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12 October 2022 morning

2022 - Fourth part-session Print sitting

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Opening of the sitting No 30

Communication from the Committee of Ministers

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:11:14

As our political groups have just ended their Wednesday meetings, we will wait for a minute or two to have to allow them to come into the hemicycle.

 

The sitting is open.

I would like to inform the Assembly that in view of the high number of speakers wishing to contribute to the debates later today, our second sitting will now finish at 8:30 p.m.

 

The first item on our business is the communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Assembly.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I now welcome to the Assembly the Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, Mr Thomas BYRNE, representing the Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

 

Mister Thomas BYRNE,

We are very pleased to welcome you in our Chamber. I'm thankful for you taking the time to exchange views with our parliamentarians.

Yesterday we already heard you in our Joint Committee, and we listened to your president earlier.

The Council of Europe, as we all know, was established in the wake of war on our continent, with Ireland amongst one of its founding members.

Now, the Irish presidency comes at a very critical juncture, as we collectively, once again, face another war.

As conflict ravages Ukraine, the union of European states around values, as well as their determination step-up and co‑operation to support Ukraine, victim of a war of aggression by the Russian Federation, and to build sustainable peace and multilateralism in Europe, are of crucial importance.

In this context, you, Minister Thomas BYRNE, and Minister Simon Coveney's commitment and leadership are highly appreciated. This is particularly important for materialising the idea of the Fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government, which you have been championing since the beginning of your presidency.

Let me not forget to thank and mention all the hard work and wise approach of your ambassador, Mr Breifne O'REILLY, as the Chair of the Committe of Minister Deputies.

We welcome, in particular, that during your presidency, a report of the high-level reflection group, set up by the Secretary General and chaired by an eminent Irish political figure, your former president Mary Robinson, was produced.

This report provides, in my opinion, concrete recommendations for revisiting the Council of Europe's political position, political mission, in the light of the new realities, as well as for strengthening our mechanisms and to uphold our common values and legal instruments including the human rights conventions as to re-establish peace and democratic stability on the continent.

Our Assembly itself will propose to the Committee of Ministers our own proposals, at this moment under preparation at the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, with the Rapporteur Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN, another important Irish politician.

It was good to hear yesterday in the Joint Committee that our Assembly's proposals and our Assembly's space in the Fourth Summit is highly appreciated by the intergovernmental side and the Chair of the Committee of Ministers.

Mister Minister Thomas BYRNE, we look forward to working with you closely, with the Irish Presidency, subsequent presidencies and the Secretary General in order to shape the content and deliverables of the summit, as well as to garner support of political leaders behind this idea.

You can count on the Assembly's full support and co‑operation.

Mister Thomas BYRNE, may I now invite you to take the floor.

Mr Thomas Byrne

Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

10:18:06

A Uachtaráin, Monsieur le Président,

A Chomhaltaí den Tionól Parlaiminteach, Members of the Parliamentary Assembly,

A Chairde, Dear friends,

C'est un plaisir d'être à nouveau ici à Strasbourg, au siège des droits de l'homme européens, le Conseil de l'Europe, suite à ma visite au Comité des Ministres en juin. (It is a pleasure to be here again in Strasbourg, at the seat of European human rights, the Council of Europe, following my visit to the Committee of Ministers in June.)

Three weeks ago, the Russian Federation ceased to be a party to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Three years ago, a young Russian man reminded us of why those rights matter so very much.

In August 2019, Russian authorities arrested 21-year old blogger Yegor Zhukov.

What was his alleged crime?

It was to have ‘‘incited extremism against the state’’ by reporting on rallies across Russia that summer, protesting blatant electoral fraud.

Facing sentencing, the judge afforded Mr Zhukov a last chance to address the court.

The young man rose. And if you don't mind I'll quote a section of his remarks:

‘‘Common action’’, he observed ‘‘… is a rarity in a country where few people feel responsible. And where common action does occur, the guardians of the state immediately see it as a threat. It doesn’t matter what you do – whether you are helping prison inmates, speaking up for human rights, fighting for the environment – sooner or later you’ll either be branded a ‘foreign agent’ or just locked up. The state’s message is clear: ‘Go back to your burrow and don’t take part in common action’…. Where can trust come from in a country like this—and where can love grow?’’

Mr Zhukov’s testimony captures eloquently what rights really are.

What civil society, media freedom, judicial independence – too often they are abstract terms – but we see what they mean concretely.

And why this mission in this Assembly – promoting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law across the continent – matters so profoundly.

It’s a mission the Committee of Ministers shares.

Ireland assumed the Presidency five months ago, at a time of profound crisis for our continent and challenge for this Council.

Grave moments, we believe, must be matched by great ambition.

And our aspirations have reflected that.

During our Presidency, we have set out to renew what we consider ‘‘the conscience of Europe’’.

Refocusing the Council’s efforts, in the wake of Russia’s expulsion, on the institution’s core values and ensuring the most effective possible support for Ukraine and its people.

In voting, unanimously, last March to recommend Russia’s expulsion from the Council, this Assembly responded resolutely to this unjustified and unjustifiable invasion.

You acted as ‘‘the conscience of Europe’’ should.

Our task since then has been to show the same conviction, the same conscience, the same urgency in supporting Ukraine.

And in holding Russia to account.

Internationally, I'm proud that Ireland has been to the forefront of these efforts.

In New York, as an elected member of the UN Security Council, we have consistently condemned Russian aggression, denouncing the invasion as illegal, unjustified, and unprovoked.

In Geneva, we pressed the Human Rights Council to appoint an independent international commission of inquiry into violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

And then in The Hague, we joined 38 other states in referring the invasion to the International Criminal Court, enabling Prosecutor Khan to advance his critical investigations.

And here in Strasbourg, through our Presidency, we’ve worked with your President Mr Tiny KOX, Secretary General Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, and others to ensure that the Council’s expertise is channelled as effectively as possible towards supporting Ukraine.

In that context, we’ve backed the agreement of the Council’s new adjusted Ukraine Action Plan.

In July, Ireland helped to fast-track Ukraine’s accession to the Council of Europe’s Development Bank, establishing a new Donor Fund there to help those displaced by the war, and enabling the Bank to play a key role in rebuilding Ukraine’s shattered social infrastructure.

And last month, for the first time in our history, we joined more than twenty other member states in intervening as a third party before the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

While ahead of High Level Week at the UN, our Presidency led the Committee of Ministers in reaffirming the urgent need for an unequivocal international legal response to the crime of aggression against Ukraine.

Clearly, we must hold the authorities, both in Moscow and in Minsk, to account.

But it’s vital also to strengthen support to those in both countries who, like young Yegor Zhukov, those who seek to defend human rights and promote democracy.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, a friend of Ireland from her teenage years and indeed a friend of mine, addressed this Assembly in June.

At our Presidency’s invitation, she returned to Strasbourg in July to speak to the Committee of Ministers. There, she called for “more Council of Europe in Belarus, and more Belarus in the Council of Europe.”

Last month, Im pleased to say, the Committee of Ministers agreed to do just that.

So, committing to holding regular exchanges with Ms Tsikhanouskaya and inviting Secretary General PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ to establish a “contact group” to engage with representatives of Belarusian democratic forces and civil society.

I commend this initiative. And I hope that, before long, we can do the same with Russian democratic activists.

So, much has been done, but be in no doubt that much more is needed.

And within this Council, within this Parliamentary Assembly, more is possible.

So, it is to that end that, since assuming the Presidency, that Ireland has called for the Heads of Government of the 46 member states to convene for only the fourth time in the history of this organisation.

To reaffirm our shared conviction in the rule of law.

To recommit to the human rights that are established in our Convention.

To answer autocracy with the word "democracy".

A summit will not be held during the Irish Presidency, but I add my voice again to those urging it to be agreed as soon as possible.

And it should convened in the incoming Icelandic Presidency.

I ask all of you in the chamber to join me in that – and to call on your Governments to do the same.

Let Reykjavik be the place to reaffirm Europeans’ rights and to renew our democracies.

And let this be the time.

Because if not now, when?

And if not us, who?

As to what the substance of a summit should be, the High-Level Reflection Group that the President mentioned, chaired by Ireland’s former president, Mary Robinson, has devoted the past four months to considering that very subject.

Distilling submissions from this Assembly, the Court and many others, the group presented its final report only last week.

And I commend and thank them for their efforts.

And I urge all of us here today - across all of our capitals - to reflect on the wise and balanced set of recommendations they have put forward to adapt this Council to reflect today’s realities.

I know, too, that the Assembly has convened an ad-hoc committee to reflect on the case for a renewed and reinforced Council of Europe.

And I am thankful that my brilliant friend, Senator Fiona O'LOUGHLIN, head of our national delegation, is serving as rapporteur to this committee.

And I know that she will soon present what is sure to be a similarly impressive report.

Read together though, these two reports will present a blueprint for institutional renewal.

They may be ambitious. But now is the time for that ambition.

A Chairde, Dear friends, Chers amis,

At the heart of the High Level Reflection Group’s report, and at the core of Ireland’s Presidency, is a recommitment to this institution’s "Founding Freedoms", what we are about.

Above all else, this means we are focussing on human rights protection for civilians across Europe, not least through the European Court of Human Rights.

Yesterday, I had the honour of joining my President Higgins as he called on the Court to meet President Spano and Judge Síofra O’Leary, who will next month take office as the Court’s President.

She will be the first Irish citizen to do so. And the first woman, even more significantly.

Her appointment is a great credit to her expertise and her experience and a reflection of her standing here in Strasbourg and indeed within the international legal community too.

It’s also a source of great pride to all in Ireland.

Because Ireland actually really understands the Court. And the Court is an institution that the Irish people would be familiar with. As the brave organisers of Europride in Belgrade affirmed to the world last month: LGBTI rights are human rights.

Last week, Slovenia made history as the first eastern European state to establish marriage equality – and I want to thank them for that.

In 2015, the people of Ireland voted in a referendum overwhelmingly for the same right.

But the path to that referendum was laid down in the courtrooms here in Strasbourg in 1988.

Senator David Norris, a champion of civil rights, won a case against Ireland that lead to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts.

It was a testament to the Senator’s own bravery, but also to the vital importance of the Court in protecting individual rights.

And indeed, Senator Norris was represented by former president Mary Robinson during that case as well. And it shows the wisdom of states implementing Court’s judgments, however challenging they might have seemed. And they certainly seemed challenging in that era in Ireland at the time.

But the Court ruling was not ignored. Because a Court ruling ignored is not only a human right infringed, but it is also societal progress delayed.

So, inspired by Senator David Norris’s example, and by the change our society has since enjoyed, Ireland has made protecting LGBTI rights a priority for our Presidency.

In June, we invited leading LGBTI+ activists to address the Committee of Ministers for the first time. And later this month, in Dublin, we’ll host a European roundtable on combatting LGBTI hate crime across Europe.

Above all, we’ve set out to counter the false pretext that some states advance that, by denying individual rights, they’re somehow defending traditional values.

In reality, they are promoting fear – I believe – rather than protecting families.

No value is more traditional than welcome.

And what does family entail if not love?

And that is what the people of Ireland voted for in 2015. And what Slovenia embraced last week. And what – I believe – this Council represents.

Along similar lines, our Presidency has focussed on what the High Level Reflection Group rightly identify as one of the most egregious and persistent violations of human rights on this continent – the scourge of domestic, sexual and gender based violence.

Two weeks ago, in Dublin, our Justice Minister Helen McEntee led 38 states in signing up to a declaration recommitting to the Istanbul Convention and bolstering our collective efforts to strengthen legal standards in the area of gender equality and violence against women.

As the conference title suggests, there can be ‘‘no safe haven’’ for those perpetrating violence against women or justifying it under false pretexts.

Freedom of expression is integral to documenting such abuses – whether by individuals or indeed by states.

Without a free press, there can be no freedom.

But too often, the price is steep.

To record Ukraine’s resistance and document Russia’s tyranny in these recent months, Europe’s journalists have risked their lives.

Many have lost them, including an Irish journalist.

He was Pierre Zakrzewski. He was born in Paris, he was raised in Dublin. Pierre died in the village of Horenka, outside Kyiv, on 14 March, after Russian artillery rained down upon his press vehicle.

Pierre was buried in Ireland.

But his legacy is that knowledge of the crimes perpetrated in Ukraine will be forever with us.

We owe it to him – to all those journalists risking their lives today in Ukraine and elsewhere – not to let that knowledge fester into anger. But turn it, as Pierre did, to purposeful action.

It was with this in mind that two weeks ago Ireland convened a special meeting of the Committee of Ministers on media freedom and the safety of journalists.

And that last month I joined President Tiny KOX, Secretary General PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, and others in addressing a Presidency conference, arranged with the Venice Commission, on New Challenges to the Freedom of Association.

A Chairde, Dear friends,

In protecting these and other fundamental freedoms, the European Convention on Human Rights is our North Star. And the Court is our compass. It shows us the way.

And the implementation of that way, of the Court’s judgments, is not simply a legal requirement. It is a moral imperative.

That’s why the Committee of Ministers treats this so seriously – as you do here in PACE – and you treat seriously the issue of Türkiye’s continuing failure, as a Party to the Convention, to implement the judgment of the Court and release Mr Osman Kavala.

I raised the case with the Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Kaymakc in August, and my colleague, Minister Coveney, did the same when he met Foreign Minister of Türkiye in New York two weeks ago.

The Committee of Ministers continues to monitor the case very closely.

And, following the Presidency’s exchanges with the Turkish government last week, discussions took place to appoint a contact group, comprising Permanent Representatives, to visit Ankara to impress upon Turkish authorities how vital it is to comply with the Court’s ruling. It's really really important.

More generally, as the High-Level Reflection Group has urged, we must do more to ensure the freedoms that the Convention enshrines are fully afforded to our citizens, and all of them.

It’s for that reason that Ireland supports very strongly the group’s call for the European Union’s accession to the Convention to be finished and completed as soon as possible.

To that end that, in September, our Presidency supported two conferences at the University of Galway, on our western shores.

The first was called "Lighting the Shade", and focussed on how, collectively, we can better protect human rights in areas of conflict and contestation across the continent.

The second, was titled ‘Irish Travellers / Mincéirs and the State’, and this reflected on the distance – and the President mentioned this yesterday – that we in Ireland still have to travel in protecting our traveller community and enabling their full participation in Irish society.

In safeguarding rights, we recognise in Ireland that we’ve more to do at home. And also across this wide continent.

As the High-Level Reflection Group records, we’ve more to do also – much more - in countering democratic decline.

Because the risks are real. The playbook familiar.

Across this continent, we’ve seen how readily power can be consolidated and how a free media can be discredited. How judicial independence can be eroded. And civil society curtailed.

With disastrous results.

These days, we see this far too often.

Democracy is a most precious metal, but it can tarnish easily, if left unpolished. And can corrode over time.

As parliamentarians, we must renew our efforts to restore its shine.

Building a strong culture of democracy is key to defending it.

Working with the Secretariat across a series of conferences and seminars, Ireland’s Presidency has pressed to promote participatory democracy; to strengthen youth engagement in the democratic process; and above all to reinforce the value of civic education across our schools and universities.

The final events of our Presidency term, like the first, will focus on democratic engagement.

On 3 November, we host a Congress on Global Education in Dublin, where states will agree a new European Declaration, committing to investment in Education for Sustainable Development, Global Citizenship, and Human Rights.

Four days later, Minister Coveney will join the Prime Minster of Iceland here in Strasbourg to deliver a keynote address to the World Forum for Democracy, where we will profile Ireland’s positive experience of Citizens’ Assemblies, which have been really transformative.

But we have to do more.

If we’re to reverse democratic decline, our efforts must be untiring, and it was President Kennedy who called us to untiring effort in the defence of democracy.

Last week, our Taoiseach – our Prime Minister – joined the leaders of all but two of the 46 states that comprise this Council in Prague to discuss energy, environment, economic and security policy in the framework of the new and welcome European Political Community.

Now, that initiative was welcome, discussions were really necessary, and we felt they achieved a lot.

But I think we need to be clear.

Without democratic security, there is no real security.

Without the rule of law, there is no economic progress.

Without human rights, there is no environmental renewal.

And in these critical areas, the European Political Community was not established in Prague last week, but has existed here in Strasbourg since 1949.

And it is here, in this very chamber!

And we must use it.

A Chairde, Dear friends,

The tasks of the Committee of Ministers are many and I cannot speak to all of them this morning.

But there is one issue that we, as chair, are devoting much time and care and effort.

Shortly before we took the Presidency, Kosovo applied for membership of this Council.

Now, as chair, we sought to be balanced and impartial in affording the Committee of Ministers time and space to review the application.

Over the summer, we sought and received detailed guidance from the Secretariat on the legal questions surrounding the application.

On 14 September, we held a valuable exchange of views with Miroslav Lajčák, the EU Special Representative for the Belgrade-Pristina Dialogue.

And later this month, we will hear Commissioner Mijatović’s report on her recent visit to Kosovo.

We’ve engaged extensively with members of the Committee of Ministers, and will continue to, recognising the importance of the issue for all concerned.

Dear friends,

When Judge O’Leary assumes the Presidency of the Court next month, she will join Secretary General PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ and Commissioner Mijatović in leading this Council.

How much stronger this institution is for having such brilliant and inspiring women across its three offices.

But on 8 September, the world lost another inspiring female leader.

In Ireland, we have a tradition of the month’s mind – where we gather, a month after a person dies, to remember them together.

So let me end this morning by remembering Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and her historic state visit to Ireland in 2011.

In Dublin Castle, where our state secured its independence from Britain a century ago, the Queen addressed guests as I have addressed you all today, in Irish – "A Chairde", "Dear Friends".

She spoke, with profound honesty and eloquence, of the relationship between our islands.

She observed that her visit reminded us, and I quote, of the ‘‘complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation, of being able to bow to the past but not be bound by it.’’

As all here know, and as the Queen remarked in Dublin that day, the Good Friday Agreement, brokered by the British and Irish Governments, and underpinned by the European Convention on Human Rights, saw a ‘‘knot of history… painstakingly loosened’’ on the island of Ireland.

It is a legacy, I know, that the Parliamentarians of this Assembly are determined to protect.

And I am grateful for your efforts.

But the Queen’s remarks that evening in Dublin Castle are a reminder also of the possibility of reconciliation, even in the darkest times.

And of what her Majesty described as ‘‘The lessons from the peace process… [that] whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load.’’

The load that this Council bears – protecting democracy, human rights, and rule of law across this wide continent – is indeed a heavy load.

But that load is always lightened by collective efforts.

In the months ahead – as we work to pursue peace, ensure accountability, and reaffirm Europe’s conscience – let PACE, let the Committee of Ministers, let the Court, let the Congress, let all of the Council’s institutions and brilliant minds work together, alongside the EU, UN, and other partners – to share the load.

We need to loosen the knots of history.

We need to light the path ahead.

We know that, in so doing, together, we can restore trust and renew democracy.

We can rebuild societies within which, as Yegor Zhukov had it, where common action can flourish.

And let that love grow.

Go raibh maith agaibh.

Thank you very much.

Merci.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:41:06

Thank you very much, Minister Liam BYRNE.

Ireland is not only amongst the founding fathers of this organisation but it is also amongst the best friends of this organisation and I thank you very much for, as I said earlier, the hard work and the wisdom and the creativity that you, Minister Simon COVENEY and Mr Joseph O'REILLY and the whole team have delivered until now.

You will now answer questions from our members. We first take questions from the representatives of the political groups and then we see how much time there is left.

First question comes from Ms Klotilda BUSHKA from Albanian. She speaks on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group. Klotilda.

Questions to the Committee of Ministers

Ms Klotilda BUSHKA

Albania, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

10:41:55

Thank you, Mister Chair.

Honourable Minister Liam BYRNE, I would like to commend the excellent report by the High-Level Reflection Group after the Turin Ministerial Session on the recommendation on the Council of Europe's role. You are responding to the new challenges facing Europe and the European geopolitical architecture.

Taking into account the importance of the statutory bodies of this organisation, which I think is both a particularity and a strength of the Council of Europe, would you please elaborate what is your approach to the role and participation of the Parliamentary Assembly in the preparation and participation of a summit planned to be held next year? And would you think that a message of the summit would be that the organisation ownership belongs to both the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly as the two branches of the democracy – executive and political ones?

Thank you. 

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:42:49

Thank you, Ms Klotilda BUSHKA.

Mr Minister.

Mr Thomas Byrne

Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

10:42:53

Thank you very much for that question.

I mean, my first call to action from the Parliamentary Assembly is that members would go back to their governments and repeat our call for a summit. Because of course, the summit is not yet fixed. We think it should happen, and we think it's absolutely necessary, and we need the Parliamentary Assembly to echo that call in all of the member states.

I think that the point here is that the leaders cannot only inject a new political impetus into the Council, which you have, but in terms of how the Council is perceived in member states and particularly among the public on the European streets, as my president said yesterday.

I think that's really important, and I think that that will help to revitalise not just the Committee of Ministers, not just the public perception, but also, I think, the role of the Parliamentary Assembly.

You're right, we have three branches of government really. We have the Court here as well. I think that the Parliamentary Assembly will be absolutely critical. First, as I said, in calling the summit, but also the preparations for it too. I think that that would be really, really important, and I have no doubt that your voice as a Parliamentary Assembly can only be strengthened if we have a summit, because I think it will just breathe new life into the entire organisation.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:44:14

Thank you very much, Mister Minister.

Next question comes from Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO from Ukraine, and Yelyza speaks on the other Group of the European People's Party.

Yelyza, you have the floor.

Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

10:44:24

Thank you, good morning.

As you rightly said, I am Ukrainian and I do not have patience just for conversations, I want to see the real actions. And the one thing that we really hope this current session brings to us is new tools to protect human rights in Ukraine, to protect those who really suffer and protect the victims. Therefore, I am asking – I want to ask – what are the real deliverables that can be achieved during your Presidency, including what can we actually achieve with the upcoming summit? We propose there were a number of discussions on running humanitarian missions on behalf of this organisation that could help to release war prisoners and political prisoners. What can we expect on that when Ireland is actually leading the presidency of the organisation?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:45:31

Thank you, Madam Yelyzaveta YASKO.

Miste Minister.

Mr Thomas Byrne

Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

10:45:34

Thank you very much for that question.

My solidarity with you and all of your colleagues.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to democracy, because being here today is in itself a symbol, that in the face of aggression, in the face of war, that you are going about what is effectively your ordinary democratic duty, to be here, to represent your people, but in the face of extraordinary circumstances back home.

Specifically in relation to Ukraine, I think this Presidency has done significant work and will continue to do so. In this Council there's only one body that is obviously involved. We have our own specific role. I think what we did in June was highly significant, in July, sorry, the accession of Ukraine to the Bank, to the Council of Europe Development Bank. I think that was fast tracked, and that's really really important.

We've worked hard on the whole area of accountability for the crimes of aggression, and that's really important.

On our part, in Ireland, we became a party to the Ukraine and Russia case as well, which I think is really really important.

In terms of the other deliverables, I think the engagement with Belarus' civil society is something that will have lasting results and that's only starting now. There is huge potential there, and to encourage them as well.

The high-level reflection group, I think, is a major success story so far. It will depend on how we all follow up, of course, but they have, I think, renewed our focus.

I think the Dublin Declaration was really important. That was last week in Dublin, signed by 38 Council of Europe member States. I really really welcome that again, to give fresh input into an area of work that is the Council of Europe's responsibility.

On the Osman Kavala case I think we've continued high-level political engagement, because we cannot let decisions of the Court go unimplemented. That cannot be let start to happen.

I mentioned the Galway conference as well on access to areas of conflict by human rights bodies, the involvement of environmental groups such as Greenpeace and LGBTI groups. I think that was important. And the Committee of Ministers' meetings, informally, on media freedom, environment, human rights, and combating hate.

I feel our ambassador here and all the team have done some very good work and we've tried to make this as high profile as possible.

Indeed in Ireland, our local government elected members, our local councils, have had their annual conference devoted to the theme of the Council Europe.

Again, it's renewing, and I suppose, the profile of the Council of Europe and what it stands for, those democratic values, those human rights values, that are so important, and we want we want to continue that.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:48:09

Thank you, Mister Minister.

The next question comes from Mr Pavlo SUSHKO, who is also from Ukraine but speaks on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

Mr Pavlo SUSHKO

Ukraine, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

10:48:16

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

The right to family is one of the priorities for children. This issue is relevant for Ukrainian unaccompanied children who moved to European countries because of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. No doubt, member states formed an effective system but it was noticed that some difficulties exist. Unfortunately, we do not have data on whether all Ukrainian children who are on the territory of the EU are currently reunited with their families or other legal representatives or not or at least have information about their location.

How can the Committee of Ministers with the Secretary General's office assist Ukraine in exchanging data on unaccompanied children with receiving countries to ensure the child's right to a family?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:49:11

Thank you, Mister Pavlo SUSHKO.

Mister Minister.

Mr Thomas Byrne

Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

10:49:17

Thank you very much for that question. Again, we are all shocked and horrified and by all of the victims of Russian aggression but particularly children, including this week. We saw harrowing photographs of children being educated on the subway steps in Kyiv, and obviously, some died as well.

I am very proud in Ireland that we have over 10 000 children in the education system from Ukraine who have come this year. I want to thank our teachers for that. We have over 50 000 Ukrainian refugees who have come to Ireland. But there is no question that the reception and conditions of both adults and children from Ukraine and their access to the services that they are entitled to are regularly discussed indeed by the Committee of Ministers, including exchanges of views with the special representatives of the Secretary General on Migration and Refugees. I fully agreed that special attention must be given to undocumented and unaccompanied children, who are obviously at greater risk of becoming victims of violence, including sexual violence and trafficking. Indeed, I have and Minister Coveney has, as well, from Ireland – and indeed other ministers from other member States – we have visited reception facilities not just in our own countries but in other European countries as well. I think that is very, very important.

The Council of Europe has adjusted its co-operation projects in Ukraine to address the needs that have been expressed by the authorities and this work is underway. We hope that we can support Ukraine in upholding the rights of children in Ukraine and those who have left. This is of the highest priority for us in Ireland. With regard to protecting children, particularly from sexual exploitation, I know the Lanzarote Committee has done some work on that this year as well. We are going to continue working on this as the highest priority to have this war ended and to have this refugee crisis ended as well, because at the moment coming into the winter it looks like it could be a difficult situation as Russia continues its aggression. I think all of us will certainly do everything we can to support you, to support your refugees and particularly child refugees as well.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:51:29

Thank you, Mister Minister.

The next question comes from Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN, from Ireland.

Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN speaks on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Fiona.

 

Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN

Ireland, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

10:51:44

Thank you very much, Mr President and Minister Liam BYRNE.

Thank you very much for your very positive and thought-provoking presentation.

The Irish delegation is very proud of the leadership that yourself, the Ambassador, and the team have shown over the last six months.

Minister, you mentioned the Good Friday Agreement, and of course next year is the 25th anniversary of this historic agreement which brought peace to the island of Ireland.

But there are fresh concerns about that at this point in time.

Because of Brexit, in 2019 there was a negotiated protocol agreement put in place which would basically avoid a hard border once again on the island of Ireland. But in June last year, the United Kingdom government introduced a Northern Ireland protocol bill that would unilaterally dis-apply parts of the protocol if enacted.

This is hugely concerning. It is damaging to British-Irish relations.

I would like to hear your comments in relation to that and also your views on how the Council of Europe could help in this regard.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:52:54

Thank you, Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN.

Mister Minister?

Mr Thomas Byrne

Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

10:52:57

Thank you very much, Madam Fiona O'LOUGHLIN, for that question.

I'm going to just say now here on that last point, on the Council of Europe, we have a word or phrase I should say in the Irish language, it's "fite fuaite", and that means "interwoven". The Council of Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights, is fite fuaite, is interwoven into the Good Friday Agreement. I think it's very important that we all know that, that we all remember that and that we all understand the consequences of that. That the Good Friday Agreement itself is founded on the European Convention on Human Rights, and its incorporation particularly into the law of Northern Ireland.

The Convention has already had a huge impact. This was of the highest priority for all of the negotiators at the time.

Subsequently then, the protocol that's agreed as a result of Britain leaving the European Union, the protocol on Northern Ireland, it itself is built on the Good Friday Agreement.

I repeat what the President said yesterday, that he was very grateful for the very warm relations that he has with King Charles III, which he had with Queen Elizabeth II, of their concern for peace in Northern Ireland. I think what we've seen in recent weeks has been really good connections, personal chemistry between counterparts at every level, between the British and Irish government. That's not just welcome but it's really necessary too. It's what we want, and that's why we really enjoy working together with our British counterparts in multilateral organisations as well, particularly since they've left the EU, and that's what's really important here.

Those relations have been really warm, and it's so important. But I think just in terms of the protocol, there's also official‑level discussions, technical discussions going on. We do need to see progress on them. We need to make sure that those officials, those technical people are mandated by the politicians.

Because that is what this is all about ultimately. Yes, it's about technical rules on trade, but ultimately it's about peace on the island of Ireland, ensuring there's no hard border and recognising, as the Good Friday Agreement does, that each community in Northern Ireland has their right to their own national identity.

You can be Irish or British in Northern Ireland; it's basically your choice.

That's the, I won't say the magic of the Good Friday Agreement, but it's what the Good Friday Agreement achieves. The protocol is built on that and doesn't threaten it in any way.

I want to thank the Council Europe and the members here in PACE, and the Committee of Ministers for your constant interest and engagement in the affairs of Northern Ireland. It's one of the most successful peace processes the world has ever seen, built as I said on the European Convention on Human Rights, but one that must be nurtured and protected and worked together at all times.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:55:46

Thank you, Mister Minister. 

The next question comes from Mr Paul GAVAN, also from Ireland, and he speaks on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Paul.

Mr Paul GAVAN

Ireland, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

10:55:54

Thanks indeed, Mr Chairperson.

Mr Thomas BYRNE, it is great to have you here. Thanks indeed.

I want to raise the issue of the Libyan Coast Guard. This discredited organisation to intercepts human beings trying to make their way to Europe, brings them back to Libya, subjects them to imprisonment, torture, rape and murder, as detailed by a whole host of NGOs and indeed by Irish award-winning journalist Sally Hayden. This morning, Minister, will you make a clear condemnation of the EU's continued funding and support for this entirely discredited organisation that calls itself the Libyan Coast Guard?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:56:26

Thank you, Mr Paul GAVAN.

Mr Minister?

Mr Thomas Byrne

Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

10:56:29

Thanks, Senator Paul GAVAN, another great member of the Irish delegation. Thanks for that question.

I think you are reminding us as well why there is certainly a refugee crisis as a result of the aggression against Ukraine. There are also refugees coming from other points of conflict around the world and escaping climate change and other reasons as well.

The situation must remain a major concern for all of us and the tragic deaths of so many are to be deplored and the reality is that so many die because of the inadequacy of shelter and protection that are offered. We need to address the many challenges rising from the situation and that is the responsibility of all of us. Our response to this crisis must be based on human rights and solidarity. Migration, of course, is a key priority area of the organisation as the ministerial said last year.

Your question is about EU funding. I accept that and I cannot purport to speak for the EU as a whole, but migration, obviously, is a priority area for this Council and there can be no exception to the right to life. It is guaranteed under our Convention. And specifically in relation to the Council of Europe, we must concentrate on areas where we have particular expertise and value - where can the Council of Europe be of help. I think that we see the co-ordination of COE activities to provide help on behalf of the organisation to improve the treatment of migrants, of which the organisation here can be proud, but also the implementation of a comprehensive action plan on protecting vulnerable persons in the context of migration and asylum. I think the continued voice of this Parliamentary Assembly on all of these issues to challenge not just ourselves and our governments but also, as Senator GAVAN has done, the EU and I think that is really important and particularly welcome. And I will certainly raise the concerns that you have raised at EU level as well in my other role.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:58:25

Thank you, Mister Minister.

Next question comes from Mr John HOWELL, from the United Kingdom.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA

10:58:34

Thank you very much.

Welcome, Minister, to this Assembly.

This is a question that doesn't require us to wait for a fourth summit, but after the close co‑operation that there was between PACE and the Committee of Ministers over Russia, I have been looking for opportunities of synergy that we can do that again.

Are you too looking for that, and can we see some of those coming forward?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

10:59:01

Mister Minister.

Mr Thomas Byrne

Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

10:59:05

Absolutely.

I mean, I think what happened this year was that there was an instinctive kind of knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. That was so clear among all of the member States, all of the parliamentarians as well, that this is something that we had to work together on.

There's certainly a range of issues that I think we can work together.

I think the whole area of violence against women and the Istanbul Convention is something where we still have to make some progress. I think that that's somewhere that we could all work together. Because while governments are responsible ultimately for ratifying, or at least certainly pushing things through Parliament, I suppose, parliamentarians have a strong voices as well where something that may not have... where, for example, the Istanbul Convention may not have been ratified.

I think that is something that can speak to half of our citizens straight away. In fact, to the other half as well, in terms of their responsibilities.

I think that that's an area that we have made progress on this year, but it's something I think where there are certainly grounds for collaboration and working together.

 

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:00:04

Thank you, Mister Minister.

The next question comes from Ms Arusyak JULHAKYAN from Armenia.

Arusyak, you have the floor.

Ms Arusyak JULHAKYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

11:00:13

Thank you Chair, Mister Minister. 

In September Azerbaijan launched an unjustified and unprovoked military aggression against Armenia, which resulted in the occupation of the southern territories of Armenia accompanied by a gross violation of humanitarian law. In the UN Security Council, Ireland voiced its deep concern about attacks directed at critical civilian infrastructure inside Armenian territory and called the Azerbaijani side to urgently return to the previous positions. 

My question is what steps has the Irish Chairmanship taken to address this serious breach of commitments by Azerbaijan? 

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:00:52

Mr Minister.

 

Mr Thomas Byrne

Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

11:00:56

The escalation of tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan is lamentable. The use of military forces is utterly unacceptable in settling disputes between our member states. 

I am really glad that recent meetings at the highest level have taken place and I hope that they will soon agree on a peace treaty.

In early September, the Irish Presidency we joined with President Mr Tiny KOX here and we jointly called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to engage in peace talks without delay. The Council of Europe has a role to play in creating conditions conducive to long-lasting peace, including through confidence-building measures.

Now, by joining the Council of Europe Armenia and Azerbaijan undertook to find a peaceful solution to this conflict and it is essential that each country acts in accordance with the commitments.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:01:41

Thank you, Mr Minister.

We now take the last three questions together.

First question comes from Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR, from Hungary. The next question comes from Mr Bernard FOURNIER, from France. The last question comes from Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ, from Türkiye.

Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR, you have the floor.

Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR

Hungary, EC/DA

11:02:05

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

Your Excellency,

We profoundly agree that protection of human rights around the continent, especially in conflict areas, was one of the major priorities of your presidency.

What do you think ar the main outcomes that have been achieved on this priority?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:02:29

Thank you.

The next question is from Mr Bernard FOURNIER, from France.

Mr Bernard FOURNIER

France, EPP/CD

11:02:38

Dear Minister,

On 6 October, the first meeting of the European Political Community was held in Prague. The geographical scope of this new political co‑operation structure, which was created on the initiative of the European Union, is almost identical to that of the Council of Europe. The launch press release states that it does not replace any existing organisation, structure or process, nor is it intended to create any new one.

Mister Minister,

You are a dual holder of the European Union and the Council of Europe, how has the Irish presidency of the Committee of Ministers been associated with this initiative and how do you see the articulation between the Council of Europe and this new political co‑ordination platform?

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:03:24

Thank you, Mr Bernard FOURNIER.

The last question comes from Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ.

You have the floor.

Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ

Türkiye, NR

11:03:34

Dear Minister,

I congratulate you for your comprehensive speech. 

As the chair of the Committee of Ministers, how do you think the role and the purpose of the European Political Community can be distinguished from the existing European structures, including the Council of Europe?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:03:58

Thank you, Mister Minister.

The last words are yours.

Mr Thomas Byrne

Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

11:04:02

Thank you for your questions.

The first question from Ms Katalin CSÖBÖR: On September 1, we held a university conference on the application of the Convention in disputed European disputed territories. I took part in this important event, which brought together experts from various countries.

The report of the High-Level Reflection Group also issued recommendations on this issue that were quite clear. It proposed creating a bureau of the Council of Europe, the goal of which would be to maintain updates about the situation in conflict zones. This is a very important issue and the issue of accessing conflict zones is also an important one that must be addressed during the 4th Summit, I hope.

Mr Thomas Byrne

Minister of State for European Affairs of Ireland, Irish Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

11:04:56

The second question from my French colleague, I apologise, I will answer this one in English if that is okay. Just on the connections between the European Political Community, I think, and they and the Council of Europe, I think we have different roles to play. First of all, I think it is so important that we are dialoguing together, that we are talking together in every single format. I think that we had a problem during Covid-19 in that, obviously, we had a medical problem, but I think we did not see each other as much. Yes, many of us engaged on Zoom, and many of us had telephone calls, but we did not see each other as much. I think that that was a problem then for diplomacy and for dialogue. I welcome the European Political Community that has been formed, and there are clearly some really, really important issues to discuss there.

In terms of the Council of Europe, we have our specific mandate, our specific role, our specific history as to why we were created. You see that in the High Level Group, and that has been put forward in terms of our work that we must double down really under the work that we are bound to do. I think the Council of Europe has a specific agenda, a specific role. The Council of Europe needs to engage with all of the international bodies that exist in the multilateral world, but we must do our job, too. We must let people know about our job, must let people know when they are not doing the job that we require them to do, i.e. our member States. We must let our citizens know that we are here to protect their rights no matter who is in power in your country. Your rights, your human rights, your democratic values, your democratic rights and the rule of law apply no matter what. That's our role, and I think that we should stick with it.

The last question was in relation to... There is a similar question, I think, so I will leave that there if that is okay. I just lost my notes here. My apologies.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:07:12

Thank you very much, Mr Minister Thomas BYRNE, for addressing this Assembly and updating us on the preparations for the fourth summit, and updating us on the developments that are taking place under your Presidency.

Thank you also very much for answering the questions of our parliamentarians.

We wish you well, you still have a quite a long time to go. It's only October. You have October and November, so we are looking forward to continuing our cooperation with you, with Minister Coveney, with Ambassador Breifne O'REILLY and the whole team.

I wish you well and once again thank you very much for all the hard work and all the efforts and all the creativity.

Thank you very much.

The next item of business in this morning is the debate on the report titled The honouring of obligations and commitments by Türkiye. You will find it in Doc. 15618 and Addendum.

It will be presented by Mr John HOWELL and Mr Boriss CILEVIČS on behalf of the Monitoring Committee.

In order to finish by 1 p.m. I will interrupt the list of speakers at about 12:30 p.m. to allow time for reply and the vote.

We will start with Mr John HOWELL and Mr Boriss CILEVIČS, the co-rapporteurs.

You have 5 minutes each.

I first call Mr John HOWELL in the debate.

Mr John HOWELL, you have the floor.

Debate: The honouring of obligations and commitments by Türkiye

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Co-Rapporteur

11:08:45

Thank you very much, Mister President.

Can I start this debate first by paying my own respects to Mr Boriss CILEVIČS, and to wish him well for the future? It has been a great pleasure working with him, and he has supported everything that we have done in a very very firm contribution.

Our Assembly is debating today the first monitoring report on Türkiye since the country was put under monitoring procedure in 2017. In 2017, constitutional amendments were adopted by 52% of the voters, and a presidential system was established, dramatically changing the balance of powers. At that time, the Venice Commission had highlighted the many deficiencies of the system, starting from the lack of separation of powers.

The report presented today is a mid-term review of the developments since then. A first monitoring report, but not the first debate we had in this Assembly, which was in 2019, 2020, 2021.

The Assembly is not underestimating the terrorist threats that Türkiye faces. It is not ignoring the regional context in which Türkiye is operating – on the contrary. But we are convinced that a democratic country, fully respecting the principles of rule of law, ensuring that all fundamental freedoms can be freely exercised, can even play a more positive role in the region.

The report focuses on a number of different issues.

The first of these is the implementation of the Strasbourg Court rulings. This is of paramount importance to safeguard our system of protection of human rights.

The Council of Europe has been following two emblematic cases on the non-execution of the Court judgments. This concerns a philanthropist, Osman Kavala, and the leader of the HDP, the second largest opposition party, Mr Demirtas, The Court found a violation of Article 18 of the Convention in these cases.

In the case of Mr Kavala, an infringement procedure was launched in February this year. The European Court of Human Rights confirmed in July that Türkiye had failed to implement the Court ruling of December 2019.

In the meantime, Mr Kavala remains in prison for unfounded reasons. The aggravated life sentence given to him was quite frankly outrageous, not mentioning the heavy prison sentences given to his co-defendants.

Dear Turkish Colleagues,

An infringement procedure is a rare, and serious procedure. We have tried, throughout the preparation of this report, to have a meaningful dialogue with the Turkish delegation, and the Turkish authorities, and we have found the Turkish delegation very acceptable to having those discussions. This dialogue needs to continue at the highest level to find a way out.

The President of our Assembly and the Chair of the Committee of Ministers should discuss further action and envisage how and when additional steps should be taken.

Mr Kavala and Mr Demirtas are two high profile cases, but they are only tip of the iceberg. Another core issue addressed in this report is the functioning of the justice system, and the lack of its independence – and this affects thousands of people. Again, we refer to the opinions of the Venice Commission and GRECO which have issued recommendations on this issue.

Restoring the independence of the justice system is a crucial issue. Despite some steps taken, it remains largely unaddressed.

The composition of the Council of Judges and Prosecutors is not in line with our standards. The independence of the Constitutional Court must be strengthened to reinforce the mechanisms of individual applications, which have been so important to protect the rights covered by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The deficiencies in the Turkish legal system are not only raised by international bodies: it is documented by the Turkish Constitutional Court itself. Seventy per cent of the individual violations lodged since 2012 concern the right to a fair trial, which is protected by our Convention. We need to continue to work on this question.

We have also expressed our concerns concerning the situation in prison, alleged ill treatment in places of detention, and the fate of sick prisoners dying in prisons. This is an area where the authorities, we believe, should and could do more.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:13:54

Thank you, Mr John HOWELL.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS you have the floor.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Co-Rapporteur

11:13:59

Dear Mister President.

As the final timely issue addressed in this report is the preparation for the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023.

Here are some of our findings that concern the electoral environment.

First, we regret to see that the situation of opposition politicians remains difficult. Let us recall the previous resolutions adopted by this Assembly and our concerns about the issue of parliamentary immunity. Dozens of MPs have seen their immunity lifted. This is disproportionally affecting the opposition MPs and paves the way to their arrest. A few days ago, proceedings were initiated in the parliament to lift the immunity of the leader of the main opposition party CHP, Mr Kilicdaroglu, for speeches made eight years ago.

Second, the HDP, which is the second largest opposition party, is targeted by a closure procedure currently examined by the Constitutional Court, which, we hope, will be guided by the well-established case law of the European Court of Human Rights and the strict rules governing the closure of political parties in Türkiye.

The electoral code was amended in April this year. We very much welcome the lowering of the electoral threshold from 10% to 7%, which this Assembly had asked for a long time.

However, other provisions are problematic – and this was documented in the Venice Commission report – such as the composition of election boards, or the fact that the President will be excluded from the scope of the propaganda ban, obviously raising questions about the level playing field. It is also regretful that these changes in the election legislation were not reached through a broad consensus; this is not in line with practices in democratic societies.

These days, the parliament is discussing a most controversial “Disinformation Law”. The Venice Commission is clear: the proposed amendment to the penal code criminalising the dissemination of “false or misleading” information, would trigger a more chilling effect and increased self-censorship. This provision is neither necessary nor proportionate to the legitimate aim. It interferes with the freedom of expression and could cause irreparable harm to the exercise of freedom of speech before elections. This is why we urge the Turkish authorities not to enact this draft amendment to the penal code. It is still time to act.

This highly problematic Disinformation Law adds to long-standing issues regarding the freedom of expression and the freedom of the media. Free and independent media are key to fostering public debates. We have been waiting for long‑overdue reforms of the penal code and its infamous articles such as Article 299 or “insult to the President”, which has led to thousands of prosecutions. The overly broad interpretation of the anti-terror law is also a long-standing issue and justifies many infringements on freedom of expression.

Finally, freedom of assembly is also an issue. It affects political life, but also the vibrant civil society, which is struggling in a difficult environment. Let us think about the Saturday Mothers, thriving for justice, or university students aspiring to a more open society, not mentioning women’s organisations fighting against gender-based violence and for better participation of women in public life.

Dear Colleagues, Mister President,

The Turkish people is committed to democracy. There are high turnouts in elections, and there is a vibrant society. The upcoming elections will be an important moment in Türkiye’s political life, as all elections are. But the Turkish deserve to be able to take part in fair elections. This is why we invite our Turkish colleagues to bring these messages back to their parliament, to their authorities and work at good elections conditions.

We hope that you will support the draft resolution as well as the amendments tabled by the Monitoring Committee. We need to send a clear signal to Türkiye.

Thank you, Mister President. 

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:18:41

Thank you, Mr Boriss CILEVIČS.

Thank you both co-rapporteurs Mr John HOWELL and Mr Boriss CILEVIČS.

Now I open the debate with the speakers of behalf of the political groups.

The first speaker will be Mr Pedro CEGONHO from Portugal. He speaks on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

Mr Pedro CEGONHO.

 

Mr Pedro CEGONHO

Portugal, SOC

11:19:00

Thank you very much, Mister President

First of all, I would like to congratulate the two rapporteurs for the excellent analysis and reflections written in this report, about “The honouring of obligations and commitments by Türkiye”.

We believe that all monitoring procedure was developed in a spirit of dialogue and co-operation with the Turkish authorities.

On the other hand, we also would like to thank the work of the experts who cooperated in the preparation of this report, in particular the Venice Commission.

After reading the draft resolution, your explanations and your conclusions, we underlined several issues:

The Turkish authorities need to ensure that all conditions will be met to guarantee free and fair elections, including the ability of the opposition to operate, and journalists to work in an independent way. Freedom of media has been a long-standing concern. During an electoral campaign, access to media and media coverage is crucial to provide voters with pluralistic information.

The presidential and parliamentary elections in 2023 should be observed by this Assembly. We underline the fact of lowering the electoral threshold from 10% to 7%, as a long-lasting request from the Parliamentary Assembly and a welcome development.

Türkiye is an important member state of the Council of Europe, and we believe that Turkish institutions can be compliant with human rights, rule of law, and democracy standards. This Assembly must remain at the disposal of the Turkish authorities to pursue a constructive dialogue.

As the Assembly must require the need of reforms to restore the full independence of the judiciary and effective checks and balances, on the positive side, we note the Turkish authorities and the Council of Europe are implementing several co-operation programmes aimed at addressing relevant issues of concern and improving the legal practice, which is key to enhancing the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.

The Assembly must also welcome the mediation efforts undertaken by Türkiye between Russia and Ukraine to present a view to resolve the conflict.

This Assembly must remain vigilant about the safeguard of women’s rights and gender equality and must regret the decision to withdraw from the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the “Istanbul Convention”) and sincerely hopes that a way may be found to reintegrate Türkiye into the Istanbul Convention.

We in This Assembly must therefore decisively support the work of our two rapporteurs and approve the draft resolution that was presented to us.

Thank you, Mister Chair.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:22:22

Thank you, Mister Pedro CEGONHO.

Next in the debate I call Ms Theodora BAKOYANNIS, from Greece, who speaks on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

 

Ms Theodora BAKOYANNIS

Greece, EPP/CD

11:22:30

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

On behalf of the Group of the European People's Party allow me to thank the rapporteurs for the work and the Monitoring Committee for its meticulous observations.

We must confess nonetheless that this report is alarming. It's a signal that should activate us all in this Parliamentary Assembly - but above all, and most of all, the Turkish delegation.

The report validates a harsh reality. Democracy in Türkiye has been deteriorating so fast and so much in the past few years that it is essentially non-existent.

I welcome you to read some of these lines out loud: ongoing crackdown on political opposition and human rights activists like Mr Osman Kavala and Mr Selahattin Demirtaş; attempts to close political parties; arresting of elected officials; restrictions on freedom of speech and media; withdrawing from human rights conventions; lack of transparency in the judiciary; jailing of dissidents and people with different opinions; and, of course, not respecting the decisions of the court.

What is the takeaway of this report for us in the Parliamentary Assembly and for the Turkish delegation as our colleagues?

It's not a pointing of a finger, but a genuine concern. Today more than ever, my dear friends, it's imperative that values of democracy, of rule of law, of human rights and freedom, be more than just words in a report, because they are values, the way of life for which people in Ukraine and elsewhere are fighting for and dying for.

I call on our friends in the Turkish delegation to reflect on this report.

I call on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to do so as well.

Türkiye does not need to look constantly for battles abroad or threaten other countries and seek to fight enemies that are non-existent.

The true fight - the one that exists - will be for its democracy, for the prosperity of its people, and we are all here to make sure that Türkiye will succeed.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:25:00

Thank you, Dora.

Next in the debate I call Ms Nigar ARPADARAI. She's from Azerbaijan and speaks on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

Nigar.

Ms Nigar ARPADARAI

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

11:25:11

Thank you very much.

Dear colleagues,

I would like to thank the rapporteurs, Mr John HOWELL and Mr Boriss CILEVIČS, for the comprehensive report covering a number of important issues pertaining to the honouring by Türkiye of its obligations under Council of Europe membership.

I'm glad that the report contains a clear statement that the work of the rapporteurs has been carried out in a constructive and positive dialogue and engagement with Turkish counterparts. This is a very good and important sign.

Dear colleagues, a long time has gone since the times when democracy was on the offensive and it was marching globally and in Europe.

Democracy today is on the defensive not only on the perimeter of European space. It has been hit and bullied all over Europe in the last years. It has been damaged under the so-called "public good" argument during the recent pandemic, and it currently inevitably suffers from the Ukrainian-Russian war.

Efficient and just courts, freedom of expression, and free and competitive ground for political participation are in the core of aspirations of all of our members.

What I noticed from the report is that there has been either reasonable progress or meaningful positive engagement of Turkish authorities in the number of issues related to the topics of the monitoring.

Türkiye played and continues to play an extremely important role of a flagman of democracy in its unique location reaching out to the Black Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It is a functioning, pluralistic society with well-established local governance and judiciary, versatile media and a wide political spectrum.

All this is not an easy task to sustain in a very difficult environment of the region where Türkiye is located.

Whatever the preachers of democracy may say, you cannot take the country out of its geographical context.

For all this, Türkiye deserves praise much more than it deserves criticism.

Türkiye brings enormous added value to Europe and provides geographical depth to the continent.

In essence, it makes Europe stronger.

We now see Türkiye's role in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, which opened a channel for humanitarian corridors, freedom to Ukraine captives of war, and allowed for safe Ukrainian expert of grain.

The reason I bring this up is that Türkiye sometimes faces a disproportionately large amount of criticism in this hemicycle.

All members of the Council of Europe deserve to be criticised now and then, and all the members should be trying to reach the standards that were put. But the Council of Europe shouldn't be the arena for cultural and religious bias, it should be the platform for building a common European space.

In this sense, constructive dialogue, meaningful, result-oriented cooperation, and continuation of the work of the Assembly and Turkish authorities to follow the developments in the country concerning democracy, rule of law, and human rights, should be continued.

I would like to once again thank the rapporteurs for the great job that they are doing.

 

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:28:10

Thank you, Madam Nigar ARPADARAI. 

Next in a debate, I call Ms Stephanie KRISPER from Austria. Stephanie speaks on behalf of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

You have the floor, Stephanie.

Ms Stephanie KRISPER

Austria, ALDE

11:28:24

Thank you, dear President, dear colleagues and especially the speaker before me.

The report we discussed today leaves no space for doubts. Over the last few years, Türkiye has increasingly denied its population human rights and rule of law.

Thus, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, I would like to express deep concerns regards Türkiye's respective failure to comply with its obligations as a Council of Europe member State. I will focus on the Istanbul Convention, the treatment of Mr Kavala, and the upcoming elections.

As for the Istanbul Convention, by withdrawing last summer, Türkiye not only weakened its co-operation with the Council of Europe but deprived women of a vital instrument of protection. Even worse, Türkiye did so during the Covid-19 pandemic, a moment when cases of domestic violence have enormously increased.

Besides withdrawing from important conventions, we have experienced failure to comply with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. This brings me to the case of Mr Kavala. As I am speaking, Mr Kavala is still unlawfully detained despite the Judgment of the Court in an infringements procedure and he has been detained for years now. There is not one single argument that justifies his detention, and thus, Turkish authorities must instantly release him. Even more, as we all know that the situation in Turkish prisons is below human rights standards.

Finally, I would like to focus on the question of fair elections being possible in Türkiye coming directly to the point. Will Türkiye continue its democratic backsliding? Or will it allow its citizens to express their will in a free and fair manner? Well, there is already a tendency to be identified when looking at the current breakdown of democratic norms, restrictions on freedom of expression and the government's near monopoly on broadcast media. Our position is also clear on this issue in compliance with the rights enshrined in the Convention: repression and arbitrary imprisonment of opposition politicians must come to an end.

The criminalisation of critical media and of the dissemination of so-called false information must be stopped and refrained from. Finally, Türkiye must allow all democratically elected opposition politicians to exercise their mandates. I am talking about the mayors who have been dismissed under unfounded allegations and replaced with non-elected officials close to the ruling party. We the ALDE group will closely follow the monitoring of the elections and its results.

Undermining the rule of law, failing to implement judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, laying the groundwork for unfair elections:  these are the clear results of the monitoring procedure. All the more, we are thankful for the considered work of the rapporteurs in highlighting these deficiencies and thus establishing a framework for all the actions that need to be taken for the human rights of the people living in Türkiye.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:31:21

Thank you, Madam Stephanie KRISPER.

Next in the debate I call Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY from Türkiye. He speaks on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mister Hişyar ÖZSOY, you have the floor.

Mr Hişyar ÖZSOY

Türkiye, UEL

11:31:32

Thank you, Mister Chair.

Let me start by thanking the rapporteurs for this report, which covers some of the key problems with respect to the functioning of democratic institutions in Türkiye.

As you may remember, Türkiye was included back into the monitoring procedure in April 2017.

Since then the Parliamentary Assembly and other organs of the Council of Europe, such as the Human Rights Commissioner, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), as well as the Venice Commission, issued many other reports, resolutions, opinions and statements on backsliding democratic standards in Türkiye.

Despite all these, the judiciary is still under strict governmental control in Türkiye.

People are arrested for expressing their political opinions.

The political opposition is vilified as traitors or terrorists.

People's Labor Party (Halkin Emek Partisi, HDP) deputies and mayors are jailed; a closure case against my party HDP is in process; the media, civil society, and universities are repressed; and people are dying inside prison walls.

One of them is a former Kurdish female deputy Ms Aysel Tuğluk, who has a severe case of dementia.

All prisoners are kept in total isolation, such as Mr Abdullah Öcalan and three other inmates at the İmralı Island prison.

As we get closer to the election schedules for next June [2023], we expect even more pressure on the political opposition.

Three days ago the Turkish police - and please listen carefully - the Turkish police broke the nose and leg of a HDP deputy, Mr Habip Eksik, a physician by profession, and hospitalised two other deputies.

So far, the president of the Turkish Parliament hasn't even said a single word about the police breaking the nose and leg of a member of the parliament.

This is the shameful state of parliamentary democracy in Türkiye.

The simple fact is that the Turkish government hasn't shown any will or willingness to improve democratic standards, even refusing to implement the judgments of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights as in the case of Mr Osman Kavala and Mr Selahattin Demirtaş.

The Turkish government has made its position crystal clear. It just doesn't care about what this Council of Europe and this Parliamentary Assembly think; it is as simple as that.

What we do not know, though, is what this Council of Europe and this Parliamentary Assembly plans to do with a member State that not once – nor twice – but consistently defies its rules and refuses to implement its judgments and decisions.

The Council of Europe needs to find ways to ensure that all member States fulfil their obligations.

It should consider using existing enforcement mechanisms and even developing new ones, because if this Council of Europe doesn't find ways to make sure that member States follow the rules and fulfil their obligations, I suspect many other member States won't take this Council of Europe seriously.

It is like a contagious disease. I promise you it's going to spread.

As a consequence, the Council of Europe as a whole will be undermined, its fundamental values compromised, and it may turn into an effectively useless institution.

Enough with monitoring and expressing concern. We have already said what needs to be said. We said it repeatedly to the extent that words start to lose their meaning, so now it is time to act and to act without any further delay.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:34:59

Thank you, Hişyar.

Next in the debate I call Mr Armen RUSTAMYAN from Armenia.

Armen, you have the floor.

Mr Armen RUSTAMYAN

Armenia, SOC

11:35:20

Mister Chairman,

Dear Colleagues,

It must be said already that we are witnessing the collapse of a pre-existing world order based on the respect of common principles and values, especially with regard to the obligations of non-use of force or threat of force and peaceful settlement of disputes and conflicts.

Instead of finding ways together to stop this disruptive process for all, some countries are trying to take advantage of it by provoking new confrontations to achieve their selfish goal, thus adding their share of oil to the fire. Such a policy is being pursued today by Türkiye, in tandem with Azerbaijan.

According to Türkiye, now is the right time to force Armenia to make such concessions, which will enable it to realise its century-old dream of removing the Armenian obstacle to the creation of the Panturkic alliance.

Türkiye and Azerbaijan, on the basis of their ethnic identity, have proclaimed the principle of one people in two states and recently signed the anti-Armenian declaration in the city of Shushi, occupied by Azeri forces after the last war in Artsakh. This declaration, which challenges universal international norms, fully reflects the aggressive intention of the signatory parties and clearly sets out geopolitical objectives aimed at the formation of the Greater Turan. With such large-scale intentions, Türkiye continues to hypocritically declare its willingness to normalise relations with Armenia without preconditions.

We remember how Türkiye, in its application to join the European Union, assured that it would have zero problems with all its neighbours. However, we know the result: zero neighbours, no problems.

Yes, Armenia wants to establish relations with Türkiye, but it must be without preconditions and must not depend on relations with Azerbaijan.

The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs just recently called on his compatriots here in Strasbourg to launch a new attack on the Armenian diaspora in Europe.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

11:38:06

Thank you very much, Mister RUSTAMYAN.

Next in the debate I call Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS from Greece.

Dimitrios, you have the floor.

Mr Dimitrios KAIRIDIS

Greece, EPP/CD

11:38:16

Mister Chairman,

I come in front of you today, dear colleagues, to speak to you as a friend, a long-standing friend of Turkish European vocation.

Actually, I represent the country Greece that has been a strong supporter, actually one among the strongest and most sincere supporters of Türkiye's European vocation after Helsinki and one of the countries that sees it in its national interest to have a European, liberal, democratic Türkiye at peace with itself and at peace with its neighbourhood.

But the truth of the matter is that we have a problem, a big problem, a serious problem we cannot ignore.

Türkiye's democracy is disintegrating in front of our eyes. Türkiye is back-pedalling. We know the story. The first years Erdoğan rode the democratic and liberal bus to get rid of the role of the army and of the deep state. But since the mid 2010s, things have gone the opposite way, accelerating with a change of the constitution in 2017.

It's not for me to say, and I don't want to dispute, we have the indexes. We have the objective listings, everybody consults around the world: The Economist Democracy Index, the Freedom House Index for Liberty and Democracy.

Türkiye is ranked among the lowest in the world. Not in the first hundred. Together with Mali and Haiti, according to Freedom House, 134th in the world as a non-free society, and a hybrid regime according to The Economist.

We have a problem beyond any doubt, no matter how the apologies of the regime might want to pretend otherwise.

We have an additional issue we cannot ignore. Putin and what happened with Russia leaves no room for complacency. We have heard the criticism from our Ukrainian friends and our other friends from Eastern Europe that we had been very lenient with Russia for too long.

We cannot allow the same to happen with Türkiye. We know that a regime that stands against its citizens will then against its neighbours as well.

As we are heading towards the elections of 2023, we cannot allow this derailed train of democracy to go into a big crash to the detriment of the Turkish people first and foremost, peace and stability in the region as well.

So we urge, according to the report, our Turkish friends and colleagues, to work together to improve the situation.

As someone who was born in Kavala, the city where Osman Kavala's family comes from in northern Greece, I want to conclude by saying the simple thing: respect the European Court of Human Rights' rulings and free Kavala now.

Thank you.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:41:47

Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Mr Zeki Hakan SIDALI.

You have the floor.

Mr Zeki Hakan SIDALI

Türkiye, ALDE

11:41:56

Thank you, Chair.

I would like to thank the rapporteurs for contributing to the plurality of voices by consulting the relevant institutions in Türkiye.

Türkiye is a democratic state of law with 150 years of parliamentary tradition.

We have no issue that cannot be solved in terms of democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms.

Although the decisions taken by the current government are decisive in the implementation of policies and international perception, our country is not limited to the current government and its practices.

My call to you regarding Türkiye is to distinguish between the state and the current government.

As you will notice after the next elections, that your 34-page report will be much shorter within a couple of years.

Our roadmap is ready. We will exit the presidential system, which is frequently criticised in the report for being less democratic than before.

Following the next election, we will implement a strengthened parliamentary system where the separation of powers will be sharply enforced, checks and balances will work effectively, and democratic institutions will gain power again.

We are aware of the democratic regression in our country. We will build the system which corresponds to a participatory free and pluralistic democracy where fundamental rights and freedoms are guaranteed.

The report also mentions that you understand our sensitivity against terror. While we will be taking all necessary steps for democracy, will you do your part against terrorist groups?

What kind of support will you supply for this sensitivity you understand?

Members of organisations affiliated with the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the EU, are walking around freely in member countries. Are you sure that you really understand our sensitivity against terrorism?

If you do, will you make recommendations for member states to take steps in this regard?

Another issue. Why do you think would you carry out a coup attempt against democracy? Why do you still call those who carried out coup attempts as movements?

Every democratic endeavour is valuable, but the double standards you continue to apply overshadow your efforts.

In summary, there is much we agree in this report. At the same time, we cannot ignore what we disagree.

I have the same opinion with the relations regarding this system. We know what we have to do about democratic challenges. However, no one should expect any compromise in our determination against terror and our security concerns.

Thank you.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:45:03

Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Mr Armen GEVORGYAN.

Mr Armen GEVORGYAN

Armenia, EC/DA

11:45:11

Mr Chairman,

Many countries in this Parliamentary Assembly will testify to at least having uneven relations with Türkiye.

Some of them have had the hope that, as a result of the EU accession process, Türkiye would begin to live by the European rules of the game, but that perspective has probably vanished by now.

Türkiye has itself rejected this path in order to have its own ambitions of becoming the leader of the Muslim world and of the wider region, achieved without any external obligations or commitments.

I have previously been a member of two Armenian administrations, which have tried to negotiate new relations with Türkiye.

In all previous cases, despite international support or pressure, at some point Türkiye had always put forward the language of preconditions, undermining the entire process.

While calling for peace and stability in our region, Türkiye has for more than 25 years rejected opening the borders with Armenia.

Neither has it ever made a big secret of its political, military and other forms of support and patronage over Azerbaijan in the latest military aggressions against Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia.

Türkiye and its minor ally Azerbaijan have fundamentally changed the political map of the South Caucusus, built a new architecture of regional security and stability, with a full pledge of domination of the Turkic world and by neutralising the so-called Armenian issue to the extent possible.

At the same time, for many European states the Turkish factor has become a serious domestic political challenge.

These days we are witnessing a new Armenian-Turkish dialogue. We must remember, unfair peace is always shaky.

There are concerns that such a dialogue will again become a demonstration of dominance by Türkiye, where it will redefine a region by assigning its own understanding of roles for each of its nations.

Dear colleagues,

Most recently here in Strasbourg, the Turkish foreign minister Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu for yet another time made further claims to the descendants of the victims of Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire.

He demonstrated a fresh example of anti-Armenian rhetoric, calling upon the Turkish ethnic community in democratic France to stand against French Armenians, people who in the past 100 years had only celebrated and heavily contributed to the development of the entire democratic and free Europe.

This is exactly why I want to everyone to know that, not only in the Armenian diaspora, but also in Armenia, the great majority of our people are not ready to trust a neighbour who does not realise what it has done in the past and does not draw reasonable conclusions in its present policies.

A neighbour who prefers ethno-religious sentiments and priorities in regional relations.

Mr President,

I don't believe that our organisation or any European value-based organisation should allow Türkiye to follow its short-term interests by sacrificing long term European credibility.

Thank you.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:48:32

Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Ms Serap YAŞAR.

Ms Serap YAŞAR

Türkiye, NR

11:48:40

Thank you, Mister President.

Dear Colleagues,

First of all, I would like to emphasise that we must avoid double standards.

The report we are discussing is very critical of Türkiye. On the other hand, we are witnessing legally baseless measures against Russian civilians in Europe due to the Russian attack on Ukraine which we all condemn. For example, the conductor Valery Gergiev fired by the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and his concerts cancelled in Europe.

Whatever the circumstances, we are all under the obligation to apply the laws and follow the standards of the Council of Europe. Otherwise, we create double standards that will also undermine the effectiveness of our Assembly.

As for my point of view on the report on Türkiye, first of all, I must stress that I do not share the rapporteur's view on Türkiye. Secondly, I would like to express my disappointment, especially with regard to the criticism in the code of the independence of the judiciary and the implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. In this context, the first thing I want to address and emphasise is that democracy, human rights and the rule of law are the very foundation of the Turkish Constitution and society. The impartiality and independence of the judiciary are the principles strongly emphasised in the Turkish Constitution. The Constitution guarantees the independence and impartiality of the Constitutional Court, as well as the lower courts, and stipulates that the decisions of the Constitutional Court are binding on the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government and on all administrative authorities, natural and legal persons.

As a founding member of the Council of Europe, Türkiye is aware of the responsibility that comes with membership in the Council, including its commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Finally, the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights is closely monitored and referred to in its decisions by the Constitutional Court. The utmost care and attention is taken to ensure that the Court's decisions are compatible with it. I do not think that the double standard will lead us to what is fair and reasonable.

This report seems to have been inspired by the title, not the content, of Schopenhauer's The Art of Being Always Right.

Thank you for everything.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:52:19

Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr Stefan SCHENNACH.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC

11:52:30

Thank you very much, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

First of all, my congratulations to the two rapporteurs.

The report which is before us today shows how right and how important the decision was to turn Turkey's post-monitoring procedure into a monitoring procedure years ago. Because in a post-monitoring, a few points are still open with a country in its development. Only this report shows that it is a little bit too much.

Dear Ms. Serap YAŞAR. Double standards I always hear only from representatives, representatives of countries that are under criticism here. These are not double standards; this applies to all our countries. Freedom of the media, the rule of law, and the requirement that every country that is a member here signs the Istanbul Convention and also implements it. And rulings of the European Court of Human Rights are non-negotiable within a country. By being a member here, every single member country has signed that they will implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and not negotiate within a country, and therefore; that the Turkish Constitutional Court is observing the judgments is nice: for Kavala, it means that he is still in prison. Kavala belongs out. Here we have very clear judgments. But also, as far as Mr. Demirtaş is concerned: An elected representative of a political party – and the head of that party at that – has no business being in prison.

This has already had the report of one of our two rapporteurs, Mr. Boriss CILEVIČS, about politicians and politicians who are in prison. What comes to that; high respect for Turkey's mediation in the Russia-Ukraine war. Black Sea Agreement, prisoner exchange... but that doesn't mean that within your own country, first of all, you create a restrictive environment for civil society, you suspend the rule of law, you suspend freedom of the media, but at the same time, you are militarily active in other countries; like persecution of the Kurds in Syria, persecution of the Kurds in Iraq. That means instability, and not least the participation in Azerbaijan, in the war against Armenia, respectively, that you also exert influence in other countries, as just recently in the election in Bosnia; that is not good. It is important; we were just now as the Council of Europe in Izmir, it was a great celebration: we awarded Izmir with the Europe Prize. In this sense, in this dialogue; also how it took place there, it should continue. And do you understand, all the critical things that we bring up here, as [the speaker is interrupted by the President].

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:56:04

Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Ms María Valentina MARTÍNEZ FERRO.

Ms María Valentina MARTÍNEZ FERRO

Spain, EPP/CD

11:56:17

I would like to begin by congratulating the rapporteurs on this excellent analysis and the great work that has gone into this report.

Indeed, it describes a very troubling situation in Türkiye, because there is a democratic deterioration in this country precisely when it is playing a role as a global actor, whose stability and credibility are of crucial importance for all of us.

Not only is it a threat to its domestic population, but also to its neighbours, and that has to end.

Türkiye must be a free democratic country at peace with its own society and especially its neighbours. This is a specially difficult time of war inside Europe's frontiers.

In the report I think it is important for us to emphasise the importance of fair and free elections as well as freedom of expression.

We also request further urging for respect for civil society, the rule of law, and above all, the independence of the judiciary.

Indeed, it is especially troubling to see the country has left the Istanbul Convention, particularly as it regards the status of women.

Lastly, I think it is also important for us, as an Assembly, as the Council of Europe, to pledge ourselves to following this up. We ourselves also have a responsibility. We should be the yardstick for all of those in Türkiye and elsewhere who are fighting for democracy. We need to support them. Reports such as these should be sufficiently inquisitive to back the Turkish people, who are the source of our hope, with a commitment to peace, freedom and democracy.

Let us back them to the hilt in that process.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

11:58:29

Thank you, Ms María Valentina MARTÍNEZ FERRO.

Next speaker is Mr Max LUCKS.

Mr Max LUCKS

Germany, SOC

11:58:39

Thank you very much, Mister President,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I must say that when I listen to the debate here, I have a different understanding of this organisation than many other colleagues have. My generation, of course, inherited this Council of Europe, and I believe that a fundamental insight of this organisation is that the nation state alone cannot simply defend human rights, democracy and freedom on its own, but that it needs an association of states as a guardian, an association of states that keeps an eye on things, that remains alive and active through our work. Also as a Member of Parliament who supports the government in Germany, I derive from this the mandate to criticise my national government in Germany when ECRI says that there is racial profiling by the police, or when the Council of Europe says that the Istanbul Convention is not adequately implemented.

Therefore, I would like to ask my colleagues from Turkey who support the government: What are you actually doing to ensure that Osman Kavala, who is unjustly imprisoned, as our court has found, what are you actually doing to stand up for the release of Osman Kavala? What are you doing to stand up against the banning of the HDP, which is nothing but a farce and which our Council of Europe has clearly condemned? How do you deal with the fact that the illegal withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention adds to the drama for women and LGBTI people? And how can you please accept that Ms Kaftancıoğlu has been banned from politics just because she managed to devise an election campaign in Istanbul that broke the power of the AKP.

If I am completely honest, it pains me to ask these questions. It pains me because the constituency I represent in the German parliament is one with a large Turkish community, and this diversity is an enrichment to our coexistence. It pains me because Turkey is not simply next door to Europe, but because it is an enriching part of Europe, because it has been a member of the Council of Europe longer than Germany or Spain, and because it has helped other countries on the road to civilisation. Surely it gives no pleasure to anyone in this room to criticise such a venerable member of the Council of Europe.

But if we want to defend human rights on our continent, then we must not look away. Then we must not look away from colleagues of the Turkish National Assembly who are in prison. Then we must not look away from this new media law, which will restrict freedom even more.

Please come back. Please come back under the roof of European human rights and let us build together a free and peaceful future for all people in Europe.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

12:01:58

Next speaker is Mr Anastasios CHATZIVASILEIOU.

Mr Anastasios CHATZIVASILEIOU

Greece, EPP/CD

12:02:04

Thank you, Mister President.

[speaks in Turkish]

Dear colleagues, I will speak as an old and true friend of Türkiye.

Five years after our assembly decided to put it under monitoring procedure, the country still faces serious problems, and I feel really sad about this.

Today's Government, after initially passing some liberalising reforms, has showed contempt for political rights and civil liberties and has pursued a crackdown on its opponents.

The 2017 constitutional changes have removed key checks and balances.

Türkiye remains a challenging place to exercise one's right to free expression.

In 2019 the country was the world's worst jailer of journalists. And at the same time, institutions like justice or the parliament are increasingly controlled by the executive power.

Above all, Türkiye, through their withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, deprives women and girls of the benefits of a comprehensive legal framework to protect them from all forms of violence.

Moreover, the infringement process following Türkiye's failure to implement the Osman Kavala judgment, complicates the whole situation.

Dear colleagues, as neighbours, we would like a modern and democratic Türkiye which abides by our Court's councils and Court's rulings, and respects of course good neighbourly relations.

And what is the reality today?

We witness severe provocations and unprecedented threats against Greece's sovereignty and especially against our islands. And the same applies to its stance against Cyprus.

Revisionism is a danger for regional stability, and I urge you all to see a map and check the limits of the legal agreement on maritime zones they signed with Libya.

So, we reject threats, but we welcome dialogue. We insist on peace.

Therefore, our assembly today remains at the disposal of Ankara to pursue constructive dialogue for the protection of democracy, the rule of law and, of course, human rights above all.

We would like to work together with our Turkish colleagues to work on the basis of this text conception.

So, for the sake of the people of Türkiye, reforms that will restore the full independence of the judiciary and democratic checks and balance according to the Venice Commission are necessary.

There is no member state where prosecutors sometimes act as government agents.

Therefore, we invite our Turkish friends to spare no effort in strengthening democratic institutions, especially vis-a-vis the coming elections and, of course, to understand that nobody should copy Putin's revisionism.

Turkey is an important member of our Council, and we consider her to be so. We want her to be a strong democracy for the benefit of all.

Thank you.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

12:05:08

Thank you very much. 

The next speaker is Sir Edward LEIGH.

Sir Edward LEIGH

United Kingdom, EC/DA

12:05:19

Sometimes, Mister President, I have been critical of this Assembly because I think it has concentrated on minor issues, particularly in Western Europe. May I say that this report is an excellent report produced by my colleague Mr John HOWELL and his co-rapporteur. It is absolutely forensic in its criticism and it seems to me that this is a sort of issue that the Council of Europe has got to concentrate on. Here is a founder member of the Council of Europe and yet there is absolutely no doubt that democracy and an independent judiciary and freedom of the press is on the retreat. I think any objective person would accept that.

So I ask the question put by one of the Turkish speakers earlier today in this debate, what are we going to do about it? I mean, we are only a voluntary body in terms of what Türkiye does. Can Türkiye just ignore us? The only suggestion I can make is that Mr John HOWELL and his colleagues, and other members here, absolutely continue their forensic focus on Türkiye. I think some of the arguments made, particularly in terms of the ludicrous and cruel and appalling life imprisonment of Osman Kavala, I think that we can have a real effect if we use this Assembly to put pressure on the Türkiye government to release this innocent man. And this ridiculous constant attack on Mr Gülen – he is not a terrorist, no western security agency accepts for a moment that Mr Gülen heads a terrorist organisation. 

Now I do not want to just speak or use this debate as an attack on our friends in Türkiye. We know that they are loyal members of NATO. They know that they are a fundamental part of the Western Alliance. We know that they do face a real terrorist threat. We know that they are positioned in an incredibly complicated and difficult part of the world, but we want to be their friends. We want Türkiye – and we have heard from another Turkish speaker today that, apparently, reforms are on the way, there is going to be progress on separation of powers, on increasing parliamentary democracy – well let us take them at their word then! And let us go on focusing on this issue over the next two years so that we can make real progress and help the people of Türkiye.

Thank you very much.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

12:08:28

The next speaker is Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV.

Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV

Azerbaijan, ALDE

12:08:33

Dear Chair,

Dear Colleagues,

Both authors of the presented report, Mr John HOWELL and Mr Boriss CILEVIČS, are our old friends and colleagues. They tried to prepare a balanced text attempting to highlight the positive aspects of Türkiye's activities as much as possible.

However, the main point is the attitude towards Türkiye in the Council of Europe as a whole.

In the last 3 years merely, reports on this country have been scheduled three times as part of urgent debates in the Parliamentary Assembly.

The number of member States under monitoring is considerable. Nevertheless, let's agree that not all of them deserve such persistent attention.

It is a well known fact that Türkiye is among the countries enjoying a particular weight in this organisation. Türkiye has been part of the Council of Europe almost since its foundation. Of course, its merits are invaluable both in the history of the Council of Europe and in the development of democratic developments in Eurasia. In world politics, Türkiye has, in a number of cases, assumed the burden of a regulator, and it is also clear that quite recently some tense problems related to Ukraine were resolved through Türkiye's mediation.

The report rightly highlights these merits of Türkiye.

Dear Friends,

There have always been foreign influences trying to weaken Türkiye from within and the forces under their control inside the country. If Türkiye had not waged a consistent and resolute struggle against the forces trying to undermine its statehood, its enemies would have got what they wanted. To interpret in a different way your fight against those who want to harm your state calling for greater tolerance signifies patronising these opposing forces under the guise of democracy.

It is enough not to be naïve to understand the political background of such approaches. Türkiye has been facing terrorism for many years. In fact, the terrorism that Türkiye faces is directed against all of us. Because if terrorism without a homeland and citizenship is not prevented in the most decisive way, it is always expected that this scourge will soon spread to other countries. So, what has the world done for Türkiye, which also serves as armour against terrorism for all of us?

Which kind of assistance did the world and Europe render to Türkiye in combatting this common evil, and what decisive steps were taken? There are no indicators to brag about. At the same time, there is sufficient activity in giving recommendations and instructions on a softer and fairer attitude towards terrorism and terrorists.

As a member State, Türkiye has obligations and commitments to the Council of Europe and strives to honour them consistently. However, the Council of Europe also has obligations and commitments towards member States. For this reason, we, the Council of Europe should always be besides democratic Türkiye.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

12:11:45

Thank you very much, Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV.

The next speaker is Mr Ahmet YILDIZ.

You have the floor.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR

12:11:52

Thank you, Mister Chairman,

I also join previous speakers in thanking most of all the rapporteurs.

I, as chair of Turkish delegation, all of the members of our delegation, and all of the Turkish institutions tried their best to co‑operate with the rapporteurs and facilitate their jobs. So did Turkish civil society.

Unfortunately, we had to put a dissenting opinion on the report and some amendments due to the following reasons.

First, now in this debate the issue of elections also came to the forefront. I don't think these concerns over the elections are valid. Until now, Türkiye has the one of the best records in implementing fair elections in the world, in conducting elections in the world. In terms of pre-electoral campaigns and conduct of the elections on election day, counting, and later handling the objections, handling the litigations, until now nobody, including the main parties in the parliament, has ever questioned the credibility, integrity of Turkish electrical conduct.

I am sure also that some of these concerns emanate from this law in the parliament, this draft law about disinformation, but no specific case, no specific law can manipulate Turkish voters.

The turnout until now is an average of 80%, sometimes more. You can see that in the composition of the parliament, in the composition of the mayors, in the composition of local authorities.

Secondly, on the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights, Türkiye never ignored it.

When you check the record, Türkiye is among the best in ratio, in numbers, in implementing the court verdicts, but unfortunately, the Committee of Ministers focus on specific cases. I question that several times in the debates within our organisation. I asked this question to the Secretary General, to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly.

Many countries are far behind Türkiye in implementing the Court verdicts, very important decisions affecting many big communities, and fundamental rights, for decades. But the Committee of Ministers only focuses on Türkiye. Unfortunately, this area is becoming an another area of political discrimination.

Maybe in the future our Parliamentary Assembly should take this into consideration in view of the Committee of Ministers.

Thirdly, we think that our conditions, Turkish conditions and sufferings on fighting terrorism is not addressed yet in the report.

I still believe that if our amendments were taken into consideration in the Committee, it would be a better report. Most of the amendments were about judicial things, not to call the courts to drop some charges to release someone. I think it was in line with our rules.

Thirdly, finally, I should say, Mister Chairman, dear colleagues, yesterday many racist voices surfaced in this body during the deliberation of the report on Islamophobia.

Monitoring is okay to end the monitoring process for a better record, but these deliberations were in the scope of the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance, that I think in the next sessions, it will not be allowed by the President of the Parliamentary Assembly by the Chamber of the sessions.

Thank you.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

12:16:15

Thank you, dear colleagues.

I have been flexible because we heard the head of the Turkish delegation, otherwise I would like to ask all of you to keep to the three minutes.

Now, the next speaker is Mr Bernard FOURNIER.

Mr Bernard FOURNIER

France, EPP/CD

12:16:31

Mister President,

Dear Colleagues,

First of all, I would like to thank our colleagues John HOWELL and Boriss CILEVIČS for their report, which shows that many difficulties persist in Türkiye. I would like to come back to two points in particular: the implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2023.

First of all, as a member State of the Council of Europe, Türkiye is obliged to implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. However, it is clear that in the case of Osman Kavala, Türkiye is not respecting its obligations.

It claims today that the Court's ruling of 10 December 2019 calling for the release of Mr Kavala was implemented in February 2020, and that if Mr Kavala is today in detention, it is for other facts for which the Turkish justice has sentenced him to life imprisonment. However, on 11 July, the Court issued a second ruling again calling for the release of Mr Kavala. In addition, the Committee of Ministers decided on 2 February 2022, to bring an action for failure to fulfil obligations against Türkiye. This is an exceptional fact, as it is only the second time that the Committee of Ministers has initiated such a procedure, which illustrates the worrying nature of the situation. I therefore solemnly call on Türkiye to review its position.

Concerning the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2023, I am concerned about the conditions under which they will be held. While the lowering of the threshold for representation in the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye from 10% to 7% is to be welcomed, the Venice Commission has expressed concern about other amendments, such as the criteria for political parties to stand for election and the composition of electoral commissions at district and provincial levels.

Moreover, the procedures underway against members of opposition parties are not likely to guarantee plurality of debate. Indeed, a procedure is underway to try to dissolve the Peoples' Democratic Party, the HDP, which is the third most represented party in parliament: 451 politicians of this party are thus threatened with being banned from participating in political life.

Finally, an excessive interpretation of offences such as denigration of the Turkish nation or insulting the representatives of the government does not guarantee freedom of expression.

Türkiye must work in good faith with the Council of Europe to ensure fair and pluralistic elections.

I thank you for your support.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

12:19:38

Thank you.

The next speaker is Ms Feleknas UCA.

Ms Feleknas UCA

Türkiye, UEL

12:19:44

Thank you very much, Mr President,

Colleagues,

I would also like to thank the rapporteurs for this important report. As a member of the third largest group in the Turkish Parliament, the HDP, where I am elected and I am here today as a Member, I have to... the rapporteurs have tried to draw the picture of Turkey here, to criticize the political developments in the country that have taken place here. But in my opinion, I have to make a criticism also of the language that we hold here in the Council, which has a very soft language selection and is not critical enough of the political developments in Turkey. We see that in all bodies of the European Union the language has changed massively. Perhaps that is the first point of criticism I would like to make here.

Of course, the report is quite important as far as the rule of law or the enforcement of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights is concerned, in the case of Osman Kavala or Demirtaş. But in the current political situation, we are talking about a government that does not respect the rule of law, democracy or human rights, but no longer recognizes the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. We are talking about a government that wants to ban the third strongest group in the Turkish parliament, a democratically elected party, the HDP, which had more than 6.5 million votes. Colleagues have mentioned it here: not only the HDP is to be banned, a ban on politics for 451 politicians is also demanded. What do they want to achieve with a party ban? To silence the HDP or to muzzle it?

There were in the history of Turkey before already several political parties, which were forbidden. But no one has taken a step backwards, been more committed to democracy, to the rule of law. The lifting of immunities, the media law, the receivers against democratically elected mayors. These are all shortcomings that need to be addressed much more intensively here. It is not enough that we only adopt reports here, but do nothing more about them when it comes to implementation. Just bringing a report here to the House once a year is not enough to change Turkey democratically. There was also the problem in terms of democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey are due to living out a solution process that took place between 2013 and 2015. For more than 19 months, there could be no visit of the family or lawyers on the former prison. There was a decision also here at the last report that has not been implemented.

Therefore I ask colleagues that we will not only adopt reports, but we will work for the implementation of the reports.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

12:23:06

Thank you very much.

The next speaker is Mr Samad SEYIDOV.

Mr Samad SEYIDOV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

12:23:13

Thank you very much, Mr President.

The former President of this Parliamentary Assembly, our dear friend Mr Rik DAEMS, once during a meeting said that we in this Parliamentary Assembly should speak with the country, not about the country. This is an essential thing.

That's really very strange and worrying that our dear rapporteurs try to do that. They try to speak with the country.

But what I can see, that when they started to speak with the country, not Türkiye has been accused, the rapporteurs have been accused. That you should speak about the country, only about shortcomings, and that's why that's a very strange situation.

Under pressure are not only Türkiye, but the rapporteurs who presented this report.

We in these Assembly, we should think that nobody can privatise democracy. Everybody who speaks just now about Türkiye, tries to present that everything is okay with democracy in their countries and only in Türkiye they have problems. No. Especially about these countries who do not even have the right to speak about democracy.

My colleagues and friends from Armenia again said that they are not so happy with developments in Türkiye. The country which for 20 years occupied my country. The country which is still deploying mines in my territory. But I don't want to speak about Armenia. I know that the next speaker, Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN, will speak about me again.

I want to speak about Türkiye, because Türkiye's role just now is growing, and we should take into account that without Türkiye there is no Council of Europe.

We should think about that. Because now, everything, everything is happening in this region.

The rule of law, democratic developments, human rights, everything is connected to each other, and we should objectively reflect all these developments.

If we are going to accuse this country, if we are not ready to understand the threats, if we're not so reluctant to name terrorists with their exact names, the problem will exist. The Fourth Summit which we are dreaming of will be not so important.

But if we are able to accept the role, the influence, and the problems of Türkiye, the Assembly, I think, will be able to present the real democracy.

Thank you.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

12:26:18

Thank you.

As it was announced by Mr Samad SEYIDOV, the next speaker is Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN.

He doesn't seem to be around.

The next speaker is Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY.

Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY

Türkiye, NR

12:26:47

Dear Chair,

Dear President,

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to start by thanking the co-rapporteurs for their work and efforts in the preparation of the report.

Within the report, the co-rapporteurs specifically focus on certain issues, which stand out in the context of Türkiye’s monitoring procedure. I would like to address one of them: the 2023 parliamentary and presidential elections.

First and foremost, I would like to underline that free and democratic elections are an indispensable part of Türkiye’s history of democracy and state tradition. As rightly stated in the report, the high turnout in every election demonstrates the Turkish people’s commitment to democracy and their trust in the electoral system.

In order to conduct fair and transparent elections and election campaigns, the electoral legislation is applied equally to all candidates and political parties, and these processes are supervised by the relevant institutions and the judiciary.

In contrast to the criticisms in the context of freedom of expression and media during the electoral campaign, there is an active and pluralistic media community enjoying international standards of freedom of expression and media in Türkiye in line with the domestic law as well as international obligations and the European Court of Human Rights case law.

Individual cases, which may also concern freedom of expression, are examined by independent and impartial courts. Domestic remedies, including the right of appeal before the Court of Cassation and individual application before the Constitutional Court as well as the right to lodge an application before the European Court of Human Rights are also available.

In connection with freedom of media, I would like to point out that the assessment that the upcoming draft “Disinformation Law” could lead to prison sentences and censoring online media is, unfortunately, prejudicial and biased. The said law aims to regulate and enhance online media platforms just like the EU’s Digital Services Act, which aims to remove illegal content, increase transparent advertising, and improve the fight against disinformation.

I would also like to remind my colleagues that as the political party in power, AKP Party, has always been against closing political parties and has struggled with this for a long time. There is an impression that the political party in power is trying to close HDP or any other party so it is not a fair approach.

Finally, it should not be forgotten that the legislation and international obligations ensure that the will of the Turkish people is reflected in the ballot box in the most accurate way. As it has been in the past elections, fulfilling this requirement will be the priority of Türkiye in the elections to be held in 2023.

Thank you.

 

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

12:30:25

Thank you very much, Madam Emine Nur GÜNAY.

Unfortunately, dear colleagues, we have to interrupt the list of speakers after the last speaker, who is going to be Mr Nicos TORNARITIS.

Mr Nicos TORNARITIS

Cyprus, EPP/CD

12:30:41

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

First of all, allow me to thank the co-rapporteurs for their comprehensive work, report.

Dear Colleagues,

President Erdoğan has led Türkiye even further further away from our shared democratic values and principles. Worrisome developments have seriously weakened the system of checks and balances, created a democratic deficit, and eliminated the functioning of independent institutions. Türkiye is rapidly moving towards authoritarianism by manipulating national court decisions and ignoring the full implementation of international court judgments.

Turkish citizens are the first to suffer. Thousands, including Demirtaş and Kavala, are detained with no right to a fair trial and in complete disregard to the pertinent decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.

Türkiye also continues to ignore its obligations arising from treaties, resolutions, and conventions, and refuses to join sanctions against Russia.

President Erdoğan's foreign policy agenda is based on revisionism and expansionism and aimed at regional domination.

Türkiye has abandoned efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem under the auspices of the UN and is instead pursuing a two-state solution while reinforcing its military presence in the occupied parts of Cyprus. It continues with provocative statements and actions to dispute and threaten Cyprus and Greece's sovereignty in land and sea, which also constitutes territory of the European Union.

Mister President, if the international community continues to tolerate Türkiye's aggressive stance, there is no room for optimism.

Dear Colleagues,

We need to take action against Türkiye now.

Thank you very much.

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Hungary, EC/DA, President of the Assembly

12:33:41

Dear Colleagues,

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 typewritten text can be submitted, electronically if possible, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.

I now call on Mr Boriss CILEVIČS and Mr John HOWELL, co-rapporteurs to reply.

You have 5 minutes in total.

Mr John HOWELL

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Co-Rapporteur

12:34:20

Thank you very much.

Let me thank everyone for participating in this debate. The contributions have been very interesting both for Mr Boriss CILEVIČS and myself to hear.

I agree with what one speaker said, that this report is not enough. I said right at the beginning that this was a midterm review of developments in Türkiye. It is not the final report.

Admittedly, I am committing Mr Boriss CILEVIČS to something that he may not wish to do - but our intention is to go back to Türkiye to keep our attention on the matter, and continue to pursue these issues. We urgently ask the Turkish government to work with us in being able to take these issues forward.

One of the speakers mentioned that monitoring was not about speaking about a country, but speaking with a country. I think that that is very important indeed.

We need to bear in mind at the beginning that what monitoring is not about is about two individuals from this organisation going, as it were, with a big stick to beat a government up. It's about us going and having discussions with government and about being able, through those discussions, to achieve progress in getting resolution on a number of the issues that we have set out in our report today.

There are certain things that we cannot take into account. We cannot prejudge the course of the next election, but what we have done is to work closely with the Turkish authorities.

I would repeat my thanks to Mr Ahmet YILDIZ and the delegation of Türkiye here in this Parliamentary Assembly in working with us to be able to present the results of this work.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:36:38

Thank you, Mister John HOWELL.

Now I give the floor to Mr Boriss CILEVIČS.

You have the floor.

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Co-Rapporteur

12:36:43

Thank you President,

Since this is my last intervention in this Parliamentary Assembly, I can be completely open and candid.

I fully agree with what Mr John HOWELL said about co‑operation, with very good co‑operation with Turkish representatives. The debates were sometimes very heated; we often disagreed, but they were open, constructive and this is very important.

Mister Ahmet YILDIZ, I can't accept your criticism.

Yes, the report is very critical, but not because of some prejudice or intention to discriminate Türkiye or whatever. It's exactly the opposite, because we realise the potential of Türkiye. We realise how important Türkiye is for the Council of Europe and for Europe, for the entire Europe. So you have responsibility not only vis-à-vis voters, but vis-à-vis the whole Europe.

We are all in the same boat, and you have one of the biggest pedals. We have agreed about the direction where we should move. If you don't, our boat will sink.

We are really convinced that this direction is the direction to democracy, human rights, rule of law, respect to judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

Yes, you are completely right. Türkiye has executed many judgments, more than most of us as member States. But even one innocent person in prison is too many, and now we have much more than one.

This is our common problem. I sincerely hope that we will find this common direction and that such an important member State and European state as Türkiye will contribute decently to the further development of human rights and rule of law in Europe.

The last thing I would like to say is to express gratitude to our excellent Secretariat Ms Sylvie AFFHOLDER. Indeed it was an immense help and support.

I thank all of you colleagues for all of these years that I spent with you and learned a lot with you.

I wish you good luck.

Please, keep fighting for human rights and democracy.

Thank you.

(Applause)

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:39:20

Thank you very much, Mister Boriss CILEVIČS, for reminding us that this will be your last debate, but we did not finish the debate. I already gave you flowers. I'm Dutch, so I'm not going to give you an extra bunch of flowers, but our appreciation was shown again by applauding for you.

We need to continue our struggle, but we need also good fighters for that, for the struggle.

Thank you very much.

The Monitoring Committee.

Does the Chairperson of the Committee wish to speak?

Mr Piero FASSINO, you have the floor.

Mr Piero FASSINO

Italy, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by member states of the Council of Europe

12:39:56

Thank you, Mister President.

I think we really have to thank Mr Boriss CILEVIČS and Mr John HOWELL for the work they have done over the last few years, with great attention to all aspects of the situation in Türkiye.

As the rapporteurs have already said, we are not a court but a political institution. Its purpose is to monitor the functioning of democracy, respect for rights and to ensure that all member countries of this Council fully comply with this duty to respect rights and democracy.

There is no doubt that in Türkiye, in recent years, there have been problems in this regard. For example, we are all convinced that we must fight against terrorism, but we are rather disappointed that the Turkish authorities apply the category of terrorism to everything that opposes the authorities and the government. We are convinced that the rights of minorities must be respected, and we cannot overlook the fact that the rights of the Kurdish minority are frequently reduced. We are in favor of respecting the popular will, especially when this popular will is expressed through electoral processes. We know that in Turkey, there have been several mayors, especially mayors elected in the lists of the HDP, who have been substituted by the Turkish authorities in violation of popular democratic legitimacy. We know that there is today, in the Turkish Parliament, a bill presented by the government that wants to reduce the freedom of information and the freedom of the press.

These are the reasons why the work of our rapporteur is very important, because we want to contribute to overcome these contradictions, this problem, to ensure that Türkiye is a democratic country based on the rule of law and respectful of human rights and the Convention.

We are on the eve of important elections in Türkiye, presidential and parliamentary. It is much more important that the Council of Europe address the Turkish authorities to ensure that the entire electoral process develops with full respect for democratic rights, the rights of individuals, political parties, candidates and all those who will be protagonists in the electoral process.

We cannot forget that there is a really acute problem for our Council: the painful condition of Mr Kavala, who has been imprisoned with a decision considered without justification in the European Court of Human Rights. We also want to ask once again in this Council the Turkish authorities to respect the rights of Mr Kavala and the opinion that the European Court of Human Rights has given.

I will conclude. Our hope is that the Turkish authorities will listen carefully to our opinions and that we can work together to ensure that Türkiye is truly a democratic country that respects all human rights and all the rules of democracy.

I would like to thank the Turkish delegation and especially our rapporteurs.

I will also add to the President's thanks: all my thanks to Boriss CILEVIČS, who was really an active protagonist in the activity of our Council. Thank you, Boriss.

Mr Kamal JAFAROV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

12:53:29

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Today's Turkiye is more democratic and free than ever before in the history. Today's Turkiye is more powerful and peaceful than in 2002. Why I said 2002? Because since then, under the leadership of Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkiye achieved a victory in national struggle, built new modern state and gained its freedom again.

But during those years, Turkiye was forced to lag behind the point which it should have originally reached politically, economically, socially and military. Some anti-national forces brought all the corrupted ideologies and imposed on the youth of Turkiye. They brought all the tensions and conflicts in the region, imposed on the nation of Turkiye.

While every country in Europe was advancing on the path of development, rights, freedom, growth and culture, they always imposed division, disintegration, terror and coups to Turkiye.

Therefore, the difficulties created by the fight against terrorism should not be ignored, many of issue mentioned in the report are related to the problems created by the constant threat of terrorism.

Nevertheless, Turkiye remained strong and even got stronger, eliminated its citizens' life, property and future concerns by crushing the terrorist organizations within and outside of its border and will continue so.

Despite the economic traps set up by global forces, Turkiye's economy growed, the welfare of its citizens increased incomparatively to past. One week ago, EBRD has upgraded its growth forecast for Turkiye to 4.5% from 2%. We are sure that with the new economic model, this century will be the year of the Turkiye.

Regarding the development of democracy in Turkiye, I have to mention that November 2002 elections were a historical turning point for Turkiye, 2007 elections brought new phase in their struggle against tutelage. The 2011 elections brought the goverment's work and service policy to the top. The 2018 elections were their first test after the coup attempt and their transition to the new administrative system. Therefore every election has its own specific mission.

We are sure that the 2023 elections will be written down in the political history as both an accounting of Türkiye's achievements during the AK Party governments and a harbinger of Turkiye's 2053 vision.

Mr Attila TILKI

Hungary, EC/DA

12:54:02

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Türkiye plays a key role in the stability of the immediate region and the security of Europe. Therefore, our fundamental interest is that the Council of Europe keeps an honest and open dialogue with Türkiye.

The ongoing war in Ukraine has added new concerns for regional security and stability. In this respect, Hungary is grateful for the mediation efforts undertaken by Türkiye with a view to resolving the conflict and commends the role played by Türkiye in facilitating the signing of the United Nations-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative of 22 July 2022.

We welcome the steps taken by the Turkish authorities including the adoption of an Action Plan on Human Rights in March 2021 and the Fourth Judicial Package in July 2021. In our opinion, we should maintain a constructive approach to Ankara and recognize the results it has already achieved.

The Council of Europe should continue to engage in a meaningful dialogue with Turkey by respecting the differences in our perspectives and striving to find mutually acceptable solutions even in the most difficult questions.

The Council of Europe has a unique role to play in confidence-building with Turkey. In light of the growing number of conflicts in our continent, dedicated programmes of confidence-building measures can even better contribute to the overall security of Europe.

 

Mr Kamil AYDIN

Türkiye, NR

12:54:24

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Dear President,

Dear Colleagues,

The Assembly’s monitoring procedure is of great importance as it gives an insight into the current situation in the relevant member country and reminds that country of its obligations and commitments.

Therefore, to ensure that this process is carried out in the most healthy, transparent, and efficient way and in coordination, we have tried to provide the best contribution and support to the co-rapporteurs.

In this respect, I would like to thank the co-rapporteurs as well for the cooperative and constructive attitude that they took during this process and the preparation of this report.

Nevertheless, although it is included in the report, I feel the need to make some reminders about Türkiye’s fight against terrorism, as it is very important to comprehend it fully and accurately.

First, I believe Türkiye is wrongly and unjustly accused for not acting in accordance with human rights, rule of law and democracy standards in her fight against terrorism. Türkiye has to fight against terrorism to protect first and foremost the right to life and enjoyment of fundamental rights of its citizens, and the values of its democratic society.

To this end, in the face of severe terrorist threats originating from terrorist organizations such as PKK/PYD/YPG, DAESH, FETÖ and DHKP-C, Türkiye prioritizes to strike a proper balance between maintaining public order and security and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.

As you all may already know, the PKK is an internationally recognized terrorist organization, responsible for the deaths of more than 40.000 people, mostly civilians.

As for FETÖ, it insidiously staffed strategically important state institutions with its members to seize the control of the State. Under the guise of aid, tolerance, and dialogue, it also pursued a policy of expanding its sphere of influence in the State. Ultimately, it attempted a coup which left 251 Turkish citizens dead and more than 2.000 injured.

All in all, when addressing the situation in Türkiye regarding the human rights and democracy, social, political and security challenges and threats need to be taken into account as well. Otherwise, we will make an unrealistic conclusion as it is in the report.

Finally, regarding the criticism on the interpretation of the anti-terrorism law, I believe it is important to remember that "terrorism" lacks a comprehensive and agreed definition under international law and that countries are entitled to enact and implement anti-terror legislation to protect the fundamental rights of their citizens as long as the legislation in question is in line with international standards.

Thank you.

Mr Thibaut FRANÇOIS

France, EC/DA

12:54:55

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

Ms Laura CASTEL

Spain, UEL

12:55:17

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Thank you to the rapporteurs for this report. I will support it and I encourage you, colleagues, to do so as well.

However, with certain details in mind: Turkey has been under the monitoring procedure for five years. Nevertheless, under the current regime opponents are imprisoned, harassed and tortured. Civil society is restricted. There are deep flaws in the judicial system. Turkey has withdrawn from the Istanbul convention; the CPT is deeply concerned, as ill-treatment takes place against opponents, and its population in prisons keeps growing. We should all be concerned at the procedures seeking to lift parliamentary immunities to political opponents, including members of this Assembly.

Turkey has to be stopped. But also helped by COE so it abides by its commitments, as a member state.

I would like to strongly emphasize that:

Turkey abides by the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. Its sentences should not be disregarded, the report should be clear on that. Otherwise, this opens a trend for other COE member states.

The Council of Europe, its member states and the European Union must urge Turkey to finally free Osman Kavala and the many others detained in similar circumstances.

Concerning criminalize dissemination of “false or misleading information”- we strongly condemn this and any other articles of Turkish Criminal Code that further protect the institutions to the detriment of freedom of speech.

On this, and in relation to anti-terrorist law: the international human rights system exists to protect people not institutions. Remember this. Notions of public safety, and antiterrorist law, if not drafted under human rights perspective restricts severely public freedoms. This is true for Turkey, as it is for any other country using anti-terrorist laws.

Turkey is becoming an authoritarian state, and we are not doing enough from here: I strongly encourage keeping a close contact with Turkish institutions in view to implement, at once and without delay, these recommendations. We are witnessing the decay and clash of a civilization and doing too little. When States do not react they threaten the whole system of the Council and compromise its reputation. The Council cannot be complicit and accept it. We should perhaps start considering the use of the joint procedure for Turkey or other actions. Five years is enough.

Vote: The honouring of obligations and commitments by Türkiye

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:45:14

Thank you, Mister Chair Piero FASSINO. [in French]

Because it was the last debate of Mr Boriss CILEVIČS, we gave extra time to Mr Piero FASSINO.

Once in a while we have to be flexible I would say.

Now, the Monitoring Committee has presented a draft resolution to which 17 amendments have been tabled and one sub-amendment.

They will be taken in the order in which they appear in the compendium.

I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to strictly 30 minutes [seconds].

I understand that the Chairperson of the Monitoring Committee wishes is to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 1 and 2 to the draft resolution, which are unanimously approved by the Committee should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

The Committee also unanimously approved Amendment 3. However, I must call that amendment individually, as a sub-amendment has been tabled to that.

Is that okay, Mr Piero FASSINO? 

Okay.

Does anybody object?

That's not the case.

Therefore, I declare Amendment 1 and 2 to the draft resolution have been agreed.

Any amendment which has been rejected by the Committee ceased for report by a two-thirds majority of the vote shall not be put to the vote in the plenary and shall be declared as definitely rejected unless ten or more members of the Assembly object.

I understand that the Chairperson of the Monitoring Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that amendments 4 to 17 to the draft resolution, which were rejected by the Committee with a two-thirds majority, be declared as rejected.

Is that correct, Mr Piero FASSINO?

Mr Piero FASSINO

Italy, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by member states of the Council of Europe

12:47:02

Yes.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:47:03

Ok, thank you very much, Mister FASSINO.

Does anybody object?

I do not see.

So, as there is no objection, I declare that amendments 4 to 17 to the draft resolution are rejected.

 

That means that I now go to page 26. Thank you very much. I am looking to the head of the Turkish delegation for his co‑operation. That takes a lot of time. We are on page 26.

 

I call one of the Rapporteurs to support Amendment 3 on behalf of the Monitoring Committee. You have 30 seconds. John.

That is clear.

The rapporteur supports Amendment 3.

 

Then I call on Mr Ahmet YILDIZ to support Sub-Amendment 1.

You have the floor, Ahmet.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR

12:48:15

It was a product of constructive dialogue within the Committee. That's why I urge the Plenary to support this. 

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:48:27

Thank you very much, Mister Ahmet YILDIZ.

Does anybody oppose? Does anybody wish to speak against this sub-amendment? 

The Rapporteur, Mr Boriss CILEVIČS.

 

Mr Boriss CILEVIČS

Latvia, SOC, Co-Rapporteur

12:48:43

We are opposed to this amendment, because the dialogue was about whether politicians can intervene with the judicial authorities. But this is certainly not the case because here we as politicians simply urge other politicians, Turkish politicians, not to enact these draft amendments, which were heavily criticised by the Venice Commission above all.

This is fully legitimate political action and this is our principle position that this amendment should not be adopted. We recommend not to adopt the position of the entire Turkish colleagues, so we are against.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:49:22

We are talking about the sub-amendment.

The rapporteur speaks against this.

What is the opinion of the Committee on the sub-amendment, Piero?

Mr Piero FASSINO

Italy, SOC, Chairperson of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by member states of the Council of Europe

12:49:35

Against.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:49:37

The sub-committee is against.

I shall now put the amendment to the vote. 

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

The sub-amendment is rejected.

Now we come to the main amendment.

Does anyone want to speak against the amendment?

I do not see any.

The Committee is obviously in favour.

The vote is open on Amendment no. 3.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

Amendment no. 3 is adopted.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 15618, as amended.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

The resolution is adopted.

May I congratulate the rapporteurs.

(Applause)

May I thank the Parliamentary Assembly for this heavy but most relevant and dignified debate.

The Parliamentary Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. with the agenda which was approved on Monday morning.

The afternoon session will continue until 8:30 p.m.

The sitting is adjourned.

The sitting is closed at 12:55 p.m.