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14 October 2022 morning

2022 - Fourth part-session Print sitting

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Opening of the sitting No 34

Debate: The future of work is here: revisiting labour rights

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:02:29

Good morning. It is 10:00 a.m.

The sitting is open.

The Rapporteur and the Committee representatives are here.

The first item of business this morning is the debate on the report titled "The future of work is  here: revisiting labour rights", Document 15620, presented by Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE, on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development.

In order to allow time for the other debates this morning, we must interrupt the list of speakers at about 10:45 a.m. to allow time for the reply and the vote.

Now I call Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE, the Rapporteur, for 7 minutes now, and later for 5 minutes to reply at the end of the debate.

Now you have 7 minutes for your presentation.

Thank you.

 

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Türkiye, SOC, Rapporteur

10:03:48

Thank you very much.

It's good to know which technology to use.

Technology is affecting our world of work, as is quite evident and proven here in this little experience. And the much-awaited future of work is no longer a phenomenon into the distant future. It's actually happening today. It's the present. It's here. And the rapid growth of new technologies, of digitalisation, and especially the Covid-19 pandemic have already radically transformed our organisation of work, workers, and workplaces.

For example, Covid-19 instigated a big flood of teleworking, and all evidence suggests that indeed this is going to be a permanent future of our near future. We're going to be working in hybrid form, combining online work with physical presence.

For example, the extent of digital tools is no longer an aspect that we see in movies, or we think about as the future. We wear our headsets, we look at screens, we see ourselves on those screens, and we work wherever we can, whenever we can, and at all times throughout the world.

For example, our kitchen chairs turned out not only to be kitchen chairs but to be our workplace, our workstation.

And we found out they were not as ergonomic, they were not as healthy, as the ones that were provided in our offices.

We found ourselves seeking out for our occupational health. Trying to balance between our personal life and our work life, where the line was blurred significantly between the two.

We found ourselves trying to manage stress, which became a significant part of that blurred line between our work and personal life.

For example, our consumption patterns have changed. We expect delivery to our door, we expect it to happen very fast. Food delivery bikers, motorcycle couriers, have become critical service providers, we rely on them.

While there is no common definition for their work patterns, for their employment rights, for their labour rights. And precarity has become a significant part of the lives of millions.

For example, many of us have started questioning the meaning of work. As gender roles once again cause double pressure, especially on women, who had to take on the duties not of only of their work but also of their care-giving responsibilities.

The aged and experienced workers found themselves at risk because digitalisation seemed even further away in their realities.

The young actually thought about seeking out a socially just world and an environmental sustainability perspective in the work that they do. So, they started questioning the value of work and the work that they value.

And all of these phenomena actually point out to the risk of increasing discrimination and a deepening inequality, which was already out there in the labour market. And intersectionally we face the risk of further discrimination by age, by gender, by your identities.

And as we witness this massive shift towards new and atypical forms of work, clearly we need to have an open societal debate to discuss what we as societies value as work.

We have to start seeing the unpaid work as being maybe even more relevant than the one that we pay for. And we have to revisit how we attach the value to the contribution that is done.

And a debate of the fundamental aspects of labour rights and policies to correct the existing and deepening imbalances and inequalities, so that no one is left behind, so that economic security is guaranteed to all, regardless of where they are, regardless of who they are.

A debate to rebalance the ever-changing balance between the employers and the employees, with a need to redesigning our platforms of social dialogue where we actually talk to each other, and we truly build partnerships with a balanced and fair and equal framework.

And this is what this resolution and recommendation seek to do. It seeks to build a framework in a rights-based future of work, where that future is actually today.

In the resolution and recommendation, you will see there are two main pillars and two focuses:

Aiming to ensure the much sought-out flexibility, where people actually are able to do what they wish to do, and, in the meantime, are guaranteed their social and economic rights.

And public health that is guaranteed through those rights.

So, the first of these focuses is actually the different layers of a general framework starting from the international, going down to the responsibilities of the individual.

The second of the focuses you will see is a block of legislative proposals that member states are invited to assess and evaluate.

So, allow me to go into some details regarding these two blocks that are evident in the recommendation and resolution.

As for the layers of the general framework, the international organisations, the state, the employers, as well as the employees, all their responsibilities in ensuring that we have a well-protected new framework of labour rights.

Both the public as well as the private sector bear responsibilities internationally, where the states need to seek to harmonise regulation and the regulatory frameworks across different jurisdictions for platform work, and where especially multinational firms - that are swallowing up pretty much all the SMEs - are actually protecting labour rights, not only in their homelands, but throughout all territories that they operate in.

The public sector bears the responsibility of updating national strategies to cover these new forms of work and the fragmentation of work, to build up a strong inspection institutional capacity where there is sufficient power, sufficient resources, and training provided to inspection.

The second block that we have in hand is actually details of proposed legislative changes. Here we should first and foremost underline our call to all member states to fully ratify and implement the European Social Charter and the collective complaints.

I will use my time to go into specific policy proposals as I end in my next part of my debate.

However, I very much look forward to the comments and debate we will have today in the plenary.

Thank you very much.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:11:21

Thank you, Selin.

We can add some minutes in the reply if you need so. It's a very interesting and important issue.

Now we start the debate with the spokespersons of political groups.

First I give the floor to Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Thank you.

Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA

Ukraine, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

10:11:45

Thank you very much, dear Mr President, dear Madam Rapporteur, dear colleagues,

The topic of the future of work in the light of the future of the job, sustainable and green policies, as well as a healthy working environment, and social wellbeing is extremely important today.

Automatisation, digitalisation, new technologies, artificial intelligence and especially the Covid-19 pandemic have radically transformed the way we live and work.

Remote or hybrid working, together within a wished-for increase in flexibility and non-standard forms of employment, became a new normality.

Labour market developments compel politicians to review the current system of labour legislation, social protection, learning and training, and possible taxation.

Nevertheless, not all countries, employers, and social security systems are ready, existing regulative framework for a teleworking period, better equipped and more ready for materialising the rewards to full time reward work and ensuring working conditions of the employment.

During the period of the pandemic, many people had to work at home in convenience, due to the lack of dedicated office space, connectivity problems, and often [amidst] family care responsibilities.

The teleworkability of jobs is strongly correlated with the type of occupation, education, and socio-economic status of the employers.

Most low-income, low-skilled female and young workers are less likely to hold telework roles, jobs allowing them to work remotely.

These trends bear the risk of further deepening existing labour market inequalities between different countries.

We can see the highest rates of teleworking are evident among highly digitised industries, including information and communication services, financial services, and professional, scientific and technical services.

I strongly support the recommendation to the member states to rethink their own education, training and research systems, aiming to better accompany the adaptation of more people and producing units based on shared responsibility.

Last but not least, I believe that improved, the full implemented European social charter system will harmonise labour standards across Europe and in her social economic rights, quality employment, inclusive social dialogue, and sustainable development both nationally and internationally.

From the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, we thank you very much, Madam rapporteur, for this very important report.

Thank you for your attention.

 

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:14:39

Thank you, Madam OVCHYNNYKOVA.

Now I give the floor to Mr Alexandros TRIANTAFYLLIDIS, a spokesperson from the Group of the Unified European Left.

The floor is yours.

Mr Alexandros TRIANTAFYLLIDIS

Greece, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

10:14:52

Thank you very much indeed, Mr President.

Allow me on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left to express our commotion over the death of Mr Alexandros Nikolaidis, an Olympic champion, the representative of Syriza who passed away this morning at the age of 42. Alexandros, you have left your mark, you gave us hope, our thoughts go to his family.

Perhaps I can turn to the subject on the agenda "The future of work is here". The report says in its title that we're invited to revisit labour rights.

On behalf of the millions who are without employment, the homeless, those who have suffered from the pandemic, the energy crisis, and now the war.

I speak on behalf of the millions of men and women in countries like Greece and throughout Europe who are doing such decent work when it comes to surviving in this ocean of social uncertainty and at the risk of social exclusion.

I ask myself, what about the future of work, where is the future of work in all this? Decent work with decent wages throughout one's lifetime.

But instead of that, what do we have? We have precarious working conditions with workers who might be working 12-hour shifts rather than 8-hour shifts, who are working the black market with no social security.

Where is the security in all of this?

There is the energy crisis, the food crisis, increasing costs of living.

We're seeing oligarchs, supermarkets, entrepreneurs swimming in profits. The money is falling from the sky with extraordinary profits that are not taxed, as certain governments, certain European governments know well. They don't want to affect their friends, the oligarchs, all of which leads to social precarity.

Schools, hospitals, families that don't know how to make ends meet.

Where's the welfare state in all this, when talking about teleworking, digitalisation, automation? These are the major trends when we look at the labour market today, but they are jeopardising labour rights.

How can we respond in this rather difficult context?

There is no decent work very often, there is no social safety net, so we have a responsibility, we have a historical responsibility.

All progressive forces need to shoulder their responsibilities: Nazism, fascism are borne out of crisis. That is something that I think history has taught us.

So, I would invite all progressive citizens throughout Europe to challenge the situation, and to voice their wish for radical change, so that we can have a Europe that serves us all, and so that we can create employment and peace.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:18:24

Thank you.

Now, I invite Mr Stefan SCHENNACH to take the floor on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

Austria, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

10:18:32

Thank you very much, Mr. President,

on behalf of my group, I would like to sincerely thank the Chair of the Social Committee for this excellent report - which is also a hot potato - that she has tackled here.

Yes, the future of work, the change in the world of work triggered by the pandemic and with Artificial Intelligence and with computerization has many, many dangers. I think the biggest danger in this area concerns women. The women who are now working at home, taking care of children on the side, perhaps also taking care of relatives in need of care on the side, and who have to be available all the time. That's why I'm glad that the rapporteur has enshrined the right to be unavailable in this report, which is very, very important.

And what happens when people are working individually and are lonely in their households? There is no communication; the necessary social communication within a company, within the workplace, falls away. Facilities that companies create, such as company kindergartens, are not needed because women who have children can work at home. And so on and so forth. All of this is a huge problem. And that's why a lot of costs have shifted. People use their own equipment; the employer doesn't care what one's chair and workspace looks like at home. This way they can reduce office space and general costs.

But what about the ecology? We see fewer people commuting to work in the morning as people are staying at home. So, that's a positive effect. There are positive aspects too when it comes to inclusion; in the area of inclusion of people with special needs, this has been made easier as a result of teleworking. But, we need to see the overall picture. One magic word is flexibility, the flexibility for employees. But, flexibility to reduce wages - that can't be it.

I am very pleased that the rapporteur has taken up the cudgels for the four-day week. A four-day week with full wage compensation - that will be the future of work. We have to distribute the work, and especially now, with high inflation and increasing living costs we have to do everything we can to reduce atypical employment relationships so that people can make a good living with what they earn and stress is reduced.

Thank you.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:21:42

Thank you for the efficient use of time.

May I invite Mr Alain MILON to take the floor on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Mr Alain MILON

France, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

10:21:58

Thank you, Mr President.

Dear colleagues,

To begin with, I would like to thank our colleague Selin SAYEK BÖKE, because I think her analysis is spot on when it comes to what's at stake in terms of adapting to the world of work. I myself am convinced of the fundamental role of work when it comes to the shaping of individuals, the formation of individuals, but also society.

The digitalisation of the world of work to a large extent has transformed our modes of organisation, as has the rise of digital platforms, but I think that Covid-19 was a fundamental break and I think we need to analyse the consequences.

A fundamental break with what went before it, in terms of massive recourse to teleworking, which, of course, has upset all traditional forms of organisation, and the classical frameworks in terms of labour law have been swept aside. I am thinking of atypical working hours, for example, the right to disconnect that the report rightly calls upon. Teleworking can, of course, bring with it huge freedom but, at the same time, bring with it a certain number of constraints. I would also add that conditions for teleworking are sometimes less favourable and grant less security than the traditional workplace, where standards in terms of health and well-being at work are less often applied. The same is to be said of data protection. Massive recourse to teleworking means that we have to find a new balance, strike a new balance, taking into account the needs and the rights of workers as well as the economic interest of enterprises and their need to establish tele-relations with their workforce based on confidence.

That balance seems to me all the more necessary as the Covid-19 pandemic does not only represent a break in terms of traditional methods of labour organisation, but a break also in the way a certain number of citizens perceive their relationship to employment or work.

So, I think these issues need to be looked at in greater depth, because I think they relate to how individuals relate to work and the meaning that it gives to their lives.

I would like to mention a certain number of basic ILO conventions, to which the rapporteur has mention. Their respect, I think, is a major issue, and we need, it seems to me, to be consistent, in particular when it comes to the new demands forthcoming from the population. If we are going to be reflecting on new modes of labour organisation in our countries, we should guard against importing products where conditions of manufacture do not respect those fundamental ILO conventions. I welcome the fact that the commercial policy of the European Union has been reoriented in that direction. Trade policy at EU level is something, I think, we need to be particularly attentive to.

Thank you very much.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:25:02

Thank you, Mister Alain MILON.

Since there is no spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance, I move to the individual speakers list.

First, Ms Esther PEÑA, from Spain.

Ms Esther PEÑA

Spain, SOC

10:25:21

Thank you, President.

As the rapporteur says, the future of work is about decent work, about common values, about respecting human rights, trade union freedom, collective bargaining.

In order to make sure that labour doesn't just mean pay, good pay, it also means full access for all of our citizens.

The future world of work of course means digitalisation.

It will also, unfortunately, mean a number of problems. There are uncertainties regarding this future.

There are positive aspects to digitalisation, but we need to make the necessary public investments to make sure that workers really benefit from the rights and advantages of these developments.

The rate of automation may increase in the very near future. We also know that this may have an impact on recruitment, on employment.

We're talking about millions of jobs that could be imperilled. This is why we need to make sure that we stand up against the negative nefarious ramifications of digitalisation.

We need to look at the sectors that will be impacted in the future by this change and protect the workers. If we do this, and we do it in real time, then the transition will be successful.

The economy can't just mean a deterioration of labour rights.

The future of work is something that we have to decide, not machines.

We have a right to disconnect. We also have a right to stand up against precariousness in our work. We need to, therefore, make sure that there isn't a sort of social Darwinism, where workers, men and women, are competing against each other, pitted against each other in terms of employment, etc.

We also need to make sure that we take ownership of the tools that we have. That's precisely what we are doing in Spain. We have a law now on platforms, we have, of course, our labour law, and we are trying to make sure that workers' representatives have access to algorithms, to know exactly what kind of decisions are taken exactly by algorithms and what are the ramifications of these decisions.

We need to make sure that AI is at the service of our social rights.

Algorithms are blind, so to speak, but they do lead to major changes.

We need to make sure that technological advances are made available to the broader society, that the advantages are made available to all of society. That is how we're going to achieve stability.

Thank you.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:27:57

Thank you.

Is Mr Christian KLINGER in the house?

I cannot see... Okay, he is not here.

Now, the floor is for Ms Nerea AHEDO, from Spain.

Not here.

We move to the next speaker on the list, Mr Geraint DAVIES, from the United Kingdom.

Mr Geraint DAVIES

United Kingdom, SOC

10:28:35

Mr President,

It's a great pleasure to stand here and support this fantastic report.

The bottom line is that trade union and worker rights are critically important if we're all to share the benefits, the maximum benefits, from a stronger, fairer and greener economy in an electronic age.

Green growth must mean environmentally sustainable growth.

And, of course, we do know from the OECD, that less inequality means higher growth.

The issue is really how to capture the digital age to provide more inclusion for growth and benefits for all and protection for all.

So, I am, as all of us, in favour of fair shares and opportunities, and against, frankly, the casualisation, atomisation and exploitation of workers, which, in fact, is in nobody's interest, including the business community.

I welcome this report because it underlines the importance of effective trade union activity to deliver fairness and growth, as I've said. We do need a situation in the future where we get to flexibility between working in the home, online, and working in the workplace.

There's been some actual resistance in the Conservative Party in Britain to people working from home.

The Office for National Statistics found that overall economic growth would be higher if there is more flexibility, in particular, for people who've got caring responsibilities. It found that people who do have caring responsibilities wouldn't retire from work earlier, would work longer, if they could mix family obligations with those of the workplace as well.

In addition to that, of course, more working from home reduces travel, reduces carbon footprint, and saves time.

The extra cost of working from home for the worker, of course, should be borne by the business. But we do need to manage this in partnership and moving forward, and certainly ensuring there's no harassment or pressures being pointed out here.

I was instrumental in helping more workers work from home during the pandemic at British Telecom and fought to get the driver licensing authority in Swansea, where I am, for more workers to work from home, to stop infection and protect workers.

So, the issue is about balance.

The other thing that I'll be talking about later is the need to actually have online platforms run by local authorities to support businesses locally, so that businesses aren't sucked away out of the local economy by Amazon and others. At the same time, to have worker protection in place.

It's also important to have public Wi-Fi across cities so that we provide equality of access in the digital age. That we can all grow together and share in the benefits of a digital economy.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:31:40

Thank you, Mister Geraint DAVIES.

Now, may I invite Mr Francesco SORBARA, from Canada, to take the floor.

Mr Francesco SORBARA

Canada

10:32:01

Good morning all [in French],

Mr President thank you, to the Rapporteur thank you for this very informative report.

I'd like to begin my remarks this morning with two brief comments.

First of all, Covid-19, that impacted the entire world and many of the developed countries and their workplaces, accelerated many trends in the workplace. I am glad to see this report identify this acceleration in workplace trends.

Secondly, as legislators, both in Canada and across the world, we must always aim for the highest common denominator and not the lowest common denominator when it comes to the protections of workers' rights, both union and non-union. Workers across the world and in our country, in Canada, must have a set of protections that always aim for the highest common denominator and not the lowest common denominator.

With regards to the topic at hand, I'd like to read the first sentence of this summary because I think it prefaces it very correctly in terms of the way I look at it, which is that "The world of work is changing fast, with acceleration, with new technologies and the Covid-19 pandemic having affected the organisation of work, workers, and workplaces". I think that is an excellent summary.

We must have an open societal debate to correct imbalances so that decent work and economic security and what we would call in Canada inclusivity are guaranteed to all.

Mr President,

In Canada in January 2021, 32% of Canadian employees performed the majority of their work from home. That is one-third of all employees, in contrast with 4% in 2016. This rapid increase in telework, in the telework culture, because of Covid-19, which many of us had to embrace - video conferences, adapt our homes, and hope for the best possible outcomes.

On one hand, there are numerous benefits to telework, like work-life balance for employees, a decrease in operating costs for employers, and a reduced commuting carbon footprint.

On the other hand, there are challenges that may not be evident, but that could affect workers greatly in the long run.

For example, the impact on workers’ health from unsuitable workspaces, social isolation, and hyper‑connectivity stress.

Telework may also heighten conflicting priorities between work and family, interfering with the traditional work-life balance, as the lines between home and office blur.

In December 2021, a poll revealed that almost 60% of Canadians missed being with their colleagues in person. And currently, with the re-opening of our economies, there is an ongoing debate as to what work schedules should look like.

Personally, I think that flexibility is the key.

We should learn from the lessons left by the pandemic. The new normal should be a compromise between employees and employers that takes the best of the remote model, but that also values the requirements of employers. A strong, modern efficient economy is key, and worker protection rights are paramount.

Getting implementation right is also important.

If the hybrid models are here to stay, we should introduce them properly by having regulations, policies, and initiatives in place that encourage best practices.

For example, early in the pandemic, the government of Canada was swift to introduce a directive on telework for federal public servants, which helped give greater certainty to both workers and managers.

Thank you, Mr President.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:35:11

Thank you, sir.

Now I give the floor to Ms Luz MARTINEZ SEIJO from Spain.

Ms Luz MARTINEZ SEIJO

Spain, SOC

10:35:21

Thank you very much.

Thank you, President.

First and foremost, I would like to commend this house on this timely report, which emphasises a number of questions that we're all wondering about in our countries regarding the future world of work.

After the crisis and the Covid-10 pandemic, it's true that there's been a shift in the debate about labour and about labour relations.

We are moving towards evermore teleworking and a hybrid model.

The future world of work will be different, no question about it.

There will be algorithms, artificial intelligence for the organisation of shifts and tasks and in terms of performance assessments for employees, contracts, hiring and firing.

It's true that the modern society has brought a new labour environment, but it's all within our hands and we should regulate matters in order to guarantee rights for our workers.

In Spain we've already started. We've approved a law on teleworking. We also have a guide on algorithms and the Rider Law, in order to make sure that digital platforms for home deliveries provide employee contracts to their delivery workers.

Now, the future world of work does also give rise to some fear, to some uncertainty.

I mean what will we mean in the future by a good job, a good salary? Will there be employment for all? Will that be free time? Will there be jobs lost? Of what kind of employment will we be talking about in the future? What will the labour market look like? What are the risks? What will this digital new labour market bring about for all of us?

And, in addition, of course, we need to be very careful about gender inequalities. Make sure that these inequalities are not exacerbated, because at the moment it's always men who become the bosses and there's still a gender pay gap.

Algorithms will of course lead to some questions and doubts. We need to look at how we can adapt to this new world of work.

Of course, labour laws were drawn up initially at a time when we didn't have all these technologies. We didn't have video calls, we didn't have mobile phones, we didn't have hyper-connectivity, but we need to be proactive in terms of using this new labour market to our advantage.

Of course, there are repetitive tasks, of course there are mechanical tasks. They could be taken care of by an algorithm or robot, but we need to be responsible for other types of jobs.

We need to understand that working for a company for the whole of your life is simply not going to happen anymore.

It's not a model that exists.

We're moving more and more towards a freelance system, a self-employed system, and of course we need our system to be flexible, but we need to therefore make sure that companies provide ongoing training to their workers, to provide new skills to the new generations.

Finally, of course, we also need to address the question of union representation; that too needs to be brought up to date.

We need to use digital spaces, we need to be entitled to say "no", to stand up against forms of abuse on the labour market.

And we need to also make sure that as many contracts as possible are open-ended in order to avoid abuses.

Thank you.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:38:22

Thank you.

Now the floor is for Mr Paul GAVAN, from Ireland.

Mr Paul GAVAN

Ireland, UEL

10:38:27

Thank you, Chairperson,

I want to very warmly welcome this report. It's very timely.

I really admire the detail in terms of covering so many key issues in terms of our labour markets today.

In the short time available I want to focus on two issues.

The first is platform working.

As you know, platform workers don't get a pension, they don't get sick leave, they don't get paternity leave or maternity leave, they don't get redundancy.

You can see lines of food delivery workers in Dublin queuing at food banks.

That's the reality of the platform economy.

You can see them of an evening - and I really agree with our colleague from Spain - it is social Darwinism. They're all sitting outside fast-food restaurants waiting, and hoping, that they'll get this gig. But here's the reality in Ireland right now, in terms of a company called Deliveroo, which we all know.

The reality is a rider gets an order. If they don't get the order on time, as designated by the algorithm, they get a sad face message to their phone. After three sad face messages their account is blocked. That's the reality. The same company introduced tiered-rated pay and have been regularly reducing the rates of pay without informing the same workers.

We need to call out what this is.

This is bogus self-employment. This is tearing up what's left of our social fabric entirely, tearing up any form of decency.

It is absolutely horrendous. What we need to see is a real urgency across Europe to ensure there is proper legislative decency put in place, so that these workers are recognised for what they are - which is employees - and they're given full rights to representation.

Because, of course, allied to this is the second issue I want to raise, which is the failure of countries to really support collective bargaining.

Over 40 years of neoliberalism, we've seen a huge dramatic decrease in trade union membership. We know that that's been disastrous for society in terms of equality, in terms of the share of wealth that workers get.

In my own country, we still don't have any right to collective bargaining in Ireland.

Now I can tell you as a member of Sinn Féin, the party of the left in Ireland, that when we come to power, we will immediately fix that - no question about it.

But we need to see real solidarity across Europe for these issues, because if we don't - let's be clear - we're just on a continuing race to the bottom.

This is tooth and claw capitalism. That's what it is. It needs to be called out.

While of course there is flexibility benefits for workers, flexibility is a double-edged sword.

What we need to have in place, first and foremost, is a threshold of decency.

So, I welcome the fact that in April the Council of Europe gave renewed priority to the European Social Charter.

I'd like to see a much greater emphasis in this chamber.

It's a pity this report for example had to be held on a Friday; we really need a full Parliamentary Assembly here to ensure that it gets the attention that it deserves.

Thanks indeed.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:41:35

Thank you, Mister Paul GAVAN.

Now, may I invite Mr Éctor Jaime RAMÍREZ BARBA, from Mexico, to take the floor.

Mr Éctor Jaime RAMÍREZ BARBA

Mexico

10:41:45

Thank you very much, President.

We pay tribute to the excellent work done by Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE. A very good report, indeed, and we'd like to support your resolution, Madam.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the course of the last decade, we've seen the so-called fourth transformation of industry around countries around the world.

We have digital platforms, we have artificial intelligence, we've seen a lot of change.

We also, of course, had the recent pandemic. This led to changes. In particular, greater recourse to digital technologies. It has gone very quickly indeed, and it has led to new forms of work.

If you look at it in historical terms, you can say that historically, regulations have lagged behind the actual changes on the ground.

So, our challenge now is to amend our labour legislation to make sure that we are in synch with changes on the labour market.

New forms of contracting, for instance. We now have digital platforms. We use technologies for that. And of course, we can now work remotely. We can engage in telework wherever we might be.

But that, of course, has an impact in the relationship between workers and employers, and we need to make sure that those relations are settled in a way that is mutually beneficial.

We need to protect labour. We need to make sure that we provide security to our workers. We need, therefore, innovative labour laws. We need to make sure that labour legislation is in tune with technological developments, making sure that we can guarantee the social security, the social rights, of our workforce.

Labour laws need to address a number of basic principles, agree on those, and then come up with regulations for specific sectors.

We also need to look at the possibility of regional regulations, and we need to make sure that we have international texts too.

Traditionally speaking, these adjustments go slowly. Thy can take years. They can take decades. But, given the current world of work, given the current labour market, we cannot wait that long. We cannot take so long over this.

We therefore need to have a dynamic process. We need to make sure that we keep up with the speed of changes. Changes brought about by the economy, by technologies.

We need to make sure that by the end of the day we can offer protection to all workers of whatever background.

We need to move forward, to come up with regulation to guarantee a better world of work tomorrow. Minimise risk, of course. The risk brought about by the fourth industrial revolution.

Once again, my congratulations to the rapporteur, Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE, for an excellent report.

Thank you.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:44:39

Thank you, sir.

Now, I welcome a second speaker from Canada, Mr Don DAVIES.

The floor is yours.

Mr Don DAVIES

Canada

10:44:48

Dear colleagues,

It is my pleasure to rise to address a critical and globally relevant issue: the future of work. Although all societies have faced a constant evolution of work practices for centuries, we have seen an accelerated rate of transformation in the last decade, and uniquely over the past two years as a result of the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Traditionally, the examination of the future of work has concentrated on its technological aspect. Most recently, this has focussed on how automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and digitisation will re-shape our economies and societies. These will indeed be disruptive, undoubtedly both promising and problematic.

We all know that structural adjustments and neo-liberal policies have displaced manufacturing sector employment and hastened the rise of the “gig economy”. These have led to substantial job losses in the developed world, dampened wages and working conditions and increased insecurity for young workers. Automation and AI will almost certainly cause similar widespread issues, likely throwing millions of redundant workers into unemployment.

Through regressive employment law and unscrupulous corporations, many contract workers are not treated legally as employees, which in turn excludes them from access to benefits and social assistance. The OECD estimates that non-standard workers are 50% less likely to receive income support when they are out of work.

Unjustly, many of these workers risked their lives by working through the pandemic, providing the essential flow of goods and services that kept our economies going. Ironically, when they got sick, they had no access to paid sick days and indeed often had to choose between working while sick or losing their incomes.

We continue to see widespread discouragement, oppression and retaliation from across the corporate sector meted out to employees who exercise their right to unionise. From global multinational corporations like Starbucks and Amazon, violations of employees’ right to collectively bargain are common and damaging.

It is also clear that the climate crisis demands our urgent transition to sustainable economic activities, especially in the energy sector. This will dislodge many employees, especially those who work in legacy fossil fuel industries.

We need to anticipate these impacts and act thoughtfully to protect employees.

All countries must strengthen and enforce employment and labour laws.

We must expand access to education and training. It is time post-secondary education is as accessible as primary and secondary education.

We must develop a just transition strategy to ensure all workers displaced by the move to the required sustainable economy are treated fairly and receive full support, including retraining.

We must implement inclusive policies to ensure that people with diverse abilities have an opportunity to contribute their skills and talents.

And finally, throughout, we must remember the essential social nature of work, its centrality to people’s security and the inherent dignity of all workers.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:47:54

Thank you.

Now, I invite Ms Gabriela BENAVIDES COBOS, from Mexico.

I convey our thanks to both the Canadian and Mexican delegations for their interest and contributions.

The floor is yours.

Ms Gabriela BENAVIDES COBOS

Mexico

10:48:11

Thank you very much, President. 

Good morning to all. 

It really is an honour to stand here before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe representing my country, Mexico. 

First of all, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur, Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE. And I would like to congratulate all the members of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. Thank you for this report on the future of work, revisiting labour rights. 

The Covid-19 pandemic had a great impact on humanity but in particular, it had a great impact on labour matters. The economy of our countries and the personal finances of our citizens, all were affected. And therefore, we need to find a way to help people sustain themselves and adapt to this new reality. It is the so-called "new normality", post-Covid-19, and it has caused adjustments in our method of working, in particular, when it comes to safeguarding workers' health and developing activities. 

One of the main issues here is so-called "hybrid work", which involves alternating work at home with occasional presence at the office. Although this work scheme already existed in the past, because of lockdown owing to the pandemic, its application was expanded. Multiple companies around the world, including in Mexico and Europe, were affected by this. 

Though facilities provided by this kind of method of work and the savings that people can make in their personal finances is a reason why it worked out in Mexico. 

Indeed, I should point out to you that in order to support Mexican workers, our Senate approved changes to the Federal Labour Law, in order to deal specifically with the so-called "home office". We reformed Article 311 of this Law, in particular Chapter 12 bis., which was added to the text to make sure that workers had a number of benefits. For instance, businesses must provide, install and maintain work equipment used by their employees, such as a computer or a printer. Companies also have to take on the cost of a proportional part of electrical energy, internet, phone services, since these services are used more often when you are working from home. Companies also have to make sure that payment to their employees is timely. It should never take any longer than it would in a face-to-face situation. Companies must also state in their contracts, be they individual or collective, the new working conditions applicable to their workers. And failure to do so will result in a fine. 

In order to find out whether companies are actually adopting these new measures, we need to record any input that they provide to their employees. Of course, there are still a lot of rights that need to be acknowledged and there is still a lot of work to be done, no question about it. But I think sharing our experiences in this Parliamentary Assembly and listening to the recommendations made by the Assembly and the member states of the Council, I think all of that will help us improve our legislation, which is mutually beneficial. 

Thank you. 

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:51:16

Thank you.

All members registered on the speaker list took the floor.

Now, may I call Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE to take the floor to reply to the debate in 5 minutes, if possible.

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Türkiye, SOC, Rapporteur

10:51:33

Thank you very much, Mister President. 

I feel, actually, very honoured that there is a consensus here regarding the relevance of the issue and regarding a detailed discussion of possible legislative changes that we, as policymakers, should tackle. And what is more important, I am very happy to hear that we all believe the European Social Charter is actually a framework we already have at hand and we should make sure that our member states – we, we, as member states – actually take on the European Social Charter, the collective complaints, and do not keep it on paper but actually implement it.

So, I am very happy that the report has actually instigated this consensus among policymakers from a wide range of the political spectrum.

Just to underline a few of the notes that I have taken from colleagues during these comments, which were in the report. As Mr Paul GAVAN mentioned, it is important to seek a regulatory harmonisation regarding platform workers, whose rights are not even defined as of yet, and it's important, as Mr Stefan SCHENNACH has mentioned, that we consider flexibility for the workers with security, ensuring that shorter work weeks and work days are possible, because that is what work actually allows us to do now, maintaining the same pay, controlling that we have the rights enshrined and guaranteed, as well as allowing for the workers' preferences to define how and where they work. These have all been shown by pilot experiences to create higher productivity, to be beneficial not only to the worker, not only to the employer, but also to the society overall. And, indeed, this experience has shown that productivity gains are not alternatives to economic and social rights. To the contrary, when you have strong social and economic rights, productivity is much higher because work becomes decent and a dignified way of living. And this can only be accomplished, as was mentioned by many of our colleagues, by Mr Francesco SORBARA, for example, who mentioned that frameworks concerning collective bargaining, institutionalising social dialogue mechanisms, are only critical and should be accompanied by fair distribution policies like universal basic income, full and free access to healthcare services.

As Mr Alexandros TRIANTAFYLLIDIS mentioned, decent wages in a dignified world. As Ms Esther PEÑA mentioned, that is what we seek. And, clearly, again as was mentioned by Mr Stefan SCHENNACH, we have to guarantee that these productivity gains and the cost reductions due to the new forms of work are equally and fairly shared between employers and employees, and that the right to disconnect is not just a right that we keep on paper through social pressure, but we allow people to disconnect so that they can connect with the realities and the true facts of life.

And the changing nature of jobs has impacted workers' rights to association and collective bargaining, a right that was already under great attack and had eroded over the past 40 years. So now, as we geographically get more dispersed in our work and we become more atomised, it is more difficult to talk to each other, and we are observing this in our political domain as well. So, we need to, as Ms Luz MARTINEZ SEIJO has underlined, figure out new instruments and mechanisms to ensure that we figure out new ways to organise and mobilise workers who are being kept apart from each other.

And finally, it is important for states to support a more inclusive digital labour market with fair access to digital skills and infrastructure, a note that was made by Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA, by Mr Geraint DAVIES, where re-skilling, up-skilling, maybe personal training accounts, are allowed to be given to people, so that they can change their profession, their skills, as they wish to. 

In ending my debate, as policymakers, I think we need to seek out decent living. That was the consensus and the keyword used here by almost all colleagues, and work should not make us miserable. It should make us prosper in a world of justice, of equality and inclusivity. So, I would like to thank the Plenary, our Committee members who have debated this extensively, and also our Secretariat and especially Ms Aiste RAMANAUSKAITE, who was great support and a great standing hand with me in the work that we did. Thank you very much.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:56:13

Thank you, Madam Selin SAYEK BÖKE.

Does the Vice-Chairperson of the Committee wish to speak? If so, you have 3 minutes.

No? Thank you.

Then the debate is closed.

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development has presented a draft resolution Document 15620, to which 3 amendments and a sub-amendment have been tabled, and a draft recommendation, to which we have no amendments.

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

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

I understand that the Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development wishes to propose to the Parliamentary Assembly that Amendments No. 1 and No. 2 to the draft resolution which were rejected by the Committee with a two-thirds majority be declared as rejected.

Is that so, Vice-Chairperson?

Does anyone object to this?

Since there is no objection, I declare that Amendments No. 1 and No. 10 to the draft resolution are rejected.

Now to Amendment No. 3.

I call Mr Geraint DAVIES to support Amendment No. 3 in 30 seconds.

I hope he's here.

Vote: The future of work is here: revisiting labour rights

Mr Geraint DAVIES

United Kingdom, SOC

10:58:01

Thank you, Mister President.

This is basically to say that local authorities should provide online platforms so the businesses can basically sell to local people and some of the profits can go back to local services and tax.

We know that Amazon is essentially destroying our retail situation, destroying local businesses, destroying jobs and taking the profits offshore, and they're not taxed.

This is basically saying that businesses and workers should work collectively, together, for empowerment regionally. Local authorities should help that, and the money should be fed back into local services and taxes. That would be a great consumer benefit over always buying Amazon and destroying your local economy.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:58:47

So, I understand there is a sub-amendment tabled my Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE, the Rapporteur.

May I invite her to support the sub-amendment on behalf of the Committee?

Ms Selin SAYEK BÖKE

Türkiye, SOC, Rapporteur

10:59:02

Thank you very much, Mister President,

We would be happy as a Committee to include a reference to local authorities' role in maybe creating new markets, but would like to end it there, since the report is not about how the resources would be used and how they would be redistributed, but rather about providing the right platform for workers. So, we propose to keep only the first part of the sentence.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

10:59:34

Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment?

Mister Geraint DAVIES.

Mr Geraint DAVIES

United Kingdom, SOC

10:59:42

Obviously, I do want local authority to provide market platforms to small local businesses and workers.

The key consumer point here is if you have a choice between buying a bottle of wine from Amazon or a bottle of wine on this platform, you know the profit either goes to Amazon or some of the profit goes to your local services.

Therefore, if you don't have this bit, then the worry is that it won't work. We're not going to win in a war against Amazon locally unless we get consumer support, which will then help workers rights in terms of local authorities being able to look after those workers in that area, rather than being attacked by Amazon.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

11:00:23

Thank you.

We heard also the opinion of the mover of the main amendment, but it seems the Committee is obviously in favour of the sub-amendment. Is that so Mr Alain MILON?

Then I shall now put the second sub-amendment to the vote.

The voting is open. 

Okay, the voting is closed.

May I ask to display the results?

Okay. With these numbers, the sub-amendment is agreed.

Now, we come to the main amendment as amended by sub-amendment. Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment as amended?

It does not seem so.

What is the opinion of the Committee we heard indeed?

Okay, I shall now put the amendment as amended by the sub-amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

Please display the results.

Okay, this amendment as sub-amended is agreed. 

We will now proceed to the vote on the draft resolution contained in document 15620 as amended. A simple majority is required.

The vote is open, please vote.

The vote is closed. 

Let us see the results.

Okay, it seems the document is adopted unanimously.

Now, we move to the draft recommendation. As there have been no amendments, we will not proceed directly on this draft recommendation contained in document 15608. A two-third majority is required. Is that right? A two-third majority is required.

The vote is open. Please cast your votes.

Now I close the vote.

Let us see the results. 

Okay, it is also agreed unanimously; 40 in favour, 0 against, 1 abstention.

Thank you for the rapporteur, representatives of the Committee and all speakers and the staff who contributed.

Debate: Preventing vaccine discrimination

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:06:07

Dear Colleagues,

If I see correctly, one member would like to raise a point of order.

Please.

Mr Levan IOSELIANI

Georgia, SOC

11:06:26

Thank you.

For a technical reason, yesterday I wasn't able to vote on the resolution about Ukraine.

Please, add my vote in favour of this resolution, except for Amendment 4.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:06:42

Thank you for the clarification.

That will be in the minutes.

If we manage to change places, yes, Committee, Rapporteurs...

 

The next item of business is the debate on Preventing vaccine discrimination, Document 15608, presented by Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

We shall also hear an opinion from Ms Carmen LEYTE on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, Document 16625.

In order to allow time for the free debate, we must interrupt the list of speakers at about 11:45 a.m. to allow time for the reply and vote.

 

I call now Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, the Rapporteur.

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, as you know, you have 7 minutes now and 5 minutes for the reply.

The floor is yours.

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC, Rapporteur

11:07:47

Thank you, Madam President,

Dear colleagues, 

During the long height of the Covid-19 pandemic, freedom of movement was often severely restricted in the attempt of the respective authorities to lower the rate of infection and to protect their public health systems.

In this context, the EU Digital Covid Certificate, better known as the Covid Pass, helped alleviate some of these restrictions, so that the holders of this Pass could more easily move freely in a world suddenly closed off to many. 

But this Pass was not accessible to everyone equally and it did not open every door that once was wide open. My report focuses primarily on the different treatment that people vaccinated by different vaccines were subjected to, even when there was no scientific evidence supporting that action. 

The resolution also recalls a detailed and long-standing criteria for imposing restrictions on the enjoyment of rights protected under our Convention, that they must be prescribed by law, that they be imposed in the pursuit of a legitimate aim and that they are necessary in a democratic society and, of course, last but not least, that they are proportionate to the legitimate a being pursued.

In times of emergency, such as the one created by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital that we keep reminding ourselves of our fundamental rights and that, regardless of the emergency, these cannot be cancelled. 

This report recalls a lot of the Assembly's previous work and seeks to further and enhance it. For instance, the issue of compulsory vaccination is addressed in a rather new way, simply because our knowledge and our position are in constant flux, as our knowledge and experience in dealing with the pandemic increases. Thus, the resolution takes a step back from calling for public conversation about compulsory vaccination and seeks a more nuanced path of recognising that, in some cases, it can be justifiable to impose mandatory vaccinations upon certain professions that deal closely with vulnerable groups but that, in general, the starting position for a vaccine is that it should not be mandatory. 

This position against general mandatory vaccination is also in line with the science and in line with the position of the World Health Organization on the subject. A big portion of this report is dedicated to the use of Covid passes and to some reflections on how their widespread use for controlling access to territory, public venues and even public transport, in some cases, is problematic in the human rights perspective. 

We, therefore, reiterate the importance of only using Covid passes when strictly necessary to achieve the legitimate aim of protecting public health and, of course, proportionally to that aim.

Moving back to the main focus of this report: the different treatment of people vaccinated with different types of vaccines. The system of Covid passes introduced by some member states created a new level of potentially discriminatory treatment, as between people vaccinated using different vaccines and people possessing different types of Covid pass. Whilst passes such as the EU Digital Covid Certificate were introduced as a measure to reduce the impact of restrictions during the pandemic, only certain Covid passes and only certain vaccines recognised by states, entailing restrictions on people's access to public spaces, such as bars, restaurants or event venues, or even their ability to enter a country, were recognised.

This non-recognition of vaccination or passes particularly affected non-EU citizens travelling or staying for some time in EU member States. Although, similar difficulties did occur in some Council of Europe member states as well.

In particular, while 11 Covid-19 vaccines are recommended by the World Health Organization under its Emergency Use Listing procedure, only six have been authorised for marketing in the EU under a system of conditional marketing authorisation. In my report, I seek to eliminate the risk of discrimination and call for equal treatment for all people vaccinated against Covid-19 using vaccines approved by either the European Medicines Agency or the World Health Organization Emergency Use List.

Finally, I think it is important to acknowledge that any work touching on the topic of vaccination against Covid risks inciting varied and often strongly felt responses from the public and politicians alike. The pandemic and its associated restrictions have affected the people of Europe significantly, and different parts of society have suffered or been particularly affected as a result. Throughout this work, I have been mindful of the multiplicity of views on how best to respond to the pandemic and on the necessity of certain individual restrictive measures. I am particularly grateful for the useful insights from colleagues with unique perspectives into how this issue can affect certain groups and, in particular, colleagues from the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development and the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, for their suggestions contained in the opinion from the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development. 

I have sought to accommodate amendments where these are compatible with the focus of this report and with the Assembly's wider work. I thank those of you who have shown interest in this important topic. 

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:13:48

Thank you, Madam Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR.

I now call Ms Carmen LEYTE, Rapporteur of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, to present the Committee's opinion, Document 15621.

You have 3 minutes.

Ms Carmen LEYTE

Spain, EPP/CD, Rapporteur for opinion

11:14:06

I'm going to do my intervention in Spanish.

Ms Carmen LEYTE

Spain, EPP/CD, Rapporteur for opinion

11:14:12

Madam President, honourable colleagues, 

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development welcomes the excellent report prepared by Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. 

I would like to congratulate the rapporteur for her excellent work on this subject. It is careful, it is a report that is well-argued. I would particularly like to extend my thanks to her for the good cooperation that we have had in the preparation phase of this report and for taking our suggestions into account.

The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development is particularly pleased that the report has taken into account the position of the World Health Organization (WHO). They are the experts and the member states should follow their advice. Individual vaccination is not something that only protects our own health, it also protects community health by reducing the likelihood of infection. In the case of the pandemic, it was instrumental in reducing the pressure on our health systems which, at the beginning of the pandemic were on the verge of collapse in some of our member states. 

When we talk about vaccine discrimination, it is important that we do not forget the most vulnerable people in our societies: children, people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, undocumented migrants. These groups are not always taken into account when decisions are made regarding these matters and that violates their rights. 

Nor can we forget that there is a great deal of inequality when it comes to access to vaccines between those of us who live in more developed countries and those who live in the poorest countries of the world that cannot have access to vaccination.

Despite the COVAX programme that has been endorsed by 190 countries, vaccination simply has not reached everyone equally. Generalised travel bans, the non-acceptance of proof of vaccination in some countries, despite that they were included in the WHO Emergency Use Listing, have also been discriminatory measures and it has prevented families from being reunited. 

These restrictions have affected, above all, individuals and families who hail from poorer countries. 

More than two years have passed since the outbreak of the pandemic, which severely disrupted our societies and caused tragic deaths. 

The Assembly has adopted several reports on this issue and I would like to call on all member states to study these resolutions and to come up with fairer policies and solutions hitherto. 

The Committee has proposed a number of small amendments. They are mostly technical and they aim to strengthen and align this text with the positions previously adopted by the Assembly. And I am very grateful to Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR. Thank you for accepting most of our proposals. I think the text before the Assembly now is a good one and I look forward to the debate. 

I would also like to thank the Commission's Secretariat for their help, in particular Ms Tanja KLEINSORGE, Ms Yulia PERERVA and Ms Anita GHOLAMI. Thank you for your help and cooperation. 

And I would also like to thank the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development for allowing me to present this opinion to the House. Once again, thank you to the rapporteur and thank you to all of you for your kind attention.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:17:22

Thank you. [in Spanish]

As usual, we will start with the speakers on behalf of the groups.

First on the list is Mr George KATROUGALOS, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr George KATROUGALOS

Greece, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

11:17:34

Many thanks, Madam Chair,

I would like to begin by congratulating the rapporteur on a very balanced and pertinent report. It was not an easy issue. The fundamental rule is established in the Oviedo Convention on Bioethics. We are the masters of our bodies. Nobody can impose to us any kind of medical act without our informed consent and vaccination is a medical act. It was not easy to find a compromise – a balanced compromise – between this rule and the necessity of protecting public health in times of the pandemic. 

We dealt with that in the European Union and in the Council of Europe, I think, generally well, with problems related to the protection of some very crucial individual rights, like the right of assembly and sometimes the right to privacy. I think that the remarks and recommendations of the report are very pertinent in that. I must also note, it is noted in the report that we had also problems with the management of the vaccines, basically due to the fact that only six vaccines have been recognised by the European medical organisation, the EMA, which resulted in problems, especially in countries outside the European Union, for instance, in San Marino they did not have access to vaccines until they managed to have some Russian Sputnik vaccines.

But I would like to note something that was actually out of the scope of the report, at least as the rapporteur understood it, and, in my understanding, is the biggest, the greatest, factor of discrimination. This is poverty, not so much within our societies, as the vaccine has been distributed through the universal health systems, but between rich and wealthy countries. Look at the numbers: just 10 countries account for more than 75% of all vaccines administered globally, but Africa, the second most populated continent, the second biggest continent, corresponds with just 3.4% of the vaccines.

In the first resolution of ours, we stress the fact of the waiver for the patent, so that the vaccine could reach everybody. We must insist on that for reasons of global justice. And I think it is a disgrace that the European Union is not supporting this demand, both are the wealthiest organisations under the World Trade Organization.

Many thanks, Madam Chair. 

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:20:55

Thank you.

I call next Ms Margreet De BOER, on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

Ms Margreet De BOER

Netherlands, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

11:21:03

Thank you.

Many of us have opinions on vaccination against Covid-19. Most see vaccination as an important tool to overcome the pandemic. Some want to make vaccination mandatory. Others think vaccines are poison.

But this is not what this report is about. This report is about discrimination based on the different types of vaccines.

On behalf of the Socialist, Democrats and Greens Group, I compliment Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR for this precise and balanced report. I also compliment her that she managed to keep focused and not to have the report be taken over by either pro or anti-vaxxers.

While the report also describes the use of Covid-19 passes, and recalls previous resolutions of our Assembly, the proposed resolution and recommendation focuses on the discrimination based on the different types of vaccines.

They are not about whether vaccination can or should be used as a condition, for example for travelling or entering a country, of a public place. It clearly states, that if this is the case, people that have been vaccinated against Covid-19 by a vaccine that has been authorised by the European Medicine Agency or has been listed by the World Health Organization should be treated equally.

That is what we will vote on. No more and no less.

I call on all of you to support the resolution and recommendation as proposed, and reject amendments that try to make it about something else.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:22:54

Thank you.

I call next Mr Alain MILON, from France on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Mr Alain MILON

France, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group

11:23:05

Thank you, Madam President.

Dear colleagues,

First of all, I would like to thank our two colleagues for their respective reports.

At a time when the number of covid-19 infections is on the rise again, it is important to recall the legal rules that must govern the implementation of restrictions on freedom of movement.

First of all, it should be recalled that the European Union's digital covid certificates are tools to facilitate free movement from one State to another when the implementation of certain precautions is necessary to protect public health.

States therefore remain free to set restrictions on entry into their territory and to define the nature of these restrictions. However, Member States that accept proof of vaccination in order to lift restrictions on free movement are obliged to accept, under the same conditions, vaccination certificates issued by other Member States for a vaccine that has been centrally authorized at EU level.

For vaccines that have been authorized not by the European Medicines Agency but by the WHO, Member States remain free to decide. It is up to the promoters of these vaccines to take the necessary steps with the European Medicines Agency to obtain an authorization to place them on the market.

I am pleased that 17 non-EU Member States of the Council of Europe have been able to connect to the EU's digital covid certificate system, thus facilitating free movement across a wider territory than that of the European Union.

While the original purpose of these digital covid certificates was to facilitate free movement between Member States, the regulations establishing these certificates do not regulate other uses that Member States may make of them, such as imposing restrictions at the national level.

On this subject, our Assembly must emphasize that any such restrictions must be limited to what is necessary to ensure the protection of public health and that they must respect the principle of proportionality. There is a real risk that these practices will lead to discrimination and human rights violations. Their implementation in the Member States of the Council of Europe must therefore be accompanied by the possibility of effective recourse to the courts.

I would also like to recall the resolution we adopted during our last part-session to facilitate access to vaccination, by fighting against the misinformation surrounding this medical practice. The more people are vaccinated, the better the public health will be protected and the less risk of discrimination there will be.

Finally, I would like to point out that mandatory vaccination is not necessarily contrary to our Convention. It may be necessary in some cases, particularly for certain professions exposed to vulnerable populations, such as health care workers.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:26:08

Thanks.

I call next Mr Kamal JAFAROV on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.

The floor is yours.

Mr Kamal JAFAROV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

11:26:17

Thank you very much, Madam Chair,

First of all, I would like to thank the rapporteur for this very important report. It's indeed well drafted and very balanced and I ask all members of the Parliamentary Assembly to vote in favour of this resolution.

Dear friends,

Today I would like to touch on this issue from a different perspective, from a different angle.

Vaccine discrimination also exists with regards to access to the vaccines. I will start with some statistics which speak for themselves.

According to the World Health Organization, 80% of the world's vaccines went to the G20 countries, while only 0.6% of the vaccines went to low-income countries.

That's why the vaccination rate of high-income countries is 80%, whilst low-income countries have a vaccination rate of less than 10%.

According to Médecins Sans Frontières, if the vaccines were distributed equally and fairly, one million deaths would have been averted by mid-2022, compared to the current scenario.

I would like to mention that Azerbaijan is also one of the first countries which supported low-income countries. It has provided financial and humanitarian support to more than 80 low-income countries.

We made a donation of 10 million to the World Health Organization, half of which directly went to the members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

We have also raised this issue globally.

Our struggle against vaccine nationalisation was also supported by the United Nations. Azerbaijan's president, Mr Ilham Aliyev, initiated a special UN session on vaccine discrimination, to stress the importance of global solidarity and multinational cooperation in overcoming the pandemic.

Following that, on 16 [December] 2021, UN member states adopted their resolution on this matter which was put forward by the Non-Aligned Movement.

Dear colleagues.

I again ask all of you to support prevention against vaccine discrimination from a different perspective, and from a different angle, including access to vaccine discrimination, and the discrimination that vaccines and Covid passes create for our people.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:28:59

Thank you.

On behalf of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, Mr Bertrand BOUYX.

I am sorry that I can't pronounce your surname.

Mr Bertrand BOUYX

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

11:29:11

Thank you, Madam President.

Dear colleagues,

When we hear "vaccine discrimination", those of us of a scientific or Cartesian bent, understand inequality of access or limited access to vaccines against Covid-19, but also against a certain number of transmissible diseases that have not all been beaten- far from it. That being said, the debate - particularly, I must say, in Europe, that is to say in countries that generally had access to Covid vaccines, have been able to better protect their populations. In our countries, as I say, the debate is focused on the discrimination against those who are not vaccinated.

We in the ALDE Group subscribe perfectly to the conclusions of PACE Resolution 2383 (2021). Indeed, the use of the pass is a public health tool, an effective public health tool, in the case of respiratory diseases, but, and I quote, it can constitute "illegal discrimination within the meaning of Article 14 of the Convention if it is without an objective and reasonable justification. That justification supposes that the measure concerned a) pursues a legitimate aim and b) is proportionate. Proportionality requires a fair balance being struck between protecting the interests of society (the legitimate aim) and respect for the rights and freedoms of all individuals."

Nobody could call into question the legitimate aim of the pass brought in in a number of European countries, with one lockdown following the next, with all the human consequences that we are aware of. No one can contest the fact that, in Europe, proportionality was respected and that nobody was outlawed or marginalised in society for having rejected to be vaccinated.

But the report does mention an appeal lodged by a French fireman as a result of the vaccine obligation imposed on him given his profession. I would like to recall the position of the medical professions in contact with vulnerable people. The freedom to vaccinate or not should not have the consequence of endangering the vulnerable people that they have to look after. Be that as it may, the case is pending before the European Court of Human Rights, which will take its decision on the basis of Articles 8 (Respect for private life) and 14 (Non-discrimination) within the European Convention on Human Rights. The French authorities will, as they usually do, draw all the necessary consequences from the ruling and its grounds.

Discrimination may also relate to persons having received different vaccines. The Committee is requesting that all persons vaccinated against Covid-19 who received a vaccine that has been authorised by the European Medicines Agency or on the WHO Emergency Use List not be subject to any form of discrimination. I would draw your attention to the difference between the two organisations: the European Medicines Agency, through which the countries of the European Union have decided to mutualise their choices in terms of medicines policies, health policy remaining the preserve of each member state; the WHO is an international organisation and cannot oblige this or that vaccination be manufactured on global levels.

Even if we are moving in favour of greater harmonisation, there will always be differences between the two.

Having said those two comments, the ALDE Group will be supporting the report.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:32:50

Thank you.

Now we will start with the list of speakers. The first is Mr Givi MIKANADZE, from the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group, from Georgia.

Mr Givi MIKANADZE

Georgia, SOC

11:33:03

Thank you, Mr President,

Firstly, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur for the significant work conducted and for elaborating and presenting a very well-structured and goal-oriented report.

It has been highlighted in various resolutions adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in the past two years (Res. 2329 (2020), Res. 2338 (2021), Res. 2383 (2021), Res. 2361 (2021), Res. 2424 (2022) and Res. 2455 (2022)) that during pandemics, Member States of our Assembly have imposed various measures of restriction.

In light of this draft resolution, I would like to highlight the situation with the vulnerable groups, particularly prisoners and staff serving in prison institutions. It is well known that overcrowding, poor conditions and high population turnover make prisons highly susceptible to Covid-19.

A recent study conducted in 2021 by Penal Reform International and Harm Reduction International, notes that people detained, and also those working in prisons around the world continue to be left behind in Covid-19 relief measures despite facing heightened risk of infection and illness due to cramped and unsanitary living conditions and lack of hygiene supplies in many detention facilities.

Another reason is the poorer health of the prison population compared to the general population. Even in countries with relatively high standards in places of detention, there have been multiple cases of Covid-19-related infections and deaths of detainees and prison personnel.

The latest available figures from 47 countries indicate that as of July 2021, over 575 000 Covid-19 cases have been recorded in prisons and over 4 000 people have died from this disease.

Other figures show that out of the 131 countries for which vaccination plans or other resources can be found, only 56 explicitly mention people in prisons, approximately 43% of the total.

Prison staff are clearly and explicitly mentioned in 66 vaccination plans, but national approaches to their categorisation are even more fragmented. In particular, in 15 countries, prioritisation of prison staff can only be confirmed for some categories of staff.

Therefore, people detained and the personnel working in prisons should be explicitly included in all Covid-19 response plans. Under the international guidelines and in line with human rights standards, targeted infection prevention and control measures should be put in place to protect them. At the same time, people detained in prisons should be explicitly included as a high priority in national Covid-19 vaccination plans and vaccination rollout because of their increased risk of being infected.

Prison staff, including healthcare staff, security staff and administrative staff, must be considered at increased risk of Covid-19 infection, and therefore, shall be prioritised in vaccination allocations.

The administration of vaccines in prisons should be conducted in line with relevant human rights standards, particularly the right to health, which involves free and informed consent.

Although the draft resolution Preventing vaccine discrimination, does not implicitly highlight the prisoners and the prison staff, these target groups are covered and particular recommendations developed in this document will assist in an equal approach, as well as in the inclusion of prisoners and the prison staff in national vaccination plans, preventing any discrimination against them.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:36:08

Thank you.

In the debate I call next Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN, Group of the European People's Party, from Armenia.

Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

11:36:18

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Covid-19 drastically changed our life. I remember the first day of dissemination of this disease when everybody everywhere dreamed to have a vaccine, to get this vaccine and to be alive. Because everybody was scared, everybody dreamed about getting anything any medicine against it, and it was a terror incognita for all of us. 

Fortunately, and unfortunately, when the first vaccines arrived, we faced the problem of different ambitions from many countries, many organisations and many medical and other circles, trying to get the good and bad vaccines. And this made our lives even more complicated; complicated, first, in the opportunity to choose, trying to understand which kind of vaccine should be used, and second, the limitation of vaccines in different countries. 

I remember, in my country, we had a lot of different tourists who came to Romania just to get their vaccines. And this situation with the lack of vaccines, and the second, the situation with differences in vaccines and different approaches towards them, made our complicated life even more complicated. What kind of problems do we face afterwards? We face the problem of bureaucratisation of vaccination as such. I as a rapporteur on the issue of Covid-19 and the rule of law, strictly remember that this limitation should have so-called "sunset clauses". They should start it and they should limit it.

But, unfortunately, until today, it is not clear where, how and why this or that limitation is still kept and what our behaviour should be.

For sure, we understood perfectly well that from a legal perspective it is very legitimate to limit the rights of people who may be a threat to public health. But, at the same time, very often this just creates bureaucratic problems instead of creating a situation where vaccines actually provide us with a better life.

I will share my personal experience travelling on a connection flight between different countries that do not recognise each other's vaccines. It becomes a mess, because from a medical perspective, we can have two vaccines simultaneously. Nevertheless, these kinds of problems are continuing to be among us.

So, we should be very precise. We should be very clear that vaccination is quite important and discrimination against people vaccinated by this or that vaccine or creating advantages or disadvantages for the people who are vaccinated or not vaccinated, may create an additional threat to the European values, to the European Convention of Human Rights and be an additional headache for the development of human rights and democracy in the Council of Europe.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:39:47

Thank you.

In the debate I call next Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER, European Conservatives Group, from Germany.

Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER

Germany, EC/DA

11:39:57

Madam President, dear colleagues,

This is a crucial debate in a crucial report because it is about vaccine discrimination but it is also about mandatory vaccination and the discrimination against those who decided not to get vaccinated; to decide that "no, my body belongs to me", you know, and who were not able to go to restaurants, who were not able to take the train, who were not allowed to leave the country, who lost their jobs – "get the jab or lose your job". That was the most severe infringement on human rights that Europe has seen in decades and we need to develop a very clear stance on that.

And there is one thing I am really disappointed about: Sunna, you drafted a wonderful report that you gave to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and then in the Legal Committee you introduced amendments to your own report, destroyed your own report and turned it around to almost say the opposite of what you really think. Who pressurised you? We are here to lobby for human rights. We are not here to defend our governments who have lied to us: Trudeau, Biden, Merkel, Scholz, Macron. They have lied to us. We are here to control them and we are here to stand in for human rights, not for Pfizer who has made billions and billions of Euros hard-selling its product on us. And that is why I ask you to approve of the amendments that I have brought in, because they will restore the report to its original version that you have brought in, Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR.

This is especially important as one of the main arguments for the Covid Pass framework and mandatory vaccination is always the argument that it protects other people. But there is scientific evidence, Ms LEYTE, there is scientific evidence that transmission of the Covid virus is not stopped by the vaccine and it came up especially clearly in the Committee hearing of the European Parliament this week of Robert Ross who interrogated the Pfizer executive, Janine Small, and she admitted that the Covid vaccine was never tested for transmission of the Covid virus. The NHS data that we have from the UK show very clearly that no matter whether people were vaccinated or not, they transmitted the virus, they got infected and died from the virus. There is scientific evidence that the vaccination does not prevent the spread of the virus.

And so we have to conclude and we have to conclude clearly in this Parliamentary Assembly that the right to life, the right to liberty and security and the right to respect for private and family life were all infringed upon by the practice of mandatory vaccination, which is still ongoing, especially in health professions and that they need to be abandoned instantly.

Because of all this new information that is coming out of the European Parliament, I move to refer this report back to the Legal Committee because we need this new information to really evaluate what the practice of the Covid passes and mandatory vaccinations were really about. Give us the time to adjust this report to reflect the truth.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:43:16

Thank you.

Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER has proposed that the report be referred back to the Committee.

This motion can be agreed on a simple majority. On this motion only the proposer, one speaker against, and the Rapporteur or Chairperson of the Committee concerned may be heard.

The proposer has already spoken.

Does anyone wish to oppose this motion?

Madam Margreet De BOER.

Ms Margreet De BOER

Netherlands, SOC

11:43:46

Thank you.

As I said in my speech, this resolution and recommendations are not about whether vaccine should be mandatory and when and where.

If there is new information, I think Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER can file a new motion for a resolution which goes into that topic.

Today we're just talking about vaccine discrimination, so the discrimination between vaccines.

I see that any new information, the new information he mentioned does not alter that.

I strongly would call on us to debate further and have the vote on this resolution and this recommendation.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:44:30

Thank you.

What is the opinion of the Rapporteur officially?

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC, Rapporteur

11:44:34

The opinion of the rapporteur is that we should stick with the programme and complete my report.

I'd like to address the allegations made by Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER that I was somehow pressured into changing my own report.

That is, of course, far from the truth. Those who know me in this Parliamentary Assembly know that I speak from my heart. I work with integrity as my guiding light. I reached a compromise, which I think is one of our political aims here in this Assembly with the Committee that has most to do with Covid-19 and its impact on human rights.

A compromise is not being pressured into doing something; it is reaching an agreement with political colleagues.

We have reached a fair and balanced report here. We should adopt it now.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:45:25

Thank you, Sunna.

The Assembly will now vote on the motion to refer document 15608 back to the Committee.

The vote is open.

Yes, I can explain before we close the vote.

If you vote "yes", that means that the report would go back to the Committee. If you vote "no", it means that you reject the motion and that we will continue the debate and vote about the report.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

The motion was rejected.

So, we will continue.

The next speaker in the debate is Mr Jean-Pierre GRIN, from Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, from Switzerland.

The floor is yours.

Mr Jean-Pierre GRIN

Switzerland, ALDE

11:46:32

Thank you, Madame President.

First of all, I would like to thank both colleagues for this excellent report on preventing vaccine discrimination.

During the covid-19 pandemic, vaccination played an important role in the fight against the various viruses in circulation. It will surely continue to protect people during the coming winter months.

Protection, it is true, is not total with vaccines, but it is effective to a very large degree.

Nevertheless, the debate on the prevention of vaccine discrimination is very important, as mentioned in this excellent report.

The important point, the one that has been most controversial, is the obligation of this vaccination for certain categories: doctors, nurses, the police, among others. For my part, everyone must remain free to vaccinate or not.

But, what we must recognize is that this personal freedom not to vaccinate can lead to certain restrictions, for general protection and also for those who, for medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated.

These restrictions and the vaccine pass should not be taken as discrimination, but as protection for one's fellow man.

Another important point is access to vaccines for all. Here again, solidarity must be shown regarding the price of these vaccines for disadvantaged populations. Free access to vaccines is the most important point. But also, the implementation of structures is necessary, because if a country receives a large stock of doses and does not have the means to vaccinate its population with medical teams, this will also be problematic.

Nevertheless, vaccination is not the only universal remedy: there are other protective measures such as masks, hand disinfection and social distancing.

When it comes to covid passes or restricting people's freedom of movement for reasons related to the pandemic, the only reason that really matters is protecting public health.

An important amendment is proposed to you, which is not to discriminate against migrants and especially undocumented migrant children for access to vaccination. We must all protect these populations.

I therefore ask you to accept the proposed resolution.

Thank you for your attention.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:49:17

Thank you. [in French]

I call next Mr László TOROCZKAI, from Hungary.

Mr László TOROCZKAI

Hungary, NR

11:49:25

Thank you, Madam President.

The report is absolutely right in saying that all kinds of vaccine certificates actually provide opportunities for discrimination and human rights violations.

The fact that, while in Russia for example the Russian Sputnik vaccine was rated as the best, it was not even accepted in Western countries, clearly shows that from the very first moment these measures might have been controlled not by science but by the large pharmaceutical companies hiding behind politics and politicians.

In fact, everywhere in China, in Russia, in the European Union, and in America, they have apparently been trying to impose vaccines from their our own pharmaceutical companies on the people.

Business and political interests mattered, not science and not the people.

This is how Pfizer's vaccine became the most recommended Covid-19 vaccine in Europe. And of course in the United States as well. However, Janine Small, who is the President of International Developed Markets at Pfizer, recently admitted in the European Parliament that their Covid-19 vaccine was never tested on preventing transmission.

So, they lied to people all along their governments with huge media campaigns repeating that you should vaccinate yourself for others.

We now know that vaccinated people can also transmit the infection.

In light of all this it is unacceptable not only that people who have been vaccinated with certain vaccines are discriminated against, but it is also totally unacceptable and pointless that the unvaccinated are stigmatised and discriminated against.

In any way, this must be stopped.

It is our fundamental human right to decide whether we want to get such vaccine, especially because Pfizer wanted to classify documentation of clinical trials of the vaccine for 75 years, and the European Commission classified contracts for tens of billions of dollars purchases.

Yet, the 4.5 billion doses of the Covid-19 vaccine intended for 450 million EU residents were also financed by the taxpayers.

Thank you very much.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:52:14

Thank you.

In the debate I call next Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ, from Switzerland.

The floor is yours.

Mr Pierre-Alain FRIDEZ

Switzerland, SOC

11:52:27

Thank you, Madam President.

Ladies and Gentlemen, colleagues,

We have come a long way in two and a half years.

I will allow myself a medical comment - I hope a reassuring one - on this whole story. At the beginning, there was a generalized panic with the images from Italy that arrived in our different countries and that scared us greatly. The authorities were taken by surprise: there was clearly no sufficient preparation, no masks, no sufficient hydroalcoholic solutions. Above all, we observed a general population that was absolutely free of any contact with this virus. Hence, there were no antibodies. Being a very contagious virus, you know what happened next: a society was put under a bell, confined.

Then came the vaccine: a miraculous vaccine, developed in record time thanks to science. It was the solution - or at least an undeniable plus. It gave rise to a lot of fears, "fake news" or wild hopes for a solution. But the virus mutated, new waves arrived and, in order to free people's lives and allow society to return to normal, rules were established around vaccination: I mean the health pass or vaccine pass.

People's lives became different depending on whether they chose to be vaccinated or not. This created tensions or divisions, and then came the time of doubts, especially with the successive waves, when it had to be recognized that vaccination did not always protect against disease, but, above all, that a vaccinated person could continue to transmit the virus, especially if he or she was very ill.

There have certainly been abuses. Some states have certainly gone too far in limiting the rights of their citizens, but we must be clear: we were afraid, we were navigating by sight.

Today, dear colleagues, the situation has changed. The number of cases of covid remains high and is even increasing, due to the season. But above all, in most countries, 97% to 98% of the population has had contact with this virus, either through developing the disease or through the vaccine. A new vaccine adapted to the new Omicron variant has just been released.

We must always rely on barrier measures; disinfection and masks as needed, but above all, we must not panic. This disease will stay with us for a long time, but the fact that the virus is circulating in society is the best guarantee that the general immunity will persist.

We will have to think before introducing new discriminations. We must learn from what we have learned, and this report is very useful in enabling us to deal with this virus in the best possible way in the future, without discrimination.

I will therefore support this report.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:55:15

Thank you.

Now I call next Mr David WELLS, from Canada.

The floor is yours.

Mr David WELLS

Canada

11:55:25

Honourable colleagues, 

I would like to thank the rapporteur and the Committees for this important report. Throughout the COVID 19 pandemic the world has seen widespread discrimination and my home country, Canada, has not been immune. 

Today, we are here to discuss vaccine discrimination, develop a framework to prevent vaccine discrimination and find a balance between protecting human rights and freedoms and protecting the health and safety of our communities.

Living free from all forms of discrimination is a basic human right as outlined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and colleagues, as a representative in this Assembly for eight years, I know the right to bodily autonomy is one example of a basic human right this Council seeks to protect.

In contradiction to this, we have seen politicians worldwide promoting vaccination discrimination, putting sanctions on individuals, levelling direct criticism on the unvaccinated and deliberately creating a division for political gain. The resulting isolation has fractured families, divided communities and further polarised countries when unity was needed. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada has called vaccine-hesitant Canadians "extremists, racists and misogynists". Colleagues, I am not paraphrasing, I am quoting. He has said that these are people who hold "unacceptable views" and "do not believe in science" and "who take up space". Again, these are quotes from the prime minister of my country and it is shameful messaging.

These words are tools of division, segregation and discrimination. The truth is that many of the individuals who chose to not vaccinate are strong proponents of well-established science but are, within their own right, hesitant to receive the vaccine.

In a Covid hearing in the European Parliament just last week, a director at Pfizer stated that the vaccine had never been tested on preventing the transmission of the virus. This is the very premise that led to the travel restrictions on other civil liberties that we enjoy.

Another study published by MPDI, an open-access academic publisher in Switzerland, showed an increase in side effects after taking an mRNA vaccine. The report states, "the findings corroborate previous reports of encephalitis and myocarditis caused by gene-based COVID 19 vaccines". Colleagues, this vaccine hesitancy is legitimate.

And further colleagues, some chose to not have this medical procedure because they simply did not want it and it is their right to choose, not the government's right. In Canada, individuals who stood up for this freedom to choose were punished. Some with the freezing of their bank accounts and public vilification. This is a clear example of vaccine discrimination and government overreach.

And for those who did choose to receive the vaccine, many faced their own discrimination due to the type of vaccine that had been administered as the report highlighted. It is not the government's job to determine an individual's risk tolerance concerning personal medical decisions. Colleagues, we must ensure that all measures taken in response to a public health emergency that may restrict human rights are lawful, necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

11:58:39

Thank you.

On behalf of all of us, I would like to thank you that you travelled for such a long way from Canada to Strasbourg and that you are here with us until the end even on Friday morning for this important debate.

Colleagues, as you figured out, we are trying to have as many speakers as possible.

The next I will call is Ms Nerea AHEDO, from Spain, from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Madam, the floor is yours.

Ms Nerea AHEDO

Spain, ALDE

11:59:12

Good morning and thank you very much.

First of all, a big thank you to the rapporteur for the report before the house.

A number of comments have been made already on Covid-19, on the consequences of Covid-19, the past vaccination over the past few years. We've already talked about this multiple times in the house and now we are talking about the most urgent issue.

Of course public health is a supreme value, it has to have precedence. But there are other aspects that we also need to take into account, such as individual freedom. So you need to strike the right balance between the two: public health, individual freedom.

I agree with the report. I agree that of course we need vaccination, but I'm not saying that that is the only valid argument.

You need to come up with solid arguments.

You may find yourself in a specific situation where you may need to make the vaccine compulsory, but that needs to be substantiated.

We need to be aware of the fact that any decision we take - whether we choose to vaccinate or not - every decision has a knock-on effect, ramifications.

We were also preoccupied for reasons of possible discrimination, such as the state and the type of the vaccine.

I think what we need to do is try to harmonise our criteria, so that we have the same criteria across all of our countries. That hasn't happened hitherto and yet, it seems to me that that should be a priority - harmonisation.

I also think that we should act against any kind of discrimination. There are groups that simply cannot get a vaccination and they would be exposed to additional discrimination because of that. Also, there is a doubt that arises from all of this, and I would like to refer you to this point, I think it's mentioned in the report.

I mean, in a given community you decide that there should be compulsory vaccination and one individual decides on his own or her own basis that they will not get vaccinated. They are prevented from going to work as a consequence of that. That is something that we need to pay very careful attention to.

This kind of opposition between individual choice and blanket obligations.

Vaccination of course is useful in terms of preserving public health. It's one of the tools that we have. And those that are discriminated against are not so much those that have had access to vaccination and have chosen not to take that option. Yes, they will suffer some consequences and it is in interference with their rights, but they're not really the people who have been discriminated against.

The people who are really discriminated against are the ones who do not have access to vaccination. I am talking about 80% of the population of Africa, who still haven't had their first dose of the vaccine.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:01:57

Thank you.

I call next Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ, from Türkiye.

The floor is yours.

Mr Ziya ALTUNYALDIZ

Türkiye, NR

12:02:09

Dear President, Dear Colleagues,

I would like to congratulate the rapporteur for her excellent work concerning the critical balance between public health and individual freedoms.

Introduction of various restrictive measures justified by the rapid transmission of the COVID-19 have sparked a heated debate on the necessity of the measures and its impact on enjoyment of freedoms. Especially after the vaccination started across Europe, member states have begun to use COVID-19 passes and vaccine certificates that regulate the access to public places and the movement of people.

All these developments have led to differential treatment and discriminatory practices in member states. I fully support the Strasbourg Court’s critical decision that strikes balance between public interest and individual freedom and rights.

Unfortunately, some member states and European Medicines Agency (EMA) resorted to a discriminatory treatment to the people vaccinated with different vaccines approved by WHO, but not by EMA. I believe that no health emergency should be an excuse for discrimination and different treatment.

Sadly, some member states used the pandemic as a pretext to neglect the human rights infringements. In fact, my dear friends, during the pandemic, some member states either slowed down or entirely stopped or unjustifiably denied visa applications, asylum procedures, and movement of people. In the light of these excessively restrictive measures, this report timely warns us regarding the discriminatory measures and calls for restoring the full enjoyment of freedoms and rights.

Therefore, while imposing public health measures now and in the future, we have to calculate the necessity, efficacy, and proportionality of these measures and their impacts on the fundamental freedoms and rights. Otherwise, any health emergency would be a mere excuse to further curtail the enjoyment of freedoms and rights.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:04:51

Thank you.

Unfortunately, the last speaker will be Mr Éctor Jaime RAMÍREZ BARBA, from Mexico.

The floor is yours.

Mr Éctor Jaime RAMÍREZ BARBA

Mexico

12:05:06

Thank you very much, Madam President. 

I am a doctor. I have been exercising my profession for 42 years now and it seems to me that this particular report and in addition to the comments that were made, is very, very good. Indeed, it is a very wonderful foundation for legislation. 

Now, we may be losing a little of our humanity. It is like what took place during the plague. So it is very important to see the enthusiasm of certain legislators saying that if we avoid transmission, we do not need the vaccination but that is not the objective, ladies and gentlemen. Seven thousand five hundred per million died in my country and in other countries much fewer than that because there were vaccinations there.

So, should we ignore the miracle, the fact that we have something like a vaccination developed so quickly to avoid this horrible mortality that existed throughout the world? 

So, I think we have to establish this balance between, of course, the protection of life, the protection of human rights and the protection against all the terrible things that involve this particular situation that existed during the pandemic. 

Countries in Africa were left without any protection whatsoever or very little protection. And in Mexico we had a similar situation. So, once again, we have to understand diphtheria, tetanus, polio, numerous other diseases as well, people are protected because of vaccination. This is an idea which exists deep-rooted in Mexico as well, in 1908 because of a terrible pandemic that existed then. It blocked off the country altogether, people understood the necessity of protecting themselves from a pandemic. So, I do feel that this particular report takes us a step further but let us not forget that we need to protect people. Of course, the executive in each country has to be able to protect individuals, to protect their citizens, be that a small country or a large country and the measures that are taken are for that particular purpose. The measures that concern vaccination and the availability of vaccination have to be there as well. 

So, indeed, I would like to congratulate the rapporteur. I do feel that it translates very well and conveys exactly what we have to do to protect human beings so that they can move freely, so that they can enjoy their human rights. They need vaccinations.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:08:13

Thank you very much.

I must, unfortunately, interrupt the list of speakers.

The speeches of members on the speakers lists who have been present during the debate, but have not been able to speak, may be be given to the Table Office for publication in the Official Report.

I remind colleagues that typewritten text must be submitted electronically no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.

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

You have 5 minutes.

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC, Rapporteur

12:08:43

Thank you Madam President,

And thank you colleagues for supporting the continuation of my work with this report by voting that we should vote on it. Indeed, I think it is quite important that we complete it.

We did put in a lot of work to complete it before this session, because we did not want the work to become instantly obsolete as so many things are when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic. Of course, our knowledge is constantly increasing, of course, we are always getting more and more information and we should adopt our stance and our policies accordingly. We should follow science and we should, of course, always value most highly the rules of proportionality and necessity when it comes to any restriction of a fundamental right.

I would like to respond to some of the comments made during the debate and, first of all, just thank all of our colleagues that participated in the debate. It was most illuminating and useful to hear your views on the subject.

First of all, to Mr George KATROUGALOS and also Mr Kamal JAFAROV, I think it is very important to point out this discrimination when it comes to access to vaccines and how huge the difference is between the access to vaccines in the wealthier countries and then those that have, let us say, the least. I think that Mr Kamal JAFAROV has an oral sub-amendment that I encourage all of you to adopt, which addresses this issue and makes it a part of the report and I think it belongs there well, which is why I supported it as well in the group.

As to Mr Bertrand BOUYX – I hope I am saying this correctly – I am sorry Monsieur (Sir), I wanted to comment that I think it is a little absolute, if I understood you correctly, that no one can question the proportionality of the introduction of the Covid Pass. Many have questioned the proportionality of the Covid Pass, in particular, its use to control access to public venues and even public transportation. I, myself, hold the view that it is disproportionate and not necessarily in line with scientific thought. So, it is an ongoing debate and I think this report illustrates quite well that these passes should only be used when absolutely strictly necessary and this is something that our Secretary General of the Council of Europe has also pointed out, so I am not alone in this opinion. 

And also I wanted to just quickly address this case of the French firefighter, which I believe that you refer to. I think it has been dismissed on procedural grounds, so we will still have to wait for a substantive decision to be taken on the issue of mandatory vaccination of certain professions. That is why, also, we leave the door open, we say it is possibly justifiable to mandate vaccinations for certain professions because, well, it can be proportional when you are dealing with a very vulnerable population to say, well, at least, people that work in hospitals or care homes for the elderly or something like that will have to be vaccinated in order to protect the people that they serve.

I wanted to thank Mr Givi MIKANADZE for bringing the important issue of the effects of Covid on prison populations to the floor because, as I understand, that report will be debated in the Standing Committee in November. I think it also belongs in this hemicycle. So, I think it is good that we brought it up.

I already addressed the accusations of Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER that I was somehow pressured. So I do not need to do that again.

And finally, I wanted to address the comments made by my colleague from Hungary about the Sputnik vaccine. So, just to be absolutely clear, we are talking here about vaccines that have been approved or listed by the World Health Organization. And they go through an equally professional and very diligent procedure as the European Medicines Agency. Their method of checking whether vaccines are safe and effective is equal to that of the European Medicines Agency and that is why there is no scientific evidence to support discriminating against people based on whether they have a vaccine that has been listed by the World Health Organization or approved for emergency use by the European Medicines Agency. Now, Sputnik fulfils neither of these requirements. It has not been approved by the European Medicines Agency and it has not been listed by the World Health Organization. And that is because science simply does not support it. It doesn't support it as effective and it has not been shown that it works against the Covid-19 pandemic. And that is why it is not on this list. So let us also keep the facts straight.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:13:55

Thank you, Madam Rapporteur.

Does the Chairperson of the Committee wish to speak?

You have 3 minutes.

Mr Damien COTTIER

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

12:14:06

Thank you, Madam President.

Dear colleagues,

The motion for a resolution recalled that some member states of the Council of Europe have restricted the freedoms of people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, especially by introducing the so-called covid passes. This resolution highlighted the possible discrimination between people vaccinated with different vaccines approved by the World Health Organization.

The issue of discrimination between those who have been vaccinated and those who have not was already examined in the report that I had the honour of drawing up on "pass" or covid certificates: protection of fundamental rights and legal implications". Our Assembly debated it in June of last year and adopted its proposals. My report stressed that if covid certificates are used as a basis for preferential treatment, this preferential treatment may constitute illegal discrimination.

This is the whole issue of the debate that has taken place today, on the balance to be found between the protection of public health through this means of the covid certificate and the protection of fundamental freedoms.

The report we are dealing with today deals with other things. It focuses on discrimination based on being vaccinated with different types of COVID-19 vaccines. While 10 vaccines against COVID are currently listed by the WHO in the case of its procedure, only five of them have been approved for marketing in the European Union, which leads to potential discrimination when these vaccines are not recognized for the purposes of the so-called covid certificates.

The rapporteur, Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, whose work is well known and highly respected, has worked as usual with great care, including a significant number of reflections from the Social Affairs Committee and important considerations from the Migration Committee. I thank both committees for their contributions. It has produced a carefully balanced report on this sensitive but important subject.

I must say that I regret, on behalf of the committee, that the integrity of the rapporteur is being questioned here in this House: that is not the way we should work in this House. We can agree or disagree on the substance, we can discuss the substance, but there is no reason to question the integrity of the rapporteur, especially not when it is someone like Mrs. Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR whose integrity is well known to all the members of our Assembly.

The result that is produced is therefore good. The draft resolution and recommendation were unanimously supported by our committee during its meeting in Bern in September: this shows the quality of the work and I recommend the approval of this recommendation and this resolution.

Thank you for your support.

Mr Larry BROCK

Canada

13:20:21

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Honourable colleagues,

Let me begin by thanking the rapporteur for raising the issue of discrimination in relation to vaccine mandates. Her report makes a strong case for limiting the use of such measures to where they are “strictly necessary,” pointing to the potential discriminatory effect of the measures and the limits they place on unvaccinated persons’ human rights, including the freedom of assembly and association, and the freedom of movement.

Events in Ottawa last winter demonstrate that care must be given to such concerns. While the public health justification for enforcing vaccine mandates has been made repeatedly by governments around the world during the pandemic, the coercive intent of such measures is often overlooked. Vaccine mandates, in addition to protecting public health, seek to coerce those hesitant to the vaccine to get vaccinated. The policies, I believe by design to a certain extent, seek to impose a cost for remaining unvaccinated. In many cases, such coercion may be mild, in line with other public health measures with a coercive element, such as anti-tobacco measures that make it inconvenient for people to smoke.

But in other cases, for example where remaining unvaccinated could lead to the loss of employment, the coercion is of a stronger nature. And in such cases, we must ask ourselves whether the aims sought, and the ends achieved justify the harm imposed. Even policies that achieve legitimate aims can infringe people’s rights to an unacceptable degree. That such measures are popular, or the product of democratic processes, is no guarantee that rights have been properly protected or that the state has not improperly intruded into personal lives of its citizens.

Instead, rights must be protected, particularly when doing so is unpopular. As George Will said: “The essence of constitutionalismin a democracy is not merely to shape and condition the nature of majorities, but also to stipulate that certain things are impermissible, no matter how large and fervent a majority might want them.”

COVID vaccine campaigns have been nothing if not fervent, and rightly so. Vaccines save lives and governments should be doing what they can to encourage people to get vaccinated. But as the emergency recedes, we must consider whether the more coercive elements of vaccine mandates are still required and take greater care to ensure any discriminatory effects, where mandates are maintained, are minimized.

Mr Geraint DAVIES

United Kingdom, SOC

13:21:00

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Honourable colleagues:

As parliamentarians, we must always be sensitive to the potential for discrimination in public policies. In the context of our transition away from pandemic emergency measures to a “new normal” of longer-term public health policies, it is critically important that these policies respect both science and individual rights.

Over the past two and a half years, we have collectively lived through one of the largest real-time public policy experiments in history. With the onset of the pandemic, governments had to implement measures that had little, if any, precedent and continually modify and adapt them in response to outcomes on the ground. Never before has developing medical and scientific knowledge been applied so quickly, and on such a huge scale, to public policy decision-making.

We have come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic. But even with all we have learned, there is still much we don’t know, and scientific and policy advice from leading sources in many cases remains unable to provide clear guidance.

As relates to vaccine mandates, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are unequivocal in stating that COVID-19 vaccines reduce the risk of severe illness, but are less certain about their efficacy in preventing infection and transmission. While a study of vaccine mandates by The Lancet in the United States found that they can be effective tools as part of broader vaccination efforts, the World Health Organization recommends caution in implementing mandates, citing ethical considerations.

In this context, determining whether vaccine mandates are necessary in every situation is perhaps impossible, and certainly open to legitimate debate. For that reason, we must acknowledge the serious costs to many individuals’ liberties and social rights. There is no question that many governments, including my own, employed pressure tactics on people to get vaccinated by withdrawing access to work, travel and social engagements. We now know that the bases for this pressure are at best questionable, and at worst absent.

It is clear that while protecting public health we cannot and should not discriminate against people who decide not to be vaccinated simply because we disagree with their decision. It is only where the data is clear and science strong that we can protect society and individuals equally. I hope we can strike a better balance when we face a similar challenge in the future.

Vote: Preventing vaccine discrimination

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:17:15

Thank you very much.

The debate is closed.

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented the draft resolution Document 15608 to which: 20 amendments, one sub-amendment and one oral amendment have been tabled, and the draft recommendation which has no amendments.

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

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

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments Nos. 1,  3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13 and 20 to the draft resolution, which were unanimously approved by the Committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

Is that so?

Mr Damien COTTIER

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

12:18:04

It is, Madam President.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:18:06

Thank you.

Does anyone object?

As there is no objection, I declare that Amendments Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13 and 20 to the draft resolution have been agreed.

There's an objection.

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments No. 2, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 to the draft resolution, which were rejected by the Committee with a two-thirds majority, be declared as rejected.

Is that so?

Mr Damien COTTIER

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

12:18:53

I can confirm that, Madam President.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:18:56

Does anyone object?

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:18:59

You are not enough, but you can stand up.

If anyone else objects, please stand up because we need at least 10 objections.

I see two at the moment. Three, four, but it's still not ten.

So, thank you.

Fewer than 10 members object, so the amendments are rejected.

 

I have been informed that the Committee wishes to propose an oral amendment, as follows:

In paragraph 6, after the second sentence, add the following words:

“In this regard the Assembly welcomes the UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/76/175 ‘Ensuring equitable, affordable, timely and universal access for all countries to vaccines in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic’.”

In my opinion the oral amendment meets the criteria of Rule 34.7.a. Is there any opposition to the amendment being debated?

That's not the case.

We will therefore proceed to the... yes, the rapporteur.

Can I call the rapporteur to support the oral amendment?

You have 30 seconds.

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC, Rapporteur

12:20:32

It's simply a matter of clarifying that we also want to focus on the discrimination based on geographical location, that there should also be a focus on that in the report, on the fair distribution of vaccines.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:20:49

Does anyone wish to speak against the oral amendment?

No.

The Committee is obviously in favour, so I shall now put the oral amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed:

The oral amendment is agreed.

Now we skip a few amendments which were rejected.

I call Ms Carmen LEYTE on behalf of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development to support Amendment No. 9, which we left behind.

You have 30 seconds to support the amendment.

Ms Carmen LEYTE

Spain, EPP/CD, Rapporteur for opinion

12:21:59

Thank you..

Well, now all of the amendments except for one.. so, I would like at this point.. we withdraw this particular amendment altogether in light with the rejections and adoptions that have been made.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:22:23

This amendment has a sub-amendment... [Interrupted by Ms Carmen LEYTE]

Ms Carmen LEYTE

Spain, EPP/CD, Rapporteur for opinion

12:22:41

The Rapporteur made a number of amendments, which we accept, because we feel that indeed, it improves the text.

It says that the technical issues are necessary concerning the person's country of residence, so we feel that this certificate ought to be added here.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:23:19

The translation wasn't so clear, but I understand a little bit of Spanish.

You actually now spoke about the amendment and about the sub-amendment, because I wanted to ask the Chair of the Committee to support the sub-amendment, but it was actually done.

Is anyone against the sub-amendment?

Because it was actually agreed. We have to work according to our procedures.

Obviously, no one is against the sub-amendment. Now we will vote on a sub-amendment first.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

 

It was accepted.

 

Now we come back to the main amendment, but actually we heard about it.

Does anyone wish to speak about the main amendment as amended?

That is not the case.

No one wants to speak against.

What is the opinion of the Committee?

Mr Damien COTTIER

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

12:24:32

 The Committee supported the amendment as sub-amended unanimously, Madam President.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly

12:24:37

Thank you.

I shall now put the amendment as sub-amendment to the vote. 

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

Amendment 9 as amended is agreed.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 15608 as amended. A simple majority is required.

The vote is now open.

Thank you. The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

The draft resolution as amended is adopted.

As there have been no amendments, we will now proceed to vote directly on the draft recommendation contained in Document 15608. A two-third majority is required.

The vote is now open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

The draft recommendation document 15608 is adopted.

Congratulations! Thank you.

A few minutes, just to change. Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR, as you wish, it is a fair debate. It is easier to find you if you go back to your seat, Sunna.

Free debate

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:27:45

We now come to the free debate of our session.

Under Rule 39 of the Assembly, this free debate is for topics not on the agenda of this part-session.

Members may speak on any other subject of their choice.

I remind members that on Monday we had the Current Affairs Debate on "Military Hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia, including Strikes against Settlements and Civilian Infrastructures".

Yesterday, we held an urgent debate on the "Political Consequences of the Russian Federation's Aggression against Ukraine".

Speaking time will be limited to 3 minutes.

The debate will finish by 12:55 p.m.

We will now hear from the speakers, first on behalf of the political groups.

The content of the debate is free, but I am confident that we will stay courteous and respectful to everyone.

Thank you.

The first speaker on behalf of the Socialist Group is Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR.

Ms Thórhildur Sunna ÆVARSDÓTTIR

Iceland, SOC, Spokesperson for the group

12:29:07

Thank you, Mister President.

I would like to use this opportunity to speak about the issue of political prisoners which have not been high on the Agenda this session, but should always be on our agenda and we should be reminded of it on a regular basis.

When I moved the report about the reported cases of political prisoners in the Russian Federation, and we adopted the resolution that came with it, one of the items of the resolution focused on making 30 October the international day of political prisoners, so that we would be reminded every year of the plight of political prisoners.

During my introductory speech for that report, I stated that imprisoning people for upholding their views and fighting for their convictions by peaceful means is a lethal weapon against democracy. It is not only a silencing tactic towards the individual critic whose voice will be silenced by imprisoning them, but it has a rippling silencing effect on all of society and societal discourse.

No true democracy can thrive where people are imprisoned for their opinions. No real democracy exists where you run the risk of being put into jail for standing up for your beliefs. No real democracy imprisons people because of their religion. It is simply antithesis to democracy and in citing such practices, having widespread political persecution in the form of imprisoning people that stand up against a government imprisoning people for having religious views that are somehow contrary to the powers that be, this is a lethal weapon against democracy because it leads to the complete destruction of real democratic discourse. How can you have a real democracy when people are afraid to voice their opinions? This is the fundamental tenet of our democratic model and, we, as the house of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, should do our utmost to heighten the visibility of people that have been imprisoned for their views.

I believe that 30 October, which this Assembly has already agreed to strive for, is a good date because it also helps reclaim a day that has been taken over by autocrats, by a regime that we have now deemed to be a terrorist regime. If we turn it back into the day of political prisoners, it will be a day that reminds us constantly of the value of a free democracy where everyone has a voice and does not have to be afraid to face consequences for using it.

Thank you.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:32:25

Thank you.

Now I am inviting Ms Nicole HÖCHST for the  European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.

May I remind the following speakers that it is better if you start by identifying the topic you wish to raise.

It will be better.

The floor is yours.

Ms Nicole HÖCHST

Germany, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group

12:32:52

President, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to speak about the situation as concerns democracy in Germany. First of all, fundamental values upon which the Council of Europe is built, parliamentary democracy, with its plurality, a cultural system which involves protection of the rule of law, human rights of every individual. These are the obligations of every individual and every government. To stand equal before the law, tolerance, social integration, and diversity have to be respected.

Unfortunately, in Germany this is not the case, and that is why I, as a member of the Council of Europe, would to call for rule of law to be closely scrutinised in Germany.

A number of different events over the last years have made us question whether there is rule of law in Germany, whether it is being trampled. Former Chancellor Angela Merkel criticised the result of the Thuringia elections and the election of Prime Minister Kemmerich there and called for those elections to be annulled. This was taken up by the Antifa organisation, and this involved a number of different threats and accusations in the media. It led to police being deployed against [those] who protested against the government and others as well. Tax money has been used to fight all conservative ideas, in an analogue and digital fashion. Political education is against conservative ideas.

The German state radio, which is funded with contributions, is no longer independent. The time has come to question what is going on. We have a system of control in place. There is also a problem with elections. The Berlin elections were declared annulled and no longer valid because of irregularities, it was claimed. But there was no clarity with regard to what the problem was.

The list of very questionable issues is very long. Pointing at others with the finger of morality now has to be questioned. Maybe the time has come to point the finger at Germany, because democracy is not being completely respected in Germany.

Of course, the democratic rights of minorities... but this is something that has now taken precedence over the human rights and democracy delivered to the majority, so here are a number of very serious problems.

Thank you very much.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:36:19

Thank you.

Now the floor is for Mr Iulian BULAI, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. He's the president of the ALDE group.

The floor is yours.

Mr Iulian BULAI

Romania, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group

12:36:30

Thank you, President [in Turkish]

I would like to have this opportunity to address some things and some congratulations.

First of all I would like to think all of you for staying today now till the end of the debates. It's really a great sign of respect for this assembly. And I would also like to thank everyone for a great contribution to this session.

It's been very many great debates, great resolutions, reports.

So, thank you, thank you so much for that.

Now, I also want to congratulate some people who have initiated a great resolution that addresses the cases of political prisoners. And the name of that resolution is "kara-murza list".

A resolution asking for a report calling upon the national parliaments to adopt legislation creating a list of oppressors of political prisoners that would be banned to enter national Member States of the Council of Europe. As a mirroring initiative, the Magnitsky legislation that we have been approaching in this hemicycle. So I'm very thankful that presidential committee yesterday evening has allowed to have a separate report on that.

Besides this, I would also like to thank everyone who both participated and contributed to the side event our group, the ALDE group, organised on political prisoners in Belarus.

It's been a great event. We received great guests and there are several things that we should go home with. A call on god-parenting the political prisoners, adopting one political prisoner in order to make their lives in prison and their relatives a bit better by keeping contact with both them and their relatives.

And, second, a reiteration of having the contact group initiated by the Secretary General in the coming summit's agenda.

And the third call is a debate on the opportunity of the creation of the position for general rapporteur for political prisoners.

Having that in mind, I thank all of you for the support of these ideas and looking forward to debate further on this in the coming session.

 

Thank you, President. [in Turkish]

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:38:54

["You're welcome." in Turkish]

Now I invite Mr Alexandros TRIANTAFYLLIDIS, on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

 

Mr Alexandros TRIANTAFYLLIDIS

Greece, UEL, Spokesperson for the group

12:39:05

Thank you very much Mr President,

We're writing the epilogue of this session of the Parliamentary Assembly.

I would like to contribute to the collective concern as concerns the issue of respecting rule of law in Türkiye. We're speaking about the obligations that it has made, or has by nature, to the Council of Europe.

Taking into consideration what was said by all of the groups, we've heard about the backsliding of democracy in Türkiye, and that the justice system is in the stranglehold of the government, numerous different arrests of politicians and journalists as well.

The policy of Mr Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's government, which has used a number of different pretexts to imprison people. Mr Selahattin Demirtaş from the HDP has been in prison since 2016. We have a violation of the Istanbul Convention. Türkiye has not implemented the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. A wonderful example is the case of Mr Osman Kavala. Numerous different issues as concerns the state not under the rule of law in Türkiye.

Numerous things have been said, but what happened after that? Colleagues have asked what does the Parliamentary Assembly intend to do with this total collapse of democracy in Türkiye?

On a daily basis, the government of Türkiye threatens the territorial integrity of my country, Greece: nothing has been done by the Council of Europe. We have received threats from the president of the Republic of Türkiye himself as concerns what has been done.

Our continental shelf, the protection of our territorial waters: nothing on that front either has been done, irrespective of the numerous and repeated violations of our territory. We have our national airspace which is violated on a daily basis by Turkish aircraft. These are things which take place every day. These are threats against a neighbouring country within the Council of Europe.

Irrespective of all of that, we have nothing that has been done, and at the same time let's not forget that the report which has been issued by European Parliament and this body itself has underlined the problems that exist, has suggested the measures that have to be taken. Hopefully those measures will taken some sort of form, they'll crystallise, they'll exist, because up until now they're just dead letter.

We need this to happen for stability and peace in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Thank you.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:42:14

Thank you.

Dear colleague, I wish you had used your time for another subject, because this was debated in the plenary comprehensively.

Three hours in this plenary.

There are other monitoring issues. Also Romania-Hungary was debated here.

Anyhow, thanks for your speech.

Now I move to the individual speakers.

The first on the list is Mr Levan IOSELIANI, from Georgia.

Mr Levan IOSELIANI

Georgia, SOC

12:42:54

Mister President,

I would like to respond to the international political agenda of the last two days, and the international assessment of the aggression carried out by Russia in Ukraine.

Yesterday, the United Nations adopted a resolution against Russia's aggressive actions. The adopted resolution notes that the regions of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia are temporarily occupied by Russia as a result of aggression, violating Ukraine's territorial integrity, political independence.

143 member states supported the document, and only five countries allied to Russia were against this resolution. In fact, today, Russia is facing the rest of the world with its aggressive policy, and we all know is that it is on the wrong side of history.

Dear Friends,

Today, Russia is left alone in front of the whole rest of the world. It has no strategic ally or ideal supporter, which no doubt leads to the victory of Ukraine and the entire democratic world.

As a representative of the Georgian delegation, I would like to respond from the Georgian side. Georgia is exactly the country that has experienced the aggression of Russia.

However, today Georgian people supports the purpose of the adopted resolutions of the Council of Europe and the United Nations General Assembly.

It is impossible for us, who have experienced Russian aggression, not to be on the side of the main message of the world today.

No government can ignore the declared choice of the citizens of Georgia to be an integral part of the West and the European family.

Thank you.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:44:41

Thank you, sir.

Now the floor is for Mr Hayk MAMIJANYAN from Armenia.

I again remind the speakers to please start by identifying the topic you wish to raise.

Thank you.

Mr Hayk MAMIJANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

12:44:59

Ladies and gentlemen, on the first day of this session there was a debate about Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia.

There's a saying "don't thank for the truth". But I do have to say: thank you for having the courage to speak up the truth. Of course I mean those who did it in this semicycle and all others who weren't deaf to the voices of my people.

That type of courage unfortunately became a rare bird in our woods, but the discussion didn't involve issues regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

We haven't spoken about the people who believed that five statements of the world leaders in the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group regarding self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh meant something.

People who peacefully lived in their homeland and hope the words "non-use of force" had power. They were cruelly deceived. Because of the foolish diplomacy of the current government of Armenia, the diversification of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is becoming a reality.

The world is going to live... [Interrupted by the President]

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:46:12

Please, one point of order, sir, please.

Mr Rafael HUSEYNOV

Azerbaijan, ALDE

12:46:16

In the debate issues that are not on the agenda can be discussed.

In this session we have already discussed the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict in detail.

Therefore, I'd like to ask you to interrupt this speech immediately.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:46:38

Indeed.

The Secretariat and I expressed at the beginning, that these topics, the urgent affairs topics and the current affairs topic, one minute.

But you continued.

Now, for Mr Hayk MAMIJANYAN, another point of order. Okay.

Mr Vladimir VARDANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

12:47:02

Honourable Chair,

You are acting now as a chair of this Plenary.

I'm not a native speaker, but the word "free" means that everybody can discuss the issues which were either covered or not covered during discussions.

This is the first [thing].

Second, the respectful chair of this Parliamentary Assembly session should not interrupt the speeches of the orator.

If there is a need of a point of order, you may provide it between the speeches - but not interrupt the speaker.

It is against the values of this organisation.

It is against human rights.

This is against the principles of parliamentary democracy.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:48:13

I didn't intend to interrupt any speaker, but I had to take any point of order.

I did them truly.

Now, what I wish is that the speaker continues, but it gives the right to the next delegation to speak on the same subject.

Please continue. Conclude your speech, please.

Mr Hayk MAMIJANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

12:48:43

First of all... [speech interrupted]

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:48:44

One minute...

Mr Hayk MAMIJANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

12:48:46

If you interrupt my speech once, you have to do it again, for the point of order, and afterwards I will continue.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:48:54

Yes, Mister Ruben RUBINYAN.

Mr Ruben RUBINYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

12:49:00

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ,

Continuing my colleague's arguments, which are all true, Mr Hayk MAMIJANYAN was actually talking about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which was not covered during the current affairs debate.

I reiterate that you have no right to interrupt my colleague's speech, and he does not have to continue his speech, but he has to speak again as long as he wishes to.

Thank you.

Please, I understand that you are from Türkiye, but you are not from Türkiye in this context. You are chairing this session.

Chair it neutrally.

Thank you.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:49:41

[Off-mic conversation in the background]

Mr Samad SEYIDOV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

12:49:53

Mister President.

Thank you very much.

Sorry for interrupting again, but this is not right. This is not according to the rule.

If you allowed this gentleman to speak, in this case we have the right as a representative of Azerbaijan to talk about the issue, because at the beginning we accepted and we decided not to cover this question.

But if this gentleman is going to speak about the question, which we have already discussed, in this case please allow the representative of Azerbaijan to speak in exactly the same matter.

Thank you.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:50:32

Yes, now let's continue this session.

The colleague concludes his speech, and we will continue on the list.

Mr Hayk MAMIJANYAN

Armenia, EPP/CD

12:50:44

This is what happens when good people don't speak.

This is what I was talking about when two delegations have a right to try to decide which delegation will and will not speak.

I will end up my speech till the end.

Because of the foolish diplomacy of the current government of Armenia, the idea of diversification of Armenia and Azerbaijani relations and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is becoming a reality.

The world is going to leave small Artsakh along with Azerbaijan.

Unfortunately, that story is not going to end like David and Goliath.

Make no mistakes - not because of a lack of will to stand up for their future of the people of Artsakh, it won't end up that way, because in the history of international relations conflicts of self-determination never were resolved by the negotiations between metropolis and the minority.

It will end up the same way it ended for the woman who was tortured and killed by the Azerbaijani soldiers.

I'm not neglecting the importance of the issues discussed in these chambers, but I do believe that the mutilation of a female soldier, who was stripped naked and had a text written on her breast and stomach, had a stone placed in her eye socket, and a severed finger in her mouth, has at least the same importance that the discrimination of women in the world of sports we have discussed yesterday.

It will end the same way it ended for Armenian soldiers, prisoners of war captured by Azerbaijani troops and killed just for fun, just because they are Armenian.

I know that some of you are fed up of us speaking about this issue, and some of you are horrified by the things that I have just said.

But if the status of Nagorno-Karabakh will be left out of the scope of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations, be sure that my future speeches about the people of Nagorno-Karabakh in the Parliamentary Assembly will be much more horrifying, and maybe even will be written in the past tense.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

If you continue not to speak the truth and neglect what is happening in our region - especially in Nagorno-Karabakh - it will be very hard to clear the smile that I saw on the face of the Chair while trying to not let me speak.

Thank you.

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR, President of the Assembly

12:53:11

Just to clarify, I didn't interrupt. I just took the point of order as I have to do.

This is the case.

Now the floor is for Mr Kamal JAFAROV, from Azerbaijan.

I am afraid that we have to finish this session with this speaker.

The floor is yours.

Mr Kamal JAFAROV

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

12:53:45

Thank you very much, Mister President.

Dear colleagues,

If you can conclude that there is a crime by just watching a single video, then why do we need the courts and the prosecution? You can see many things in the video, but the image and the fact are not the same thing. Then what is the fact in the video? That is a very delicate issue that needs to be responded to not by politicians but by law enforcement agencies.

Therefore, mental and material elements of alleged crimes need to be proved. Therefore, all the facts of the alleged crime need to be established. For this purpose, the Azerbaijani military prosecutor's office announced the initiation of a criminal investigation regarding the alleged crimes. We did this because of our serious commitment to international humanitarian law. But so far, we have not heard anything from the Armenian side regarding the videos depicting inhuman, degrading treatment of Azerbaijani corpses by Armenian military forces.

But what we heard is of Armenian law enforcement agencies prosecuting those Armenians that would release them, they come here, and they advocate for the release of so-called "prisoners of war". When we release them, they prosecute them. Now the Armenians do not want to go back to Armenia, they want to go to a third country. 

Dear colleagues, I have to say that this is a clear example of hypocrisy, which is deeply rooted in some MPs here as well.

All of you should know that we will never forget, we have not forgotten what happened in Khojaly. Armenian armed forces brutally murdered 613 Azerbaijani civilians in just one night. Since the first Karabakh war, 4 000 Azerbaijani remain missing. I demand from the political and military leadership of Armenia to provide locations of the mass graves of Azerbaijanis.

Just two weeks ago, tortured and killed, Azerbaijani military forces, their mass grave location was found in the village of Edilli. Edilli was used as a concentration camp of Azerbaijani hostages by Armenian military forces. 

One month ago, after the liberation of Lachin, we found that Armenians planted 1 400 mines in 2021. So while they were claiming that, they were giving fake mine plans, they were planting new ones.

We have not forgotten this and we will never forget.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:56:58

Thank you, Mister Kamal JAFAROV.

Now we will have the last speaker in this debate, because we are running out of time.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

12:57:04

The next speaker is Mr Jean-Pierre GRIN, from Switzerland.

You have the floor.

Mr Jean-Pierre GRIN

Switzerland, ALDE

12:57:14

Thank you very much, Mr President.

At the end of this week's part session, please allow me to make a few peaceful comments with regard to the current times that we are living through.

The Council of Europe, in these times of conflict, must remain a body committed to mediation and peace.

What we've seen in recent years is that the various different conventions and treaties signed by Council of Europe countries have not always been respected. Some countries have even abandoned them. The countries are still here at the Council of Europe - apart from Russia, of course - but it is their leaders who are changing and not always respecting the conventions that have been signed. The attack on Ukraine by Russia last February was the ultimate example of this.

At a time when we are talking about the environment, sustainable development and CO2 emissions, this murderous and disgraceful war will overshadow these different legitimate concerns for many years to come. With this conflict, the protection of the environment has taken a back seat, despite the pollution of the air, soil and water being caused by the bombings, and pollution of all kinds.

Furthermore, the current escalation of hostilities by Russia towards full-scale war has caused extensive damage to various infrastructures and the environment in many parts of Ukraine. An immediate concern is the safety Ukraine's nuclear power plants, especially the one in Zaporizhia, which has come under bombing.

For all these offences and the escalation of this conflict, the Council of Europe must continue its reflections on the possibility of developing a new criminal offence of "ecocide" at international level, because this war - and the pollution it is generating - is nullifying for years to come all the efforts that are being made by the various countries that signed up to the Paris Agreement to combat global warming.

The human damage to women and children caused by this war of aggression is dramatic, as is the exodus of countless refugees, who are being taken in by neighbouring countries.

In these dangerous times in Europe, the United States must not engage in a policy of conflict escalation that will result in the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Instead, it must exercise its power not to preach, but to become a force for peace, urging Russia and Ukraine to take the first diplomatic steps to bring both sides to the negotiating table, and to reach compromises that will restore peace to the region.

It is also of paramount importance that the European coalition encourages a ceasefire by forcing the parties to sit around a negotiating table. I know that this will be very difficult, but it is the best way to avoid the continuation of this despicable conflict in the 21st century.

No population in the world deserves what the Ukrainian people are currently having to go through.

Humans are capable, ladies and gentlemen, of wonderful things, but also of the worst kind of evil.

Diplomacy, my dear colleagues, must urgently reclaim its rightful position: the Council of Europe should do everything it can to ensure that it does.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

13:00:35

Thank you, Mister GRIN.

I must now interrupt the list of speakers.

Ms Nigar ARPADARAI

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

13:21:00

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear colleagues,

There have been lots of accusations and finger pointing from Arm and Az delegations, so I don’t want to make loud statements, I want to give you couple of facts.

It has been almost 2 years since the end of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There are ups and downs in the negotiations process and recently we heard some encouraging news from the European summit in Prague where both Armenia and Azerbaijan participated and talked actively.

However, let’s ask ourselves, why this conflict is not resolved yet, why is it still there for more than 30 years. And why after 2 years since the end of full-scale war in 2020, there is still no comprehensive and sustainable peace deal?

There are many reasons for this, obviously, but there is one which has been overseen by international community. Which deserves much more attention from all of you.

It is the fact that Armenian constitution contains territorial claims towards Azerbaijan. This is the fact that can be easily checked.

Armenian Constitution refers to Declaration of Independence, which claim that part of Az-ni land, Karabakh is the territory of Armenia. This was confirmed by Armenian Constitutional Court.

Obviously, this directly contradicts with position of this esteemed organization as well as with the whole international community including UN, OSCE and others, where Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan, always was and always will be.

This is a fact. Another fact that Azerbaijani territories were occupied by Armenia for 3 decades, 4 UN SC resolutions demanding unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from Az-ni lands remained a piece of paper by Armenia. Armenia should have been sanctioned for this, but international community turned a blind eye on this fact.

For 3 decades of the conflict it is happening on Azerbaijani soil not in Armenia , now Armenia plays a victim. But what is much more sad, is that it is being supported in this here in Europe. All those politicians that ignite revanchist ideas of Armenias, are not helping Armenia. They are using it for political games. this is something I want to tell to my Armenian colleagues.

Everyone says now we look for peace. Armenia and its government keeps on repeating that it is ready for peace. However, in order to achieve this peace, Armenia should drop territorial claims towards Azerbaijan. How are they planning to do it? I am not aware of any plans by Armenian government or parliament to change their constitution in this respect.

Is this esteemed assembly going to do something about the fact that its member has territorial claims against another member in its Constitution? Or it will pretend like nothing is there as it did for more than 20 years of their membership in the Council?

Ms Khatia DEKANOIDZE

Georgia, EPP/CD

13:21:00

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Europe is in reality when Ukraine stands as a shield for 233 days. The crimes against humanity committed by Russia in Ukraine and the propaganda articulated by the Kremlin showed the extent to which the free world is now under attack.

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a turning point in European history. But the West witnessed Putin’s brutal action against Georgia in 2008 invading my country. Furthermore, the Russian invasion of Georgia started in the 90s when the massacre of civilians and ethnic cleansing was committed by Russians in Abkhazia.

Russia encroaches on Georgia, and Ukraine for our European aspirations and the strong will to become the part of Euro-Atlantic community.

The West remained silent in 2008, but today, looking at Ukrainians' courage and amazing bravery the transatlantic community and the European Union must present themselves as being unexpectedly determined and united. We must remember that every passing week and month, this western unity will be increasingly tested by the evil bombing of kindergartens and playgrounds.

One topic which must reunite at the top of the EU agenda is the enlargement of the European Union.

The people of Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova are Europeans and see their historic place in Europe. Georgia needs a transparent, western style government, with western values and no political justice. One of the requirements of 12 that must lead Georgia to the larger EU integration process is deoligarchization. It is the genuine formula: Oligarchs cant coexist with European values. Despite the fact that 80 percent of Georgian citizens are pro-European, oligarchy remains the main obstacle to Georgia’s fast EU integration. It is obvious if there are no European values respected by the governments – Russian influence grows.

The Council of Europe must raise awareness about the use of political persecution in Georgia. Recently, The EU parliament deplored the significant deterioration of the media situation in Georgia, including cases of intimidation, threats and violence, and politically motivated criminal investigations into media workers and owners, singling out the sentencing of Mtavari Arkhi channel Director Nika Gvaramia.

The Members called for the release of former President Mikhail Saakashvili from prison on humanitarian grounds in order to allow him to undergo proper medical treatment abroad and for the imposition of personal sanctions on oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili for his role in the deterioration of the political process in Georgia.

Despite challenges, we are Europe. Let's not give space to EU skeptics.

Ms Sevinj FATALIYEVA

Azerbaijan, EC/DA

13:21:00

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

One of the severest humanitarian consequences of the former conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, that Azerbaijan is facing is landmines planted en masse on its territories. Unfortunately, over the period that has passed since the last part-session of our Assembly, the number of victims of landmines in Azerbaijan has continued to grow. Just last week, we had two killed and three seriously injured. Thus, since the signing of the Trilateral Statement of 10 November 2020, around 250 persons people have been killed or injured as a result of mine explosions in those territories. In total, over the past 30 years, about 3300 people have become victims of mines.

Against this background, it is outrageous that Armenia still continues to plant mines in territories of Azerbaijan creating additional obstacles for the return of IDPs and impeding wide-ranging rehabilitation and reconstruction works. Recently, more than 1400 anti-personnel and anti-tank mines that have been produced in Armenia in 2021 have discovered in Lachin, Kalbajar and Dashkasan districts of Azerbaijan. This represent clear evidence that these mines were planted in the territory of Azerbaijan after the signing of 10 November 2020 Trilateral Statement which announced an end to all military activities between Armenia and Azerbaijan and envisaged the withdrawal of all Armenian forces from the territory of Azerbaijan.

The amount and type of the mines found by the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan demonstrate that Armenia, instead of embracing the overall process of post-conflict normalization and supporting the efforts to establish long-term peace, security and cooperation in the region, is interested in continuing its destructive policy, hampering the return of civilian life in the liberated territories and putting innocent civilians in danger.

Laying mines in these territories is contrary to Armenia's obligations, including those undertaken under the Trilateral Statement of 10 November 2020, and constitutes a war crime. Armenia had not withdrawn its armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan, had not ceased military activities against the Republic of Azerbaijan. Instead, Armenia continues to build fortifications, military- engineering activities in the territory of Azerbaijan, and in this context, carries out large-scale mining therein.

The above-mentioned demonstrates the urgent necessity for the soonest withdrawal of all Armenian armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan as required by the general international law, as well as the Trilateral Statement.

Armenia has long rejected having any maps of the minefields calling Azerbaijan's demand a "fake agenda", then refused to hand over them but ultimately had to release these records in piecemeal fashion once faced international pressure. Making matters worse, once examined by field specialists it tuned out the mine formularies were incomplete covering only part of the liberated territories, a significant part were unreliable, while others were containing no information pertinent to de-mining. The practical utility of the records of the minefields handed over by Armenia is around 25 percent while the records constitute around 5 percent of all the territory liberated from Armenia's occupation.

We urge international community to ramp up efforts to exert pressure on Armenia to finally withdraw all its armed forces from the territory of Azerbaijan and to hold Armenia accountable for the indiscriminate mine deploying, non-release of full information about deployed mines and victims of those mines. Armenia should also cooperate to provide material and technical assistance to demining operations.

Mr Givi MIKANADZE

Georgia, SOC

13:21:00

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

In June 2022 the European Council recognized Georgia’s European perspective based on the application for EU membership. It is worth saying that for many years Georgia has been a front-runner in reforms among the Eastern Partnership countries. Georgia has implemented up to 54% of the Association Agreement with the EU and up to 65% will be completed by the end of 2024.

At the beginning of July, the Parliament of Georgia launched the follow-up process for the 12 priorities outlined by the European Commission for Georgia to grant the EU candidate status. Nine parliamentary working groups have been created to work on specific priorities - to assess the state of play in each area and propose initiatives to be adopted by the Parliament. All parliamentary political parties were invited to participate in the process of fulfilling the recommendations. The ruling party, Georgian Dream, together with 4 opposition parliamentary groups (Citizens, Girchi, European Socialists and For Georgia) have been engaging in deliberations of the working groups. Three political parties (UNM, Lelo and Strategy Agmashenebeli) refuse to participate on the working group level, but two of them engage sporadically in the committee hearings and plenary votings, as well as in developing election procedures for a new Ombudsman. Civil society organizations via the Georgian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, state institutions and experts also participated in the meetings.

Up to 60 working group meetings have been conducted during the July-September period. The following results have been made towards the implementation of the action plan:

1. Amendments to the legislation on proactive consideration of the ECHR judgements by the Georgian courts have been adopted on its first hearing;

2. Amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament have established transparent and inclusive selection procedures for the new Ombudsman. The ruling party made a statement that Georgian Dream will not nominate a candidate for the position of Ombudsman. Currently, the selection is underway and at least 7 candidates for further consideration should be nominated by the opposition in October;

3. Amendments to the Election Code have been considered in accordance with the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR, the Venice Commission and the GRECO. Important amendments establishing an electronic voting system, party financing-related issues, restrictions on illegal use of administrative resources, and certification of members of the precinct election commissions were adopted by the Parliament on its first hearing and sent to the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission for additional expert opinion;

4. Amendments to the Rules of Procedure to strengthen the parliamentary oversight have been developed and adopted by the Parliament on its first hearing. Based on these amendments the number of interpellations will double, ministers will be obliged to present written reports 5 days prior to the hearing within the framework of the ministerial hour, deadline for answering MP’s question will be reduced from 15 to 10 days.

It is worth highlighting that these amendments were adopted with multi-party support. It is foreseen that all 12 priorities put forward by the European Commission for Georgia to grant the EU candidate status are on track to be adopted by the end of 2022. The ninth convocation of the Georgian Parliament, based on the vast majority support and the will of the society has introduced special article in the Constitution of Georgia that the goal for Georgia is to become a member of the European Union and NATO. We are more than committed to continuing all relevant reforms, important for our country and society and for fulfilling historical goal - to become a part of the European Family.

Ms Arzu ERDEM

Türkiye, NR

13:21:00

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear President, Dear Colleagues,

During each session, across the Palais de Europe, we see people hanging the pictures of Abdullah Öcalan, leader of terrorist organization, PKK, and demonstrating in support of PKK.

I regret that it happened this week too. Supporters of the PKK terrorist organization held a protest unfurling pictures of Öcalan and chanting for “freedom of Öcalan”.

PKK and Öcalan claimed the lives of forty thousands of people, most of them civilians, in Türkiye over the past 30 years. It destroyed thousands of villages and towns in the south-east of Türkiye.

Those who saved their lives from the heinous attacks of PKK terrorist organization were forced to flee their home towns.

PKK continues to attack Turkish citizens and cities.

Turkey has been the target of number of terrorist organizations including PKK. I am disappointed that Turkey’s efforts to combat terrorism and its just cause to protect its citizens from the atrocities of the terrorism are generally neglected in this Assembly.

In the case-law of Strasbourg and in this Assembly, praising and promoting violence and terrorism is not accepted as freedom of expression. And it is actually a crime.

Allowing such protests here in Strasbourg praising terrorism is absolutely unacceptable and intolerable.

I call on relevant authorities to put an end to these protests praising terrorism and encouraging those in favour of the terrorism and violence.

I also ask my colleagues here in this Assembly to support my call.

Thank you.

Mr Percy DOWNE

Canada

13:22:34

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Honourable colleagues,

Today, I would like to use the time I have in this free debate to discuss the impact on global food security of the unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Russia’s actions in Ukraine have been directly impacting innocent civilians daily for over six months.

And while Russia’s war has further compromised them, global supply chains were already struggling after more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It served as a reminder of the many things we members of a modern, prosperous society take for granted. People accustomed to regarding shortages as something that happens in other parts of the world, or to our grandparents’ generation, faced empty shelves and panic buying, as supply chains were strained by a pandemic that affected the entire world. Suddenly the efficiencies of “just-in-time inventory” and global supply chains were no longer a given, as meticulously calibrated logistic systems strained and sometimes broke under the pressure, as suppliers locked down and border restrictions made international travel became much more difficult.

But for all the havoc wreaked by the pandemic, it’s not the only cause of such problems. One only has to look at the events of the past few months to see what happens when one bad actor decides to upset the international order. The damage caused by Russia’s aggression has spread far beyond its borders. And above it all is the ever-present threat posed by climate change, as extreme weather plays havoc with agriculture the world over.

For its part, Canada has not been immune to the effect of climate change. Although this year’s wheat harvest is expected to be a bumper crop, 2021’s was the lowest in years, as drought swept the Canadian Prairies. With the loss of so much farmland in Ukraine, every bushel of grain is needed now, which only serves to highlight the importance of food security.

In June, Canada responded by committing C$52 million to provide Ukraine with grain storage capacity and to enable diagnostic testing and monitoring of animal diseases to allow for export certification. Canada has also promised C$2 million to support the completion of a dairy processing plant in Western Ukraine.

And Canada will continue to support Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.

Progress report (continued)

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly

13:00:46

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

That concludes that the debate is closed. 

We turn now to the Progress Report of the Bureau.

This morning the Bureau has proposed several decisions for ratification by the Assembly. They are set out in the Progress Report you find in Document 15626 Addendums 2 and 3. The Bureau first proposes several references to Committee.

Are there any objections to these references? 

I do not see any.

So then, they have been accepted.

I now propose that the other decisions in the Progress Report, which you will find in Document 15632 Addendums 2 and 3 will be ratified. Are there any objections?

I do not see any.

We have now come to the end of our business.

I would like to thank all members, especially those who are still present here, and especially, of course, the Rapporteurs of Committees, and the Chairs of Committees who have all worked so hard.

Overall, I think this Assembly has shown that it is a mature Assembly that can handle the most difficult issues. 

I would like to thank the Vice-Presidents who chaired during this part-session:

Mr Bertrand BOUYX

Mr Antonio GUTIÉRREZ LIMONES

Mr John HOWELL

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Mr Zsolt NÉMETH

Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN

Mr Mihail POPSOI

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Mr Ahmet YILDIZ

I also, of course, would like to thank the staff and interpreters, both permanent and temporary, who have worked hard to make this Part-Session overall a success.

Please look at home at all the publications that have been shown in the result of this Assembly. You always should stay humble but you can be a bit proud. We really delivered.

The first part session of the 2023 Session will be held from 23 to 27 January 2023.

I declare the fourth part session of the 2022 Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe closed.

The sitting is closed.

 

The session is closed at 1:00 p.m.