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25 April 2023 afternoon

2023 - Second part-session Print sitting

Sitting video(s) 1 / 1

Opening of the sitting num 11

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


The sitting is open.

Dear colleagues,

This afternoon the Agenda calls for the election of one judge to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Romania.

The list of candidates and biographical notices and the opinion of the Committee on the Election of Judges are to be found in Documents 15733 and 15745 and Addendum 2.

You have already yesterday tested with the voting system in this hemicycle but for this vote to elect a judge the ballot is slightly different from the test vote we held yesterday.

Please ensure that you are sitting in your designated seat. Then insert your voting card. You must leave your voting card in the slot throughout the vote until around 3:30 p.m. If you remove your card before the ballot is closed, your vote will not be counted. If you remove it but you pity it, then you can put it back again and do it. So we need half an hour to start the vote and to end the vote and if you want your vote to be counted, your voting card should be in the slot.

You will see then the names of the three candidates on the screen at your seat and you can navigate between the three names using the little arrows. Once you have selected the name of your chosen candidate, you should vote “For” by pressing the green button. If you wish to abstain, please press the white button. A blue light will then appear at your desk to show you have cast your vote. You do not need to vote “against” the other candidates so please do not use the red button. It is always dangerous to use a red button.

Each political group has appointed a teller according to the rules. The tellers are:

For the Group of the European People's Party: Mr Serhii SOBOLIEV

For the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group: Mr Stefan SCHENNACH

For the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe: Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN

For the European Conservatives Group: Mr Bob van PAREREN

For the Group of the Unified European Left: Ms Laura CASTEL

I will announce the result of the elections later this afternoon.

For this first ballot, an absolute majority of the votes is required. If a second round has to be organised, it will take place tomorrow afternoon from 4:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

I now declare the ballot open.

We have a whole half an hour so wait a second I will say thank you very much for updating me. I cannot see what you see. The names will arrive, I hope and then you will be able to cast your votes. Wait a second. 

Could you please update me from the other side? Do you have names? No names. Still the same. Okay! One second. 

Dear colleagues, the seconds have now changed to two minutes. In two minutes' time, things will be okay.

Everything is all right and I have got good hope that everything is all right and you are now enabled to cast your vote.

The vote is open. 

For those who entered the hall, the hemicycle, later, I recall what I said at the beginning, please ensure if you vote that you are in the designated seat and insert your voting card. You must leave the voting card in the slots throughout the vote until 3:30 p.m. If you remove it before the ballot is closed, your vote will not be counted.

You will see the names of three candidates on your screen at your seat and you can navigate between the three names using the little arrows. Once you have selected the name of your chosen candidate, you should vote "For" by pressing the green button. If you wish to abstain, please press the white button. A blue light will appear at your desk to show you have cast your vote. So those who already see a blue light, they know that they have passed the test. You do not know the vote against the other candidates, so please do not use the red button. 

Everything is clear? I see a lot of blue lights, so now we will continue with the sitting and until 3:30 p.m. the voting procedure is open. 

We now come to the communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Assembly, presented by Ms Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and Chair of the Committee of Ministers.

146 voting cards are there at this moment already. 134 have voted. If there are people who have engaged with some special problems, please let us know. And we can come and help you. 

Address: Communication from the Committee of Ministers

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Colleagues, we now come to the communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Assembly presented by Ms Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and Chair of the Committee of Ministers.

This will be followed by questions to Ms Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR.

It is my pleasure, Madam Minister, to welcome you here in our hemicycle, which happens to be also in the building of the European Parliament, but this is the hemicycle of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.

Madam Minister, we are very thankful for you taking the time in these busy times to exchange views with us.

Your country Iceland, which has taken over the presidency of the Committee of Ministers, for the third time since it became a member on 7 March 1950, has an exciting challenge to prepare: revitalising the Council of Europe's mandate and impact through the decisions that will be taken at the Fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe now in three weeks time, on 16 and 17 May of this year.

The Fourth Summit, which we will discuss in our current affairs debate later this afternoon, will be a great occasion for European leaders to focus their attention on reaffirming the values of Europe and stand united against the challenges that threaten our stability.

This, as we all know, will only be achieved through co-operation and collaboration. Your presentation will, I believe, also touch upon the implementation of priorities chosen by the Icelandic Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, which are extremely timely and very much concur with the priorities of our Parliamentary Assembly.

Madam Minister, dear Ms Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR, you can rest assured that the Parliamentary Assembly will do its utmost to contribute significantly to its success in a true spirit of collaboration and synergy between the two statutory bodies of the Council of Europe, which can only strengthen us all and make us more effective.

Madam Minister, you found your way to our hemicycle. Now please find your way to the place here in front of us. The floor is yours.

Ms. Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and Chair of the Committee of Ministers


Thank you, Mister President, Madam Secretary General, Madam Secretary General of the Assembly, distinguished parliamentarians.

It is an honour for me, and a pleasure, to address you today. We are in the final stages of the Icelandic Presidency of the Council of Europe. In only three weeks, European heads of state and government will gather in Reykjavík at the Council of Europe's fourth summit since its establishment. 

The past year has been turbulent, and in many ways, traumatic. Iceland's presidency has been a very busy time – not least for the very small team that we have here in Strasbourg, consisting of three diplomats and two supporting staff. However, it is my firm belief that strength can come in small packages, and being few in numbers makes it imperative to focus resources and count on teamwork and support to get things done. So today, I do want to express my gratitude to you Madam Secretary General, to the Secretariat of the Committee of Ministers, to the Parliamentary Assembly, and to you Mister Tiny KOX, and your Secretariat for the excellent collaboration we have had during our term in the presidency. 

In approaching the many challenges that we face, we have enjoyed genuine team spirit and a strong sense of urgency in making things happen for the cause that we all share. Let us not deceive ourselves: these are turbulent times. The events of the past years, and the upcoming years, along with our responses, will have great consequences for a long time. These are serious times that demand much from all of us who have decided to shoulder responsibility in our societies. These are times that demand more leadership, and less politics, more responsibility and less complacency, more courage and less comfort.

These are times of decisions. It is an overused analogy to state that at such times we stand at a crossroads; but as it is with many cliches, it is appropriate because it contains so much truth. But in reality, every day consists of many decisions that can lead to different outcomes. So in a sense, we are perpetually at a crossroads of some sorts, and just like in one of those movies about time travel, the future is shaped in different ways, based on the decisions we make at each turn.

But the difficult decisions are not always the biggest ones. Decisions that seem small at first can have great consequences. By the same token, decisions that seem quite monumental initially can turn out to have very little impact. When I think of the past few years, I come to the conclusion that there have been many crossroads that we as societies have gone through, and often without considering the consequences we have chosen the path of least resistance.

We have chosen comfort over courage, and we have chosen complacency over responsibility. When Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, the right path to take seemed obvious to most of us. This body, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, acted decisively, as fits the conscience of Europe. So when we came to the crossroads in February 2022, the choice was clear: but this has not always been the case.

When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the western response was different and much weaker. Various sanctions were certainly passed, in fact some right here in this Parliamentary Assembly, but the overall sentiment was one of complacency rather than responsibility. Many may have thought that it didn't matter which path to take. The options perhaps seemed confusing. Should economic relations continue to be developed in the hope that common interest would make further conflict unthinkable? Or should there be a line drawn in the sand with economic sacrifices, made to show commitment to international law?

In retrospect, it can be said that the crossroads in 2014 were even more fateful than the one we stood before in 2022. Or perhaps the most decisive choice was made at the crossroads in 2008, when Russia invaded Georgia to annexe South Ossetia. Could we have influenced the development of world affairs in the international community had we fully understood Mr Vladimir Putin's intentions back then? Were we at the biggest crossroads when the Skiprals were poisoned in 2018? How about when Mr Mikhail Khodorkovsky was imprisoned in 2004, and it became obvious that the rule of law in Russia had collapsed? Or when the journalist Ms Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in 2006? Or when the members of Pussy Riot were imprisoned in 2012, for chanting in a church an appeal to Mary the mother of God to excommunicate Mr Vladimir Putin? Should the total destruction of Grozny have given the West sufficient clues as to the direction of Mr Vladimir Putin's Russia?

Should we in retrospect have understood that at each of these crossroads there was a chance to take a path that would lead to a better outcome than we now face in Ukraine. These kind of 'what if' speculations are of course primarily academic, mental gymnastics. But in order for us to learn from the past, we need to reflect on it. 

The war in Ukraine is, of course, at the top of our minds right now. It can be argued that this war is in fact a horrific manifestation of a widespread and long-lasting conflict about the kind of world we want to live in. At present, many of us are worried that the system based on liberal democracy and human rights is under strain. Within Europe, reactionary forces on the right and left have gained ground. In poorer regions of the world the public perceives an international system based on these values to be a western import, intending to serve western interests. 

Of course, this is not the case. All UN and Council of Europe member States have committed themselves, to adhere to a set of international laws – including human rights law. Some countries were among the founding members of these organisations; others went to great lengths to fight for their independence and sovereignty based on these laws, and fought for the right to join these organisations, taking on both the rights and the responsibilities that come with being an independent member of the Council of Europe and the United Nations.

The fact is that societies based on liberal democracies and respect for the rights of the individual, have created the greatest human welfare and economic prosperity in human history. These values are worth fighting for. And that is the context against which Iceland assumed the presidency of the Council of Europe.

Esteemed parliamentarians,

During our presidency, which is Iceland's third presidency since we joined the organisation in 1950, as Mr Tiny KOX mentioned, we have therefore maintained a strong focus on the Council of Europe's core principles: human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Our point of departure was that in times of democratic backsliding and rising authoritarianism, there was an urgent need to return to our fundamental principles and the framework that has underpinned human rights, democracy and the rule of law on our continent.

This is especially important now as we are faced with Russia's brutal aggression against Ukraine, which so blatantly violates everything this organisation stands for, and has clearly marked our work.

During our presidency we have also prioritised the rights of children and youth, equality and the environment. Every child has the right to grow to adulthood in health, peace and dignity, and it is imperative for all states to ensure the rights of children. They are our future. Iceland has put a special focus on child-centred policymaking through integrated services and protection systems for children.

In November, the Icelandic Minister for Education and Children visited the Council of Europe to promote Barnahus, or children's house: the Icelandic model of a child-friendly, interdisciplinary and multiagency response centre for child sexual abuse. I would like to thank the Secretary General for joining our call for the establishment of Barnahus in more Council of Europe member states, and for her personal interest.

In March, Iceland hosted the annual meeting of the Steering Committee for the Rights of the Child, where our Minister for Education and Children also hosted the conference on an integrated child protection system to combat violence against children, and provide children with access to services. 

The Icelandic Minister for Education and Children also came to Strasbourg last week, to launch the guidelines "Turning 18 With Confidence", supporting migrant and refugee children transitioning to adulthood.

We have also emphasised the importance of meaningful youth engagement in the Council's work. Last February, I was pleased to participate in a meeting on young people and climate change here in Strasbourg, organised with the Council of Europe's Youth Department.

Gender, equality and the protection of hard-earned progress concerning the human rights of women and girls around the world is a strong priority for Iceland, at home and abroad.

During our presidency we gave special attention to action against gender-based violence online and on the importance of engaging men and boys in driving gender equality. Last December the President of Iceland participated in a conference in Strasbourg on online digital violence; later this week he will address the conference on the role of men and boys in combating gender-based violence.

We also organised two side events during the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN in New York in March. One was organised with the Council's Gender Equality Division and focused on migrant women. The other in cooperation with the other Nordic countries focused on online gender-based violence.

The Icelandic presidency has likewise given a focus to the urgent need to promote and protect the rights of LGBTI individuals. In January the prime minister of Iceland participated in a conference on advancing these human rights and tonight we are hosting a reception celebrating human rights defenders on the occasion of Lesbian Visibility Week – you are welcome to join us and I hope to see you there.

Iceland is also proud to host this year's IDAHOT+ Forum in Reykjavík the week before the Summit. It will bring together governments, activists, civil society and other stakeholders to assess the progress of LGBTI Rights in Europe.

Last but not least, we have sought to highlight the important interrelationship between human rights and the environment. In the beginning of May the Icelandic presidency will convene a conference on the right to a clean and healthy and sustainable environment in practice which is held in conjunction with the meeting of the drafting group on human rights and environment. Consultations with other Council of Europe bodies especially the Parliamentary Assembly have been high on the Icelandic Presidency agenda.

Parliamentary oversight is crucial to a well-functioning democracy, and this Assembly serves this important role within our organisation. In the lead-up to the summit the Icelandic Presidency has been fully cognisant of the importance of close consultation with the Assembly; we thank our Secretariat for the good collaboration.

The Prime Minister and I, as well as the permanent Secretary of State, have been honoured and pleased to have the opportunity to engage with the Parliamentary Assembly during Iceland's Presidency: myself at the Standing Committee in Reykjavík in November; the Prime Minister at the January session; and the permanent secretary at a meeting of the Standing Committee in the Hague in early March.

We have also played significant importance on cooperation with other international organisations. In January I presented the priorities of our presidency to the permanent Council of the OSCE in Vienna and yesterday I briefed the Foreign Affairs Council of the EU on the preparation for the Summit.

Mister President,

There has been one issue that has without a doubt made its mark on the Icelandic presidency: Russia's full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine.

The immediate reaction of the Council of Europe to Russia's brutal aggression was to expel Russia. This was a reaction that spoke loud and clear and stated that there would be no business as usual – not even close.

While it was the right decision to make, it was also sad to see that a state that once aspired to become a part of a democratic and just Europe had violated such fundamental international and human rights law that we were forced to expel them.

It was also sad to remove the protection provided to Russian citizens under the European Court of Human Rights and the wider set of agreements.

Support and solidarity with Ukraine have become come one of the main priorities of our presidency. We have worked hard to ensure that the outcome of the Reykjavík Summit in May further strengthens our collective resolve.

Reflecting this, there is a clear focus on Ukraine both in the Summit's agenda and the outcome document, in particular when it comes to holding Russia accountable for its atrocities.

In February Iceland, in close cooperation with Ukraine, put a draft decision to the Committee of Ministers to take the first step towards setting up a Council of Europe Register of Damages. A register under the auspices of the Council of Europe, but with the broad support of leading world nations would be a historic occasion for our organisation, but most importantly an important step towards accountability for crimes committed in this brutal war, and a strong message to support Ukraine.

I thank this body for its solidarity in the effort to make this happen.

I hope I can count on your help in gathering support for the enlarged partial agreement from your governments.

Dear friends,

As you well know, Kosovo applied for membership of the Council of Europe in May last year.

During our presidency we have been in close contact with the Kosovo and Serbian governments and consulted widely with other member states. Based on these consultations, yesterday the membership application of Kosovo was referred to this Assembly for substantive discussions. It is now up to you to recommend the next steps.

Before concluding, I am happy to report that preparations for the Summit are going very well. We enter these last three remaining weeks very positive about what is around the corner, but aware of this important task that we have been entrusted with.

At the Summit we have a choice: to unite around the Council's core principles and reaffirm our common commitment to the values that have proven to be such a blessing for the people of the world.

This Assembly has been calling for a Council of Europe summit for a long time and I am very grateful for the close cooperation of the Assembly and the Secretariat over the past month. I'm looking forward to participating in the Standing Committee meeting planned in Reykjavík the day before the summit.

Now, our job is to make this count. Regarding the substance from the get-go, the goal of the Icelandic Presidency has been to help deliver concrete results from the Summit that will have real and lasting positive impact for the citizens of Europe.

We are grateful for the valuable input of the Parliamentary Assembly to the substantive work of the Summit, which was incorporated into the draft outcome document of the Summit prepared by the Icelandic Presidency.

We also considered suggestions from the high-level reflection group and consultation with a range of stakeholders including Council of Europe bodies, international organisations, youth representatives and civil society.

The Presidency also held an open call for suggestions – a first time in history of the Council of Europe – where any interested organisation or citizens or citizen could participate. The final outcome will depend on negotiations between member states but we are confident that the Reykjavík Declaration will make a difference for our organisation, and for our citizens .

We want the Summit to reach the people of Europe and create more visibility and interest in our organisation. In line with that, the opening session and the general debate will be broadcast live.

Dear friends,

In the past year we have seen full-scale war in Europe, but we have also seen the power of multilateralism. Europe has come together in a unique way in sanctioning the invader and offering support to Ukraine and standing together in defence of our shared values.

We in the Council of Europe still believe in international law and the rules-based order. What is more, the people of Ukraine still believe in international law and the rules-based order.

We have seen in the past year that people are ready to die for democracy and freedom – things that we have taken for granted for far too long, because values matter.

I started my statement by reflecting on the crossroads we as individuals in societies are faced with every day.

In the movies about time travel, every twist and every turn has the potential to have tremendous consequences, but that is fiction. It is only for fun – but for us, in real life, our decisions at any one of those twists and turns do really matter.

We have a duty to take our role seriously.

I would like to believe that the lesson to draw from all these crossroads of the past few years is that instead of looking passively at the ground and choosing the path that looks more convenient or financially profitable in the short term, we should look up and be guided by our purpose, that we choose the direction that our higher ideals compel us to.

We should ask ourselves: what is best for human rights, democracy and the rule of law? That should be the road we choose.

At every crossroads we should ask ourselves: what is the best for international law and multilateralism? And we choose the path that defends those institutions.

We should be careful that the pursuit of narrow national self-interest does not lead us to places of common suffering.

In this regard, this Parliamentary Assembly plays a key role, bringing together diverse opinions and political standpoints, but in unity around our core values. We must never tire of advocating for democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and a peace that is based on justice.

That has been the goal of the Icelandic Presidency and we are grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute.

Now I look forward to the questions and the dialogue that we're going to have. So thank you very much.



Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Madam Minister, for updating this Parliamentary Assembly about the activities of the Icelandic chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers and preparation that is underway for the Fourth Summit in three weeks' time.

You already referred to it. We will now have questions from the members of the Parliamentary Assembly.

We first start with questions from the representatives of the political groups.

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

You have 30 seconds, Mister Frank SCHWABE.


Germany, SOC, Spokesperson for the group


Mister President, Madam Minister,

Thank you very much for the chairmanship and the leadership of the Icelandic presidency.

I would like to include the Irish one before as well.

Two questions:

The first one is about the European Convention on Human Rights. One aim is that the EU should become a member of this convention. I hear that there are some countries hesitating, maybe France, maybe others. Where are we now? Can we see a result there in Iceland?

I would like to ask you about the next summit. We waited 18 years and fought 18 years for this summit. Do we have any idea when the next one should be?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Madam Minister?

Ms. Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and Chair of the Committee of Ministers


Thank you very much.

Well, regarding the first question, all I can say is that it's going well and I truly hope that we will be able to finish this in Reykjavík.

It is moving in the right direction and it's moving quite fast. So I can't promise, but I can say that I'm very positive.

Regarding the second question, I simply don't know whether it will... I don't think it will take 18 years, but what I do know is that we have very little idea how things will develop in the coming years. So, I think it depends a bit on the outcome of this summit.

If we can show that the summit mattered, and the concrete deliverables will mean something, they will make a difference. The upcoming presidencies will work on them, and we can see a real positive development, I think we will. It's more likely that we will think it's a good idea to have another.

And then unfortunately I think if we are continuing to go in the wrong direction and things become worse before they become better, I think we will also possibly have an opportunity to have another summit.

But I really hope that the first option will be the case. And I do think we will not wait 18 years, but I don't have any date or any year to put on paper.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam Minister.

Now I call Mr Aleksander POCIEJ from Poland. He speaks on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Mr Aleksander POCIEJ

Poland, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group


Madam, Sir,

The last summit, indeed, took place in my hometown, in Warsaw, 18 years ago. That was probably the brightest moment for this organisation.

However, there are some worries. The most important, from my perspective, is the failure by the member States to implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

What are your expectations? How can we strengthen and impose those verdicts, those rulings, on those countries?

The next question:

Even the most valuable organisation cannot function without adequate financial resources. We have a lack of about 11%. What can we do to fill this lack?

Ms. Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and Chair of the Committee of Ministers


Thank you very much.

First, regarding the execution of the Court's judgment, the Committee of Ministers has the unique role, under article 46 of the Convention, to supervise the execution of the European Court's judgments.

We know that.. I mean, this has had a clear focus. I know that part of the work before the summit is to have an annexe about this issue.

I hope that we will get a.. hopefully all of them... good support from all member States regarding that annexe.

And I think that if we will, and that will be executed, I think that would matter and that would make a difference.

And regarding the budget: I know that of course it was a huge gap when Russia was expelled. I know that we tried to fill the gap, but I also know that we will have to somehow acknowledge that this change is there to stay and we need to find a sustainable way to fix it.

And we know that the projects and the role of the Council of Europe is important, so I know that it would not be a sustainable way to decrease all that we're doing and fill the gap in that way, but we need a commitment from members to acknowledge the gap and find ways to contribute more.

If we will have some concrete wording on that in the summit – we will have to see – because we're still negotiating, but we know about this and we are trying to move that in the right direction.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam Minister.

Next I call Mr Rik DAEMS from Belgium on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mister Rik DAEMS, you have 30 seconds.


Belgium, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group


If a meeting is measured by its results, then I guess a big meeting is measured by big results. I guess that the summit is measured by summit-sized results.

Madam Minister,

What real, tangible, and impactful results would you pursue as a result of this summit? May I request that the linkage of the environment to human rights be there, as requested unanimously by this Parliamentary Assembly, so requested unanimously by all the peoples of the 46 member States?

Secondly, as Mr Frank SCHWABE and Mr Aleksander POCIEJ have mentioned, may I suggest that you propose that we have a summit every four years, for example, which would be concurrent with the electoral cycle of our 46 member States instead of waiting until, I guess, 2041 or so before having the next one?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Rik DAEMS.

Madam Minister?

Ms. Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and Chair of the Committee of Ministers


Thank you.

First, in general about the summit and the concrete deliverables and outcome document. Of course, we are still negotiating on that document but the draft is strong in my opinion – and not only in my opinion – I would argue that the general opinion is that it is a strong draft.

We, of course, have certain issues that we focus especially on. As I mentioned in my speech, Ukraine is one of them. But I would say that the Register of Damages is a huge step for this institution.

First of all, it is a real and concrete and huge step for the general public in Ukraine, where they can seek justice and register the damages. and in the future also get compensation for the horrible things that have been done.

And, as I understand it, this is the first legally binding decision where we can say we are going to hold Russia accountable for their actions. Because all of us here agree on that, and many more agree on that. We have been discussing accountability for 15 months, but this is the first legally binding decision on that. I think the Council of Europe should be extremely proud of that fact. I think this decision will age extremely well. So that is a huge outcome of the summit.

Of course, we have other issues. You mentioned especially the environment and the link between human rights and the environment. Well, I can say that this is a focus point in Iceland and of Iceland, so we are willing – and we are more than willing – we are trying to work on some texts where this is written out in the outcome document.

Again, that is something that we have to negotiate and we know that the environmental issues are – what should I say – there is not the same amount of unity when we talk about what has to be done, what it means and what it costs as in other issues that we can unite around.

But I also know that the environment and human rights, let me recognise first, your dedication to this topic. I know this is very close to your heart but it is also close to our hearts. And therefore we are urging member States to have this issue among the deliverables of the summit. We have good hopes that a declaration could be adopted by the heads of state and government. We are still working on the issue in the Committee of Ministers' deputies meetings.

More in detail, I am pleased to inform you that the Committee of Ministers recently adopted the recommendation on human rights and the protection of the environment. This new instrument calls on member States to actively consider recognising the right to a clean healthy and sustainable environment as a human right at the national level. It represents another step in our long-standing commitment to environmental protection.

So I want to thank you for your work and your focus. I want it to be clear that it is a focus with us as well. Again, I cannot promise the strong wording, but we are working on it within the Committee of Ministers. 

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam Minister.

Now I call Ms Eka SEPASHVILI from Georgia.

She speaks on behalf of the European Conservatives - you have 30 seconds.


Georgia, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Mister President.

Dear Madam,

First of all, let me thank you that the summit declaration stresses the Russian aggression against Ukraine and Georgia as well.

Unfortunately, the world is witnessing many types of occupation and many types of conflicts all over the world.

Madam Minister,

You mentioned in your speech that you believe in the power of multilateralism.

In this regard, what kind of international mechanism can be developed to answer and to ensure the protection of human rights of citizens living in occupied territories?

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Ms Eka SEPASHVILI.

Madam Minister?

Ms. Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and Chair of the Committee of Ministers


Thank you very much.

The challenge with multilateralism is, of course, that a lot of issues... It takes time, and there are tiny steps, which is understandable. It's also understandable that at some point, sometimes people lose a bit of hope or belief in multilateralism because of this.

The Committee of Ministers has on numerous occasions expressed its full support for Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally recognised borders. Comprehensive Committee of Ministers discussions are based on reports prepared by the Secretary General every six months.

The last report was presented at the Ministers' Deputies meeting last week with the participation of the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia. Once again, the report reflects accurate human rights and humanitarian concerns.

The Ministers' Deputies also stated repeatedly that the measures taken by the de facto authorities supported by the Russian Federation with regards to these areas violate Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

I called upon the de facto authorities to stop and reverse this process. Georgia is the only sovereign state under international law over its regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region or South Ossetia.

The Council of Europe will continue to monitor the situation. It will also continue to consider ways of guaranteeing monitoring bodies' access to these regions, to ensure respect for human rights.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam Minister.

The last question on behalf of the political groups comes from Mr Paul GAVAN from Ireland on behalf of the Unified European Left.

Mister Paul GAVAN, you have 30 seconds.

Your microphone.


Ireland, UEL, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Minister.

This month we marked the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which plays a crucial role in underpinning human rights across the north of Ireland.

In light of a number of proposed new pieces of British government legislation threatening to undermine the human rights framework of that agreement, do you agree that 25 years on should result in mechanisms being put in place, to ensure the full implementation of the agreement, in order to deal comprehensively with outstanding issues such as a bill of rights; restitution and justice; women's rights; and respect for the clauses regarding constitutional change?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Paul.

Madam Minister?

Ms. Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and Chair of the Committee of Ministers


Thank you.

Well, first, you know, the recent 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement underscored its remarkable and rare achievement in ending decades of conflict.

And human rights are central to the Agreement, which is underpinned by the European Convention on Human Rights. Many years ago the British Government met its commitment in the Agreement to incorporate the Convention into the law of Northern Ireland through the adoption of the Human Rights Act 1998.

However, like you mentioned, full implementation of this historic agreement has not yet been achieved. And in its role under article 46 of the Convention, to supervise the execution of the judgment of the court, the Committee of Ministers is closely examining the progress of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill.

The Committee has expressed serious concerns that this legislation is not in compliance with the European Convention and will not enable restitution for victims.

The Committee has also received submissions from the Commissioner and civil society relaying the deep concerns in Northern Ireland about the impact on the peace settlement under the Good Friday Agreement if the bill is implemented.

So, echoing the Committee's calls, I urge the UK authorities to take steps to allow the concerns about the bill's compatibility with the Convention before the Committee examines this issue again, and it's June DH or human rights meeting.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam Minister.

We are running out of time, but I can allow three more questions.

I propose to take the three questions together and then you have your final possibility to answer.

First I call Ms Hripsime GRIGORYAN from Armenia.

You have 30 seconds, madam.


Armenia, SOC


Thank you, Chair.

Madam Minister,

War is back to Europe and our region. We are all facing incredible challenges to security and human rights and in this context the expectations are very high from the Reykjavík Summit in that it can relaunch the Council of Europe as an instrument for collective security through democracy and the rule of law.

In your view, what can the summit do – what contribution can it have – to address the existing security challenges in an inclusive manner so that it also addresses issues related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and to the recent aggression of Azerbaijan against Armenia? 

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Next question comes from Ms Nigar ARPADARAI from Azerbaijan.

You have got 30 seconds.


Azerbaijan, EC/DA


Madam Minister,

I would like to remind you that 30 years ago, one of the member States of the Council of Europe, Armenia, occupied the lands of Azerbaijan and expelled Azerbaijanis from their homes.

After the liberation of Azerbaijani lands in 2020, Azerbaijani IDPs and refugees should be going back home, but they cannot because their homes are destroyed, and those territories are heavily planted and contaminated with landmines planted by Armenian occupying forces.

Unfortunately those landmines continue to kill civilians every day.

Even if we see the figures after the end of 2020, around 300 people have been killed or seriously injured as a result of mine explosions. Unfortunately these figures goes up every day, every week.

My question is: what can the Council of Europe do to push Armenia to provide Azerbaijan with maps of minefields, with accurate data, with available data on the landmine maps?

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


The last question comes from Mr Damien COTTIER, from Switzerland.

You have 30 seconds.


Switzerland, ALDE


Thank you, Mister President. [in French]

Madam President of the Committee of Ministers, first of all, thank you for everything Iceland has been doing during this semester.

A lot of work in many, many fields - I will just mention the child, you have spoken about the children, rights for LGBTI people, for example, and the preparation of the summit.

In this context, two questions:

What will be the place of the special tribunal for the crime of aggression? Will there be a strong statement by heads of states and government there on this very important question requested unanimously by this Parliamentary Assembly?

The second question:

What will there be about artificial intelligence, a whole new field, a new continent that we have to discover, with its changes and dangers?

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, [in French] Damien.

Madam Minister, could you please answer those three questions?

Ms. Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland and Chair of the Committee of Ministers


I will do my utmost best.

Well, first, regarding Nagorno-Karabakh: the current humanitarian situation there is, of course, a matter of concern.

The freedom of movement along the Lachin corridor should be ensured in line with the interim measures decided by the European Court of Human Rights and the Order of the International Court of Justice. I already expressed my concern about the humanitarian situation in the region in January. I can only repeat my call for guaranteeing free and open movement of people and commerce on the Lachin corridor.

It should be recalled that by becoming members of the organisation in 2001, Armenia and Azerbaijan undertook to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. Both countries must act in accordance with their own commitments. They should refrain from provocations. Dialogue is key to avoid further deterioration of the situation.

Regarding the summit and the things you mentioned: first of all, the Council of Europe supports efforts to set up a special tribunal on the crime of aggression. And there is no lack of support but the concrete steps. We will have to see how how the wording will be, but we have a clear focus on accountability in general, and on the Register of Damages, which I believe is extremely important.

We know that the discussion on a special tribunal is is being held in many institutions and a lot of pressure and a lot of will, but it is a very complicated issue. I truly hope we will find a strong solution because accountability is key. We cannot have a gap when it comes to accountability. So we have to find ways. That is morally the right thing to do. It is a complicated legal task, which I believe we will be able to solve with the spice of politics and diplomacy and all those things to make that happen.

Regarding artificial intelligence, it is in our draft declaration. This is an issue – now I can just talk from my heart as a politician and put my Icelandic hat on – this is an issue where I believe very few individuals on Earth truly understand what is about to happen. I think – in my personal opinion – it is extremely important to have some wording, because if we want the summit to age well, and we would not address this at all, that would not age especially well.

This is going to change the way we do things, the way we study, the way we solve problems, the way we heal the wounded – everything. There are a lot of opportunities that come with it, but there are also a lot of challenges and problems and moral questions.

I can say for myself, it does worry me that we have created something that we do not understand and will have some power that we do not even have.

So I truly hope that we can find some wording that we can all agree upon, because I think it would be strange not to. If after two years we look back and there was nothing on this, that would raise a lot of questions.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


That could raise enough questions, Madam Minister.

Now we come to the end of our questions. There was a far longer list, but I think you took your time to explain your priorities and to answer the questions from our side.

Thank you very much for your participation in today's session. I wish you well. All the best in the preparation of the summit.

As you said, we will be there, you will be there in the Standing Committee the day before the summit.

Ms Despina CHATZIVASSILIOU-TSOVILIS wrote something, but I cannot read it. I have to check.

[Despina says, "The Minister will stay with us, I understand."]

Yes, but I did not say that you would already leave here, because you will stay to be part of the beginning of the next debate.

Thank you very much for answering the questions. We wish you more bonne chance ["good luck" in French] in the upcoming three weeks.

Dear colleagues,

I inform you that the ballot for the election of one judge to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Romania is now closed.

If a second round has to be organised, it will take place tomorrow afternoon from 4 to 5 p.m.

I invite the tellers to go and verify the result.

I will announce the result of the elections later this afternoon.

The next item of business this afternoon is a current affairs debate on the "Road To Reykjavík" with a statement by Ms Síofra O'LEARY, president of the European Court of Human Rights.

Thank you very much for being here with us, Ms Síofra O'LEARY.

Speaking time in the debate is limited to 3 minutes for all members except the first speaker, chosen by the Bureau, who is allowed 7 minutes.

In the debate I call first Ms Fiona O’LOUGHLIN - you have 7 minutes.

Where is Ms Fiona O’LOUGHLIN?

Here she comes.

Current affairs debate: #RoadToReykjavik


Ireland, ALDE


Thank you Mister President,

What an honour and privilege it is for me as an Irish person, as an Irish woman, to address President Síofra O'Leary as the very first Irish person, and indeed the very first woman, to hold this prestigious post as President of the European Court of Human Rights.

So dear President, President of the Commission of Ministers, President of the European Court of Human Rights, Madam Secretary General, ambassadors, and of course colleagues,

The Russian Federation is undoubtedly writing a very bloody page in European history, waging a barbaric war of aggression to achieve its imperialistic objectives. The impact of this is felt all around the world, but obviously most particularly in Ukraine.

It is exactly because of this, because our deepest and closely-held values are being trampled upon, that we must reaffirm our identity and recommit to first principles.

This Parliamentary Assembly – representing the parliaments of the 46 member states of the Council of Europe – strongly supports the Reykjavík Summit.

It is a matter of well-known fact that holding a summit was a long-standing request of ours and that we unanimously adopted a set of robust proposals for the Committee of Ministers to be taken into account in its preparation.

Leadership is crucial at times of uncertainties, backsliding and reversals. Europe and its citizens needs its highest political representatives, our heads of state and government, to show their unfaltering commitment to the core values of the Council of Europe; their unwavering support for the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine; the resolve to ensure that a comprehensive system is set up, so that the Russian Federation is held accountable for its manifold serious violations of international law, and the damage and suffering it continues to cause.

I thank the Icelandic Presidency for its guidance and outstanding efforts in the preparation of the Summit.

The Reykjavík Summit is the response of the member states to the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine. It should also be the platform which ensures that the Council of Europe can prevent similar situations from reoccurring in the future. In March last year the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers – the two statutory organs of the organisation – made the decision to exclude the Russian Federation from the Council of Europe.

But as the Secretary General Ms Marija Pejčinović Burić said a few weeks ago, when addressing the conference on Black Sea security, one of the lessons learned is that we needed to take action earlier.

The Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers should continue to work hand in hand in a constructive spirit of cooperation to ensure that the Summit forges a strong political will to continue the investment in the Council of Europe as a peace project. The Summit should set an ambitious and renewed vision for the Council of Europe. Declarations of principles are very important and very necessary, but above all, we need tangible outcomes and new tools to ensure that the Council of Europe can make a difference in promoting democratic security in Europe.

While its areas of expertise should remain the same – democracy, human rights and the rule of law – the organisation should be given greater means to have an impact on its member states to stay ahead of developments, keeping up with societal change, and citizens' demands. In this vision, the European Convention on Human Rights should continue to be central.

I thank you Madam President of the Court for being here today and having accepted to take part in this debate. We both come from a country where cultural identity and heritage is important, valued and finally respected. The same must be the case also for Ukraine.

The European Convention on Human Rights represents the most advanced supranational system for the protection of human rights worldwide, giving individuals the right to take a case before an international court.

As the main international achievement in the area of human rights protection, which has a direct and tangible impact on the lives of all Europeans, the Convention and the convention system should be safeguarded and strengthened.

This is why for the Parliamentary Assembly the Summit should and must reaffirm the binding nature of the judgments and decisions on interim measures of the European Court of Human Rights, and their primacy over those of national jurisdictions; further reinforce the execution of judgments by strengthening relevant cooperation activities, and enhancing the means at our disposal in cases of non-compliance; acknowledge and promote the role of national parliaments, national human rights institutions and civil society organisations in monitoring compliance with the convention and the court's judgments and decisions.

The Parliamentary Assembly welcomes the common understanding with the Committee of Ministers that safeguarding the convention system should be central to the Summit, and expresses the support that it may be given the resources to accomplish its mission.

In its January recommendation the Parliamentary Assembly formulated its proposals for the Summit. The Committee of Ministers seemed to agree with certainly some if not most of these proposals. In the area of accountability, the Parliamentary Assembly strongly supports the creation of a Register of Damage caused by the Russian Federation in Ukraine which will pave the way to a compensation mechanism. In the area of democracy, the Parliamentary Assembly welcomes the work being done with the way to developing the Reykjavík principles of democracy.

The Parliamentary Assembly supports strengthening the role of the Venice Commission and putting greater emphasis on social rights and equality. It also agrees with the need to better engage youth and civil society and to establish dialogue with democratic forces, associations, journalists and human rights defenders from Belarus and the Russian Federation who share Council of Europe values.

In the area of multilateralism, the Parliamentary Assembly shares the Committee of Ministers' views that the strategic partnership with the European Union should be further upgraded and relations with the United Nations should be strengthened.

The Parliamentary Assembly however also believes that the Summit should aim higher. I want to be very clear about this: the Summit should have greater ambition, long-term vision and political courage. This is the time. In the past two days I have heard several voices saying that we should have regular summits. I think that it's more important to ensure that this Summit is a success – not only as an event, not only as a symbol – but also for its impacts on the lives of Europeans and all of those whom we represent.

Europe is confronted with extraordinary challenges which are amplified by the ongoing war. We must reverse the backsliding of democracy. We must establish effective early warning and rapid reaction mechanisms. We must tackle climate change and protect the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

To tackle these challenges new solutions are necessary, because the instruments we have at our disposal are not robust enough, are not effective enough, or developed in a fundamentally different context.

We are on the #RoadtoReykjavík. Discussions on the outcome document are still open.

If we believe that a new body or structure can serve to tackle a major challenge, it is worth the political and budgetary investment.

The Parliamentary Assembly therefore reiterates its calls to set up an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to investigate and prosecute the crime of aggression committed by the political and military leadership of the Russian Federation.

It strongly supports establishing a Commissioner for Democracy to engage systematically with member states, and provide early warning and rapid reaction.

As regards the environment, it is absolutely imperative that we have a new legally binding Council of Europe framework to guarantee the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, and to set up the Reykjavík Commission to promote best practices and legislation.

Dear President., President of the Committee of Ministers, President of the European Court of Human Rights, Madam Secretary General ambassadors, and colleagues,

It is our responsibility to draw lessons from experience. We owe this to the Ukrainian people whose lives are being devastated by the war. We owe this to the citizens that we represent and who want to live in peace in democratic countries that protect their human rights.

The Reykjavík Summit should be the starting point for a renewed Council of Europe with a greater capacity to contribute to our shared democratic security; to respond to our citizens' real concerns; and to tackle the momentous challenges that confront us.

We should make the most of this chance.

I look forward to today's debate and to tomorrow's meeting of the Joint Committee as opportunities to continue our discussion.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

Fiona, I allowed you some minutes more because you were our rapporteur on our wishes with regards to the Summit and your report was adopted unanimously. I thought that the Parliamentary Assembly would excuse me for giving you a bit more time.

Now, I have the pleasure, before we start with the rest of the list of the speakers, I have the pleasure to give the floor to the president of the European Court of Human Rights, Judge Síofra O'LEARY.

Madam President,

Thank you for being here with us today, it is an honour to have you among us for our debate on the "Road to Reykjavík" and for your first address to this Parliamentary Assembly.

We already learned from the Icelandic chairmanship that the position of the court and the execution of the verdicts of the courts and the convention-based system on which the the Council of Europe functions will be amongst the important items in the summit.

Therefore, I think it's most timely to have you here, Madam President, to hear your input with regard to the "Road to Reykjavík" and the position of the court.

The next 10 minutes are for you, Madam President.

Ms Síofra O'LEARY

President of the European Court of Human Rights


Thank you very much president Tiny KOX, president of the Committee of Ministers, Secretary General Despina CHATZIVASILIOU-TSOVILIS, honourable members of the Parliamentary Assembly,

It is both an honour and a privilege to address you this afternoon in my capacity as president of the European Court of Human Rights. The symbolism of addressing you in this hemicycle on this side of the River Ill is notable; creating more deliberate and productive synergies between the Council of Europe and the European Union, and between the Parliamentary Assembly and my court, can only lead to a more harmonised European political and legal space and with it to greater peace and stability. That is, after all, what your and my work is all about.

Your dual membership of this European Assembly and national parliaments is essential for the smooth functioning of the convention's system and for fostering an effective human rights culture across the Council of Europe. National parliaments are well placed to participate in human rights protection because of their representative, legislative and oversight functions.

Firstly, you enjoy democratic legitimacy and your work as elected representatives constitutes a fundamental element of what the court calls "the European public order". Many convention rights seek specifically to protect your vital work and to safeguard the foundations of an effective and meaningful democracy governed by the rule of law.

Secondly, as lawmakers, you can ensure that measures are taken to prevent human rights violations and that domestic remedies are available if such violations occur.

Thirdly, you oversee the executive and scrutinise your governments' compliance with conventional obligations, not least respect for Strasbourg court judgments and decisions.

The court, as I hope you know, is very attentive to national legislative processes. In the seminal case of animal defenders against the United Kingdom, which concerned a statutory prohibition on paid political advertising, the key question was whether such an interference with freedom of expression was necessary in a democratic society. In finding no violation, the Court took into account the fact that the legislation in question had undergone extensive examination by the UK Parliament, had enjoyed cross-party support and had been assessed in depth for its compatibility with the convention by the UK courts.

In a room full of national parliamentarians from 46 different States, I think it is worth stressing a particular passage from that 2013 judgment, and I quote,

"There is a wealth of historical, cultural and political differences within Europe, so that it is for each State to mould its own democratic vision. By reason of their direct and continuous contact with the vital forces of their countries, their societies and their needs, national legislative and judicial authorities are best placed to assess the particular difficulties in safeguarding the democratic order in their State. By adhering to and strengthening the principle of subsidiarity, the court creates incentives to remember states to do a better job, fulfilling their obligations under Article 1 of the Convention, namely securing to everyone within their jurisdiction their human rights and freedoms".

National parliaments also have a special role to play in relation to the implementation of the court's judgments. A point underlined by Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN, and a point that you will debate tomorrow.

Unexecuted judgments undermine the authority and functioning of the convention system; where the root cause of a systemic problem at national level remains untreated, the court continues to receive applications – often in their hundreds and thousands – and continues to find violations which stem from that systemic or structural problem. But a court encumbered with repetitive applications is not a court allowed to perform the vital role, which is ours in guaranteeing that European societies are, and remain, democratic societies underpinned by the rule of law.

As explained in our memorandum in preparation for the Fourth Summit, close to 80% of our current case law – in other words 76,000 pending applications – relates to legal questions, the subject of well-established case law or purely repetitive applications. From the perspective of the court, the Parliamentary Assembly also plays a particularly crucial role when electing judges in accordance with article 22 of the convention – something which I know you are engaged in today.

It cannot be said often enough: the quality of the court and its case law depends on the quality of the independent and impartial judges elected by you. Your scrutiny of candidates is therefore essential. Your involvement provides democratic legitimacy to the court and should diffuse ab initio general, at times cleverly framed but unsubstantiated and far-fetched allegations about lack of independence and impartiality of court members.

It cannot be said often enough - and forgive me for underlining something which is so elementary - when national selection bodies provide the advisory panel and the Parliamentary Assembly with a list of three excellent candidates, the election of an excellent judge naturally ensues.

When performing your parliamentary function, you have elected judges from different judicial, academic and civil society backgrounds; which has proved a source of richness and balance in the court for decades. As you are aware, the term of office of four sitting judges have expired; in two cases by over a year and a half. Twelve sitting judges will come to the end of their mandate in 2024. It is evident that delays in the selection and election process risks bringing the efficient functioning of the court – to which I am devoting my entire presidency – to a standstill. I thank the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Secretary General most warmly for their consistent efforts in this regard.

The more efficient and transparent the process of selection and election, the less room we have for unjustified attacks whose goal – let me be very frank – maybe other than securing the independence and authority of the Strasbourg Court. In this regard, let me also reassure you that my defence of the court and its work, leaves ample room for institutional self-criticism, ongoing reflection and reform, in which I and my colleagues are constantly engaging.

In the run-up to the Fourth Summit, where questions relating to the accountability of Russia will be central to your discussions, it is worth reiterating that the Strasbourg Court across the River Ill is the only international tribunal currently dealing with human rights issues related to the ongoing war in Ukraine. It is the only international court which is examining – at the merits stage – events in Ukraine dating back to 2014, and up to the full-scale invasion in February 2022.

As I emphasised to the Committee of Ministers less than two weeks ago, the role of the court should not be overlooked in any declarations on accountability which may emerge in Reykjavík. The tragic events in Ukraine, the expulsion of Russia from the Council of Europe, the crippling of dissent and civil society in that former member State, and the forces which gave rise to these events, remind us what happens when democracies break down or when its roots are so fragile that they can easily be upended. They should also remind us of the value of the precious instrument which is the European Convention on Human Rights, left to us by our forefathers and – if you will forgive me – by our foremothers.

Next month's summit comes at a crucial moment for Europe's rule-based order. I will be honoured to represent the court and will engage in bilaterals concerning the functioning of the court and the convention system on that occasion.

For over 60 years, the court has dealt with well over 1 million applications, handing down over 26,000 judgments. Those judgments have saved many lives. They have transformed many thousands of other lives. They have contributed to positive social change across our member States. A detailed update regarding the current caseload situation in the court is available in the speech I delivered to the Committee of Ministers, and which I am sure the Secretary General can make available to you.

In the court's memorandum in preparation for the summit, we focus on four issues: safeguarding the convention system, resources, accountability and execution - two of which I have already referenced. At the summit, the court is seeking a renewed commitment from the contracting states to the convention system and to the binding nature of the court's judgments and decisions.

We thank the Parliamentary Assembly most warmly for seeking the same in your January declaration. Allow me to salute the work of my compatriot, Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN, and her team in this regard.

Beyond renewed political commitment, the court is also calling for sufficient and sustainable financial resources to enable us to effectively exercise our judicial function and to handle the caseload expeditiously. We call on you and on the heads of state and government to translate the discourse of values into material and political support.

In the words of the previous president of the Committee of Ministers, "If not now, when?"

Ms Síofra O'LEARY

President of the European Court of Human Rights


Dear members of the Parliamentary Assembly,

The war in Ukraine, with its human and material effects and its geopolitical repercussions on a global scale, poses a major risk to the system of common values that binds the Council of Europe states and our peoples.

Over the years, this treaty system, which was devised by the most enlightened minds of the 20th century, has become the most sophisticated system for safeguarding democracy and the rule of law that humanity has ever known. But this system can be undermined by external forces driven by entirely different dynamics and operating under much less restrictive rules. If we add to this external pressure certain alarming signs of fatigue, or even democratic erosion, within our own countries, the threat to our model of society – I say this with all due gravity – is an existential one.

Your Assembly, our Assembly and our Court, your Court, are at the heart of this system of protection.

I can assure you that the Court is staying the course of the treaty system that makes your national judges the first and most important judges of the treaty. It is staying the course without wavering, aware also of its historic responsibility, despite the modesty of its resources and despite the unfounded and sometimes virulent attacks to which it is subjected and to which, as a court, it cannot respond; it is staying the course thanks to the tireless action of the judges and registry staff, whom I would like to congratulate here, who carry out our mission without hesitation and in respect of our oath.

But I feel, through your invitation, the support you give to this institution and its work, and I am deeply grateful.

I thank you for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Madam President, for your your most valuable contribution to our debate.

Next in the debate I call Mr Birgir THÓRARINSSON from Iceland. He will speak on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party - you have the floor. 3 minutes.


Iceland, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group


I would like to start by expressing my sincere gratitude to all the member States that have committed to attending the upcoming summit in Reykjavík. 

Your heads of state and government will receive a warm welcome in Iceland.

Reykjavík has already demonstrated that it can have a significant role in dire times. Reykjavík was the place where the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union, Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, met. The Reykjavík meeting paved the way for further negotiations and discussions that eventually led to the end of the Cold War. Hofdi House, located on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, where the meeting took place in 1986, became a symbol of peace and demonstrated the power of dialogue and diplomacy.

The upcoming summit in Iceland represents an opportunity to build on that legacy and we commit to our common values. I wish that the Reykjavík Summit would mark the first steps towards peace between Ukraine and Russia. Let us all make the meeting a historic event.


Iceland has been committed to an open and transparent process leading up to the summit and issued the Council of Europe with an open call for inputs, for the first time in the history. More than 100 actors and stakeholders contributed to the open call. Iceland also advocated for important issues, such as accountability for the atrocities committed by the Russian regime against Ukraine.

The important work has laid the ground for the negotiations and discussions among the 46 member States of the Council of Europe, and will be a meaningful contribution to the outcome of the summit. The responsibility rests now in the hands of the heads of states and governments to make sure that the Reykjavík Summit will mark the first steps in ensuring accountability for the war crimes committed by Russia against the brave people of Ukraine.

The Reykjavík Summit can be remembered for taking these vital first steps towards accountability by establishing a Register of Damages for Ukraine to record all damage, loss or injury caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Mister President, in Reykjavík the Russian regime will face the consequences of its actions.

Let us make Russia remember the Reykjavík Summit. Under the midnight sun in Reykjavík, we must bring hope to the people of Ukraine.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


This was still for Mr Birgir THÓRARINSSON, not yet for Mr Iulian BULAI.

Mr Iulian BULAI is going to speak on behalf of the group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mr Iulian BULAI

Romania, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you so much President and thank you so much for being generous with every one of us.

Madam Minister of Foreign Affairs Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörd GYLFADOTTIR, Madam President Síofra O'LEARY of the European Court of Human Rights, dear President, dear Madam Secretary General, dearest Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN,

Thank you so much for your fantastic work in the past year. You've been so open to so many contributions to this fantastic report leading to the Reykjavík Summit on the Heads of States and Governments.

You've been very generous with every pertinent contribution that came to your table in order to make this a reference point in the history of our institution – and this is to be noted. I hope that this will be a report that will be referred to even after the end of the Summit.

That being said, credit has to be given to those who had the initiative, the courage and the possibilities to initiate this whole initiative which is a possibility to refresh the whole institution and to pave a new way for new values and for repairing what's wrong around us.

So this thanks goes to you President Mr Tiny KOX because you had the courage and you had this initiative and this whole Parliamentary Assembly supported you. I'm very happy that the Committee of Ministers followed along and gave you credit for this great initiative.

I share with you the quote that I liked the most from the speech of Ms Thórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörd GYLFADOTTIR: "we need to have more courage and less comfort". This is what the Summit will be about, because now in Europe, we have a great wound. That wound is the Russian aggression in Ukraine. We need to heal it. We need to heal it with justice. This is why we're having this Summit.

We need to be courageous and get out of our comfort zone, by not only having the Register for the losses of the war, but also be ambitious for the ad hoc tribunal that needs to be settled; have a clear reference on the need of the new generation of human rights; be very clear on the challenges, but also the opportunities, of artificial intelligence.

All these elements have to be in the final resolution. I have full trust that all of you and you Madam Ministers, and all the ambassadors present here, and all the colleagues, would go home and have these talks with every relative, representative of the member countries, in order to achieve this goal, and in order not only to go to Reykjavík to confirm existing things, but to have a general refreshment and openness for new opportunities and perspectives for this institution.

We are now in a historical building, fantastic architecture showing construction that is ongoing ,and you can see this, if you can see it from outside. This is also very much reflected by the ambitions of this Parliamentary Assembly to work on the ongoing construction of a better Council of Europe, of a courageous and visionary institution, that has to be more relevant, more pertinent, more courageous, thanks to this fantastic summit.

Thank you so much. [I am] looking forward seeing you all in Reykjavík. Let us have the courage to transform this institution through this Summit to something pertinent, relevant and great for Europe.


Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now I call to the debate Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER from Germany. He speaks on behalf of the European Conservatives Group - you have 3 minutes. 


Germany, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Mister President.

Dear colleagues, the title of our debate is "Road To Reykjavík" and it must be clear that the Reykjavík Summit cannot only be a reaction to the war in Ukraine, it must especially make sure that the Council of Europe works better.

And for our group, the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance, it's clear that the focus must be on the core values that we stand for: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. And they have been severely compromised lately.

Where have human rights been when we talked about obligatory vaccinations? Actually, human rights are supposed to be defensive rights of citizens against their governments, not of governments against their citizens.

Where is democracy really when we talk about the beating up of protesters in Mr Emmanuel Macron's France? Not only the yellow vests, but also the protesters against the presidential pension reforms that were passed by the president, but never by the parliament.

And what is actually the meaning of rule of law when the other two values are so compromised?

Actually, in scholarly debates, scientists like Ms Nicole Scicluna and Mr Stefan Auer talking about the transformation of the rule of law to the rule of rules, and Barbara Delcourt actually explains that the rule of law is becoming a tool for intervention.

This is wrong. This is the wrong path. The Council of Europe is moving away from defending the citizen against the government to defending ideologies against the citizen. And case law derived from the 1950 Convention is supposed to replace politics, it's supposed to replace democratic debate, national decision-making. And we see that especially when we talk about very political issues that are not necessarily connected to human rights. Say, gender, climate, migration, vaccination discrimination.

We've heard from Ms Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð  GYLFADÓTTIR that environmental rights, artificial intelligence will be discussed, and member States are supposed to adhere to a set of core values that they commit to, absolutely. But then the people deciding on those core values, making judgment at the European Court of Human Rights – and unfortunately Ms Síofra O'LEARY did not mention this – are often fraught with NGO lobbyism.

There are a lot of judges – as the European Centre for Law and Justice has found out – that have served for NGOs before their term here and that appear to still be serving their NGOs' interests. So that is a huge problem that we have to solve in this house and at the Reykjavík Summit.

There are two roads leading from Reykjavík, I would say: there is one road that will make the Council of Europe a more ideological place. That will leave and force real democracies to move away from this institution. There can also be a road to being a more democratic place, with respect for sovereign nations with different views, with different policy-making, that unite in the pursuit of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The summit will decide.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Norbert KLEINWÄCHTER.

Now I call in the debate Mr George KATROUGALOS from Greece. He speaks on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.


Greece, UEL, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you very much, Mr Tiny KOX.

First of all, I must tell you that we are all grateful to the Icelandic government, to you personally for your leadership, which made the "Road to Reykjavík" possible, and also to Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN for an excellent report.

Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN makes explicit reference both to social inequalities and to democratic backsliding.

I think that these two phenomena are interconnected. Pope Francis has reminded us that inequality kills, Oxfam that the wealth of just the 100 richest billionaires would be enough to eradicate poverty four times. But it is not just about poor people, the fact that one per cent of our societies pocket two-thirds of the new wealth is hitting equally the middle class and the working class.

It is exactly this feeling - that life conditions are always continuously worsening, that our children are going to have a worse life than ours and, above all, the belief that the economy is rigged on behalf of the rich and the powerful - [this] is the basic reason that populism is thriving.

So, we need social justice, but we also need justice at the level of the international scene, not impunity, accountability and full support to Ukraine. But we do not want selective justice. That is why we must be very careful not to undermine the authority and jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is a sad fact that only half of the countries of the Council of Europe have ratified the amendments given to the ICC jurisdiction to face the crime of aggression. It is even more problematic that it has been the European countries that have accepted that the ICC will not have jurisdiction over states that have not ratified these amendments.

The United States has gone even further beyond that. You know, I suppose that the American Service-Members' Protection Act gives the president the power, I quote, "to use all means necessary and appropriate to bring about the release of any US allied personnel being detained or imprisoned by, on behalf of or at the request of the International Criminal Court".

"All means" also includes military ones, that is, the reason that slightly, only slightly, humoristically this Act has been nicknamed "The Hague Invasion Act". So beware, Mister President, maybe we are [close to] a second invasion of the Netherlands, but, of course I am joking. This does not concern the Netherlands. It should concern all of us. We must, all of us, be behind the jurisdiction of the authority of the ICC.

Thank you, Mister President.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr George KATROUGALOS.

And the last speaker on behalf of the political groups shall be Mr Frank SCHWABE from Germany on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.



Germany, SOC, Spokesperson for the group


Mister President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

This summit is a unique opportunity. It is a government summit - but it is also clear; this summit comes at our initiative. It is our substantive contributions that shape this summit, and we end up with the youth organisation, the human rights organisation, and Congress in our backpacks.

I want to thank again - already the Irish presidency, which prepared the whole thing, and then the Icelandic presidency, which managed to bring almost all the heads of state and government to Iceland, to Reykjavík, and those who are not there - they will have to explain themselves; for not being there accordingly.

It was Russia's war and Russia's attack on Ukraine that ultimately led to the final push for this summit. But even after Ukraine - which we wholeheartedly hope for - has successfully defended itself against the Russian attack, things will remain from what we decide on Ukraine at the summit. The tribunal will set important accents for the future, but also the issue of compensation will set standards for the future.

I want to leave with four things on the way to Reykjavík.

Firstly, the most important thing in this organisation is the European Court of Human Rights. I would like to thank the president of the Court for being here, and I would like to expressly reject the attacks that have been made on the Court in the name of the conservative group. The Court rulings are the most important thing we have, and we are there to protect the Court and to make sure that the Court rulings are implemented without any ifs and buts.

The second thing is the issue of funding this organisation. This is our organisation, and it ends up being little money that we put in here relative to what ends up coming out of here; so I expect the issue of funding to be addressed-including in the final declaration of this summit.

The third issue is the enlargement of the European Union in the direction of the European Convention on Human Rights. The countries that may still have reservations about this must be convinced.

Fourth, I would like to mention the new dimension of human rights, social human rights, the environment, but also artificial intelligence. We still have 20 days of hard work that have to be used. We are giving our ideas again today, but we also have a task at the national level; to convince our government to contribute to the success of this summit. The Council of Europe is the best organisation we have. Is the Council of Europe perfect? No, it isn't. But it is the best we have in terms of ideas and institutions to implement our values.

Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine has brought us to the precipice - has shown us what the precipice can be when human rights, democracy and the rule of law are trampled.

We now have a unique opportunity in Reykjavík to help renew this organisation, to help strengthen this organisation to protect our values - and we should use these next 20 days to do so.

Thank you very much.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Frank SCHWABE.

Now I call in the debate Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS from Lithuania.

Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lithuania, EPP/CD


Thank you so much.

Dear friends,

I have been in this Parliamentary Assembly since 1993. For about 30 years, I have followed all developments.

But before that, I was in Reykjavík in January 1991, when Soviet power took over the TV tower and tried to make a coup in Lithuania against our statehood.

And then we came to the idea, Madam Minister, of choosing you as a partner. During a terrible night of Soviet attacks, we asked you for recognition of Baltic independence. And you did it.

So, the excellent museum was established not only for President Mr Ronald Reagan and Mr Mikhail Gorbachev historical meeting ending the Cold war era, but the new Museum of Islandic brave behaviours during dark Soviet times, not recognising the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries and recognising the restored statehood of the Baltic Nations should be established. 

So we are just now looking to your side, dear Minister. Thank you for hosting us during the Standing Committee meeting in Reykjavík, and sharing with us your views in now just like our friends mentioned 20 days.

Mr Frank SCHWABE mentioned that in 20 days, will we mention an ad hoc tribunal. The Secretary General mentioned a Register. A Register will be established of Russia's crimes against Ukraine. But ad hoc means an ad hoc special tribunal, not looking over the formulas should be established too.

From your side, we are just waiting after 18 years of break between our summits of the Council of Europe when, Mr Tiny KOX, our united approach was shown during all of the last resolutions after the 24 February attack on Ukraine, when we asked to establish an international court, an international tribunal.

We will expect from you, Madam Minister, to circulate among heads of state, circulating a formula of the tribunal. And we hope that it will be not too brave, but in time than a heroic Icelandic attempt which will be in history, framed with the next Museum, the next Ronald Reagan / Gorbachev museum, about your attempt to establish an international court. We hope that this will be formulated and circulated by your Ministry of Justice and your Minister of Foreign Affairs among heads of states. 

And that will be the primary procedure in front of a General Assembly of the United Nations, when they will finally approve the idea of a special tribunal, waiting for 131 countries to approve that in the General Assembly.

So from my point of view, I'm expecting the same brave stand, as it was during the Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev time, during the time when you recognised the Baltic independence during Soviet occupation. We are looking to your brave moral leadership.

Thank you.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS.

Next in the debate, I call Mr Robert TROY from Ireland - you have the floor.

Mr Robert TROY

Ireland, ALDE


Thank you, Mister President.

As we approach the fourth summit in our 73-year history and the first in 18 years, many have asked questions as to are these frequent enough to ensure, as a body, we remain fit for purpose and relevant to the citizens we are elected to serve and relevant to address the challenges of today? I think what is more important now is to ensure that this summit is a success and we are very proud of the role the Irish have played in ensuring this summit happened and influencing the same.

The work that our diplomatic team has done during our Presidency, the role of our former President Mary Robinson in chairing the High-Level Reflection Group, and parallel to that, the exemplary work that my colleague Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN did as rapporteur on the report. Demonstrating the importance of this summit, and in order to encourage other member States on the importance of the summit, and to ensure that it was attended by very senior personnel, we were one of the first countries to ensure that our Taoiseach confirmed his attendance at the summit.

The challenges of today are very different to the challenges of 73 years ago, or indeed 18 years ago.

The challenges of the war of aggression against Ukraine; the environmental challenges and the devastation climate change is having and the reluctance of some of our citizens - and indeed the reluctance of certain governments - to acknowledge the effect of climate change; the advances of technology and how technology can very much be used for the good; how it is used to detriment of democracies the world over. The summit is about ensuring our leaders recommit to upholding the founding values of the Council of Europe on human rights, on the rule of law and democracy, about bringing forward recommendations to address the challenges of today.

Support for Ukraine forms an integral part of this draft document, but I believe we must learn from our past mistakes. It took the Russian invasion of Ukraine before the Council of Europe decided to expel Russia; we did not act strongly enough at the time of the annexation of Crimea back in 2014.

But while there is plenty in this draft document, unless we implement the recommendations, and unless we adequately resource critical institutions like the European Court of Human Rights, well then, this summit will have failed in its core objective.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

Mr Iulian BULAI, you have a point of order.

Mr Iulian BULAI

Romania, ALDE


Thank you so much, dear President.

Before we are supposed to get the results for the judges, I want to let you know that there was a failure on the screen in terms of the alphabetical number that was exposed.

The third candidate was supposed to be the second, as both R and H are before S.

Many people were misled by this mistake, that is probably due to a technical matter.

I want to let you know about this because I've been told about this mistake by several members of our Parliamentary Assembly.

I want you to know about this possible failure of the system in terms of announcing the correct alphabetical order of the judge candidates.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

And before I will announce the results of the votes, I will study what you just said.

We now continue with Mr Morten WOLD from Norway - you have the floor.

Mr Morten WOLD

Norway, EC/DA


Thank you very much, Mister President.

The future of Europe must be built on solid democracies, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.

The Reykjavík Summit is a unique opportunity for us, the member States, to rally around the core tasks and principles of the Council of Europe.

It is not only important, it is also urgent. It is urgent for the simple reason that there is a war going on in Europe. It is urgent because of the information in the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights's report on the implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. The report tells us that the number of judgments not implemented has increased since 2019.

And it is urgent because of what we heard yesterday from the Commissioner for Human Rights: 2022 was a year of mass atrocities on European soil.

President, colleagues, we need a strong Council of Europe to address these challenges.

The argument that the summit in Reykjavík must also address new and future challenges to human rights is strong, but without a solid foundation and all member States being fully committed to our fundamental principles, it is very difficult to prepare for the future and future challenges.

This is why I strongly believe that reinforcing respect for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, as it is enshrined in our convention on human rights, should be the top priority for the Reykjavík Summit.

I sincerely hope that the minimum outcome of the summit will be a strengthening of the Court of Human Rights and better implementation of its judgments and rulings, a commitment to preventing backsliding of democracy and the rule of law in Europe.

Mister President, if we can unite around these commitments, I am convinced that we will contribute significantly to a more united Europe.

Thank you for your attention.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Morten WOLD.

Next in the debate I call Mr Kimmo KILJUNEN from Finland - you have the floor.


Finland, SOC


Mister President,

I'm more than glad that I can now make a statement after my colleague from Norway.

I'm from Finland. Obviously we Nordic countries are congratulating our fellow Nordic country, Iceland, and particularly obviously Ms Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR, minister for foreign affairs of Iceland, and the whole delegation in the Council of Europe, including the Government of Iceland for organising this Summit, which is obviously a great achievement.

We can also see how well and in what a concentrated way they are focusing on this Summit to be successful.

This is more than timely obviously, that we organise it now. We have heard it's been 18 years since the last summit in Poland. True, it might be that very many of us can assess that it's quite a long period to have summits so irregularly, and also so seldom. Now it's very timely.

We all understand, as Ms Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð GYLFADÓTTIR mentioned, that the main focus of yours is in the security situation in Europe and in particular the brutal war of aggression Russia made against Ukraine, its neighbouring country.

Obviously we focus on that issue very profoundly in the Summit and it's due to the soul.

The UN Charter was broken. The territorial integrity which is the basic principle of the UN Charter was broken by one member state, true, but also very very important for us at the Council of Europe is that war itself brutally breaks the basic principles of our organisation: human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

The result was very clear: Russia could no longer be a member in this organisation, unfortunately for the citizens of Russia, because they lost an obvious opportunity to be part of this organisation, and particularly with the value system we are preserving here. So that's very, very unfortunate.

I nevertheless would like to add that I hope that we don't forget the other issues which are important also for our organisation, starting from the Istanbul Convention and the threat against it, and several others, including obviously the questions of basic human rights which we are trying to defend, and obviously in very many of our member States, the rule of law is violated very severely. That's a major question for us to address.

I would also like to mention that we can understand that obviously Russia and Belarus are not members of this organisation, are not even eligible to be members. But there's one young country Kosovo, which principally is eligible. I'm not speaking for Kosovo's membership in this organisation because of the statehood issue itself, but the issue of the Kosovan young people who should have the right also to be present in the value system that we are preserving here.

So I'm fully arguing, strongly, that even in this summit in Iceland I hope that this issue of Kosovan membership in the organisation will be addressed.

Thank you very much, Mister President.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The next speaker is Ms Ingjerd SCHOU.

The floor is yours.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD


Thank you, Madam President.

I would like to start by commending the Icelandic chairmanship on their impressive work in preparing the Fourth Council of Europe Summit.

This summit is of great importance. It's vital that it's a success. It represents a unique opportunity to strengthen the organisation, as well as for member States to recommit to the fundamental values and principles of the Council of Europe as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

This was the main message from a recent meeting in Oslo, Norway, which gathered MPs, academics, and civil society to discuss the challenges facing our organisation ahead of the Reykjavík Summit.

I would like to share the four main messages from the meeting:

1. The summit must decide on measures to improve the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights and the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

2. The summit must strengthen the democratic pillars of the Council of Europe's protection system.

3. Civil society organisations, the conference of international NGOs, national human rights institutions, the academic community and professional organisations should be more included in the work of the Council of Europe.

4. The summit should underline that the Council of Europe should play a leading role in addressing the devastating impacts on human rights of Russia's war against Ukraine.

It is only by addressing these issues that we can safeguard a prospering Europe, where each and every citizen has their fundamental rights respected and can take part in democratic decision-making.

These issues must be at the core of the consultations in Reykjavík and of the summit declaration.

My expectation is that our heads of state and government, by addressing these pressing issues, can stop a development where the member States of our organisation are moving away from the rule of law, democracy, and human rights.

Reykjavík is our great opportunity to turn this development around and strengthen the foundations for a strong continent where the rule of law prevails.

A united Europe is a stronger Europe.

Thank you, Madam President.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Ms Ingjerd SCHOU.

The next speaker is Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK from Ukraine.

The floor is yours.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ALDE


Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, Madam President.

Thank you, dear Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN, for all your work that you've done for many many months.

I've been following many speakers answering what they expect from the Reykjavík Summit, and remember yesterday Madam Secretary General was asked: What do you think would be the biggest headline in the media after the summit?

And she said, well, the first in the media would be establishing the Register of Claims.

Of course, it's big, it's very important, because it's the first legally binding instrument that the international community will establish. Will it be a good outcome of the summit? Of course. Will it make a historic summit? I doubt it. But it can still be historic, and this Parliamentary Assembly gave a very good way how to do it.

A year ago, we were the first international organisation to mention the international ad hoc tribunal that had to be established.

And, of course, a year later we expected not hearing mention of it again, but actions. And these actions could still be taken during the Summit.

Yesterday, we had a very good conversation, discussion with a brilliant lawyer. His name is Mr Bill Browder, and he is an advocate and one of the authors of the Magnitsky Act.

And he said a very simple thing which we need to do. So, what we need to do: We need to hold the dictators' feet to the fire. And establishing an ad hoc tribunal is holding the dictators' feet to the fire in a legal way.

So I urge Iceland, I urge other countries to push, to be courageous to put this item into the agenda and make it happen.

And, as a chairperson for culture, I also would like to mention a very, very important thing. We cannot forget about culture and education, because culture and education were very important topics for the Council of Europe when it was established. And now, given the current situation in Europe which we have, it cannot be on the back bench.

So, thank you for all the work that we have already done.

Let's make the Reykjavík Summit historic.


Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK.

Now the floor goes to Mr Ahmet YILDIZ from Turkey.


Türkiye, NR


Madam Chair, dear colleagues,

We are getting close to the historic summit. Personally I feel excited to attend a summit in this organisation, even on the last day of my term here. Hopefully I will return to this Parliamentary Assembly in the next summit.

On this occasion, I would like to thank everyone who gave us this opportunity, and who worked diligently to present our contributions as the Parliamentary Assembly to the summit for the new vision of the Council of Europe, especially Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN and her team. Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN did this contribution in a very inclusive way.

After almost two decades, we will renew our commitment to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Today, however, we are faced with worrying regressions in these three values, challenges that we have not experienced for a long time, and changes we need to adopt.

Therefore, we need to reverse the regressions, develop rather more inclusive and comprehensive approaches and new perspectives, and find sustainable solutions to the challenges.

Regression in democracy, the rule of law and human rights has led to loss of faith in democracy and trust in democratic institutions, created a ground for xenophobia, played a crucial role in the rise of populism and the polarisation of societies, and negatively impacted the full enjoyment of rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

These all have also raised some challenges and concerns such as intolerance, exclusion, racism, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination, and triggered anti-Muslim hatred, anti-Semitism, hate speech and hate crime. I am especially worried about this as an envoy of the Parliamentary Assembly to the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).

Nevertheless, I believe, one of the major challenges we face today is the return of war to the continent with the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine.

From the previous speakers, and from all deliberations during sessions, I am sure that our Council of Europe, with the contribution of the Parliamentary Assembly, will deal with these issues in a very responsible manner for the future of our continent.

It is also truly admirable that our Parliamentary Assembly has suggested that climate change and artificial intelligence be on the agenda, taking into account the concerns and expectations of European people.

Finally, I trust that the Summit will succeed in setting out a forward-looking agenda, with an inclusive and comprehensive approach, including again accountability against the aggressor.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

I call next Mr Axel SCHÄFER from Germany.


Germany, SOC


Madam President,

Dear colleagues,

The Road to Reykjavík is the destination, and the goal that this summit takes place is a success for us as members of parliament in a special way.

That is why it is also our task as members of parliament to put Reykjavík up for discussion in our 46 national parliaments.

That is why it is also our duty as members of parliament to name what successes have been achieved and not just primarily to lament what has not yet been achieved.

That is why it is our duty as members of parliament to take up the message of the last Warsaw Summit, namely to move forward to a Europe of democracy, peace and co-operation, in a completely different way today. Nobody imagined or even wished in 2005 that a country like Russia would invade Poland, as Adolf Hitler, Nazi, did in 1939. Ukraine invades, sorry.

We should be proud that this year we have achieved a unity and determination in Europe, here also in this body, with a large majority that we may not have imagined.

That is why, ladies and gentlemen, it is so important that today, on the way to Reykjavík, we openly look each other in the eye, join hands across national and party borders and acknowledge that the most important interest in every single country remains European co-operation and European unity. This is also the only answer we can give to Mr Vladimir Putin, who wants to divide and destroy this Europe. The most important historical achievement of modern times is this common Europe.

Let us also do this in the spirit of a great internationalist, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mr Willy Brandt. He said, and it was 30 years ago and fits today's situation perfectly, "nothing comes by itself and only a little lasts".

That's why we are reflecting on our strength and on the fact that every time requires new answers and that we have to be on our toes if we want to make a difference.

That is our task.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

I call next Mr Jacek PROTASIEWICZ from Poland. I don't see him in his seat... oh, you're here. The floor is yours.


Poland, EPP/CD


Thank you, Madam President, dear colleagues.

We are discussing the issue of the upcoming Council of Europe Summit, which will be held in Reykjavík on 16 and 17 May this year.

I have no doubts that will be an extremely important event, not only because the summit is being organised 18 years after the previous one, but also due to the horrible war in Ukraine – one of our Council member States that was invaded – at that time – by another member State of this organisation, which was established to preserve peace and secure human rights on our continent.

The Russian aggression against Ukraine was a barbaric violation of the basic principles the Council of Europe has built. It was very much the right decision to expel the Russian Federation from our organisation. Well, of course, that resulted in diminished financial resources for the Council of Europe's operations; however, our plans to make it more efficient must not be less ambitious.

From my point of view, two aspects are the most important in achieving that goal.

Firstly, we need to strengthen the position of the European Court of Human Rights and to assure the binding role of its verdicts. People who feel their human or civic rights were violated by governments must have a chance to be properly treated here in Strasbourg in the court building without delay.

Secondly, we need to make the European Commission for Democracy through Law, commonly known as the Venice Commission – we need to make its role more effective. It is really disturbing that in more and more states which belong to the Council of Europe –  including my own country – the rule of law is backsliding and democracy is becoming a kind of tyranny of the majority that uses all available resources, including the judicial system, to fight against its opponents, as well as to significantly reduce the rights of minorities.

Finally, I would like to express my hope that the Reykjavík Summit will send a very strong message to the whole world that such an unprovoked and clearly unjustified aggression, as we have witnessed for all of the 14 months in Ukraine, will never be accepted by the international community. No negotiations will be possible until the aggressor withdraws its army from all invaded territories.

And, which is of the utmost importance, all people including political leaders who are responsible for the horrible crimes committed in Ukraine will be prosecuted and eventually brought to the Court and properly punished.

Thank you.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbia, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

I call next Ms Olena KHOMENKO from Ukraine. The floor is yours.


Ukraine, EC/DA


Fellow colleagues,

Any captured Ukrainian territory and any remaining civilians are subject not only to the murder, torture, sexual violence, and abduction of children – for which Moscow troops are notorious – but also being subsumed into the Russian orbit with its tyranny, repression, and lies.

Russia is fighting not only against us, our dear colleagues. They are betting against your democracy. And if you fail to act rapidly they have their chances to succeed.

In November 2022, Ukraine proposed a tangible action plan to reach peace.

I believe the Council of Europe has a lot to contribute to reach its objectives and may serve as a lighthouse for strategic priorities of our organisation.

Ensuring accountability for the crime of aggression committed against Ukraine is, therefore, critical to avoid impunity.

The response of the international community, including the prosecution of the crime of aggression committed against Ukraine, is of critical importance for the future of the international legal order.

The United Nations Security Council could enable the International Criminal Court (ICC) to exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression against Ukraine.

However, this initiative faces the prospect of Russia's battle as an illegal member of the United Nations Security Council.

Therefore, the only way for the international community to ensure accountability for the crime of aggression against Ukraine is to create new and appropriate judicial mechanisms complementary to the ICC system.

To be fully effective, this mechanism shall allow for the prosecution of the most senior leadership of the Russian Federation. Therefore, your support in making it possible within any prominent international fora like the United Nations General Assembly is of paramount importance.

The Russian totalitarian machine relies on our indecisiveness and lack of courage.

They believe that time is on their side.

Only a rapid and decisive victory will restore the international principle: that land grabs are unacceptable.

I urge you to invest all efforts towards the creation of a truly international tribunal this year, and support its work.

These actions would contribute to the reestablishment of the credibility of the international legal order against exceptionalist fever dreams.

Thank you dear colleagues.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, madam.

And then we continue with the next speaker, I think it's Mr Serhii SOBOLIEV, from the Group of the European People's Party and Ukraine.

The floor is yours.


Ukraine, EPP/CD


Thank you.

Dear colleagues.

I think that the main question now that of the all people of Europe are asking is, what can we expect from the Reykjavík Summit?

I think that it is very important to understand that in times when a lot of other international organisations became weaker, our organisation must have all of the possibility to become stronger than we were before.

Over the last decades, from the establishment of our organisation, the whole of Europe and the whole world changed dramatically.

We have to understand this, and I think that a lot – millions – of people are awaiting the reform of our organisation.

What did we do, for example, in 2008, when Russia occupied 20% of Georgian territory?

Remember, the Olympic Committee gave Russia the [opportunity] to organise the Sochi Olympic Games.

What are we waiting for from the United Nations after 2022? Open aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine.

Now Russia is a leading country, even today, it is in the main organ of a United Nations organisation.

It is a good example that we had to be other.

It is very important to understand that we need to do two main things now, not only to stop the aggression and to return all occupied territories; it is even more important to prevent war.

How we can do this? Only in one way, if dictators such as Mr Vladimir Putin understand that the first decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a first bell for him. We need to do other steps in order to do this.

It is very important to understand that the special tribunal is the most important thing. We need to have a map of how to organise this tribunal. The Reykjavík Summit must answer this question because, without this tribunal, it is impossible to stop wars in our days or in the future.

It is very important to organise the main meeting of all European peoples where the two main organisations – and it is very symbolic – in this building will proclaim the new principles of a free world.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Serhii SOBOLIEV.

The next speaker is Mr Krzysztof ŚMISZEK from the Socialist, Democrats and Greens group.

This will be the last speaker in this conversation.

Mr Krzysztof ŚMISZEK

Poland, SOC


Thank you, Madam President.

The Council of Europe Summit of Heads of State and Government is going to be a crucial event in the history of our organisation, or at least it should be.

To make it effective and to make it comprehensive, the voice of civil society needs to be heard and needs to be taken into consideration.

Therefore, I urge the institution of the Council of Europe, as well as heads of states and national governments, to listen to what human rights organisations – which met in the in The Hague in February and March this year in a great number – propose, and what they have to say about the reform of our organisation.

Civil society organisations clearly underlined that we need to reaffirm commitments to the Council of Europe and provide sufficient resources to meet the challenges to human rights and the rule of law.

We need to structurally improve the implementation of the European Human Rights Convention.

We have to strengthen monitoring and preventive systems.

We need to clearly oppose the backlash against gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights and women's rights.

We need to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change.

We need to recognise civil society as a cornerstone of the Council of Europe.

We have to maintain relations with the civic democratic actors of the European non-member States.

We, the Parliamentary Assembly, should send a very clear signal from Strasbourg.

Member States should take concrete steps to realise the founding mission and values of the Council of Europe without any delay and blurring. The time is now.

The Council of Europe belongs to the citizens of Europe and their voice is crucial, their vision is crucial, their demands are crucial.

They call on us to reform our organisation; we need to follow the voices of those who translate European laws and standards into practice on a daily basis in our member States.

There is a historic momentum. We cannot miss it. The time to act is now, the time will be in Reykjavík.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Krzysztof ŚMISZEK.

I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers' list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the Official Report. I remind colleagues that this time written texts can be submitted, electronically if possible, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.

I remind you that at the end of a current affairs debate, the Parliamentary Assembly is not asked to decide upon a text; but the matter may be referred by the Bureau to the committee responsible for a report.

Now I give the floor for a short, important message from the President.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, and thank you very much also, Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN, for your presentation.

I have opened and closed the vote on the election of a judge in respect of Romania.

I have received the procès-verbal of the tellers.

I have concluded that the list of candidates was not presented to you in the alphabetical order.

Our rules say that it has to be presented in the alphabetical order, therefore I have ruled to annul the result of the voting process.

I will not announce therefore any results.

I would propose to you to hold a new first round tomorrow afternoon at the beginning of our seating at 4:00 p.m.

And so that in case a second round is needed, it can take place at the moment that we already have scheduled, at 5:00 p.m.

Is there any objection against this?

Mr Ionuț-Marian STROE

Romania, EPP/CD


Mister President, I do not see any kind of problem. So I think, first of all, we were voting for names, not numbers.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Sorry, one second.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


And this is exactly what I want to say, I have now proposed to have a new first round tomorrow afternoon. You cannot oppose my decision on the annulation of the voting process, because Rule 20 says that I rule, and I have looked at the rules. The rules are clear. I applied rules as set in Rule 20. So that is not to be debated.

Mr Ionuț-Marian STROE

Romania, EPP/CD


Mister President, do I have the right to speak?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Yes, you have the right to speak on the proposal to hold a new first round tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

That's the subject, not the annulation of the voting process, because I have...

Mr Ionuț-Marian STROE

Romania, EPP/CD


Am I permitted to express my opinion? Okay, so I am against and I will propose the idea of reconsidering and inviting us to have a new vote because, first of all, we voted for names, not for numbers. And secondly, one hour is absolutely enough to clarify if...

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Sorry, sorry, I said it now twice: My decision is my decision. You cannot appeal that.

The proposal that is now to be decided by the Parliamentary Assembly to hold a new first round tomorrow afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

If you have any comments on that, I give you the floor. Not on my decision, because that's a decision of the president, it's not a decision of the Parliamentary Assembly.

Do you have any remarks with the proposal to hold the new first round tomorrow at 4:00 p.m.?


Mr Ionuț-Marian STROE

Romania, EPP/CD


 Of course Mister President, I am against because it is your personal opinion. We voted in this room.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


I am sorry, the rules say that I have the right to [he is interrupted].

Mr Ionuț-Marian STROE

Romania, EPP/CD


The rules go against our votes?

Excuse me for asking but you did not present any kind of argument for repeating the vote.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

You are entitled to ask your question.

Mr Ionuț-Marian STROE

Romania, EPP/CD


Mister President, we voted names, not numbers and an hour was enough for everybody to clarify.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


And I have informed the Parliamentary Assembly that I have got the procès-verbal of the voting.

I have concluded that we did not follow the rules. I take responsibility for that.

The list that you got was not in line with our rules.

Therefore, I have decided that I am annulling the voting process.

What is now on the agenda of the Parliamentary Assembly, is to hold a new first round tomorrow at 4:00 p.m.

I had one speaker against it, one speaker in favour of it. No?



Spain, EC/DA


Mr President,

Your reasoning is flawed. You cannot propose to this Chamber to discuss item 2 without being able to discuss item 1, since item 2 is the effect of item 1. This means nothing.

You must disclose the results and then we will see what we decide.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you, sir.

No, but I am the president and I have... sorry, you can continue talking, but that does not make it more relevant.

What I say and again, I have seen that a mistake was made in the publication of the lists.

I have seen that our rules are clear: They say alphabetical order. That was not respected.

I do not have any other choice than to say that I have to annul the voting process.

That means that I cannot read and announce any results.

So that point is taken.

Whether everybody likes it or not, this is what the rules say. And I decide this.

You are entitled to decide on my proposal to hold a new first round tomorrow at 4:00 p.m.

Mr Damien COTTIER, do you want to speak in favour or... ?


Switzerland, ALDE


Yes, I do, Mister President.

I am one of the members of the Committee for the Election of Judges. The President of the Committee is not any more here in Strasbourg today for personal reasons.

I just wanted to mention that the order that we had in the Committee was the alphabetical order, and the order today was different, and that may cause some doubts or some questions in the Assembly, also because two names are quite similar.

So, I think your decision is a good one and it's good to go tomorrow because you can announce for the people to come again tomorrow for that.

So I support.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much. 

Ms Margreet De BOER.

Ms Margreet De BOER

Netherlands, SOC


Yes, thank you.

I totally agree and I want to propose because this time we had a one-hour period to vote, which was of no value at all because you had to be present at the last five minutes, so my suggestion would be to have the vote in five minutes.

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

Once again, thank you for what you said Mr Damien COTTIER, but I am only applying the rules.

The rules say that I have seen that we made a mistake. I take responsibility for the mistake because I asked you to vote.

And, therefore, I have to annul the voting process. End of story.

Second round, I now see 4:00 p.m. and we will see how we can shorten the process.

We have to be aware that an eventual second round will take place at 5:00 p.m.

Can we leave with this decision? Then I decide. I conclude that tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. there will be a new first round, and eventually if needed, a second round as scheduled at 5:00 p.m.

Now we continue with the rest of our programme for today.

No, no, you continue, I think.

Mr Stéphane BERGERON



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


Ireland, UEL


(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

The Reykjavík Summit represents a unique opportunity to make the Council of Europe fit for purpose to meet the extraordinary range of challenges to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

It is an excellent initiative, and both the Irish and Icelandic governments deserve tremendous credit for making it happen.

I want to particularly recognise the work of my Irish colleague Ms Fiona O’LOUGHLIN who acted as rapporteur for the report on the summit, which contains a wide range of key recommendations from this assembly

I want to pay tribute to the positive role of the Icelandic government and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe delegation who have been driving this project so well, and to the Irish Ambassador and his team who did such sterling work under the Irish Presidency.

And of course I want to recognise the leadership and drive of our Assembly President Mr Tiny KOX, without whom none of this would be possible.

In the short time available I want to highlight four key points.

Firstly, and most obviously, the need for governments attending the summit to deliver for the people of Europe. Deliver the resources necessary to enable the Council of Europe to fulfil its mandate in terms of defending human rights. It should be a cause of international embarrassment that the total funding for the Council of Europe equates to just one day's funding for the European Union.

Secondly, and crucially, the summit needs to expand the scope of human rights to include the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. There is no room for fudge here. We face an existential crisis in climate change that threatens the very future of life on this planet. The Council of Europe, and each and every government attending this summit, cannot be found wanting here. How can we be fit for purpose if we do not expand rights in this area? Future generations will not forgive European governments if they fail to act in this regard.

Thirdly, members must commit to ensure European Union accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. I don’t mean just talk about it or drag out negotiations for another decade. I mean get it done. It is simply not acceptable that EU institutions cannot currently be held accountable for their actions when it comes to human rights, especially with the ever growing slide towards Fortress Europe.

Finally, I want to ask colleagues to Mind The Gap. Anyone who has ever travelled on the London underground will be familiar with that phrase. I’m referring to the gap between what government representatives say in this chamber and the reality of their governments policies at home. Sometimes its gap, sometimes it’s a gaping chasm.

We cannot have a situation where a government pledges support for human rights whilst introducing laws that they themselves admit may not be in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.

We cannot continue to hear pious calls for the defence of free speech and media freedom from representatives here whilst their governments continue to turn a blind eye to the continuing imprisonment and slow death of Mr Julian Assange.

We cannot continue to hear nonsense about illegal asylum applicants - there is no such thing - whilst thousands of human beings continue to drown in the Mediterranean and Greek seas.

We cannot, on the one hand pledge our support for human rights whilst turning a blind eye to, or actively engaging in illegal pushbacks of human being fleeing wars, and broken societies, often caused by European and western governments.


Ms Emine Nur GÜNAY

Türkiye, NR


(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear President,

Dear colleagues,

The Council of Europe has been playing a pivotal role in upholding democracy and human rights in the European continent since its inception in 1949. As the political conditions in Europe and across the globe has changed, the Council of Europe naturally evolved to address the emerging challenges and opportunities.

The Fourth Council of Europe Summit provides a timely and much-needed occasion for all states to take stock of recent developments and to reflect on how the Council of Europe should respond to them.

The military aggression of Russia in Ukraine is undoubtedly the most important development that put the European political and security architecture to a profound stress test.

The Council of Europe and its member States should find ways to prevent such an aggression to the international order and peace in Europe.

The Council of Europe, as the guardian of democracy and human rights in Europe, should also use the summit to reach a consensus among member States in formulating effective roadmaps for improving the Convention system, and thereby preserving the Council of Europe’s pioneering role in defending human rights.

While the Council of Europe is admittedly the organisation for the robust protection of democracy and the rule of law in Europe, I also firmly believe that its role as a beacon of values and standards in the global governance should also be emphasised.

The Council of Europe’s increased relationship with interested parties would not only be advantageous in terms of promoting Council of Europe standards across the globe, it would also increase the Council of Europe’s organisational capacity and unique know-how in building capacity for applying standards pertaining to democracy and human rights in different national contexts.

I would like to conclude my remarks by reaffirming Türkiye’s commitment to the Council of Europe and its values. As a founding member, Türkiye has and always will contribute to the organisation by ensuring timely and meaningful input to its activities.

I have no doubts regarding Türkiye and other member States will utilise this summit as an opportunity to ensure that the Council of Europe is ready to confront today’s challenges in the most appropriate and effective manner.

Thank you.

Mr Francesco SORBARA



(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

I would like to begin by congratulating the members from Iceland for your country’s extraordinary leadership leading up to the Summit in Reykjavík in a couple of weeks.

The summit will not doubt be historic, as the Council of Europe looks to reaffirm its core principles and chart its future within the new European reality created by Russian aggression.

In its response to that aggression, the Council of Europe has already asserted itself as the moral compass of Europe and an example to the world of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in action.

The Summit offers the Council of Europe, and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, an opportunity to build on this work and deliver tangible outcomes that can move the organisation forward.

As an observer, Canada stands ready to help in this mission. Our Canada–Europe Parliamentary Association remains committed to our participation here at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Canada will be represented in Reykjavík by a delegation led by the Honourable Mr Stéphane Dion, ambassador to France, the prime minister’s special envoy to the EU and Europe, and former minister of foreign affairs.

I know that the wealth of experience that Mr Stéphane Dion brings to the table will be of value.

One area where I believe Canada can contribute is by emphasising the value of complementary action through other forums, like the G7, and highlighting ways in which Canada can support the Council of Europe’s mandate in such forums.

How to hold Russia accountable for its aggression, including reparations for the devastation it has inflicted on Ukraine, is a current topic of debate which I understand will be discussed in Reykjavík.

This is certainly an area where we have already seen the Council of Europe play a constructive role within the context of broader international cooperation, and action at the national level.

Canada supports such efforts and is active in debates on the proper means of ensuring Russian accountability, with an emphasis on promoting Ukrainian leadership in determining our collective way forward.

Iceland’s focus during its presidency on addressing climate change and championing the rights of children and youth are other priorities that align with Canada’s international engagement and offer avenues through which Canada can support the Council of Europe with its work in other forums.

Good luck to all those participating in the Summit. I look forward to engaging on the outcomes at our next session.

Thank you.

Debate: European Convention on Human Rights and national constitutions

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


That is better. Thank you.

The next item on the agenda is the debate on the Report titled “European Convention on Human Rights and National Constitutions”.

It is Document 15741 presented by Mr George KATROUGALOS on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

In order to finish by about 6:40 p.m., I will interrupt the list of speakers at about 6:30 p.m., to allow time for the reply and to vote on the draft resolution.

I call Mr George KATROUGALOS, rapporteur.

You have 7 minutes now, and 3 minutes at the end to reply to the debate. The floor is yours.


Greece, UEL, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights


Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I had the idea to propose, by a motion, this subject to discussion for a resolution, exactly because we see tension arising among the courts of the three parallel legal systems we have in our continent. We have the national legal systems; having a supreme norm, the constitution; we have, of course, our European Convention of Human Rights, and the court as the arbiter of this system, and we have also the European Union law and the Court of the European Union.

As there is an interconnection between these three systems, there is also the possibility of a conflict – and this did happen historically. We had the first wave of decisions of constitutional courts putting into question the supremacy of European law.

Then recently, we had the constitutional courts putting into question the interpretation of the European Convention of Human Rights – or at least its supremacy over the national constitutions.

And after the accession of the European Union to the European Convention of Human Rights, it is possible even [to have] tension between the Court of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights.

How can we alleviate this tension?

My first remark, is that as European space is not a federal state – not just Europe as a whole – not even the European Union is a federal state. It is not possible to have a legal hierarchy between these norms of the three parallel and interconnected legal systems. Every one of them has its own supreme norm. There is not a European upon European ground norm that could act as an over-arching rule or principle.

If this is the case, how can we conciliate these parallel and overlapping legal orders?

The answer is we should have an effective dialogue and synergetic co-operation between the supreme courts of any one of these three parallel legal orders.

There is a theoretical construction of that, speaking about the multi-level constitutionalism in Europe, each one of these three legal systems representing a different level of any construction.

But what does it mean practically?

It means, first of all, deference of its jurisdiction to the other jurisdiction when and where it has competence.

Therefore, the European Court of Human Rights has a general jurisdiction over the interpretation of the treaties that should be fully respected, not because the European Convention of Human Rights is a higher normative rule in relation to the constitutions according to most European legal orders.

And you can see in the annexe, a questionnaire that has been answered by the legal services of the national parliaments. This does not exist. What does exist? First of all, the political willingness of our states to be part of this political family of European states willing to establish a common European legal space and, above all, a juris communis [of] the rights at the level of human rights.

Second, there are arguments at the level of international law not related to a hierarchy of norms but just to the obligation of its and everyone's state to respect the basic rule pacta sunt servanda. And the treaty of the treaties, the Vienna Treaty, says explicitly that any kind of domestic norm cannot be an excuse for deviating from this international obligation.

In the draft you have in front of you, I have avoided making reference to specific cases, exactly because I wanted our Parliamentary Assembly to understand the basic political and legal essence of the issue. This does not mean that we do not have recent aspects of this tension. I am referring to them analytically in the explanatory memorandum.

For instance, the constitutional decision of Poland on the zero laws affair is, I believe, one of the problematic cases that highlights what can happen when there is this difference in this co-operation between the respective courts.

Recently, the UK has deposited a law by which it aims to deviate from its obligation under Article 34 of the European Convention of Human Rights related to the interim measures of the European Court. I hope that the opinion of Foreign Secretary, Mr James Cleverly, in a recent interview is going to prevail. For those of you who do not know his statement, he said that the UK should not want to club with Belarus and Russia in rejecting the European Human Rights Convention. He said, and now I quote: "I am not convinced it is a club we want to be a part of".

So, thank you for your annotation, dear colleagues, I think that only in this way, by the way of mutual dialogue, and mutual respect among different jurisdictions and different legal orders, we can all of us build what we aim for in this common European legal space of rights and freedoms.


Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr George KATROUGALOS.

And then we continue with speakers on behalf of the political groups, and we start with Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Mr Bertrand BOUYX from France.

The floor is yours.

Mr Bertrand BOUYX

France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group


Madam President,

Mr Rapporteur,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

When the the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was signed in Rome on 4 November 1950, and even when it came into force on 3 September 1953, only two of the contracting states had constitutional courts, namely Germany and Austria. At that time, the ECHR could be seen as a supreme court, guardian of freedoms and the rule of law.

Since then, fortunately, many such courts have appeared: in the Iberian Peninsula in the 1970s after the end of the dictatorships, and especially in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Not to mention the fact that some supreme courts play the role of constitutional judge.

At the same time, many of the new constitutions of European states began to incorporate very comprehensive catalogues of fundamental rights, often going beyond the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Convention. In such cases, they are not limited to organising the public authorities and the relations between them and to determining their powers. This is the case in France with the preamble, which refers directly to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789.

The impregnation of constitutional law by human rights leads the constitutional courts and the European Court to work in the same spheres.

And yet, there is no lack of differences between these two types of jurisdiction.

The institution? National in one case, international in the other.

The framework? The state on the one hand, an international organisation - the Council of Europe - gathering 46 countries on the other.

The texts? A national constitution or basic law in one case, an international treaty in the other.

The control? Of constitutionality on the one hand, of conventionality on the other.

The power? That of annulling an unconstitutional law in one case, that of rendering judgments of an essentially declaratory nature in the other, even if these judgments may lead to an amendment of the constitution.

The referral? A direct constitutional appeal in some states, an individual appeal always open to anyone in Strasbourg.

All these differences lead some to defend a kind of legal chauvinism. I say this is a bad trial.

It is a bad trial because the subsidiarity governs the relationship between constitutions and the convention and the relationship between constitutional courts and the European Court.

The substantive rules of the convention do not replace the analogous norms of domestic law; if necessary, they fill in the gaps or correct the defects.

They set a floor below which states are prohibited from falling, but they can do more and better, which fortunately often happens. It is therefore a minimum standard that we have collectively decided to respect, and this is fortunate.

In the end, apart from the somewhat chauvinistic debate on the nationality of the competent jurisdiction, the parties that most reject the ECHR and its judgments are those that are prepared to go below this minimum standard.

For the defenders of human rights and democratic values, there is no kind of competition between national constitutions and the ECHR, but rather a complementarity.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Bertrand BOUYX.

And we continue with Sir Edward LEIGH from the United Kingdom and representing the European Conservatives Group.

The floor is yours, sir.

Sir Edward LEIGH

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group


Madam President.

It is an honour to speak in this debate and as a United Kingdom Brexiteer, I never thought that I would speak in this vast chamber of the European Parliament, at least five times bigger than our more intimate chamber in the House of Commons, and summing up in its vast space-ness, the remoteness that many of us think characterises the European Union.

But the Council of Europe, of course, and its Parliamentary Assembly is supposed to be very different, it is an inter-parliamentary union.

It has enjoyed widespread support in the United Kingdom. Nobody, for many years, has seriously thought about ever leaving it until recently because the Court, unfortunately, has now become more and more proactive. That is making this body and our membership of the Supreme Court of Europe, as it were, more and more controversial.

I mean really we need to return to the convention itself, which was, of course, the creation of an English lawyer, Lord Kilmuir, Mr David Maxwell-Fyfe, under the political leadership of Mr Winston Churchill. As Erasmus said, "Above all, we must hasten to the sources themselves". But the court has become more and more proactive.

For the first 60 years, it was really just a subject of academic, legal opinion, but only recently, when we have just tried, as a government and a country, to deal with a small boats crisis – 40,000 people crossing the Channel, a great risk of people drowning – we have seen the court intervening in our own democratic process by serving an interim injunction on the government to stop these flights to Rwanda.

The migration crisis affects us all. Of course we have all got to cooperate, but individual nations have to be able to deter migration.

So at the very time that we are speaking now, in the House of Commons, in the United Kingdom, the government is amending its own bill to ensure that the United Kingdom can disregard interim orders. In other words, we say we are a member of a supreme court, but we can disregard some of it.

I really give this warning to this body.

For years United Kingdom Brexiteers said there was a risk of Great Britain leaving the European Union. We were not listened to.

The European Union became more and more proactive, we eventually left.

Now our very membership of this body is becoming more and more controversial.

We have to have the freedom to be able to deal with the migration crisis in the way that we want to do, even if that means deporting people to Rwanda.

So I give that warning.

There is no reason why we should leave the Court of Human Rights.

There is no reason why we should leave this Parliamentary Assembly, but the court has to stop being more and more proactive. it must return to its sources and to the convention itself.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Sir Edward LEIGH.

And we continue with Mr Emmanuel FERNANDES from France and Group of the Unified European Left.

The floor is yours.


France, UEL, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Madam President.

Mister rapporteur, dear colleagues,

The report before us deals with an essential and central issue for the institution in which we sit, which is the necessary balance to be maintained, subtle and valuable, between the European Convention on Human Rights and the national constitutions of the 46 member states of the Council of Europe.

I would like to pay tribute to the excellent work of the rapporteur, Mr George KATROUGALOS, and his high-quality report.

This report sheds a welcome light on this subject which, although it may seem theoretical and austere, must be looked at with precision, lucidity and a spirit of realism because it is a sort of cardioscopy of a legal system that is unique in the world and that we must preserve. The integrated legal order in Europe, which must allow for the respect of both the principles of subsidiarity and the primacy of human rights, cannot leave room for any hierarchy between the different supreme courts. On the contrary, a constructive dialogue between these courts must be upheld, even if this sometimes gives rise to conflicting interpretations in specific cases.

As the report before us clearly states, it is not only impossible, but also undesirable, to prevent these contradictions entirely. On the contrary, it is necessary to use tools that allow the understanding and resolution of specific legal problems, rather than attacks on the entire system of European law, which attempt to call into question the competence of the European Court of Human Rights.

The Group of the Unified European Left therefore fully supports the draft resolution of this report. This draft resolution calls for welcome advances to guarantee the effectiveness and primacy of human rights throughout Europe, while respecting national legal systems and in particular constitutions.

We support the fact that the states have committed themselves, through their accession to the convention, to guarantee the rights enshrined therein, to refrain from exacerbating conflicts between the constitutional and European human rights orders and, in accordance with the provisions of the convention, to enforce the judgments and provisional measures of the Strasbourg Court.

We must now continue the human rights efforts at the European level, as called for in this report, by putting in place tools to improve understanding and mutual respect between jurisdictions, and mechanisms to ensure that national courts apply the convention and take account of the court's case law.

Finally, my group supports the strengthening and deepening of the network of supreme courts and the call to all member States to ratify Protocol No. 16 to the convention and to use this advisory mechanism to clarify the dialogue and avoid conflicts between supreme courts.

Dear colleagues,

Despite the crises that threaten Europe, our continent is and must remain the continent where human rights prevail through the law.

Supporting the excellent proposal for a report and resolution by Mr George KATROUGALOS is, to this end, a necessary and balanced step for our Parliamentary Assembly.

I thank you for your support.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister FERNANDES.

The next speaker is on behalf of the Socialist Group from the Netherlands, Ms Margreet De BOER.

Ms Margreet De BOER

Netherlands, SOC, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you.

The European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) is a great good, which deserves to be respected. However, the convention and the court’s judgements have been increasingly called into question in recent years, often by conservative forces citing conflicts with national constitutions as their grounds. In light of this worrying development, I – on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group group – would like to congratulate the rapporteur for his insightful report, and his suggestions for pathways forward.

It is important to stress that the convention and the court are not some force from abroad or ‘higher up’ that imposes human rights obligations on member States at will: the European human rights system has been created by the member States themselves, who all agreed that human rights protection is necessary. It is also crucial to understand that judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are clarifications and contextualisations of already existing obligations.

Calling into question ECHR obligations, and specifically the court’s judgements, on the basis of national constitutions is a dangerous trend.

As stated in the report, it disregards several fundaments of international law, such as pacta sunt servanda and good faith.

Moreover, and more importantly, it undermines the legitimacy of previously established human rights protection. As such, it is undemocratic and contravenes the very meaning of this institution.

The report and resolution address many relevant potential solutions to conflicts between the ECHR and national constitutions, such as constructive dialogue between judicial instances, with respect for each other’s roles and competences.

Coming from the Netherlands, I am happy to say I have seen how this can work in practice. The Dutch constitutional "incorporation clause" causes courts to base their judgements directly on convention rights, which inform their own interpretation and gives potential future inspiration for the European court.

For example, in the Dutch "Urgenda" judgement, the Dutch Supreme Court established an obligation for the Dutch government to take more action to combat climate change, in part based on the right to life and the right to private and family life.

I also see potential in the possibility to seek advisory opinions from the European court, and thus urge my colleagues to draw their government’s attention to Protocol 16 in order to increase its invocation.

In this respect, I would like to ask the rapporteur if he has any ideas on how we can make this mechanism as well-used as the procedure for preliminary rulings at the Court of Justice of the European Union?

To conclude, the ECHR is a democratically and collectively established system for human rights protection, which must not be challenged based on national constitutions.

I, therefore, urge the member States to implement this resolution and thus ensure peaceful co-existence and co-operation between national and European systems.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam De BOER.

Next I call Mr Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI from North Macedonia, representing the Group of the European People's Party.

Mr Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI

North Macedonia, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you.

This is a very important report. As it clearly says in its summary:

"This work has arisen in the context of increasing interconnectedness between the roles of the European Court of Human Rights, national constitutional courts and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Given the absence of a clear constitutional hierarchy between these jurisdictions, we are dealing with a sort of 'multi-level constitutionalism'".

[The issue of] human rights in Europe is not a three-way street, it is a one-way street!

And it is clearly stated in the report, national constitutional courts as well as the Court of Justice of the European Union must be in line with the European Court of Human Rights, as the most important European court for the protection of human rights.

Improvements are also needed to ensure that domestic courts appropriately engage with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights when applying human rights at the domestic level – including through making the Court’s knowledge-sharing guides available in all languages of the Council of Europe.

Dear friends,

One member country – Bulgaria – is not committed to its obligations as a member of the Council of Europe. For years, Bulgaria declines to implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

There are 16 judgments by the Court connected to the Macedonians in Bulgaria that are not implemented. Macedonians are forbidden to use and teach their mother language, restricted of the right to assembly, as well as participation in elections. These judgments must be implemented. The national constitution and courts cannot be above the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

When domestic institutions fail to protect the human rights of Macedonians in Bulgaria, they see Strasbourg as their hope for respect for basic human rights.

It is clearly written in the report that almost all responding countries answered that their courts refer to the convention when adjudicating on human rights issues. In the same sentence the report for Bulgaria and several other countries clearly says: "Nevertheless, the degree to which the Convention and/or the European Court of Human Rights’ decisions are persuasive authority differs".

I agree with these positions in the report. I think they should be more solid in wording and more direct in requesting countries such as Bulgaria to fully adjust its political system, to be in line with the European Convention on Human Rights and respect the human rights of all national minorities, including Macedonians.

Bulgarians are very vocal about cases out of their borders, but have failed to implement a single judgment of the Court for years. This is not acceptable.

Full respect for the convention and the national constitutional order is not antithetical but fully complementary. The Assembly should consider that the priority of the Council of Europe should be the reinforcement of the legal and moral authority of the convention.

Thank you.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister NIKOLOSKI.

Then we continue on the speakers list, and the first speaker is Ms Hripsime GRIGORYAN from Armenia representing the Socialist Group.


Armenia, SOC


Thank you, Chair.

I want to express gratitude to Mr George KATROUGALOS for this excellent report, elaborating on the challenges and roles of national courts and international courts.

In this era of emerging multilateral constitutionalism, we indeed need to find better mechanisms for the alignment of legislations and encouraging dialogue.

In this context, Protocol 16 is a highly useful instrument.

Armenia is one of the 19 countries to have ratified the Protocol, but also among the seven advisory opinions requested so far to come from Armenia from the constitutional court and the court of cassation.

Now, even before talking about aligning the domestic and supernational legislations or ratifying the protocols, the very Convention on Human Rights is ratified by all member States, binding all of them to abide by the judgments of the ECHR.

I want to bring in the words of Simona GRANATA-MENGHINI, that it is important to distinguish between legal impossibility and non-desirability.

I strongly believe that in many cases, when we speak about implementation, or rather non-implementation, of judgments by international courts, the ECHR now, we speak more about the lack of political will rather than legal issues.

A decision of ECHR I want to draw your attention to was made on 21 December 2022. It is the interim measure in the case of Armenia versus Azerbaijan in relation to the blocking of the Lachin corridor via which Armenian people of Nagorno-Karabakh access vital services including medical care, food, but also other essentials from Armenia.

Noting the extent to which the government of Azerbaijan at that time had control of the situation in the Lachin corridor, and in line with the obligation of Azerbaijan under the trilateral statement of 9 November 2020 to guarantee the security of persons, vehicles, and cargo moving along the Lachin corridor in both directions, the Court decided that the government of Azerbaijan should take all measures that were within their jurisdiction to ensure safe passage through the Lachin corridor.

Having not implemented the judgment of the court, at that time Azerbaijan colleagues, in this very institution, in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, were refusing the very fact of blockage, as well as the connection of the Azerbaijani authorities with the so-called eco-activists who had blocked the road.

Now, what happened two days ago, this Sunday, is that Azerbaijan simply launched works towards installing the checkpoint.

I'm not confident that even after this fact they will admit the blockage. And exactly for that reason I want to reiterate what has already been said by Madam Secretary General yesterday: access should be available and guaranteed so that international observation is possible on the ground.

And lastly, I want to ask everyone here: what message does Azerbaijan convey to all of us by doing this? Not to the 120,000 Nagorno-Karabakh people living in Nagorno-Karabakh, but to all of us.

Probably that is the following:

"Dear international community, while everybody is busy with the war in Ukraine, the horrible war in Ukraine, I take the chance to achieve my goals by violating international law and by force. Please be informed that as long as nobody holds me back, I will continue doing so."

So then it is on us to decide whether we can afford to leave it like that, or we mobilise to protect human rights and large democracies against dictatorships.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you. And I remind all speakers to have a sight on the screen, follow the watch. It's only 3 minutes, I remind you of that.

And the next speaker is Ms Yuliia OVCHYNNYKOVA from Ukraine, representing the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

The floor is yours.


Ukraine, ALDE


Thank you very much.

Dear Madam President, dear rapporteur,

First of all, thank you very much for this excellent work.

As correctly mentioned in our report, one of the aims of the Council of Europe is achievement of the greater unity between our member States based on common values, including the creation of a common European space for human rights.

Such unity is fundamental for an effective and meaningful democracy governed by the rule of law.

With these values Ukraine joined the Council of Europe and became its member.

Today I want to stress two points.

The first one is our fundamentals. Why we are here. The European Convention on Human Rights was one of the greatest achievements of Europe after the Second World War. It happened because the global community recognised the value of human life and the fundamental freedoms and rights of human beings. It was established in global solidarity, no one ever wanted the war in Europe to happen again. That's what international law achieved and say that never again. That's the motor of the fight for human rights for the free world.

But one country, Russia, we can repeat it, decided to reincarnate the totalitarian regime and bring back the war to Europe.

For more than 400 days, they have been killing civilians brutally, kidnapping hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian children, destroying our environment, because the environment has no borders, threatening and blackmailing the whole world with nuclear weapons.

I strongly call all member States to support Ukraine in finding justice for all crimes committed by Russian aggression.

The second point:

A turning point to our future is expanding the catalogue of human rights, on the new rights for a healthy environment, by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and then by the United Nation naming the right to a healthy, safe, and sustainable environment. Recognition of this right of the member States, also the constitution, is a vital step we have to take together, both for humanity and for the planet Earth.

We parliamentarians are responsible for creating the legal framework, for realising the right to a healthy environment. We should seriously think together about how we can ensure human rights for a healthy, safe, and sustainable environment today into tomorrow.

So, dear friends, let's keep this front together.

Thank you very much.

Ms Ingjerd SCHOU

Norway, EPP/CD, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr Erkin GADIRLI - you have the floor.


Azerbaijan, EC/DA


Thank you Madam Chair,

First of all, let me express my personal gratitude to the rapporteur. This is a very good report. We discussed it in the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

Before continuing what I have in mind to say about this report, let me briefly comment on what our distinguished colleague from Armenia just said.

I am personally very glad that Armenia and Azerbaijan took their disputes to the international courts now. Had we have done that 30 years before, we could probably have avoided the war. But in as much as I'm glad that Armenia and Azerbaijan now take their disputes to the Court, I have a doubt that Armenia tries to politicise international judicial authorities.

Let me remind you that Azerbaijan had to wage a war with a view to exercising its inalienable right to self-defence under article 51 of the UN Charter. No international court is competent and can even theoretically be entitled to overrule the results of the war.

Courts can also only consider disputes – courts cannot solve conflicts. Conflicts can only be solved by negotiations. We have been expecting from Armenia to finally sit at the table of negotiations and sign a treaty of peace.

Now back to the report, I have not much time, so I will just skip some some part of what I have had in mind. This report addresses very serious issues. Of course we have several layers of problems. We have different jurisdictions, some of which may in principle concur or even overlap or even conflict.

We have the European Union, we have the Council of Europe – not all members of the Council of Europe are members of the European Union. With that regard as non-EU members of the Council of Europe may have additional questions with regard to possible admission of the European Union to the European Convention of Human Rights, but also the integrity of the European Court of Human Rights is very important.

But unfortunately the European Court of Human Rights is gradually drifting away from the classical liberal concept of human rights and freedoms. Too many leftist ideas have seemingly influenced the interpretation of European Court of Human Rights, especially for example the attempts to extend the scope of the right to life, so that it could include environmental components, may potentially increase the hap among the member states with regard to the capabilities to implement those obligations.

The European Court of Human Rights, unlike the European Court of Justice, should in my view refrain from expanding its subject matter jurisdiction towards programmatic rights.

My time is up. Thank you Madam Chair. I thank the rapporteur again. Thank you.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The next speaker is Ms Catarina ROCHA FERREIRA.


Portugal, EPP/CD


Thank you,

Madam President, dear colleagues,

Let me start by sharing that today is the day of freedom in my country in Portugal.

On 25 April 1974, democracy won against the dictatorship in Portugal.

So this is the day that brought democracy and civil liberties back to the Portuguese people.

I am happy to celebrate these values here today as these values we share in this Parliamentary Assembly.

But at most, this is a symbolic day for us to discuss the importance of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In fact, Portugal ratified these conventions four years after the 25April Revolution, and two years after the approval of our national constitution.

Actually, we have within this Council of Europe many different constitutional models and values.

Of course, potential conflicts between the European Convention on Human Rights and national constitutions can exist, and in fact exist, but it is very important that full respect for the convention is guaranteed.

I recall that human rights should be upheld in every situation. So, the respect for the convention and the national constitutional orders must be understood as fully complementary.

This is the understanding we have in Portugal.

One of the aims of this Council of Europe is precisely the achievement of greater unity between its member States. This unity includes the creation of a common European space for human rights protection.

The humanist message that is so clearly projected in the convention constitutes a higher guarantee, that human rights are integrally protected by the signatory parts, and we should continue to make a commitment.

Our commitment is to continue to promote human rights, even more in the future.

In earlier times, the protection of human rights was left to the individual states, but the lessons of modern war and a generally lax attitude towards human rights demonstrated the need for them to be made an international concern.

So, I finish underlining the importance of this report because the protection of human rights became an important instrument in the efforts to preserve global peace and security.

The international community should be committed to intervening in the cases where there is a failure in the respect of European Convention of Human Rights by those who signed the convention.

Thank you.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU.

You have the floor.

Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU

Cyprus, SOC


Thank you very much.

I apologise for using technical terms on this very important issue.

My position is that no matter the question of hierarchy, if any, regarding the legal norms, and no matter the interconnectivity between the European Court of Human Rights, the Court of Justice or the Constitutional Courts of Member States, there are certain generally accepted principles.

[These are] the principles of effectiveness, subsidiarity, and proportionality, which convey to us a very important message: that the real issue in question is the effective and proportional application and protection of human rights.

The multiplicity of the existing legal frameworks should not permit the member States to not assume their responsibilities, or to interpret the legal norms in a way that hinders the dynamic evolution of the protection of human rights.

Instead, those interpretations and judgements, no matter where they emanate from, which safeguard and protect human rights in the strongest and most constructive manner, should ultimately dominate and prevail over any other narrower legal – whether it is national or international – interpretation.

Thank you very much.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


 Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr Reinhold LOPATKA. You have the floor.

Mr Reinhold LOPATKA

Austria, EPP/CD


Dear Chairperson, dear colleagues.

It is so important that, in times like this, the Council of Europe has one of its most important concerns as human rights and the protection of human rights.

It is one of the greatest achievements in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights.

To date, all member States of the Council of Europe have acceded to the convention.

Austria has been a state party to the European Convention on Human Rights since 1958.

The Convention has, in Austria, constitutional status, which shows how important it is for us.

This Convention protects important rights and freedoms, such as the right to live, the right to liberty and security; private and family life is protected.

What we should see is that also this European Convention on Human Rights had an influence on the development of our own national constitution. The national constitutions still play a very important role in the protection of human rights.

In our multi-layered legal order, human rights are protected at two levels: national constitutions, as I said, play an important role and the protection of human rights on an international level is a new phenomenon since 1945.

I do not speak only of the European Convention on Human Rights; we have to bear in mind the conventions at the United Nations level too.

I see this development as a big achievement but the European Convention on Human Rights, the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the national constitutions of our members States have an added value for our people.

Why do I say added value?

Because states have been the first, and must still be the first, to provide the protection of human rights.

The European and international level of protection comes second for me.

States have always provided this protection and they can still do so on the basis of their own constitutions, which contain the national identity of human rights protection and can go further than the standards set out by the convention.

So, the implementation of judgments on the European Court of Human Rights, here, play a crucial role to come to a level which is accepted by all of our member States.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr Pedro CEGONHO.

You have the floor.


Portugal, SOC


Thank you, Madam Chair, for the floor,

Portugal explicitly set out in the constitution that international law or international human rights law of which the convention is part are above domestic law.

In Article 16, about scope and meaning of fundamental rights, the Portuguese constitution says:

“The fundamental rights in the Constitution do not exclude any others contained in the applicable laws and rules of international law”.

And after that:

“Constitutional and legal precepts relating to fundamental rights must be interpreted and integrated in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.

This sentence is very important. As several authors claim:

“The Convention cannot be interpreted in a vacuum and should as far as possible be interpreted in harmony with other rules of international law concerning the international protection of human rights”.

These rules support the interpretation of the constitution in light of the convention.

The constitution of the Portuguese Republic of 1976 was drafted by a constituent assembly that was elected on 25 April 1975, one year after the Carnation Revolution.

Today, in Portugal, we celebrate the 49th anniversary of the Carnation Revolution.

The world, and Europe, has changed. Portugal is now a full member of the Council of Europe and a proud member of the European Union.

But, we still have presented the determination of our constitution, reflected in its historic preamble:

“The Revolution restored fundamental rights and freedoms to the Portuguese. In the exercise of these rights and freedoms, the legitimate representatives of the people came together to draft a Constitution that corresponds to the aspirations of the country. The Constituent Assembly affirms the decision of the Portuguese people to defend national independence, to guarantee the fundamental rights of citizens, to establish the basic principles of democracy, to ensure the primacy of the democratic rule of law and to pave the way for a socialist society, in the respect for the will of the Portuguese people, with a view to building a freer, fairer, and more fraternal country.”

Madam President,

Let me finish by saying to all you dear colleagues, in Portuguese:

Viva à Liberdade, 25 de abril sempre, fascismo nunca mais.

["Long live freedom. 25 April, forever. Fascism never again" in Portuguese].

Thank you.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr Jacques LE NAY. You have the floor.

Mr Jacques LE NAY

France, ALDE


Madam President,

Dear colleagues,

I would like to thank our colleague Mr George KATROUGALOS for his report on the relationship between the European Convention on Human Rights and the national constitutions, as well as for his insight into the relationship with the Court of Justice of the European Union.

The European Court of Human Rights is the cornerstone of the convention system and contributes powerfully to the influence of the Council of Europe, an influence that is not without friction when a judgment finds a violation of the Convention in a particular member state, especially if it concerns a sensitive subject. And this is often the case, since the subsidiarity mechanism on which the functioning of the court is based means that cases judged in Strasbourg are sensitive by nature.

We all have experience of this in our member States and we regularly see criticism of this or that judgment, or even more fundamental questioning of the current judicial system.

Faced with this, I think that we must first reaffirm, politically and in terms of defending values, what it means to belong to the Council of Europe and the central role of the court. It seems to me that this will be one of the challenges of the Reykjavík Summit.

But we must also educate and strengthen the dialogue between the court and national courts. This is partly the role of the national judges, who remain in contact with the national legal ecosystems and play an important role in interfacing with and explaining the case law of the ECHR. I was able to measure this very directly in my dialogue with the French national judge.

I would also like to emphasise the value of Protocol No. 16, which allows higher national courts, in the context of a case pending before them, to submit "requests for advisory opinions on questions of principle concerning the interpretation or application of the rights and freedoms set forth in the Convention or the protocols thereto" to the Court. This approach is entirely appropriate. France has been able to experiment with it. I can only encourage all states parties to the Convention to ratify it.

But we also have a role to play, as parliamentarians, in explaining and defending, if need be, the architecture of the convention.

By joining the Council of Europe, whatever our national constitutions, our member States have consented to the convention becoming a legal reference point. They have also freely consented to external control, even if it is sometimes delicate, even if it gives rise to political debate in our ,ember States. Let us take on this control politically in our national parliaments.

Thank you very much.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Our next speaker is Mr John HOWELL - you have the floor.


United Kingdom, EC/DA


Thank you very much.

I personally support the European Convention on Human Rights and I support the Court.

I'm aware that many say that it was applicable in the 1950s, but is not applicable today. With war at the heart of Europe and the rise of extremist views, there has never been a better time for this Convention.

The importance of national constitutions is now at the heart of the Convention. It's at the heart of the convention as a result of the Brighton Declaration of 2012, which was signed by every one of the then 47 member countries of this institution.

That was the last time that the UK had the presidency of this institution. If more were aware of this declaration, there would be less of a problem in many countries, including the UK.

For what it does is it starts off by saying that state parties to the Convention need to take effective measures to prevent violations. In the first use of the term that I can find, it uses the term "subsidiarity" to describe this. I think that that is an excellent term to use.

So individual countries have to give full effect to the Convention.

It also strongly encourages states to take full account of recommendations at a national level, in the development of legislation. Of course we have organisations such as the Venice Commission to be able to help with that. There are detailed requirements that come with it, including new domestic remedies that are required – as I say, again it puts subsidiarity at the heart of the Convention, and of the Court. It encourages open dialogue between countries and the Court.

So what it does effectively is to say that the Court should not normally intervene where national courts have already applied the Convention properly. That suggests that we all need to put in place the right sort of courts, with the right sort of qualifications, and the right sort of lawyers in those courts, to be able to take this forward.

I look forward to that Convention coming into – I mean it has come into force, it came into force on 1 August 2021 – nine years after it was first promulgated, but it is still in force now and should be applied in all cases.

Thank you.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Our next speaker is Ms María Valentina MARTÍNEZ FERRO.

You have the floor.


She is not here.

We are going to Ms Ruth JONES.

You have the floor.


United Kingdom, SOC


Thank you Madam Chair.

I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak in today's debate on the European Convention on Human Rights and National Constitutions.

I'd like to begin by thanking the rapporteur Mr George KATROUGALOS for the report before us, because it accurately highlights the real world tensions that exist when looking to practically apply human rights legislation on a fair and equitable basis across different legal systems in many countries.

I note that while the work of the rapporteur is excellent, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the specifics of the UK's internal workings: where the Welsh and Scottish governments, alongside the Northern Irish executive must give actionable concern to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Any laws passed by those bodies are open to direct challenge on that basis.

But this is not the case with the laws of the UK government passes.

A recent example of the practical variation this has caused in the UK, is that of the right of prisoners to vote.

The UK government has flatly refused to do anything for many years, only recently making a minor amendment allowing prisoners released on temporary license to vote.

We can contrast this with both the Welsh and Scottish governments, who following legal advice, have had to implement proper changes to their laws around this issue.

They've begun to do so with due consideration in a detailed and democratic way. I'd like to thank those representatives of the evolved governments for their hard work on the matter.

There are always going to be human rights issues where political pressure exists. Those instances have become ground for political point scoring at the clear expense of people's lives.

What is in the best interest of the UK is always a question open to interpretation, and on occasion, misrepresentation.

We've seen this plainly in the last few days with the UK government announcing that due to pressure from right-wing MPs, judges will no longer be able to stop deportation flights from taking off.

This followed a deportation flight to Rwanda being blocked in June 2022; this was after the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, where the ruling that stopped the flight acknowledged that in the opinion of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees - and I quote he said: "Asylum seekers transferred from the United Kingdom to Rwanda will not have access to fair and efficient procedures for the determination of refugee status".

It is clear that stopping people from accessing fair and equitable systems is, in the opinion of some of my parliamentary colleagues who sit opposite me in the House of Commons, not in keeping with either the best interests of the UK, or the UK's distinct context and legal traditions.

I call this opinion out for what it is: absolute nonsense. An appeal to tradition and history, which we have seen in some of the speeches before me today, can often be an excuse to implement laws that expose the cruelty and callousness of those lawmakers.

We have to do better both at home and in this body, in holding our respected governments to the highest standards, and calling out when they put party politics before people's fundamental rights.

Thank you.



Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr Eduard KÖCK.

Mister KÖCK, you have the floor.

Mr Eduard KÖCK

Austria, EPP/CD


Dear Chairpersons,

The rapporteur has delivered a good report. There is nothing to add.

I would like to comment on some aspects of the Human Rights Convention. The rapporteur talks about the supremacy of the Human Rights Convention and about tensions, tensions between jurisdictions. We, the representatives of the people, are obliged to our citizens and on the European level there is no government, governments are elected in the member countries and the governments are then also obliged to their citizens there. These citizens demand some basic things from their government, like the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, but above all, they demand secure borders and government sovereignty over who can and cannot enter a country, and who can and cannot live in a country.

Here, the human rights convention often correlates with the basic needs of citizens. Many people gain access to countries because they often wrongly invoke the Human Rights Convention. Then they are there, and they can't be taken out of the country even often with legal dodges.

I think this is one of the greatest areas of tension that we will have in Europe in the coming decades. There it requires adjustments on all sides, otherwise the supremacy of the human rights convention will be ignored more and more often by governments, in judgments, decisions, laws and allows the citizens to demand and, in elections, to express themselves.

The Human Rights Convention helps many citizens get the right, and forms the basis for freedom, rule of law and democracy. Therefore, we should face these tensions to preserve this important good.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Next speaker is Mr Robert TROY, but I don't see him in his chair.

So we move on to Mr Nuno CARVALHO.

You have the floor.


Portugal, EPP/CD


Thank you, Madam President.

First of all, I'd like to congratulate the rapporteur for this very important subject that you have brought to us in debate.

Of course, being Portuguese and like my other two Portuguese colleagues, I have to underline the importance of this day in Portugal: the 25th April, "25 de Abril" like it is called in Portugal, is the day in which we celebrate the revolution that has brought us the democracy.

But speaking of democracy, of course, we know that human rights help, are one of the pillars of, a democracy, but democracy by itself does not bring human rights. Human rights only by itself are not able to exist or coexist in a healthy democracy.

A very good example that I've heard a few days ago was if two wolves and one sheep were to vote what's for dinner, the two wolves would vote that the sheep would be eaten; of course that is not democracy, and of course that is not respecting human rights.

So, to apply the human rights, even if you say that you are democracy, it's very important.

As the rapporteur said, it is very important to have this awareness, because we are not a federation, but human rights are global rights.

So, in Portugal, for example, when we were able to achieve these rights with the revolution, we knew that these were Portuguese rights but also human rights were Portuguese rights, and Portuguese rights were human rights.

Just like Ukrainian rights are human rights and so on and so on.

These are global rights, and for that matter it is very important for us to have this kind of awareness.

The application of them is of course a very, very big challenge in which all of us must be very much committed, because human rights also represent an endless ammunition to fight dictatorships, to fight anyone who wants to oppress people.

Just like we are now seeing in the Ukrainian war, in this illegal invasion that Russia has taken upon Ukraine, we see that this spirit, this strength of human rights provides the strength of Europe, the strength of our capacity to defend a global right that of course also applies in Ukraine.

So I congratulate the rapporteur for this subject. Of course I would like to underline once again the importance of this day for Portugal, the day in which we celebrate democracy, we celebrate human rights. Of course, these human rights are also global rights applicable to every human being.

Thank you very much.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you. Our next speaker is Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO. His coat is here but there is no sign of him, as I can see.

So we move on to Mr Thomas PRINGLE. You have the floor.


Ireland, UEL


Thank you, Chairman. 

The interaction of the state and the European Convention on Human Rights is vitally important to make sure that all citizens and every member State can benefit from the protection of the court.

The actions called for member States for this report are significant and should be looked at as such by every member State, and their participation should be measured by how they comply.

Every member State should particularly look at point 18.6 to ensure that, in conjunction with the Council of Europe, the national legal order works with the convention.

States have a responsibility to act on their obligations, as the report states.

They are bound by their obligations under international law and the principles of international law once the state's sovereign decisions have been made as to where the international law sits.

One thing that could make a difference in how the court is responded to by citizens and is somewhat outside the control of the court itself, is the length of time that it could take to get a case to the Court of Human Rights. Then there are the delays in the system here as well, of course.

In Ireland, we have the lowest number of judges per citizen in the entire European Union. It impacts the ability to get cases through the legal system at home. The judicial system works hard to progress cases, but by simply not having enough judges, it is not possible to move them in a timely fashion.

So it could be many years before a case can get out to the Court of Justice and, of course, in an Irish context, money has a lot to do with access to justice as well. If you have the money, you will move the case. Delays with the volume of cases before the court is also a problem here as well; that is an issue, I believe, that needs to be sorted.

Justice delayed is justice denied, as the saying goes.

It is clear from the report that there are numerous ways to incorporate the convention into domestic law in member States. I do not think that the report attempts to recommend an option, but it is important that whatever method is used is a clear pathway to vindicating rights.

In Ireland, it explicitly states in our constitution that international treaties have the same legal status as domestic law. There are clear pathways to being referred to international courts for adjudication on cases.

An interesting part of the report is the look at the UK situation and the moves that are underway to change the priority of the European Court judgments.

As the report says, previously the UK systems seemed to work well, with the domestic court obliged to take the European Court judgments into consideration when deciding cases.

Now under the new system, it is not clear that that will be dealt with; that will lead to delays and could cause problems for citizens.

As an Irish person, there are also the impacts these changes will have on legacy cases in relation to Ireland, as well, and these need to be sorted out sooner rather than later.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this issue. Thank you. 


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


 Now I call Mr Gergely ARATÓ. You have the floor.

Mr Gergely ARATÓ

Hungary, SOC


Thank you, Madam Chair.

First of all, I want to thank the rapporteur on the balanced approach to this very sensitive and complicated issue. Yet, I think we should be very clear about the main question.

The concept of universal human rights, which is rooted in European cultural heritage, emerged as a reaction of horror, of deprivation of rights, and led to genocide in the last century. This concept is a strong foundation of the democratic world and especially the European Community since then.

The European Convention on Human Rights is not only a piece of international legislation. [It has a] deeper meaning: it is the charter of not only this institution, but the whole European project.

The report emphasises that there is no hierarchy between the Convention and national constitutions. It is true in its legal meaning, but I believe it is not absolutely, from a moral and political view.

If in any country the ruling force has the constitutional power and the control of the constitutional court, and uses these powers to limit human right, we cannot say to the citizens, "This is a national constitutional issue, and we have no authority to interfere in this".

Authoritarian politicians use the slogan of the constitutional tradition to curtail and downsize human rights throughout Europe. I don’t think we should accept it.

Compliance with the Convention is a mirror for the constitutional system, which shows how strong the defence of human rights in practice is.

I understand that the defence of human rights is not always popular, but I strongly believe we should use all available options and possibilities to stand up for our values and, more importantly, to defend all human rights.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Our next speaker is Mr André VALLINI, but I don't see him in his chair. Oh, he's not here.

So we move to Ms Octavie MODERT. You have the floor.

Ms Octavie MODERT

Luxembourg, EPP/CD


Thank you, Madam President.

Dear colleagues,

Rule of law characterises a state which is governed by the rule of law and I believe it is essential to any democratic system. Without respect for the law and without constitutional principles and the integrity of institutions, there can be no democracy. In the member States of the European Union, this is obviously supplemented by the primacy of European Union law, which takes precedence over national laws.

Where does the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) fit into all of this?

The European Convention has universal jurisdiction: it does not have specific jurisdiction. It contains a good dozen provisions of application law, the other articles being essentially procedural. The substantive provisions are therefore not so numerous, unlike the national constitutions, but they are both intended to be complementary.

Should their respective positions be explicitly regulated?

In Luxembourg, the new constitution will come into force in two and a half months, after many years of revision work in which we discussed including a provision enshrining the pre-eminence of community law and the Convention on Human Rights over domestic law. In the end, it was decided not to mention it, although the general principle of the supremacy of international law is a general principle of law.

I must admit that I was in favour of drafting a preamble to the new constitution; there, this statement could of course have found its place. There is no need to specify it as long as the general principles of law are applied. But what if they are not, or if there is a conflict? Here, I fully agree with the recommendations made in the resolution presented by the rapporteur. Among jurists, there is obviously no controversy. The dialogue between the courts is crucial if questions of compatibility arise between the two legal levels - the European Convention and the national constitution.

Luxembourg is one of the 19 states that have ratified Protocol No. 16 to the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms on advisory opinions. Such opinions can serve to improve dialogue and understanding between national courts and the ECHR.

There is still the question of the implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, and whether we need a better implementation mechanism enshrined in the convention.


Let us not forget that there are other levels of decision-making subsidiarity, namely the regional and local levels and the Convention on Human Rights is not the first text that comes to mind when they are making their decisions. It is therefore necessary to work towards a good knowledge at all levels of the provisions of the convention, as well as of the case law of the Court.

I would like to thank the rapporteur, Mr George KATROUGALOS, for having dealt with the subject of the Convention on Human Rights and national constitutions, because we have defended not only human rights but also the rule of law, and respect for the rule of law is the hallmark of the Council of Europe.

Obviously, the rule of law should be self-evident. Let's hope that the entire European continent can return to it soon.

Thank you very much.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now I call Ms Luz MARTINEZ SEIJO. You have the floor.


Spain, SOC


Thank you very much Chair.

No doubt this report is a valuable analysis on the interpretation of the legal systems each of our countries make at the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), as well as the relation that that has with national constitutions. 

It is certainly necessary to coordinate the case law without use of hierarchies, defending the different models for integration and cooperation that exist, to making clear that signatories to the Convention must abide by the final and binding judgments of the ECHR independently of domestic legal issues or constitutions.

In Spain, international obligations have the same status as domestic law.

Case law in Spain has made it clear that those rights which have been proclaimed internationally are a determinative cannon when interpreting our constitution. Our courts comply with the ECHR, when deliberating questions of human rights.

Spain scrupulously complies with the ECHR and all of the international commitments that go along with that; also at this moment we are developing a second human rights plan in Spain, which will extend and shore up cooperation with UN human rights treaties and agreements, as well as with the European Convention. 

This plan already features some of the proposals that we have put forward in the report we are dealing with today, such as expanding the knowledge that domestic judges have of ECHR case law, as well improving their coordination and involvement with it by the translation of judgments and their dissemination. 

Spain is committing itself to increasing training in general around human rights for all people who work in the legal system, with law enforcement authorities, and staff in the public administration.

Indeed, we want to facilitate access to ECHR case law as well.

Dear colleagues,

This is a plan that will be implementing actions on national and international levels for the next five years, focused on fostering human rights and keeping with the Universal Declaration as well as keeping with thosepacts on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

It will also drive gender equality, policies around non-discrimination, and the protection of groups such as children, migrants and refugees.

It is a participatory plan at all levels within the administration, in parliament as well as social organisations, human rights organisations, universities, and experts.

Spain is a fully fledged mature democracy.

In Spain, no one is convicted for their ideas, whether they are in favour of independence or not. Spanish justice works within the parameters of the rule of law. Spain is a vibrant democracy where a culture of public, open, free debate rules.

Thank you very much.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you, our next speaker is Lord Richard KEEN.

You have the floor.

Lord Richard KEEN

United Kingdom, EC/DA


Thank you, Madam Chair, colleagues, I would like to address the margin of appreciation. That term is not found in the original Convention or in the travaux préparatoires.

It emerged in the late 1950s and has developed as an important part of the Commission's jurisprudence. Broadly speaking, it refers to the room for manoeuver that the Strasbourg authorities must accord to national governments when considering their obligations under the convention.

A failure to concede that margin to national governments would offend the principle of subsidiarity.

That is not to suggest that the margin of appreciation allows national governments an unqualified power for the application of convention rights. They must respect the principles of effective protection and legality, but, subject to those principles, national governments must be allowed to apply convention rights as they consider appropriate.

The principles of democracy, legality, subsidiarity, and proportionality make clear that national governments have a legitimate and important role in demarcating rights under the Convention.

It is important that the Commission's institutions should respect that democratic right.

Thank you.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers' list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the Official Report. I remind colleagues that type-written texts must be submitted electronically, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.  

I call Mr George KATROUGALOS to reply to the debate. You have 3 minutes. 


Greece, UEL, Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights


Thank you.

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

The first thing I would like to do and I admit it due to the limitation of time is to thank Ms Eleanor HOURIGAN from the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights for her valuable contribution to this report. Then I would like to thank all of you who spoke with good words for this work of mine, and I will just try to reply only to direct questions that have been posed to me and some more general remarks.

I begin by the general remarks I would like to put into your attention. I heard by some colleagues a criticism of the decisions of the Court. It has been considered by some colleagues as especially proactive, activist or even very much left-leaning. Personally, I disagree with this criticism but just accept for a while that there are truths. This is not a way for not accepting the binding character of the decisions of the European Court of Justice because otherwise the effective protection of human rights would be in jeopardy.

If there is a disagreement exactly as we would do regarding our Supreme Court or our Constitutional Court, we must try to promote a scientific, juridical dialogue to try to find if there is something that we believe it must change at the level of the protocols through the channels of the Council of Europe to try to modify the existing situation. But we cannot have legality à la carte. We cannot accept some of the decisions of the Court and some others.

I do not want to interfere to the dialogue that is ongoing now in the United Kingdom, this is basically, I consider it a domestic issue. I agree with many of the colleagues who have spoken. I personally hope that the UK should remain in the Convention. I do not just have respect, I have high admiration for the country of the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the country of Dicey but, after all, this decision of yours. I hope we are not going to repeat a new Brexit decision.

Regarding the question by Ms Margreet De BOER, how could we use Protocol 16 in a more productive way because we have just only seven referrals? The only answer I can give to you is to try and make the domestic judges more familiar with the protocol. Anecdotally, I must tell you that the first preliminary ruling of our Supreme Court never arrived at the European Court of Justice because, according to the Greek civil procedure, it is up to the litigants to communicate the decisions of the court. So the secretariat never sent, the secretariat of the Court of Cassation of Greece, never sent the preliminary reference to the European Court of Justice. Of course, the secretariat never received it.

So better networking between the judges, and translation of the decisions in languages that are not official, and that is the red line of my report: dialogue and reinforcement of mutual respect among judges, I think, is the only solution.

Thank you.


Montenegro, NR, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

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

You have 3 minutes.


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


Thank you, Madam President.

First of all, congratulations to our friends from Portugal.

You mentioned this very important day today.


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


The rapporteur said it clearly and subtly in his report: there is no hierarchy between the different texts.

It is a Swiss person who is telling you this, one of the few countries in which, in reality, there is a hierarchy, since we place the convention above our own constitution, but this is an exception.

There are few of them and, in most countries, there is not a system of hierarchy but rather of co-habitation between the national constitution or the constitutional texts, the convention and, for those countries that are members, the treaties of the European Union.

It is essential to look at this issue as the rapporteur has done because, as we saw in the debate we had earlier in the presence of the president of the Court and also with the chair of the Committee of Ministers on the way to Reykjavík, this convention is at the heart of our institution: it is practically its raison d'être, its backbone, and defending the values enshrined in it is absolutely essential and not only the values, but the rights.

The president of the court quite rightly said earlier, and this illustrates our rapporteur's report, that the main judges in the convention system are basically the national judges, the judges of first instance, who are the first to apply the principles of this system - which, moreover, is not the European Convention on Human Rights as it is often called, but the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It is really there to protect the rights but also to protect the freedoms of each and every one of us against the arbitrariness of a government, which can happen.

The rapporteur is doing this analysis exercise, and is proposing subtle and balanced solutions to these tensions which appear and which are normal in a system such as this one; he is proposing constructive solutions; he is proposing to use the margin of appreciation, this was mentioned in particular by Lord Richard KEEN.

And, of course, the countries and the member States must apply the convention but they have a margin of manoeuvre as to how to do so.

How do they do it?

Well, it is largely in their hands and, in these cases, it is necessary to have dialogue, it is necessary to have mutual respect, it is necessary to look for solutions.

It is not forbidden to be creative, it is even often a good solution in politics, it can make it possible to find solutions - and in law too. There are all these possibilities that exist through constructive dialogue and mutual respect. The rapporteur also insists on the importance of information and training: the whole aspect of the training of judges, which are very important points.

The Commission has adopted this report unanimously. It thanks the rapporteur for their excellent work and it also thanks, in particular, Ms Eleanor Hourigan, Secretary to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, for her excellent support.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA


(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

It’s a great honour for me to be here, to stay in this symbolic place of democracy and speak to you.

We have reached the level of democracy when we are discussing the adaptation of national constitutions to human rights. We are discussing the rule of law, which is based on human rights.

We will make European constitutions as perfect as possible, but they are powerless against a cynical external enemy and powerless against Russian aggression.

I know this from the experience of Ukraine.

To tell the truth, Russian aggression is targeting the democracy of the whole of Europe.

Over the past months, we have watched with horror as Russian news channels show off the executions of Ukrainian prisoners of war.

And a few weeks ago, the Russians published a video of beheading a Ukrainian soldier. We will never forgive Russian terrorists for the death of civilians and the forced deportation of Ukrainian children to the occupied territories or to Russia – it is clear example of genocide of Ukrainians!

The whole world will never forget the terrorist attack in Olenivka, the horrors in Bucha, Izyum, and most of the de-occupied regions. This has become a dark page in the modern history of Ukraine.

Therefore, dear colleagues, Russia is the biggest challenge for human rights on the European continent. The best defence is even greater financial and military support for Ukraine until the last Russian military terrorist is completely defeated and thrown out of the Ukrainian land.

I would like to underline, that we must establish all together the international tribunal to punish the Russian aggressor.

Today, Ukrainians are waiting for the counter-offensive.

Moreover, Ukraine's international partners are also waiting for these actions. There will definitely be a counter-offensive. And it will be catastrophic for the Russian terrorist army. For this, the whole of Europe needs even greater consolidation and even greater support for the Ukrainian army.

This is the only way to bring peace and protect human rights in Europe.


Spain, UEL


(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Thank you chair,

Let me thank also the rapporteur for this important report. Important, as I say, because it deals with a real problem: how to deal with different legal orders and the capacity of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The resolution recommends a mutual judicial dialogue between courts and to engage with the case law of the Strasbourg Court. That is the crucial point.

In this sense, in my country, Spain, the Constitution explicitly provides that international obligations have the same status as domestic law, usually where they have been incorporated in the national legal system through the passing of an act.

For this reason, it is of utmost importance that Spain ratifies Protocol No. 16 to the Convention as a useful tool in resolving potential conflicts between national courts and the ECHR, as is said in the report.

Sometimes, there is the perception of conflict between national constitutional provisions and the requirements of the ECHR. In certain member States, these are tensions that arise as a rule of law crisis.

We should be keep in mind that the universal law principle exists:

"permissum videtur id omne quod non prohibitur", which is, everything not prohibited is permitted.

This liberal principle, nevertheless, clashes with the malicious or extensive interpretation of some national constitutions by national courts, sometimes because there are political agendas or interests. It is on this dangerous path that one constitutional court has banned a debate in a parliament or even a political initiative.

It is necessary to shed light on the idea of there is no crime without law, as is enshrined in Article 7 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

It is necessary to guarantee these universal principles in order to avoid criminalisation, for instance the right of self determination, or to avoid persecuting political parties.

In a nutshell, more dialogue between the courts and a duty of engaging with case law of the European Court of Human Rights. That is the formula.

Thanks Mister George KATROUGALOS. Thanks, Mister President.

Mr Jeremy CORBYN

United Kingdom, SOC