyone wish to speak against the oral amendment?

That's not the case.

What is the opinion of the committee on the oral amendment?

Mr Damien COTTIER

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

20:30:54

Madam President, the Committee is unanimously in favour of this oral amendment.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

20:30:59

Thank you, in favour. 

I shall now put the oral amendment to the vote. 

And the vote is open. 

The vote is closed. 

I call for the result to be displayed.

And the oral amendment is agreed.

I will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in document 15600. A simple majority is required and the vote is now open. 

The vote is closed. 

I call for the result to be displayed. 

And the draft resolution as amended is adopted.

The Assembly will now hold its next public sitting tomorrow morning at 10:00am with the agenda that was approved on Monday morning.

This sitting is adjourned.

The sitting is closed at 8.30 p.m.