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23 June 2023 morning

2023 - Third part-session Print sitting

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Opening of the sitting No. 19

Debate: Transnational repression as a growing threat to the rule of law and human rights


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The sitting is now open.

The first item of business this morning is the debate on the Report titled “Transnational repression as a growing threat to the rule of law and human rights”. That is Document 15787 presented by Sir Christopher CHOPE on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.

In order to finish by about 11:20 a.m., I will interrupt the list of speakers at about 11:05 a.m. to allow time for the reply and the vote.

I call now Sir Christopher CHOPE as rapporteur. You have 7 minutes to present the report and then will have a further 3 minutes to reply to the debate at the end.


Sir Christopher CHOPE

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Rapporteur


...to serve under your Chairmanship.

I don't think there is any doubt about the fact that transnational repression is indeed a growing threat to the rule of law and human rights.

This was brought home to us in the United Kingdom with Mr Alexander Litvinenko's case and the Salisbury poisonings.

My report, the draft Resolution and the draft Recommendation were adopted unanimously by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights at its meeting in Cyprus.

On Wednesday, Amendment 1 was accepted unanimously. I thank Ms Olena KHOMENKO for that improvement to the Resolution.

Amendment 2 and Amendment 3, proposed by members of the Turkish delegation, were rejected overwhelmingly by a lot more than two-thirds at the Committee on Wednesday, so I hope that there won't be any attempt to resurrect those failed Amendments today.

The Council of Europe and this Assembly and the Committee of Ministers need to recognise the gravity of the threat and take action.

For that reason, Paragraph 17 of the draft Resolution sets out a series of action points, including 17.6: "targeted sanctions on perpetrators and enablers of transnational repression".

Paragraph 21 invites the Court to engage and ensure, and I quote, "that there is no protection gap against transnational repression committed under the Convention legal process".

Against this background, it is to me a matter of great regret that one of the 46 national delegations to this Assembly doesn't agree with this report, and is in denial about its own country's active engagement in transnational repression.

I refer to Türkiye.

The human rights organisation Freedom House has identified five countries as the most prolific perpetrators of transnational repression.

Only one of those is a Council of Europe member, namely Türkiye.

If the Council of Europe is to lead by example, we must not be in denial about the rotten apple in our own midst before we start lecturing the rest of the world.

Paragraph 6 and Paragraph 16 spell out the problem in some detail.

I'm going to refer particularly to Paragraph 16 because that has a specific recommendation.

Obviously there's the proposal by the Turkish delegation to remove it from the report, but Paragraph 16, the Assembly specifically calls upon Türkiye to end its intimidation of Mr Bülent Keneş to recognise and respect the decision of the Swedish Supreme Court and curtail its policy of using its veto on Sweden's membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a tool of transnational repression.

We know that there's a NATO Summit coming up next month. Let us hope that Türkiye does indeed do what it was suggesting it might do, which is to remove its veto and allow the Swedes to exceed to NATO, which is a policy which is universally supported by members of this Assembly. It's supported by all other members of NATO. I think it's just unacceptable that an individual in Sweden should be being used as a pawn in this battle between the Erdoğan government and those people who are concerned about the rights of individuals, ex-Turkish citizens who've sought refuge overseas for their own safety.

So let's hope that we make some progress on that when we get to the NATO Summit.

The other paragraph which to which the members of the Turkish delegation took exception is Paragraph 6.

Paragraph 6 defines a bit more exactly what's been happening in Türkiye, and the way in which Türkiye has been using various tools of national repression and transnational repression against its own people.

Last autumn the international journalists organisation produced a really good report "Weaponisation of anti-terror financing measures: the Turkish government's new transnational repression tool to silence its critics".

If you look at the content of that report, Mister President, it is actually very disturbing indeed.

I can't summarise the whole of that report in Paragraph 6, but Paragraph 6 contains quite a lot of the same content as is in that report.

What we find - we don't find a situation where members of the Turkish delegation to this Assembly say, gosh, there must be an issue here, we must start holding our own government to account. Quite the reverse. They seem to be in denial and blaming everybody but themselves.

I think that that is an unacceptable way in which to proceed.

So I hope that this assembly today will unanimously support this report and the recommendations and the resolution, and in so doing, we'll send a strong message to the newly elected Turkish government, that it may be really newly elected but it doesn't mean they can behave in an autocratic way towards its own citizens, whether they be at home or abroad.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, Sir Christopher CHOPE.

Now we move on to the speakers on behalf of political groups. Can I just check, is Mr André GATTOLIN here? Yes, very good. You are next, sir.

The floor is yours. [said in French]


France, ALDE, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to express my admiration and respect for the work carried out by Sir Christopher CHOPE in this excellent report, which I believe is an essential subject because it cuts across a huge number of themes associated with human rights and the rule of law, and because the issue of transnational repression cuts across a number of subjects which we have had the opportunity to address in recent years, but in a fragmented way.

In January 2022, you did me the honor of overwhelmingly adopting a resolution to put an end to enforced disappearances on the territory of the Council of Europe. This is an extremely important issue, and one which is also referred to in the report, which states that there are increasing problems between member countries of the Council of Europe. In particular, the report refers to practices in Turkey and Azerbaijan which do not comply with our standards, which are those of Europe or international law, but there is also a growing trend towards transnational repression by third countries. In fact, the Russian Federation is now a third-party state, just like Belarus.

The report also has the quality of talking about other players, and in particular the transnational coercive policy pursued by the People's Republic of China regime on our territories. There are more and more cases, and the rapporteur Sir Christopher CHOPE mentions the situation of illegal police stations in the United Kingdom.

I'd just like to expand a little, and not just take the UK as an example. A well-known NGO now based in Madrid, called Safeguard Defenders, regularly produces reports and statements, and I was checking the documents last night: we have at least 18 member countries of the Council of Europe that are concerned by the presence of these illegal Chinese police stations, and there are at least 46 of them. I say this because we tend, very often in our reports, to start from concrete legal bases, based on rulings or examples, but I believe we also need to give a much broader context.

Another extremely important aspect of this report is the abusive use made of Interpol's mechanisms, in particular the filing of red notices, particularly by the police. Here again, we have held several hearings of those responsible in recent years. This is a real problem and a scandal, because certain countries are abusing the system.

When you're on a train and you sound the alarm, well, when it's justified, there's no problem, you get a medal. I'll finish, when you abuse the system, you're condemned, you're punished. Today, there's no policy of punishing people who abuse.

For all these reasons, and on behalf of the The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, we will of course vote in favor of this report.

Thank you very much.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


"Thank you, sir." [said in French]

Now, next, I call Ms Olena KHOMENKO. [off-mic]


Ukraine, EC/DA, Spokesperson for the group


Dear Colleagues,

Back in 2021, when I submitted this draft motion, I had in mind many extrajudicial killings or attempts committed by Russia and what we could do about that.

It is an issue that strikes at the very core of our values, transnational repressions orchestrated by autocratic governments.

These repressions have become an alarming trend in recent years, and it is imperative that we take a stand against them. The urgency of this matter was recognised gradually when a series of attacks worldwide, most notably the Salisbury attack, sent shock waves through our communities. This attack, attributed to the Russian Federation, served as another wake-up call revealing the lengths to which some governments would go to silence dissidents and exert control beyond their borders.

In our pursuit of a comprehensive understanding of transnational repressions, we owe a debt of gratitude to Sir Christopher CHOPE. His unwavering dedication and insightful resolution have provided us with an available toolbox of steps to counteract this disturbing phenomenon.

Today we must build upon this work and take action.

The Russian Federation stands out as one of the most outrageous examples of a state-sponsored programme aimed at pursuing dissidents abroad. The targeted assassinations carried out under this programme are horrifying. It is from this ground, steeped in tragedy and injustice, that our report takes flight.

We must launch a comprehensive effort to address transnational repressions head-on for the sake of the victims, their families, and the preservation of our fundamental principles.

The report not only sheds light on the gravity of transnational repressions, but also proposes concrete measures to counteract and deter such actions.

We must emphasise the importance of international co-operation, sharing intelligence, and holding perpetrators accountable.

No autocratic governments should be allowed to act with impunity and trample upon the rights of individuals beyond their borders.

Moreover, we must support and protect those who find themselves targeted by transnational repressions.

We must offer shelter to dissidents, provide legal assistance, and ensure their voices are heard.

By standing together, we can create a network of resilience that shields those who file for freedom and justice from the reach of oppressive regimes.

In conclusion, the fight against transnational repression is not only a matter of principle; it is the test of our collective resolve to protect the values we hold dear.

Let us remember the victims, honour their courage, and work tirelessly to counteract the use of this instrument by autocratic governments.

Together, we can build a future where no one lives in fear, where justice prevails, and where the spirit of freedom transcends all borders.

Thank you, dear colleagues.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much. 

The next speaker is Mr Frédéric MATHIEU.

Mr Frédéric MATHIEU

France, UEL, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Mister Chairman, ladies and gentlemen,

The draft Resolution attached to this report opens with the murder of Saudi journalist MrJamal Khashoggi. This is an opportunity for me to express the infamy of seeing my country, France, host the mastermind of this murder, Mr Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, for eight days.

I would like to express my group's strongest disapproval of any form of political repression, all the more so when it is the fruit of active co-operation between governments that claim to adhere to the fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law.

This is the case of Türkiye, mentioned in the report and in the speeches we have heard so far, but it is also the case of the United Kingdom, unfortunately absent from the report.

Firstly, with regard to Türkiye, we all know that Türkiye does not respect its obligations concerning human rights, the abolition of torture or freedom of opinion. In its drive to eradicate minorities, and in particular the Kurdish people, this country practices arbitrary arrest and torture.

Internationally, however, it has succeeded in having the Kurdistan Workers' Party listed as a terrorist organisation. This accusation of terrorism, which is attached to any form of political opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Islamo-fascist government, is used constantly. This accusation allows numerous abuses, notably in the use of Interpol notices and extradition requests for political refugees. Consequently, the PKK should not be on such a list of terrorist organisations. My thoughts go out to its founder, Mr Abdullah Öcalan, who has now been in prison for 24 years and in solitary confinement for many years. Human rights NGOs have already warned of the regular practice of torture in Türkiye, in general and against Mr Abdullah Öcalan in particular.

On behalf of my group, I therefore unreservedly support all Turks fighting for their right to live in a democracy, as well as the Kurdish people's desire to live in freedom.

My second point is to express my astonishment. Nowhere is there any mention of the case of Mr Julian Assange, something I find very surprising on the part of our esteemed rapporteur. It is a fact, however, that Mr Julian Assange is the victim of violent transnational repression by the US Government, in active co-operation with the British Government. As a result, the conditions under which he is being held are undermining his health and dignity. To pay with one's life for the right to inform is absolutely disgraceful in democratic countries. On behalf of my group, I would therefore like to strongly condemn the repression of Mr Julian Assange, who has become a central symbol of transnational repression.

I hope that none of the member states, and particularly the United Kingdom, will accede to the demands of the US Government.

Thank you very much.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much. Merci.

Now to Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS.


United Kingdom, SOC, Spokesperson for the group


Thank you, Chair and members.

Just a word to add support from our group to what has just been said about the case of Mr Julian Assange and also to do it from the point of view of a speaker, not only for my group but for my country. It is scandalous. It needs to be dealt with in a humane and humanitarian way.

I am very grateful to Sir Christopher CHOPE for bringing together this report and so many instances and categories, many of which one knew about in bits and pieces through the news that had filtered through to us, but brought together here in a compendious way and a useful way.

Of course, we had all known about Mr Jamal Khashoggi and Mr Alexander Litvinenko and the Skripals, and they have been mentioned already.

The wide variety and the number of those who, in different categories, have suffered from transnational repression makes this a useful tool. I do hope that we will recommend it and accept it in due course.

I would add an emphasis, myself, from the work I do in the House of Lords on one of its select committees, the far-reaching consequences of cyberterrorism, of using the internet to reach, affect, infect and bring danger into our national institutions via the activities that on the dark web, on the one hand, but also rogue elements favoured by their states, on the other.

We must, first of all, recognise that this is a timely paper. It is quite right to seek the support of the Council of Europe, quite right to make a recommendation to the Committee of Ministers that this is the time when something needs to be done to address what is quite clearly a prevailing problem.

Solidarity across Europe, let me just – this is a trite truism – solidarity across Europe is necessary because together we are stronger than the sum of our parts. Well, we know that; that is why we are here. Indeed, it is the best way to control our borders, for the control of borders is not just a matter of stopping boats and illegal migration. Stopping, taking control of our borders is best done when, together as a continent, we define the threats and together take action and, for once, do not subject ourselves to the tyranny that we heard from just behind me here in earlier debates.

Instead of sloganised "Get Brexit done" – it is the seventh anniversary of the referendum that got Brexit done – instead of the sloganised "stop our boats", as if a few boats in the Channel, for all that they raise problems, are the only way of dealing with controlling our borders, I would say to Sir Christopher CHOPE, who is known to be both in favour of stopping boats and also on the public record as being in support of Brexit, that his report is fine, but it is half the response to the problem he identifies.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

The last speaker on behalf of the political groups is Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO.

Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group


Dear colleagues,

Of course, we welcome this report., but I want to say that still something is lacking in this report. It is the understanding of what the definition of transnational repression actually is.

I'm saying this because, in fact, there are so many people around all the world who are suffering from repressions of being in opposition to their governments. So many foreign journalists, in general journalists, are suffering because of their will to speak the truth, to find the truth. Then it is very hard to find in international law the definition of what this transnational repression is.

I think this is something that we could be working on here.

When we study the cases that were mentioned by some of our colleagues and also in this report, we see that many of these people lack protection. They lack instruments for their defence. Their families are also often targeted by this repression, and they lack protection. We could be thinking about what tools we could provide so that these people have more protection.

If we look at the Russian aggression and what Russia did to so many Ukrainians in the occupied territories, for instance in Crimea. We know once there is a Ukrainian passport and this person gets into the Russian prison, whether he's a Crimean Tatar, these people will face so much violence. Is it transnational repression? I think it is.

We could work more on this definition and the tools we can provide.

I'm glad that this report also mentions sanctions on those who actually commit the crimes to imprison these people, to [enact] violence [against] these people.

At the end of my speech, I want to call not only for some tools but also for some more involvement of the non-governmental sector, who could be helping us to define what these transnational repressions are, and also to run more educational campaigns on how it is when people are targeted and they are not able to defend themselves. There are so many of them all around the world.

One more time, [it's a] great report, but we need definitions, and we need some tools.

Thank you.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much, indeed.

Now we move on to the general speakers. Ms Arta BILALLI ZENDELI, is she here? No.

Mister Vladimir VARDANYAN.


Armenia, EPP/CD


Thank you, Mister Chair.

Thank you, dear rapporteur.

The report we are discussing is very topical, topical because despite the fact that transnational repression is a famous phenomenon from a political perspective but from a legal perspective, from the perspective of any first-century legal thinking, it should be still described. We really need an explanation of what we are speaking about. That is why I agree with those writers who already said that we need a precise definition of what we are calling "transnational repression".

For sure, we understood perfectly well that we are dealing with a new phenomenon which is used by several countries to be rather pure and clean in their democracies but simultaneously commit outrages out of their territories. I do believe that the countries who are members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the Council of Europe, as such, should be as democratic at home as they are democratic abroad, because it is impossible to be democratic on one issue and not democratic on other issues.

I remember we prepared a very interesting report and Mr André GATTOLIN was the rapporteur on the enforced disappearances here. We raised very important issues, especially concerning the new manifestation of the enforced disappearances in the territory of the Council of Europe. We addressed the issues of the special enforced disappearance during wartime when the people were actually captured by the adversary forces and should have got prisoner of war (POW) or another protective status, but instead of this, they had been disappeared. This is a new phenomenon, and it is a little bit strange. We have a lot of new technologies which can fix the moment of capturing. We have the videos, we have the evidence, but simultaneously we have no legal tools to protect their rights. This should somehow be addressed.

I cannot touch upon the issue of transnational or border abductions when very often, the people are actually abducted from the border to be used as a tool for hostage negotiations.

From this perspective, I agree with those who said that, unfortunately, this report is necessary but it is not full.

Several cases, such as the Julian Assange case, concern Great Britain, the United Kingdom. As well, the Lapshin case, Mr Alexander Lapshin who was abducted in Belarus and afterwards extradited to Azerbaijan and afterwards extradited to Israel, was one of the examples of such a kind of activities, but these kind of cases are not covered, unfortunately.

For sure, I would like to emphasise once again that the report is topical, but there are some things to do.

We, first of all, should understand what the definitions are, and only after the definition, should we go ahead with these kinds of discussions.

Thank you so much.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Mister Kamal JAFAROV.


Azerbaijan, EC/DA


Thank you very much, Mister President.

I have to mention that one of the most egregious examples of transnational repression which this report failed to mention is based on ethnic cleansing. The people of Azerbaijan have suffered from ethnic cleansing, massacre, genocide, military occupation, and armed conflicts in the last two centuries. Ethnic cleansing committed against the people of Azerbaijan in 1905-1906, in 1918-1921, and in 1948-1951, in 1987-1991 could be characterised by its systemic nature, committed by the state authorities of Armenia, because it was state sponsorship.

I could give another example from my colleague from Armenia. He mentioned that about hostage negotiation. I have to remind him that in April of this year, two Azerbaijani soldiers, Mr Agshin Babirov and Mr Huseyn Akhundov, went missing near the Armenian border. They were captured. The footage of the videos, we already circulated those videos to you, are showing that local Armenians and military personnel tortured them. Recently, they staged a court, and they gave him a fake verdict and sentence as Azerbaijani military personnel 20 years in prison. This is another indication of the hatred, ethical hatred, against us Azerbaijanis and also our country.

Finally, I have to mention that yesterday's report regarding the Lachin checkpoint, it was an unnecessarily untimely and biased report. Why I am saying that? Because the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe yesterday missed a historical opportunity to bring Azerbaijani and Armenian MPs together, at least, to bring peace between us here, not to make us more enemies. If you come back again to the Lachin border checkpoint, it should not be viewed as a pilot project because Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Armenia took the obligation to restore the Zangezur Corridor, to completely withdraw Armenian military personnel from the internationally recognised territory of Azerbaijan. So far, they have not.

From here, I am calling our colleagues, and I am calling on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to call Armenians to release our military personnel and not use them as a tool for some kind of negotiations.

Thank you.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, indeed.

Mister Constantinos EFSTATHIOU.

Go ahead.


Armenia, EPP/CD


Thank you, Mister Chair.

I would like to understand the logic of how we are maintaining these meetings. I remember that a couple of sessions before, when somebody from our members was addressing an issue which is not covered by this topic, he was immediately interrupted.

Now we have the case that the person who actually had no opportunity to give a speech yesterday is using his speech to address another topic, and nobody is interrupting him.

I would like to understand where the legal definitions are, what we are discussing, and what the topic of the discussion is.

Thank you.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


I agree that Mr Kamal JAFAROV was not in line with the subject of this debate. I propose to leave it there for the moment.

Mister Constantinos EFSTATHIOU?

Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU

Cyprus, SOC


Thank you, Mister Chair.

I wish, first of all, to congratulate our good friend Sir Christopher CHOPE for his excellent report.

The issue before us is, indeed, a worrying development, one that is, of course, linked to the state of the democracy and instability in Europe. New and existing threats have emerged or resurfaced as a result of mistrust between states or within states and attempts to silence opposing voices to the established system or mainstream narrative are on the rise.

This report is interlinked with other matters the Committee of Legal Affairs and Human Rights has dealt with, more particularly it rightly documents transnational repression techniques and legal loopholes that have allowed state and non-state actors to decisively intervene outside their territory to stop, silence or restrict political opponents, human rights activists and whistle-blowers. The same manipulation applies with respect to the “RedAlert” Notices and abuse of extradition proceedings on unfounded or sometimes fabricated allegations of terrorism or suspicion of membership to criminal organisations.

We must do our utmost to prevent these acts and take necessary measures to ensure adequate safeguards and accountability mechanisms are put in place to end all forms of transnational repression, particularly the instrumentalisation of extradition requests and surveillance practices.

At the same time we have to assist and support human rights defenders to dissociate themselves and break free from any authoritarian regime and find alternative ways to operate, as has been the case in Russia, Belarus, Türkiye, Afghanistan, and many other countries mainly in the developing world. These regimes do misuse anti-money laundering measures and countering the financing of terrorism regulations among other tools of transnational repression.

We fully support the draft resolution before us, as well as the draft recommendation, and hope it will pave the way for more concrete action from member states not to engage in such unlawful acts, and take into account relevant decisions and case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

Thank you very much.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Mister Davor Ivo STIER?


Madam Zeynep YILDIZ.

Ms Zeynep YILDIZ

Türkiye, NR


Thank you, Mister Chair.

Dear colleagues,

I would like to express my disappointment regarding Mr Frédéric MATHIEU's accusations, firstly, because I would like to remind you that a month ago we had our elections. With rate of 49.5%, the elections advanced to the second round. In the second round, the election resulted in a vast majority, and our president was re-elected with a vast majority.

Regarding these points, I need to emphasise that, please, respect the decision of the people of Türkiye. Please, respect democracy and the rule of law. These such accusations will not be serving a democracy any more.

Secondly, I need to, again, express my disappointment regarding the rapporteur's points, because he mentioned Türkiye several times while he is not mentioning other countries so frequently. This makes us feel biased about the partiality of this report. That's why we have an objection to this report.

Regarding this point, as you all know on 15 July 2016, Türkiye suffered from a failed coup attempt, which directly targeted the elected president, the Turkish Parliament, and Turkish democracy.

Unfortunately, we have destructive marks of this coup in our Parliament too. The Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation ("FETÖ") even targeted our democracy and our parliament.

While keeping these points in mind, in the aftermath of the coup attempt, the Turkish courts established that the FETÖ terrorist organisation attempted to overthrow the government with abundant evidence on the formation structure and funding of FETÖ.

Turkish democracy survived this serious coup attempt, thanks to its resilience, and thanks to the Turkish people who took to the streets for democracy on the night of the coup attempt.

I'm very upset with the fact that this report fails to acknowledge that FETÖ is the perpetrator of this coup attempt and [that] Türkiye combats this terrorist organisation within the framework of rule of law and its international human rights obligations.

Member states must work in co-operation and collaboration against terrorism.

Sadly, this report does the opposite and undermines Türkiye's efforts against terrorism.

Moreover, I would like to express my deepest disappointment regarding the side event that took place in the premises of this Assembly. The title of the event was "the Democratic Institutions and Rule of Law in Türkiye" and was hosted by our colleagues in this Assembly.

One of the participants of this event is a member of the FETÖ terrorist organisation. This participant is a Turkish citizen convicted of being a member of an armed terrorist organisation by the first degree and appellate courts.

I think you all would agree that neither Türkiye nor this Assembly has anything to learn from the people who are affiliated with terrorist organisations. On the country, such an initiative hurts the credibility of the Assembly and of the Council of Europe, indeed.

Despite all our attempts to initiate...


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


I am sorry, you have to bring your remarks to a close. 

I now call Mr Jeremy CORBYN.

Mr Jeremy CORBYN

United Kingdom, SOC


Thank you, Mister President.

To follow Ms Zeynep YILDIZ, I just gently point out that winning an election does not mean human rights are dissolved; it means that those rights carry on whether somebody has won the election or not. The issues are about the right of people to express themselves, the right of journalists to be able to report what is going on.

I welcome the report that we have got in front of us today. I particularly want to draw attention to the issue of the freedom of speech and the rights of journalists across this continent and, indeed, across the world. If we do not protect the right of journalists to be able to freely report what is going on, freely report about the abuse of human rights, freely report about corruption, freely report about different political points of view all across this continent, then we are moving into a very dangerous and very dark place.

I wanted to draw attention particularly to a case that is going on in the courts in Britain at the moment and that is of Mr Julian Assange.

Mr Julian Assange, the head of WikiLeaks, released a lot of information telling us the truth about so much of what was going on around the world. He is a whistleblower. He is somebody that has told an awful lot of, given a lot of information out that many governments did not want to be given out. That is what effective and good journalists do. Democracy is about holding government and power to account. That is exactly what Mr Julian Assange has done. He was eventually threatened with arrest. He sought asylum and stayed in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for a number of years, until he was eventually arrested and has been in a maximum security prison in Britain now for four years. His health is very much at risk. He is threatened with extradition to the United States under the Espionage Act. If he is extradited to the USA, he will face, effectively, a death sentence or a prison sentence of over 140 years. That will kill him. It will frighten every effective real journalist all around the world into the dangers of telling the truth about what very powerful companies, organisations, global corporations and states actually do.

I hope the maximum pressure can be put on the British Government and the US Government to end its appeal, which could end with Mr Julian Assange being sent to the USA.

In closing, I just think we should, for one moment, just think of Mr Daniel Ellsberg, who recently died. Mr Daniel Ellsberg was vilified at the time he told the truth about Vietnam, was vilified because of what he had done - allegedly releasing state secrets. In January of this year, as he was dying, he spoke at an event that I was at on Zoom at the National Press Club in Washington, giving his absolute support to the campaign for the freedom of Mr Julian Assange, that he can carry on his work as the most effective investigative reporter perhaps the world has ever seen.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Mister Oleksandr MEREZHKO?

Mr Oleksandr MEREZHKO

Ukraine, EC/DA


Yes, I'm here.

Dear Friends,

The report doesn't take into consideration the biggest threat when it comes to transnational repression. The threat which comes from the Chinese Communist Party.

In the text of the draft resolution, China is mentioned only once and without any details.

According to the NGO Freedom House, "China conducts the most sophisticated global and comprehensive campaign of transnational repression in the world".

This organisation, Freedom House, also mentions that "the CCP targets entire ethnic and religious groups, including Uighurs and Tibetans".

Sometimes I get the impression that we're afraid of the CCP and are reluctant to raise the issue of the genocide against the Uighurs and Tibetans.

Yes, China is not a member state of the Council of Europe, but the victims of the transnational repression live in our countries.

Regrettably, the report doesn't mention Chinese secret overseas police stations as a new tool of transnational repression, which have been discovered recently in many European countries.

What is also missing in this report is the recommendation to the Council of Europe member states to terminate treaties on extradition with the PRC and Hong Kong. It's important because these treaties might be an instrument for transnational repression.

As for the definition of transnational repression, when the standard is a kind of state terrorism, this is exactly the nature of totalitarian and authoritarian states.

These states are aggressive and don't stop at their borders. They target, in different ways, dissidents living abroad.

In this regard, all totalitarian regimes are the same.

Unfortunately, contemporary technology creates additional opportunities for transnational repressions.

We should give an exact legal definition of the transnational repression and distinguish different forms of this kind of repression.

Overall, the report is good. It's interesting. It's important, but I still have doubts whether to vote for it or not to vote. Because of this wrong focus, it seems sometimes that we have chosen Türkiye as a whipping boy instead of concentrating on the major threat when it comes to transnational repression: the CCP.

Thank you.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now Mr José María SÁNCHEZ GARCÍA. No?





Transnational repression emerged as a global phenomenon after the tragic events of October 2008 when Mr Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist, was murdered and dismembered inside the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul.

As a Mexican parliamentarian, I have a moral obligation to raise my voice in the face of the phenomenon of transnational repression, especially since associations such as Reporters Without Borders have said that Mexico is the second-most dangerous country in the world to be a journalist. 

In addition, just at the beginning of this year, in Tlaxcala, Mexico, the local press reported that an alleged military officer had intimidated a group of journalists who came to cover the governor's activities. 

In many parts of the world, people are bravely fighting against transnational repression. They often face intimidation, threats and violence, but they continue to resist because they believe in the importance of freedom and justice. It is our duty to support them and provide them with the necessary legal framework to safeguard and protect their fundamental rights, so that they can exercise their freedom of ideology and disseminate their ideas.

The importance of protecting and safeguarding these fundamental rights against acts of transnational repression lies in how various constitutional courts around the world have ruled, in which the construction of a deliberative democracy requires facilitating the circulation of ideas as much as possible. 

Transnational repression manifests itself in many forms, from online censorship and mass surveillance to the persecution of political dissidents, human rights activists and journalists. These are authoritarian practices, which violate the fundamental non-negotiable rights of those attacked, and are also threats to the rule of law, to the very foundation of our democracies and to the national insecurity of the states where these people live and have found shelter.

In the proposed resolution presented in this Assembly, it is noticed that Tajikistan is one of the most prolific countries in perpetrating acts of transnational repression, the country to which the government of Mexico recently agreed to sell the aircraft that the president would use for travel. This transaction took place without any transparency and no accountability, because the information was classified for security reasons. 

Authoritarianism takes advantage of any tiny space to increase its power. We, as parliamentarians, believe that we cannot be passive viewers or spectators as transnational repression intensifies and expands. We must be the voice of those who have been silenced and make their stories heard. Transnational repression does not respect borders and, to this end, the response also has to be transnational in nature. 

I welcome the agreements reached to work together closely on the development of a legislative framework, laws and other policies to protect the rule of law, human rights, and as well, to hold accountable those who perpetuate this type of repression.

Thank you very much. 


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now we move to Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO.


Ukraine, EC/DA


Thank you. Thank you very much, dear Chairman.

First of all, I would like to thank the rapporteur for the great job done, especially the part about transnational repressions and killings organised by the Russian Federation, which is so striking.

Starting from Novichok in Salisbury, coming to the killings organised by Mr Ramzan Kadyrov and other Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) people, that is really striking. What is really transnational and what is the next phase of Russian transnational aggression is the use and the possible use and blackmail with mass destruction weaponry.

That's what we see today, once again. Russia deployed nuclear weaponry in Belarus, by these... It's the end of the non-proliferation policy in the world, because who is the next aggressor, who is the next tyrant who will be presented by Putin with nuclear weaponry? Ayatollah? Mr Bashar Al-Assad? Who will be the next? It's a great threat.

Russia itself is threatening the world with the nukes. By the way, just yesterday top Russian propagandist Mr Vladimir Solovyov threatened Romania would be destroyed with the nukes, and they are one more country which is on their list.

Definitely, the most active of their threats are against my country: Ukraine. It's not just the use of nuclear weaponry, but also possible attacks on the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe. Russia has already mined it, [which is] exactly what they did in Kakhovka.

Ukraine was addressing the world saying that they were preparing a catastrophe on a planetary scale, and now it happened. Now they are doing this again with the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

I want to address all of you.

We need to react now, or maybe there will be no sense for our next meeting in October. Will we have a possibility to meet? Because radiation doesn't know borders and limits. We need to react today.

I want to say thank you very much to Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Richard Blumenthal in the United States of America, who yesterday sponsored a bill in the US Congress about the fact that if Russia uses nukes in Ukraine, or if Russia organises an attack or explosion on a nuclear power plant, this will be a war against NATO and against everybody in the world.

If the United States is doing this, thousands and thousands of kilometres from here, I address all of you: Germany, the United Kingdom, France, other countries - to make the same decisions in your parliament.

If Russia uses nukes, if Russia blows up the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, or any other nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the result will be a war against the Russian Federation.

It should be stopped, because it will threaten the security of every person on the planet.

Let's do it, and let's stop Russian blackmail like this.

The only language that Russia understands is the language of force.

Thank you.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

Now Madam Gabriela BENAVIDES COBOS.





Thank you very much, President. 

Good day to everybody. 

For me, it is an honour to represent my country, Mexico, here in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I would like to congratulate Sir Christopher CHOPE for the report entitled "Transnational repression as a growing threat to the rule of law and human rights". 

We absolutely agree with him that respect for human rights, the defence of democracy and the rule of law have to be a priority for all. As we all know, the universal principle of human rights is that all people have them irrespective of any distinction so that they are interdependent and indivisible. In order for these principles to be respected, they have to be enshrined in our national treaties, constitutions and international law, general principles and other legal sources.

As of the 2011 reform, my country changed the respect for human rights. Now not only those that are contemplated in the magna carta must be guaranteed, but also in all our international treaties. In other words, in the face of a difference between our federal laws, the provisions of the international treaty will be followed. This is known as "conventionality control".

We agree with the proposal in the report that the Observer member states must establish an official definition of transnational repression to be used in all government agencies, and review the practices of the exchange of law enforcement counterintelligence, to ensure full respect for the human rights of everyone in our territory.

We have to identify this transnational repression, but above all, sanction it and avoid it.

In Mexico, extradition is a mechanism for international co-operation. Its procedure is governed by international treaties and by international extradition law and the principle of reciprocity.

There are two figures that compose it: the requested state and the requesting state. The trial is taken before a federal penal judge who must guarantee human rights and, naturally, respect the rule of law. 

Undoubtedly, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and even dissidence movements are elements of any modern democracy.

In the Mexican Senate, which I belong to, the concerns of this legislation have been expressed regarding the tragic consequences of the war that this continent is experiencing.

The interventions of the Mexican representatives at the United Nations have proven that our country is a promoter of peace and dialogue.

We are convinced that dialogue is the only possible way to diminish our differences. 

Thank you, Mister President.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you. [spoken in Spanish]

That concludes the list of speakers.

I now call on Sir Christopher CHOPE, rapporteur, to reply.

You have 3 minutes.

Sir Christopher CHOPE

United Kingdom, EC/DA, Rapporteur


Can I thank everybody for participating?

Well, I think it has been an excellent debate.

A number of issues have arisen, one being the definition of transnational repression.

All I can say is that the report calls for more work to be done on this.

I think for most people, when they are confronted with it, they know that it is transnational repression. I wouldn't be too hung up on the definitions.

I'm grateful to my two colleagues from the UK Parliament who are members of the Socialist Group. They referred to the Assange case. I share their concerns about the Assange case, particularly the length of time it is taking to resolve. At least Mr Julian Assange is going to be able to go through, and he's going through the courts of law in the United Kingdom. Potentially and ultimately, he could actually come before the European Court of Human Rights. That is a right which is being denied to the victims of transnational repression to whom we're referring in this report.

Can I just say that I think Mr Jeremy CORBYN needs to be congratulated on having celebrated 40 years this month of continuous service in the United Kingdom Parliament? Well done, Jeremy.

As far as the Turkish contribution is concerned, it is of course of great concern to me that the only Turkish speaker basically says that because the president had been re-elected, then it's all hunky-dory, and we mustn't criticise Türkiye.

We're criticising Türkiye in this report, because, as I said at the beginning, Türkiye is the only one of the five countries where transnational oppression is identified most frequently. It's the only one of those five countries which is in the Council of Europe. Therefore, why shouldn't we concentrate on putting our own house in order before telling other people how to do theirs?

The issue of China has been raised, but obviously we're concerned in this report. I refer to China in the full text of another report, but we're concerned about the perpetrators, the countries which are perpetrating this, rather than the victims who are already in Europe and are the subject of reprisals by, for example, the Communist Party in China.

Let's concentrate on those countries within the Council of Europe who are complicit in, if not active in, the acts of transnational repression. That's what this is about. The report and this debate show that there's a heck of a lot more work to be done.

We've only just sort of first turned the first page. I hope that the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights will get to grips with more of the examples that we have been talking about today.

Once again, thank you to everybody for their solidarity. I hope that notwithstanding the Turkish contribution, we will be able to have unanimous support for this report from this Assembly today.

Thank you.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

Does the Chairperson of the Committee wish to speak?

If so, you have 3 minutes.


France, ALDE, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights


Yes, thank you, Mister Chairman.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I'll be brief. Just to remind you that precisely one month ago, on 23 May in Larnaca, Cyprus, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights gave its unanimous support to the report by our colleague Sir Christopher CHOPE on transnational repression.

At our committee meeting two days ago, it rejected by a very large majority two amendments tabled concerning Türkiye. On the other hand, it unanimously accepted an amendment concerning transnational digital repression, the aim of which was to reiterate the private nature of communication.

This was reiterated by the rapporteur. His report is the first Council of Europe text to address this issue in detail. It does not, of course, intend to answer all the questions. It's true that I'm very much in favour of also addressing, as part of this approach, interventions by non-European states within our territory, because this is a phenomenon that is growing and, above all, is likely to become more significant.

However, even if the European Convention on Human Rights currently authorises a certain number of legal remedies in the face of all this, we feel it is important to appeal to the Committee of Ministers to take it upon itself to arrive at what has been mentioned by several speakers, i.e. a precise legal definition of what we call transnational repression, in any case, namely, a definition within the Council of Europe itself.

The Committee of Ministers will also have to follow up on the recommendations made here, as we shall be discussing in other reports, because the repression of anti-war activists in the Russian Federation and elsewhere shows that the prosecution of people who have gone into exile in the current territory of the Council of Europe in order to protect themselves is likely to pose new and quantitatively significant problems in the weeks and months ahead.

I would, therefore, like to conclude by congratulating the rapporteur on the seriousness of his work and the balance he has tried to maintain. I would also naturally like to thank the Secretariat which, as always, has made an important contribution to this work.

The floor is yours. Thank you for your time.


Spain, EC/DA


(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

The proposed definition of the main forms of transnational repression may not be sufficient to include all unlawful actions of a transnational nature.

Indeed, on 17 and 18 May 2021, Spain suffered an unlawful action by Morocco in the form of an assault on the border access to Ceuta, a stronghold of Spanish sovereignty in North Africa. By around 12,000 Moroccan citizens - many of them minors - encouraged by the Moroccan authorities and with the passivity of the Moroccan border officials.

It should be borne in mind that i) Ceuta is a city of approximately 84,000 inhabitants, which gives an idea of the magnitude of the Moroccan transgression, and ii) Ceuta's border with Morocco is the southern border of the European Union.

Public international law makes it difficult to classify this action by Morocco against Spain as an international armed conflict (war) if we consider the meaning upheld by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in accordance with that of other international bodies: "An armed conflict exists when armed force is used between states". The action referred to by Morocco is an action of force, but not of armed force because it has thrown thousands of unarmed Moroccans against the Spanish border.

According to Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, 1977, an international armed conflict is one "between States or between a State and a people under colonial domination, foreign occupation or racist regime, in which the traditional rules of the law of war and the provisions of international humanitarian law are applicable" (art. 1.4). Therefore, this codified norm does not overcome the difficulties either, because it refers to the traditional concept of war.

Moroccan action against Spain has given rise, not only to the illegal and massive crossing of the border, but also to the long-term presence – and not all of them have been returned to Morocco by Spain – of Moroccan citizens in Spanish territory engaged in looting commercial establishments, assaulting inhabited houses and other urban crime (essentially robberies and injuries) against Spanish citizens.

In other words, this is a transnational illegal action not of repression of people by Morocco on Spanish territory but of inducement and organisation by Morocco of criminal activities by Moroccan citizens on Spanish territory.

This type of action is recurrent on the part of Morocco against Spain.

This type of action is distinct from all immigration phenomena, neither economic immigration, which does not confer the right to apply for refugee status or subsidiary protection (asylum), nor that which does.

Vote: Transnational repression as a growing threat to the rule of law and human rights


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you very much.

The debate is now closed.

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights has presented a draft resolution [Doc. 15787], to which 3 amendments have been tabled, and a draft recommendation [Doc. 15787] to which no amendments have been tabled. 

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendment 1 to the draft resolution (Doc. 15787), which was unanimously approved by the Committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.


Is that so?


France, ALDE, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights


Yes, that's right. It's Amendment No. 1.


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Does anyone object? If so, please ask for the floor by raising your hand.

No? There is no objection.

Amendment 1 to the draft resolution has been agreed.


I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendments 2 and 3 to the draft resolution (Doc. 15787), which were rejected by the Committee with a two-third majority, be declared as rejected. 

Is that so?


France, ALDE, Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights


Absolutely. [off-mic]


United Kingdom, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you. Thank you. [said in French]


As nobody objects, Amendment 2 and 3 to the draft resolution are rejected.

Sorry, was there any objection to that proposal?

No, okay. Thank you very much.

The Amendment 2 and 3 to the draft resolution are rejected.


Excuse me while I turn to the right page.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Doc. 15787 [as amended]. A simple majority is required.

The vote is now open.

The vote is now closed.

I call for the result to be displayed.

The draft resolution is adopted.


We will now consider the draft recommendation contained in Doc. 15787 to which no amendments have been tabled.

So we will now proceed to vote on the draft recommendations contained in Doc. 15787. A two-thirds majority is required.

The vote is now open.

The vote is now closed.

I call for the results to be adopted.

The result has been adopted.

Thank you very much. Please...


Debate: Closing the digital divide: promoting equal access to digital technologies


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Dear Colleagues,

Dear Members of the Assembly,

The next item of business is the debate on the Report titled “Closing the digital divide: promoting equal access to digital technologies” (Doc. 15776) presented by Ms Edite ESTRELA on behalf of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

In order to finish by 12:55 p.m., I will interrupt the list of speakers at about 12:45 p.m. to allow time for the reply and the vote.

I call Ms ESTRELA, rapporteur. You have 7 minutes to present the report and then will have a further 3 minutes to reply to the debate at the end.

Thank you, Madam ESTRELA.


Portugal, SOC, Rapporteur


Thank you, Madam Chairman.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For this last debate of the week, let me start with a little story.

Let's imagine. On my way from Lisbon to Strasbourg this week, I:

- bought a metro ticket with my smartphone to get to the airport;

- flew with a ticket bought on the internet and a boarding pass downloaded in advance;

- presented my national identity card at boarding, renewed thanks to an appointment made online;

- processed e-mails while waiting for the plane, thanks to a Wi-Fi connection;

- checked my bank accounts online;

- exchanged messages with family members on my phone.

It's an imaginary story, but let's think about it.

How many of the things we do every day now depend on digital technologies? How many cost us more, significantly more, if we don't have access to them?

Digital technologies have become indispensable for our private exchanges, our purchases, our professional activities, our banking transactions, and our administrative procedures, which enable us to access our rights.

However - and this may seem obvious, but it's important to realise - taking steps and exercising our rights online requires equipment that is often expensive: an appropriate connection, device, storage capacity, operating system, and an adequate paid subscription.

Taking steps online also requires skills and knowledge. Not knowing how to use digital tools, being in a situation of "illectronism", is today a major obstacle in everyday life.

Dear colleagues,

Last September, during a hearing with a representative of the French Human Rights Ombudsman, our Committee examined the impact of the dematerialisation of public services on equal access to rights.

We realised that it's the people who most need public services who are most affected by the digital divide: the poor or marginalised, people with disabilities, the elderly or young, people in detention and foreigners.

Dear colleagues,

There's a lot to be said for the different circumstances in which the digital divide penalises those affected.

I'm counting on you to mention these situations in your speeches, as the subject is vast and my time is limited.

What should governments do to combat the digital divide?

In the draft resolution, we call on governments to adopt a global approach. They must make this fight a priority and make digital technologies and tools inclusive, equitable, accessible, affordable and safe for all. They must subject these policies to regular review by national parliaments, and support positive initiatives in this area, particularly at the local level.

Secondly, access to a fast, reliable and affordable internet connection must be guaranteed for all. We heard from a representative of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on this subject, and concluded that it would be impossible to identify a single model that would be applicable in all our member states.

The draft resolution does, however, identify principles that must be respected by all states, and which had already been set out by the Assembly in its Resolution 2256 (2019), entitled "Internet governance and human rights".

Thirdly, we need to combat illiteracy, by ensuring access to training for all those who need it. We must also promote access for all to education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, in line with the recommendations in our Resolution 2343 (2020) entitled, "Preventing discrimination resulting from the use of artificial intelligence".

Finally, equal access to public services is crucial to the exercise of many of our fundamental rights. The Commission has therefore formulated a series of recommendations aimed at guaranteeing this equality of access. We need to move from a logic of 100% digital to a logic of 100% accessible. We also need to take into account, right from the design stage of an online service, the needs of all potential users, guarantee access to effective help in carrying out administrative procedures, and set up free and accessible internet access points.

Finally, these issues must be taken into account in development aid policies.

Dear colleagues,

The fight against the digital divide is a vast and urgent issue, requiring far-reaching measures.

It is high time for governments to step up their efforts to eliminate the digital divide.

This draft resolution reminds states of the principles that must guide these efforts. I hope that it will also provide them with concrete and useful avenues for action.

Thank you all very much.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam ESTRELA.

In the debate I call first Ms Sona GHAZARYAN on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.


Armenia, ALDE


Madam rapporteur, first of all I would like to congratulate you on this report.

What we are facing now is a widespread introduction of technologies, with basic digital tools becoming increasingly essential for fulfilling our fundamental needs. However, this growing reliance on digital technologies has also led to the emergence of inequalities in various domains. The impact of these disparities was felt acutely during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as in war zones and areas affected by humanitarian crises.

For example, during the pandemic, students required technology and devices to exercise their fundamental right to education. This highlighted the existence of a digital divide, with unequal access to digital technologies. In rural areas, this divide was even more pronounced, as certain states lacked the necessary devices and internet connectivity. Despite the government's efforts to ensure equal access, these attempts were not uniformly successful across all states.

The digitalisation of public services is another key priority for many member states. However, as outlined in the report, people, particularly those living in rural areas, face challenges in conducting administrative procedures online. Therefore, it is crucial that we transition from merely striving for 100% digital public services to guaranteeing 100% accessibility of these services as it was pointed out in the report. Positive examples, in the Netherlands when providing access to devices in public libraries helped people and this example demonstrated potential solutions.

In war zones, the digital divide is further deepened for children who have limited access to devices and the internet, such as those taking refuge in bomb shelters. Our Ukrainian colleagues described to us the dire situation where access to these devices is non-existent. Only through the assistance of international donors can we provide not only digital devices but also the necessary training for their use. A similar scenario unfolds in Nagorno-Karabakh, where the region's total blockade and lack of electricity exacerbate the digital divide.

In conclusion, I would like to mention that it is evident that the increased reliance on digital technologies has widened the inequalities present in our society. Whether it is the lack of devices and internet access for the elderly in rural areas, the unequal distribution of educational resources during a pandemic and war times, or the challenges faced by individuals in conflict zones. Addressing these disparities requires our united efforts and innovative solutions.

It is essential for governments to place a high priority on implementing strategies that aim to bridge the gap between those who have access to digital resources and those who do not.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Now I call Mr Oleksii GONCHARENKO to speak on behalf of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance.


Ukraine, EC/DA


Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I am so happy to speak now about such an important topic: the digital divide.

Special thanks to the rapporteur, because that is about the future, because the digital divide creates huge problems for the future of our children, of our teenagers. We need to deal with it now in order to prevent awful consequences for our society.

Usually, I am speaking here about what should be done, by us, by somebody else in the future, but now I want to share with you a unique experience which we, my team and I, already had.

I am speaking about the network of educational cultural centres in Ukraine, which are called Goncharenko Centres. That is the biggest in Ukraine educational cultural network: the biggest one, with no penny from a budget, just with private sponsors and those who are really worried about what's going on.

One of them is Lord Michael Ashcroft, special thanks go to him. What do we do? We are teaching our children, teenagers, and not only them. Our youngest student is 4 years old, and our oldest student is 84 years old.

We teach them English, German, Polish. We teach them cybersecurity, digital technologies, exactly about the digital divide. Now we have a special programme together with the University of Pennsylvania, which is one of eight universities of the Ivy League. Now we have special programmes with other international organisations in order to give access to education, to culture, and to humanitarian aid to all those who are in need, especially in Ukraine.

Just imagine, two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, then 16 months of war, of invasion of our country.

We became a shelter for education for thousands of Ukrainians.

Just last year more than 100 000 people came through our centres. Our accent is on the small towns: Zhmerynka, Balta, Podilsk, Myrhorod. Maybe you've never heard this names, but Ukrainian children and adults are living there. Now they're receiving education and culture from our centres.

I address all of you.

Let us work together. If anybody, any one of you is interested in joining these efforts, in doing something together, we will be happy to do this with you, with your universities, with your friends. Also, if any one of you is interested in this unique experience – this is a unique experience of what we are doing – in other countries of the world, please, join us. That is so important: to educate, to show, to work on social media.

By the way, I will probably be the first delegate of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe with one million followers on YouTube in just a few days.

We need to address people there, on social media too. Tell them to know what to do.

I address you: let's work together, let's do our job.

The resolution is good, but let us do something concrete in order to help our children and teenagers.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Now I would like to call Mr Frédéric MATHIEU on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr Frédéric MATHIEU

France, UEL


Thank you, Madam President.

Madam Chairman,

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, on behalf of my group, I'd like to pay tribute to the quality of this report and its proposals, which we obviously support.

The situation of the digital divide is an absolutely major issue today, at a time of digitisation of all procedures, particularly administrative procedures and access to rights.

We need to reaffirm one central point, from which the proposals in this report and the proposals I am making in this speech on behalf of my group flow. Access to the internet and new technologies has become an essential commodity for life, and particularly for life with dignity. If, over the past few decades, access to the internet was merely an entertainment solution or an ancillary means of communication and living, this is no longer the case. We are facing a major anthropological change. Nowadays, for example, we can link up with people without ever having met them physically, chatting with them on a daily basis from one end of the world to the other.

Institutions, administrations and companies have now decided to dematerialise a large number of procedures, means of contact, even conflict resolution and access to rights. It is therefore essential that the entire population have access to the internet, and therefore to the technologies that enable it. For part of the population, it will be necessary to set up training and assistance processes to access digital rights.

As pointed out in this report, but also by the Defender of Rights (Défenseur des droits) in France, the growing dematerialisation of public services is a major problem for access to rights. For example, the report by France's Défenseur des droits is unequivocal:

"By early 2022, almost 40% of online administrative procedures will be accessible to people with disabilities. This increase can be welcomed as a step forward, but it is not enough to guarantee universal access to administrative procedures, given that over 60% of them are still 'out of reach' for people with disabilities".

The same applies to the situation of people in prison, where there has been virtually no change, despite the fact that they are faced with the need to take administrative steps to assert their rights.

A similar situation prevails for other categories of people, such as the poor, the elderly, and protected adults.

To implement Recommendation 12.1 of this report, I insist that we put a stop to the austerity budget policies that are leading to the closure of many public services or reducing the number of staff available to receive the public.

It will also be necessary to ensure that all requests for access to rights and other procedures are accessible and can be carried out at physical counters, for all people who do not have access to the internet or simply do not wish to use the internet for these procedures.

In addition to redeploying public services throughout the country, we also need to guarantee the right to a minimum level of free internet access for everyone, and ban internet access cuts.

The internet has become an essential network for life.

We need to deploy a local public service for people who are illiterate, by co-ordinating and strengthening the resources of digital mediation players. In France, for example, 20% of the population is illiterate, which is a huge number.

Thank you, once again, to the rapporteur for the quality of this report and her proposals. My group will be voting in favour of this report.

Thank you for your support.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Frédéric MATHIEU.

Now I am calling Mr Stefan SCHENNACH on behalf of the Socialist Group.


Austria, SOC


Thank you very much, Madam President,

On behalf of the Social Democratic and Green Group, I would like to pay a very big compliment to the rapporteur on this report, because it puts the finger on a very topical and very important issue: the digital divide - between urban and rural, between the older generation and the younger generation, between companies and private households of different levels of education, to people with special needs to others - grows and grows and grows, and disadvantages arise.

Where it grows less, I've noticed that people who are refugees or come from migration, that those are enormously familiar with the digital world, and that the mobile phone has directly become a hallmark of new refugee movements.

We still have to be careful that there are no social disadvantages, and that the provision of networks is a form of services of general interest.

This means that the state, the municipalities and the cities must become much more involved here.

There must be free access, also in terms of technology, but also from the providers, i.e. open sources.

It must be guaranteed that this access is equal, that it is also gender-neutral, and that special consideration is given here to the fact that disadvantaged people are more strongly affected.

A whole range of political measures are needed to combat this growing gap. When it comes to the digitisation of public services, it is once again necessary to pay more attention to ensuring equal access and that no one is at a disadvantage because, for example, they are an older person or are not familiar with this technology, which deprives them of rights. 

I also consider data protection to be particularly important, because today's gold is the data that is being mined everywhere.

Madam Chair,

Allow me to come back to Mr Julian Assange and the earlier debate. About three years ago, I made a motion in this plenary, which was unanimously adopted, for the immediate release of Mr Julian Assange. Now the situation is so dramatic that we should remember that Mr Julian Assange, who is not so much a whistleblower as an investigative journalist, that he is released, and that the United Kingdom does not extradite him for 140 years of imprisonment. That would be an incredible human rights disgrace.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister Stefan SCHENNACH.

Now I call Ms Denitsa SACHEVA to take the floor.

Ms Denitsa SACHEVA

Bulgaria, EPP/CD, Spokesperson for the group


Madam President,

Distinguished members of the Assembly,

I would like, first of all, to congratulate our rapporteur Ms Edite ESTRELA for this very timely report, not just her, but also the entire Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination as the initiator of this report.

It is fairly pointed out at the beginning of the draft Resolution that this issue was raised back in 2001 by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which is under the scrutiny of this Assembly.

I dare believe that today’s report is just the beginning of the debate. Hence, I would like to touch upon several items, which, in my view, have to be addressed not just in a resolution, but in a recommendation of the Assembly.

One such is the link between the digital divide and the labour market. A number of renowned studies forecast that a whole 90% of the jobs in the near future will require the use of digital technologies.

We should, therefore, address the problem of automatisation of low-skilled jobs, on the one hand, and the demand for highly-skilled workers needed for the jobs of the future.

The ever-growing divide between generations, when it comes to digital technologies, may eventually lead to social exclusion due to a lack of skills, economic exclusion, and consequently to social stresses.

In order to curtail this divide, it is necessary to invest and promote targeted actions by public institutions, businesses, social partners, NGOs, and the education system.

Education is of vital significance so as not to leave anyone behind and to prevent marginalisation and radicalisation.

Finally, I would also like to touch upon inequality in education, labour-status inequality, and regional inequality in relation to digital skills.

The necessary resources to tackle these inequalities have to be urgently allocated, because there is a direct link between digital skills, the middle class, and the wealth of states.

We know that digitalisation will impact the middle class in the strongest possible means, which will directly affect Europe’s prosperity and competitiveness.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam Denitsa SACHEVA.

Now we come to the speakers list. I call Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU to take the floor.

Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU

Cyprus, SOC


Thank you, Madam Chair. 

First of all, I would like to endorse everything that my friend Mr Stefan SCHENNACH has said about the persecution of Mr Julian Assange, which is a disgrace for our democracy.

Secondly, I would like to thank Ms Edite ESTRELA for her very comprehensive report and extraordinary work on this important issue.

Digital technology has become indispensable and necessary to our lives.

As a matter of principle, every human being has the right to equal access and opportunity to use digital technologies.

Bridging the digital divide is a major challenge and to effectively address it, we need to adopt common national policies, supported by sufficient funding, competent public services and the promotion of creative private initiatives.

As the harsh realities of the Covid-19 pandemic have taught us, the most important step is making sure that everyone has access to the technological infrastructure and the tools needed to participate in the digitalised world we live in. Raising awareness and developing education and training programmes is also vital, especially when designed for the very young and the very senior generations.

Fulfilling the needs of the most disadvantaged groups of society should be at the top of our agendas. Whether held back from their social status, their financial situation and even from a serious illness or a disability, those living on the margins of society, especially children, do not deserve to be exposed to more disparity that may amplify existing inequalities and promote dissociation and discrimination.

As rapporteur on the role of education in the digital era and the impact of Covid-19 on education and culture, one of my key observations was the need to put into place specific guidelines and a more comprehensive action plan to support children with disabilities, who are particularly vulnerable and at a heightened risk of increased social isolation in times of crisis.

This is precisely the reason I have submitted oral amendments to this draft resolution pertaining to the obligation by states to provide the tools and mechanisms necessary to remove all obstacles, so as to ensure that children with disabilities enjoy equal and unhindered access to online education.

Thank you, my dear colleague, for agreeing to include this text in the Resolution, which I fully endorse.

Thank you very much. 


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr Constantinos EFSTATHIOU.

Now I call Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO to take the floor.

Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO

Ukraine, EPP/CD


Dear colleagues,

I want to ask you, when you see some information in the internet or in social media, do you trust it?

How often do you question this information that you got?

Have you ever wondered why you just talked about something with your friends or your colleagues and then on your Instagram or Google or Facebook, you suddenly see it?

Don't you find it's very very worrying?

When we talk about the digital divide I'm very worried about disinformation and about how much we are all affected by those who actually abuse our right to get information, and to check it with critical thinking. But someone is imposing this information on us and often this is a manipulation.

I've been calling for different policies that we really need in the member states, that will cover different countries, on combating disinformation and also manipulation.

In fact, some technologies and solutions exist that can provide us information on whether this is truth or it's manipulation or there is a distortion of the facts.

I'm speaking now as a human being and of course also as a Ukrainian.

I know how many of you, our foreign friends, are also struggling with disinformation and how often we Ukrainians get the questions from you whether this picture is true or it's fake and then we suddenly see that Russia was using the fake news and fake photos, but we need to learn how to check this.

When we talk about this report I think the question of the digital divide should come with the question of trust, trusting this information that we receive.

I'm very worried when we talk about our children and about those who actually are lacking critical thinking.

They cannot check this information, so what do we do, how do we know how they learn what's happening in the world?

I'm sure that in the schooling system, in education, that should be one of the targets. On the policy level, that also should be one of the focuses of how to make sure that we actually live in the world with truth, not fakes.

With all the political and other consequences of the Russian aggression, we should be talking about the digital consequences too, because now it's very hard with our social media and with other digital technologies that we're using to be assured that no one manipulates us. But, as long as we remember that we have to check it and that we have to educate the critical thinking, then we will have some safe tools to protect our information. Because without it, the whole world of information and the digital divide will be incredibly manipulated.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Ms Yelyzaveta YASKO.

Now I call Mr Christophe LACROIX to take the floor.

Mr Christophe LACROIX

Belgium, SOC


Thank you very much, Madam President.

My colleague Madam Edite ESTRELA began with a story, a little story.

I'm going to tell you a little story too.

My dad is 86 years old. He's in a retirement home, his mental faculties are intact, but he has difficulty getting around. He's a victim of the digital divide and a hostage to the banks. Why hostage to the banks? Because he has a bank card. He can no longer make paper payments or transfers. His bank branch has closed, so it's with the help of his two children, my brother and I, to whom he entrusts the bank card, that he can withdraw money.

Do we find it normal that an elderly person should lose so much dignity and have to "strip" his accounts and money in front of his children, and sometimes even, in the most difficult cases, in front of strangers who are so-called "trusted" people?

This is why artificial intelligence, but also new technologies, can be factors of immense progress, but also factors of discrimination - I dealt with this report on discrimination - but also a factor of social inequalities, economic inequalities, cultural inequalities, age-related inequalities. In Ms Edite ESTRELA's report, we find proposals to remedy these shortcomings, such as help in filling in and submitting forms online, but also benefiting from the advice of public service agents.

Another excellent point I'd like to highlight in Ms Edite ESTRELA's report is the guarantee that errors can be corrected using simple, accessible procedures. I think that, just as access to cash is a fundamental right that needs to be guaranteed, I think that we need to be able to guarantee paper access to all the formalities required by banks and public services. This is why, in Ms Edite ESTRELA's report, I also underline her proposal to guarantee the importance of 100% dematerialised public services, in a logic of 100% accessible public service, including non-digitised access. This guarantee of access is included in Ms Edite ESTRELA's report, and I congratulate her on it.

Indeed, we must do everything we can to reduce the digital divide, because it's a question of dignity, of human dignity. We must all work towards greater humanisation to really make a plea for digital technology and artificial intelligence to be at the service of human beings, but of all the components that make up a human being, from childhood to the end of life. For me, this is essential.

Thank you very much.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


The next speaker is Mr Yuriy KAMELCHUK.

You may take the floor.


Ukraine, EPP/CD


Thank you, Madam Chair.

Dear Colleagues,

Today, I want to address a pressing issue that hinders equality in our society – the digital divide. Access to digital technologies is crucial for public services, education, and countless opportunities. However, many individuals are excluded from these benefits, creating barriers to equality and limiting their life chances.

Millions of refugees have no equal access to digital technologies and proper equipment.

Even in the European Union, in the conclusion regarding Ukraine's application for candidate status, both the decentralisation reform and the Ukrainian centres for the provision of administrative services were noted, and the application Diia was noted by Ukrainian citizens abroad. Now European countries start to use these technologies for administrative needs. Diia now is recognised in 58 countries.

We must shift our focus from merely achieving digitalisation to ensuring accessibility for all. Governments must prioritise maintaining non-digital access to public services, guaranteeing equality and continuity. Adequate support should be provided to individuals, ensuring they receive assistance in carrying out administrative procedures and accessing their rights.

The Covid-19 pandemic has widened the digital divide, emphasising the inequalities we face. With billions of people lacking internet access, we cannot ignore this issue. Combating digital illiteracy is crucial, and initiatives at the local level, like public libraries, play a vital role in providing training and support.

The digital divide encompasses various dimensions – gender, generational, social, and disability divides. Bridging these gaps is essential to ensure equal opportunities. Governments must address geographical imbalances and guarantee access to public services through both digital and non-digital means.

To overcome the divide, we must prioritise universal internet access. Policies for network deployment and adequate funding are necessary. The digital divide should be integrated into development aid measures, and access to digital training should be seen as an investment in society's future.

Let us work together to ensure equal access to digital technologies for all individuals. By closing the digital divide, we can create a fair and inclusive society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The next speaker is Ms Ada MARRA. You have the floor.


Switzerland, SOC


Thank you, Madam Vice-Chairwoman.

Dear colleagues,

I, too, would like to tell you a little story.

For a long time, I was president of the "Lire et Écrire" Association in Switzerland, which fought against illiteracy. The testimonies of these people were extremely touching, as they told us that learning to read and write liberated them, gave them the possibility of having a secret, because, basically, when you can't read and write, you hand over power and your life to others - as our colleague Mr Christophe LACROIX explained so well.

I think we're talking about the same process here, with digital technology, and that, in the end, we're talking about freedom.

The digital divide is twofold, as this report clearly shows: on the one hand, it's access to digital infrastructures with good national coverage, but also access to the digital world through training and the use of these new technologies.

In this respect, the role of the state is absolutely fundamental, since it is the guarantor of public service, and the only guarantor of equal treatment for all citizens, on the one hand, in its responsibility for internet coverage and services, irrespective of the citizen's area of residence, and also irrespective of the person's socio-economic level for accessing training in these technologies.

Yet, there's something of a paradox in our discussion, since there are many of us who basically want universal, free coverage, but at the same time we all recognise the danger – I was going to say, without wishing to sound like a retrograde old conservative – that these new technologies can deprive us of the human link.

I don't know how things went in your towns, but during Covid-19, there were some extreme situations where social services hunkered down at home, where recipients were told: "All you have to do is write on the internet", which is obviously impossible for a whole host of people. It was the real people, the real associations on the ground, who held the boat. So, there's this sort of paradox where we have to keep this material and this link.

I think that this resolution – and I thank the rapporteur for her work, which highlights all these paradoxes – must be accompanied by other resolutions, other reports from this Council of Europe, notably on artificial intelligence and the danger of networks, which has already been done in the past, and which is in the process of being done.

In this respect, we can't isolate this report, which is very good, by accompanying it with other resolutions that are in progress.

Thank you for your attention.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Now I would like to call Ms Larysa BILOZIR.

You have the floor.


Ukraine, ALDE


Dear Madam President, I'm so happy to see a Ukrainian woman chairing!

Dear colleagues,

I would like to commend the rapporteur Ms Edite ESTRELA for such a comprehensive report promoting equal access to digital technologies and proposing matches to reduce this digital divide.

As the head of the sub-committee of administrative procedures and administrative services, I fully agree with the statement that when it comes to the digitalisation of public services, states must move from the logic of 100% digitalisation to 100% accessibility.

Today, governments mainly focus on the most popular current policy direction, digitalisation.

That is a key trend in Ukraine now. The number of users of the Diia application is growing, 18 million people are using it, and in times of war it became very useful, because people lost their documents while fleeing their homes.

Of course the documents are electronically available in the application and there are lots of services, Covid-19 certificates in it, a helpful register on the damage to homes, services for internally displaced persons.

This is also very good for both, for people and the system, but the state cannot function only via smartphones.

Meanwhile, the most massive administrative services such as social support, passport services, registration of real estate, marriages, death, vehicles, they are very important.

The interaction between people and citizens is very important in the sense of providing administrative services.

In Ukraine by the end of this year, instead of war, we will have these centres in each community, out of 1 500.

I would like to concentrate also on one of the human dimensions of the digital divide mentioned in the report, the social divide.

The vulnerable group is Ukrainian children now. A large part of the education infrastructure was destroyed by Russian shelling.

As of June 2023, the losses in education was of 10 billion dollars.

During a year of full-scale war, Russians destroyed or damaged 1 700 schools, 1 100 kindergartens, 71 universities. These are impressive numbers.

1 million people changed their form of education from full-time to distance because of the war.

According to teachers, about 70% of students do not have constant access to the educational process during the war.

Only 40% of parents indicated that children were constantly learning.

So, I support our colleagues from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, who said that we need gadgets, we need help in bomb shelters, because children can't even go to safe places, and there are no bomb shelters in it.

So, I want to say that the educational process depends on bomb shelter availability in Ukraine. Ukraine needs support on this also from our international partners.

Thank you.

[Light applause]


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam BILOZIR.

The next speaker is Ms Nicole HÖCHST.

You have the floor.

Ms Nicole HÖCHST

Germany, EC/DA


Madam President,

Dear colleagues,

Some 63% of the world's population has access to the internet. Almost 40 percent do not. This is where the "great divide" runs.

The EU has already announced its intention to invest 200 billion euros to bridge this gap. This also involves German taxpayers' money. Therefore, please allow me not to approve the resolution without at least asking important questions.

Why are there no recognised alternatives to the lifestyle that requires more and more digitality? The increasingly digital way of life is set as an absolute in the desired globalised world and all levers must be set in motion nationally and internationally to achieve this goal. That is rather totalitarian.

Have citizens around the world actually been asked whether they want to live ever more digitally? Is the great transformation of the world and society something that comes as a wish or goal genuinely from the middle of the people, or is it perhaps a blueprint that is to be handed down to all people of all nations by a few masterminds?

Bureaucracy and commerce are increasingly forcing people out of the analogue world and into the digital. Digitality is virtually an offer you can't refuse.

How convenient that gigantic sums are being earned with the desired worldwide digitality. The 200 billion euros promised by the EU are a drop in the bucket in this respect. More digitality also means less and less analogue, emotional, and social contact with other people, with unknown consequences. We also need to talk about the danger of total control over people that rampant digitisation entails. In a thoroughly digitised world, the many billions of people will in the future become controllable for governments, for the World Health Organization (WHO) and for interest groups.

Even though I am in favour of every human being having access to the blessings of progress and the internet as far as possible and will therefore agree, I do miss the critical vigilance with which we as the Human Rights Council would have to claim for ourselves about human rights and ultimately to monitor and guard human rights and protect them from digitalisation.

Thank you very much.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now I call Ms Mireille CLAPOT, but I don't see her.

Ah, sorry. You have the floor.

Ms Mireille CLAPOT

France, ALDE


Thank you, Madam President.

Madam Rapporteur,

Dear colleagues,

Ksenia is 20 years old and needs housing assistance for her studies. She can't afford to buy a computer, and the process is digital.

Mohamed and Marie are 30 and need to register their first child at nursery school next fall.

Marinette is 80 and lives in a rural area. Her grandchildren come to see her less since Covid-19; they want to send her photos of their vacations, in digital mode of course.

Luis is 40 and has to declare his income to pay his taxes on time; online, of course.

Maxime has several handicaps, and access to public services and online shopping sites is very complicated for him.

Riad has to apply for a residence permit, or risk expulsion from his country of residence.

Francesca is 64 and has to register her new car or risk losing her job.

Whatever their age, our fellow citizens all over Europe need digital access to carry out their formalities, and this access to digitised services can't just be their private affair. It is not only the state, but also local and regional authorities and, ultimately, a whole range of public policies, that we must collectively call upon for policies and measures.

Infrastructures and networks must be developed, digital training for all ages must be a priority, and public services must aim, above all, for accessibility.

If you don't have the right equipment, you need to be able to go to a place that does, and that also offers a service via real humans, and that warns against data theft and misinformation.

It's also about protecting the environment.

Let's stop the rapid renewal of devices, tools, and technologies.

Let's promote the reuse and recycling of terminals, provided, of course, that they are trustworthy and affordable.

The recycling sector can and must be supported by the state, in terms of regulation, collection, support for training, support for players and labelling, to give confidence.

I'd like to take this opportunity to invite you to empty your own drawers at home, and contribute to this collection by handing in your used equipment.

In this way, Ksenia, Mohamed, Marie, Marinette, Luis, Maxime and Riad will be able to access the same services, regardless of their place of residence, age, disability or gender.

Madam ESTRELA, congratulations on your work.

Let's move forward together.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


The next speaker is Ms Parvin KARIMZADA.

You have the floor.


Azerbaijan, EC/DA


Thank you, Madam Chair.

First of all, I want to say thank you very much to the rapporteur.

We know that the digital divide has a negative impact on the economy. When citizens do not have digital skills and knowledge of advanced technologies, they are unable to progress in their careers and contribute to their country's economy.

Our concerns about the digital divide have been especially critical during the Covid-19 pandemic when the internet and digital devices played an important role in allowing people to access services. Once again, we realise that we need to solve this problem so that people can have access to vital services such as cash transfers, medical information, educational content or employment opportunities and so on.

To address these gaps, governments and the private sector urgently need to include the issue of the digital divide in their agendas. States should pay attention to making digital technologies and services inclusive, fair, accessible, affordable, and safe for everyone in order to ensure equal access to the digital world.

To eliminate the digital divide, programmes should be developed. In Azerbaijan, digitalisation is an integral part of our state policy. Digital technology and innovative solutions are widely used in the provision of government services, considering the importance of digitalisation in the development of the country. This area is taken as a priority in all strategies for the future. The Azerbaijani government is working on brand-new modern technologies, smart technologies and projects for the restoration of liberated areas. Applying the best international experience, concepts such as smart city and smart village are being implemented in territories that are liberated from Armenian occupation.

This, in turn, allows citizens to use services, especially government services, in a better way. Residents living in those cities can also communicate directly with the city administration using different digital tools, the internet, mobile applications and many other online portals.

For this reason, various measures are taken by the state to increase the potential of human capital with digital skills. The government has allocated financial resources for staff training in various digital specialities in private courses. Also, the digital economy, data analytics, e-commerce, and similar new specialities are being taught at universities. One of the specialities in the field of ICT that has recently seen a greater demand is cybersecurity. Currently, a lot of work is done in this direction in Azerbaijan. It means that Azerbaijan has high development potential in this field.

By the way, dear colleagues, the 74th International Astronautical Congress to be held in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is a milestone initiative at a global level.

Thank you for your attention.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


The next speaker is Ms Petra BAYR.

Please, you have the floor.

Ms Petra BAYR

Austria, SOC


Thank you very much, Madam President.

Access to the internet, to the global network, has become so essential that some people are even talking about a human right to the internet. I also take note of the fact that others smell a world conspiracy behind this, where the World Trade Organization (WTO) or the World Health Organization WHO are pulling some strings and alternatives are to be sought. Perhaps you should try it once with carrier pigeons. It could be quite an alternative, which could fit into your culture.

I would like now, sarcasm aside, to go into the report by Ms Edite ESTRELA, which does address a great many issues. I might pick up on three of them.

The first one is what the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) recommends that we do, because GREVIO says, quite rightly, that with better, with more access to the internet, of course, online violence, and especially online violence against women is increasing.

It's very, very important to understand domestic violence or family violence not only as physical, that is, as physical violence, but also to take note of the fact that we need measures to get digital violence under control.

I personally don't think that we should call on internet providers, social media providers, to restrict themselves.

I believe we simply need very clear regulations that apply not only to racism or anti-Semitism or other forms of hate, but also to verbal and psychological violence against women that occurs on the internet.

On the other hand, it is also very necessary for women who are affected by violence to have access to these resources, because there are many ways to seek help via the digital world on the one hand, and on the other hand to document the violence that has happened to them, so that they really do have evidence later on in court proceedings.

The second area I would like to address – and my colleague Mr Stefan SCHENNACH has already mentioned it, so I'll keep it short – it's also really important to have non-digital alternatives, because not everyone will always have the skills and the opportunity to apply online for any kind of social funding, to have access to voting rights, to have access to vital information. It must always be possible to provide services of general interest non-digitally so that we don't exclude anyone because of age, language, disability or whatever.

The third area I would like to address is what Ms Edite ESTRELA also rightly says, that 3.6 billion people in this world don't have access to online services or have access to the internet. It's really necessary to think about it. If we want to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, then we would do it much easier if we took big steps forward there.

SDG 17, the global partnership, also talks of three subgoals about technical transfers, about sharing technical innovation. I think it's very, very important that we also keep an eye on this global level, the digital divide, so that we really don't leave anyone behind, not even outside Europe.

Thank you very much.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


I call Mr Francesco VERDUCCI.

You have the floor.

Microphone, please.

Mr Francesco VERDUCCI

Italy, SOC


Thank you, Chair. Thank you Rapporteur Edite ESTRELA for this important work.


What we address in this resolution, that is, the issue of fighting the digital divide, is frantic for our societies, because in the time we live in, that of the relentless and violent digital technological revolution, not being able to access the net means not existing from a social point of view.

Digital platforms are much more than a means of communication. They are the totalising social form that redefines our world and within which our every relationship acts. Not having access to the network means suffering exclusion, discrimination, a wall that prevents those outside from realising their own protagonism, their own life project. A wall that is often made of the sum of previous and stratified social, economic, cultural and territorial inequalities. We have a duty to break down this wall, to counter inequalities that undermine our democracies at the base.

The network must become a great public and democratic good; today it is not. That's why we need a strategic plan of public investment to bring the digital to market failure areas, to build a universal technological welfare hinged on free and accessible networking, on digital citizenship as a universal right.

We need rules, rules to avoid conflict between the private and arbitrary power of digital corporations and the demands of our societies, because the net is not neutral. We must make sure that it is not algorithms that decide our fate but the democratic will of parliaments and citizens.

President, during the pandemic we dramatically realised how vital the right to connect is.

President, during the pandemic, the number of children living in families below the poverty line increased disproportionately. These children are the ones most at risk of digital exclusion and consequently most at risk of dropping out of school and, therefore, losing their future. Not only social classes, generations, but the potential of our countries and our very idea of society are at risk.

The digital divide is a multiplier of inequality, and this will be more and more. It is already at the heart of the social issue we face. That is why we have a duty to take action, to bring this issue to parliaments and public debate to build a model of development where everyone can be a protagonist.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mister VERDUCCI.

And now I call Mr Robert TROY to take the floor.

Mr Robert TROY

Ireland, ALDE


Thank you, Madam President.

Can I firstly compliment the rapporteur for this very comprehensive report.

I know that in the report it says that there have been numerous resolutions in this area, and despite this, and at a time of massive acceleration to the digital world, 3.6 billion people continued to have no access to the internet, and half of the rural European Union has no access to broadband.

That digital divide is based on geography, it is based on a generational divide, social-economic reasons and, of course, gender reasons.

The report quite rightly calls out governments who produce lofty policies in this area without backing up those policies with the necessary resources.

You need the resources in place to ensure the right infrastructure is there, the right regulation is there, and of course, to upscale and educate.

Covid-19 accelerated the transition to the digital world. We have a saying in Ireland, "necessity is the mother of all invention".

We saw businesses who never had an online presence establish one because if they did not, they would have gone out of business.

I welcome the fact that the EU has enacted the Digital Markets Act, which will ensure a level playing field for all digital businesses.

We had a greater connection with people and the digital world through Covid-19, and of course, in the whole area of health.

In the area of health, Ireland plans to have individual electronic health records by 2030. Taking advantage of the positives of digital, we will have treatments faster and more efficiently.

As more businesses and state services move to the area of digital, we must not forget vulnerable people who must be able to access state services.

We must support this by upscaling and educating.

There are very many positives in the whole area of digital, but one area I want to focus on in my last minute is the challenges and the dangers that are out there.

I believe the state is failing in terms of the speed of regulation.

There are dominant players out there who have an undue influence.

There are no controls on facts or fiction.

Ireland under the EU Digital Service Act, welcomed late, has established an online commissioner who is producing the first online safety codes of practice, which are going to be binding.

This will ensure the protection of minors, it will ensure regulation of hate speech, and introduce sanctions and penalties for illegal activity. This is very welcome, but it also raises the question about the need for funding of independent journalism. I think that is critical in any democracy.


The last area I want to focus on is the area of artificial intelligence. That is moving at such a rate and regulation is not keeping up with it. I think as state institutions, we need to ensure that we have much better regulation in this area.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr Brian FRANCIS.

You have the floor.




Thank you, Madam Chair.

Honourable colleagues,

In Canada, June is National Indigenous History Month.

Two days ago, on 21 June, we celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day.

These two events are opportunities to honour the distinct cultures, languages, traditions, and histories of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis People: the Indigenous Peoples of what is now Canada.

While broadband internet access is critical for the self-determination of Indigenous Peoples, in Canada, many do not have access to reliable and affordable services. As a result, some indigenous organisations and communities have established their own service providers and telecommunication networks. Some have implemented projects to improve broadband internet access while addressing community needs.

In Canada, there is a strategy to provide high-speed internet to every person by 2030. There are programmes specific to indigenous communities. However, the digital divide continues to significantly affect us.

The resolution in the rapporteur's report applies to Indigenous Peoples in its recognition that “access to the internet and the material means required to use it and proficiency in basic digital tools have become fundamental needs”; that “digital exclusion is a major barrier to equality”; and that the “[l]ack of access to digital technologies prevents those concerned from accessing public services, education, and many of the opportunities that life has to offer.”

Indigenous Peoples can also relate to the resolution when it states that “[p]eople already suffering from inequality and discrimination, and struggling to make their voices heard are left even more exposed by the digital divide.”

While data shows an urban–rural divide in access to broadband internet in Canada, it also shows a significant gap between indigenous communities – located in rural, remote and urban areas – and non-indigenous communities.

Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected by the lack of broadband internet access, which exacerbates existing inequities in health, employment, and education. Even where broadband internet is available, it is often inaccessible because its price is prohibitive or digital devices are lacking.

To advance reconciliation, Canada must work, in full partnership with Indigenous Peoples, to close the digital divide, by moving from a logic of 100% digitalisation to one of 100% accessibility, as the report recommends all governments do.

Wela’lin – Thank you – Merci.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now I would like to go call Ms Nadejda IORDANOVA.


Bulgaria, NR


Thank you, Madam Chair.

Dear Rapporteur,

Dear Colleagues,

I would like to thank the rapporteur for the hard work and the detailed and timely report.

I’d like to touch upon one specific aspect of digital divide.

Digital technology can be a strong ally in our efforts to close the “justice gap”. Technology together with other tools may increase the ability of isolated individuals to participate in justice proceedings. People who live and work in isolated areas, up in the mountain or in small villages, young entrepreneurs trying to revitalise abandoned areas, people with disabilities, displaced people, etc. Technology can also make it easier for people to access justice outside of business hours or without the additional expense of lawyers or court.

However, all these advantages can easily be turned into a major obstacle to access to justice. Infrastructure and internet services may be inconsistent or unreliable. The cost of the system may be passed on to the user, creating barriers to access to justice for those unable to pay. Online systems cannot be available to those who live in rural, remote locations.

Access to justice is the core guarantee for all fundamental pillars of our democratic family – human rights, democracy, and rule of law.

I am a strong advocate for rapid modernisation of our society, digitalisation of not just the business practices, but of the public services as well. I also know, I’ve seen it with my eyes, that it is often the case that those who need justice the most, have the least access to the digital world. They have no internet, no computer, no digital skills.

Therefore, we should not allow at any moment any wider opening of the “digital divide”. Holding back the justice system from stepping up into the digital world is not the answer. The answer is to empower and give support to those who are behind.

We must ensure well-defined, practical, and financially supported comprehensive policies that support the development of digital competencies, guarantee access to internet and provide reliable infrastructure, which includes not only the technical means but the additional help, if such is needed.

I will support the resolution.

I urge you to combine our efforts to ensure equal access to justice for all in the upcoming digital era.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now I call Lord Leslie GRIFFITHS to take the floor.


United Kingdom, SOC


Thank you very much indeed Madam Chair and colleagues who have had the courage and stamina to remain this long in the House.

I sit on a committee in the House of Lords, a select committee. The genius is it's bipartisan and it consists of experts in their field.

The committee I sit on is for communications and digital.

Our last report was called "Regulating the Regulators".

The current one, nearly complete, is on digital exclusion.

The one we're about to begin will be on artificial intelligence.

We attract people from every field of life, experts in their field, and we interview them, and cross-question them before we publish our report.

It's a very excellent way of making sure these subjects remain in the public domain and subject to scrutiny.

One of the two things that we've discovered in our debate has been that it would be very wrong to limit exclusion, digital exclusion, to the poor, although we recognise that area of need, or the old. We had a story about an old man, called an old man by his son, but he's just my age, and I feel very young, but not just for old people.

We heard that young people, we always assume that they are adept, they know what they're doing, it's at their fingertips. But the band of experience across which they exercise their skills is very narrow. They're very good with their phones and with their Spotify and entertainment and so on, but the application of those skills to work-related tasks can be very limited.

So I don't know what the clock is doing, but as a Welshman I'm perfectly capable of speaking for another hour, if that's allowed. I'll just carry on, shall I? Good.

So, we must be careful that we don't exclude youngsters from the recognition that they need enlarging their skills and broadening their experience.

Similarly, another tale, not my father, but my wife, she worked in the field of radiography. She was highly skilled on the computer in taking the findings of physics and applying them to medical needs for people suffering from cancer. She was brilliant at it, but when she retired, all that skill on the computer was of no good to her at all, because now she wanted to write a book, now she wanted to do some study, and she needed to upskill herself.

With this technology, we need constantly throughout our lives to be improving our skills, broadening them, because the technology is improving, but also the fields of endeavour, when work is no longer monochrome from birth to retirement, need to be updated too.

So, I thank the rapporteur for her report and wish her and the Assembly well going forward.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The next speaker is Mr Pedro CEGONHO.


Portugal, SOC


Thank you, Madam speaker,

Dear colleagues,

This report is critical as the digital divide and the inequalities it creates currently affects millions of people around Europe.

Addressing the gap between those who have access to, and use information and communication technologies, and those who do not, is key to securing a fairer and more equitable society.

Concrete actions can and should be taken, such as:

a) Expanding infrastructure to cover all areas and improving connectivity speed to enable new uses of the internet;

b) Reducing the cost of connections and devices for vulnerable and geographically distant populations;

c) Promoting digital literacy programmes for different groups, especially women, youth, elderly, and people with disabilities;

d) Encouraging innovative and inclusive uses for social good, such as e-government, e-learning, e-health, and e-commerce;

e) Strengthening national policies through better coordination between different administrative levels and adjusting the regulatory framework;

f) Fostering international co-operation and solidarity to share best practices and resources.


The digital divide has serious consequences for individuals and society as a whole.

It affects people's opportunities for education and employment, health participation, and empowerment.

It also hinders social cohesion, economic development and environmental sustainability.


Dear colleagues,

Reducing the digital divide will allow us to leverage the potential of the digital revolution and strengthen democracy, human rights, and social justice worldwide.

It is both our responsibility and our opportunity to make this happen.

I congratulate the rapporteur for her excellent work in this report and this recommendation.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now I call Ms Béatrice FRESKO-ROLFO. You have the floor.


Monaco, ALDE


Thank you, Madam Vice-President.

First of all, I'd like to thank Mrs Edite ESTRELA for the quality of this report.

Dear Mrs ESTRELA, I agree with every word in it.

Dear colleagues,

As this report points out, while digital technologies have opened up tremendous opportunities in many fields, they have also created inequalities that we must take care to reduce.

The reason I'm speaking to you today is to raise a key issue that requires everyone's attention: the digital inclusion of people with disabilities.

In our societies, while the vast majority of administrative procedures have been facilitated by the development of digital technology, this has left behind not only many elderly people, but also, and above all, people with disabilities. The meteoric evolution of these tools is leading to the exclusion of these same people, and we all need to find ways of reintegrating them.

The obstacles faced by people with disabilities, whether physical, sensory, intellectual or psychosocial, are diverse.

Online forms are often inaccessible, despite the authorities' stated desire to make them accessible. To disability, we add a technological obstacle.

A major effort must be made to make websites, their content and various applications accessible to all, so that no one is left by the wayside.

States need to invest in technologies to develop new tools to facilitate the digital inclusion of people with disabilities, such as voice, eye and touch commands.

For once, we can't do anything without appropriate digital training to help and facilitate the use of these tools.

Education and training are definitely the words most used in all the work of the Assembly.

Before concluding,

I would like to make it clear that I fully support the oral amendments that will be tabled at the end of the debate, to further integrate this perspective into the draft resolution.

I would like to thank the signatories and Mrs Edite ESTRELA for their effective cooperation on this matter.

Perhaps the Assembly should take up this vast and fundamental subject and devote a specific report to it?

Of course, I would like us all to work together to promote the digital inclusion of people with disabilities, and thus reduce the digital divide they suffer.

It's our collective responsibility.

Thank you all very much.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now I call Mr Lukas SAVICKAS.

You have the floor.


Lithuania, SOC


Madam Speaker,

Dear Colleagues,

Before coming to Strasbourg, I booked my flight and my hotel on a website. On my way here, I was actually checking the news very regularly. During this week, well, actually being physically in France, I did actually engage with the most pressing matters back home in Lithuania. All of that is thanks to ever-present access to the internet and the digital skills which I have acquired. To know that not all of us have the same access to learn, to study, to connect with people, it seems unacceptable.

The report, rightfully so, brings attention to all the types of divides in the digital area. It is because of the disability divide. It is because of the social divide, because of the generational divide, even gender or geographically. It is the divide that we must seek to demolish. The numbers are not lying. The International Telecommunications Union estimates that globally there are about 250 million fewer women online than men, and that is a quarter of a billion. Therefore, it is more than clear that the digital divide is actually becoming the face of inequality of the 21st century.

Let us be real. If you do not reduce the divide now, the gap is going to get even bigger. We are at a crossroads. We either continue as it is or harness these technologies to build a safer and more sustainable future for all. The current pace of technological developments and new ongoing developments only proves that we must adopt the positions and solutions proposed by the rapporteur.

The digital transition cannot take place without state support. This is why free public Wi-Fi hotspots must be widely available, and concessionary rates must be available for those who cannot afford it.

Furthermore, public authorities have a special responsibility. They themselves set the bar for digitising public services. In this regard, such classrooms, such as PIX digital competencies platform enables students and workers to test their digital competencies and gain new ones. These can really play a very important part.

Recently, in this very building, there has been significant progress towards closing the divide by the Conference on the Future of Europe. It has been established that the internet should be considered a human right. Today, we can take further steps towards it by actually approving their resolution.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Now I call Ms Minerva HERNÁNDEZ RAMOS.

I see she's ready, so you have the floor.




And I greet you with a warm Mexican smile. 

In an increasingly interconnected world, where technology has become a fundamental part of our society, it is our duty to ensure that all individuals have the same opportunities to participate fully in the economy and in everyday life. Inequality and access to and use of digital technology is a reality that affects millions of people across the globe. 

In Mexico, some 82% of people use digital technologies in the urban areas and 56% in rural areas, but the gap between the different entities is huge. For example, the average in Mexico City reaches 88%, meanwhile, in Tlaxcala, my state, it is just 71%. This digital divide has profound implications for equality of opportunities, socio-economic development and social cohesion. 

Digital technologies have the power to strengthen democracy, facilitate access to information and foster citizens' participation in decision making, which is why it is essential that policies and initiatives focus on empowering citizens in promoting transparency and guaranteeing privacy and online security.

Efforts to bridge the digital divide will not be effective without a strong and sustained commitment from states. Closing this gap is not only guaranteeing equal access but also promoting inclusion and citizen participation.

The call made by the Parliamentary Assembly to consider bridging the digital divide a priority must be taken up by all member states. And it is vital to take into account infrastructural as well as socio-economic and educational aspects. We must therefore ensure that everyone has access to quality and affordable connectivity. Broadband infrastructure must be expanded and upgraded, especially in areas where economic activity is scant. 

Moreover, policies must be implemented that promote competition and reduce the costs of internet access to make it affordable for all. We must also address the lack of digital skills that prevent many people from taking full advantage of the opportunities afforded by such digital technologies. We need to develop training programmes to bridge the gap between generations and between rural and urban areas and ensure that adults can also benefit from digital technologies.

It is as crucial as ever to strengthen efforts to reduce the socio-economic gap and ensure that vulnerable groups, such as low-income people, migrants, people with disabilities and the elderly have access to digital technologies and online services. Bridging the digital divide requires co-ordinated action at a national and international level as well as a firm commitment by governments, international organisations, the private sector and civil society. In doing so, we will not only be promoting equal opportunities but also be building a better, more inclusive and equitable future for all. 

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The next speaker is Ms Minna REIJONEN.

You have the floor.


Finland, EC/DA


Thank you.

Digitalisation has made life easier. Everybody knows this, but not everyone can use digitalisation. A large number of people are without digitalisation. Advice and teaching about digitalisation is needed. Advice must be really applied and understandable.

Medical information is digital.

Not everyone has a computer at home.

I think municipalities, cities, hospitals, and maybe pharmacists could help people. Pharmacies, yes are important places. People think that pharmacies could advise on digitalisation.

Finland had an election a couple of months ago. The government programme has just been completed. According to the government programme, pharmacies could help more people. I think the pharmacies have expertise to be able to use digitalisation safely, but how do we ensure that everyone is advised? I mean everyone, everyone.

It is very important to develop this and monitor the situation now and for the future.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

The next and the last speaker for this debate is Mr Simon MOUTQUIN.

You have the floor.


Belgium, SOC


Thank you, Madam Chairman.

I have the honour of being the last speaker for this report.

I would like to sincerely thank Ms Edite ESTRELA for this report, but also for all the work she does in the Assembly, which is consistent in terms of the fight against discrimination and the fight for social rights.

Many of my colleagues have told a story, so I wanted to tell you one too.

It's the terrible story, in fact, of Belgium and many other countries, which suffered a natural disaster in 2021 when deadly floods hit Belgium, but also Germany. During these floods, some or most citizens received alerts on their cell phones, warning them of imminent flooding or rising waters. The problem, as we all know and which is the subject of this report, is that some citizens simply didn't have a mobile phone to receive this kind of alert message. This was also the case in Türkiye, the Türkiye I was able to visit after the earthquake. We realised that, in the end, access to digital information wasn't open to everyone, especially the underprivileged. Often, it's also women who have less access to a whole range of digital services. So, we can see the impact this can have, the link between natural disasters and the digital divide, and the discrimination that can also be suffered at such times.

As we all know, digital development represents an immense transformation of our society, an incredible opportunity for development, but it is also a factor in exacerbating injustice and, what's more, a danger to the environment if left unchecked. We know that digital technology has an impact on CO2 emissions in particular, but also on digital components, which are often sourced from countries where human rights and children's rights are not respected. These are facts we need to keep in mind.

I'd like to thank Ms Edite ESTRELA for her report, which shows that there is a concern about the importance of this digital divide, which is tending to increase, and that these inequalities in access are growing all the time.

So, what are we talking about?

Imagine an isolated person who, at a time when the post office is offering digital services, can't access the internet.

Imagine a young person who wants to study during Covid-19 and who shares an apartment and a single computer with his whole family.

Imagine a job-seeker who can't afford an internet subscription, but is asked to look for work solely on the internet.

Imagine an undocumented migrant who has to file an asylum application using a digital platform, but can't do so because, by definition, he or she often doesn't have access to a computer or mobile phone.

All this goes to show that, ultimately, digital technology must move towards universal access, quality access, stable access and free access. As my colleague Ms Ada MARRA said, I think that digital technology also shows us that a whole series of citizens are not connected to the internet, but digital technology also disconnects citizens.

I'd also like to say today that we must, of course, preserve the human link between people. An elderly person who now has to do their administrative formalities via the internet is an elderly person who is becoming isolated. 

I really want to say that that's the most important thing: to keep that important link. My grandmother won't go on the metaverse, and neither will I, for that matter.

I think that's really what should guide us too, the human link in our work at the Assembly, which is primordial.

Thank you very much.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Mr MOUTQUIN.

I would like to remind the members of the Assembly that speeches of members on the speakers' list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in the official report.

I remind colleagues that typewritten text can be submitted electronically, if possible no later than 4 hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.

Now I call Ms Edite ESTRELA to reply. You have 3 minutes.


Portugal, SOC, Rapporteur


Thank you, Madam Chairman.

First of all, I'd like to thank the speakers for a very lively and interesting debate.

I would also like to thank the colleagues who submitted amendments to the draft resolution.

And, of course, I would like to thank the Secretariat and particularly Ms Sarah Burton for her support throughout the process of preparing my report.

Dear colleagues,

The digital exclusion of inequalities in access to the Internet and ICT affects 52% of women and 42% of men worldwide.

This divide widens even further when we talk about regions.

According to data extracted from the WorldStat internet portal, in December 2021, only 43% of Africa's inhabitants will be connected, compared with 88% of Europeans and 93% of North Americans.

To reduce the digital divide, we need to implement public policies that guarantee universal and affordable access to the internet and ICTs, that promote lifelong education and training in digital skills, and that encourage innovation and the creation of local content adapted to the needs and interests of populations.

The digital divide is a major challenge for the 21st century. We need to bridge it to build a fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable society.

Dear colleagues,

What I've just mentioned was generated by Bing, an artificial intelligence platform.

There are those who say that we are facing a brave new world, but there are also those who say that the brave new world could be a nightmare after all.

It's our responsibility to choose the path and not let algorithms and artificial intelligence determine our lives and condition democracy.

I thank you for your attention and hope to count on your support and your vote too.

Thank you very much.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Ms Edite ESTRELA.

Does the Chairperson of the Committee wish to speak?

You have 3 minutes.


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


Thank you, Madam President.

What a great file to finalise our summer part-session, colleagues.

This is so brilliant that we have young people, business people, people who are actually electing us to be voting for this important files, and to discuss this issue today.

On behalf of the Committee, I would like to say that this file has been very properly prepared and supported by the Secretariat, supported by the Committee already in April.

A funny thing just happened. My internet ran out, and I couldn't access my family messages, where we have a grandmother who is trying to use the digital issues to see photographs, because now the war of aggression has spread all across the country, but we try to be united.

Starting from the fact that you have access to air raid sirens to go into the bomb shelter, which was also mentioned by our colleagues, to the registry of a newborn baby, receiving a birth certificate, getting married, getting divorced, applying for subsidies, applying for schooling, and so on.

This can all be done digitally in various member states of the Assembly.

Estonia was pioneering this process. Now Ukraine has a great ministry of digital support in this issue, via the application Diia, which means "action".


Without a very appropriate approach, as Madam Rapporteur Ms Edite ESTRELA put it very, very, accurately, we have to focus on the accessibility, not the numbers first.

Surely, if we provide tablets to all the children across the member states who are lacking technological access, that would not necessarily bring about a positive effect, because there is, indeed, a threat inside: this is disinformation. Our previous reports have focused on that as well.


Daily life is bringing us opportunities and at the same time threats.

Of course, we can link it to the people in need, the people who are now experiencing migration, and fleeing crises, and people with disabilities, of different genders, different ages, and they're coming from different member states.

We have indicated to you that that was the most massive movement of persons since the Second World War.

Ms Edite ESTRELA also focused in her report on digital literacy. In your concrete examples, you have indicated that it doesn't matter how old you are, you have to have digital literacy. Indeed, international donors can provide this access, can financially support these programmes.

This is the actual, let's say, result of our report, surely.

Within Ms Edite ESTRELA's text we see the excellency of having the digital divide, as she indicated recently between two genders, men and women, but I think there is so much more to say than we can during a 3-minute or 10-minute speech.

That's why I want to inform you, dear colleagues, that the Committee adopted the report of Ms Edite ESTRELA's draft Resolution already in April.

I want to congratulate her again.

I think we did our best to get the presence of the Assembly to the maximum, to have the votes of support.

Thank you, Madam Edite ESTRELA, for your brilliant work, and thank you to the Secretariat.

[Light applause]


Azerbaijan, EC/DA


(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)


Dear Mr. President and distinguished members of the Council,

I would like to begin by conveying my deep appreciation to Ms. Estrela for bringing up this relevant subject matter at the present moment. In the contemporary economy, communication technologies play a vital role in fostering economic growth and creating wealth. Thus, it is crucial to address the disparity in digital access and connectivity across various areas to promote equality and advancement.

In Azerbaijan, a series of targeted measures have been implemented to effectively address the digital divide and ensure equitable access to digital technologies. Considerable investments have been made in expanding broadband infrastructure to enhance connectivity for all citizens. For instance, wider use of electronic services by the population is one of the goals of "ASAN service". The agency's mission is to achieve citizen satisfaction by applying modern innovative technologies and methods in the organization of services provided by state bodies.

In my opinion, it is crucial to allocate investments in digital infrastructure, particularly in underserved areas, to ensure reliable and affordable internet connectivity for all. This can be achieved through public-private partnerships and government initiatives that focus on enhancing network capacity and reducing the cost of internet services. Secondly, comprehensive digital literacy programs should be implemented to equip individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate and utilize digital technologies effectively. These programs should target marginalized communities, elderly populations, and individuals with disabilities, providing them with training and resources to bridge the digital skills gap and foster inclusive digital participation. Furthermore, promoting digital inclusion requires collaboration among stakeholders. I think that specifically, partnerships with educational institutions can ensure digital skills training programs reach marginalized communities, fostering equal access and empowerment. Consequently, it is crucial that we give utmost priority to the protection of personal data and privacy rights in the digital realm. promoting responsible data practices will foster trust among users, encouraging broader participation in the digital sphere. Let’s unite the world through equal access to digital technologies, paving the way for a future of limitless opportunities!

Thank you for your attention!

Vote: Closing the digital divide: promoting equal access to digital technologies


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you, Madam Chair.

Now I declare the debate closed.

We come to the consideration of amendments to the draft Resolution.

The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination has presented a draft Resolution to which 4 amendments have been tabled.

I understand that the Chairperson of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination wishes to propose the Assembly Amendments 3 and 4 to the draft Resolution, which were unanimously approved by the Committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly.

Is that so, Ms Mariia MEZENTSEVA?


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


 Yes, Madam President.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Does anyone object? If so, please ask for the floor by raising your hand.

I don't see any objections.

I have received an oral Amendment from Ms Edite ESTRELA, which reads as follows:

In the draft Resolution at the end of Paragraph 6, add the following sentence:

"As it can prove particularly difficult for some children with disabilities to follow online education, states must provide the tools and mechanisms necessary to ensure that these children enjoy equal and unhindered access to such education, particularly in times of crisis".

The president may accept an oral amendment on the grounds of promoting clarity, accuracy, or conciliation, if there is no opposition from 10 or more members to it being debated.

In my opinion, the oral Amendment meets the criteria of rule 34.7.a.

Is there any opposition to the Amendment being debated?

I don't see objections?

So this is not the case.

I therefore call Ms Edite ESTRELA to support the oral Amendment.

You have 30 seconds.


Portugal, SOC, Rapporteur


Thank you Chair.

I am in favour, because it was approved in our Committee.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Thank you.

Does anyone wish to speak against the oral Amendment?

I don't see any objections.

The Committee is obviously in favour.

I shall now put the oral Amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the result to be displayed:

The oral Amendment is agreed to. Amendment 1 is rejected.

I have received an oral Amendment from Ms Edite ESTRELA which reads as follows:

"In the draft Resolution, after Paragraph 9.5, insert the following paragraph: 'Remove any obstacles that prevent some children with disabilities from enjoying equal access to education, when the latter is based on digital tools and technologies'."

The president may accept an oral amendment on the grounds of promoting clarity, accuracy, or conciliation, and there is not a position from 10 or more members to it being debated.

In my opinion, the oral Amendment means the criteria of Rule 34.7.a.

Is there any opposition to the Amendment being debated?

I don't see any objections, so that's not the case.

I therefore called Ms Edite ESTRELA to support the oral Amendment.


Portugal, SOC, Rapporteur


I am in favour.

Thank you.


Ukraine, EC/DA, President of the Assembly


Does anyone wish to speak against the oral Amendment?

I see no objections or are there any objections? No.

The Committee is obviously in favour.

I shall now put the oral Amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

The oral Amendment is agreed to, so Amendment 2 falls.

We will now proceed to vote on the draft resolution contained in Document 15776 as amended. A simple majority is required.

The vote is now open.

The vote is closed.

I call for the results to be displayed.

The draft resolution in Document 15776 as amended is adopted.


Progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee (continued)

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


Dear Colleagues,

Our next business is to consider the changes proposed in the membership of Committees.

These are set out in Document commissions 2023/06 revised Addendum No. 2.

Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly's Committees agreed to? 

I don't see any objection.

They are agreed to.

The next item on today's agenda is the continuation of the debate on the progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee. At its meeting this morning, the Bureau proposed several references to Committees. They are set out in Document 15791, Addendum No. 3.

These references must be submitted for ratification by the Assembly in accordance with Rule 26.3.

Are there any objections to these references? I do not see any.

They are approved.

I now propose that the other decisions in the Progress Report be ratified. Are there any objections? I do not see any.

They are approved.

We now, dear colleagues, come to the end of our business.

I would like to thank all the members, particularly the rapporteurs of the Committees for their hard work during the part-session.

I would also like to thank the vice-presidents who chaired during this part session: Ms Sibel ARSLAN, Ms Edite ESTRELA, Mr John HOWELL, Mr Darko KAEVSKI, Ms Olena KHOMENKO, Ms Ingjerd SCHOU, Ms Tamara VONTA, and Ms Maja VUKIĆEVIĆ.

I would also like to thank the staff and the interpreters, both permanent and temporary, who have worked hard to make the part-session a success.

Could I ask, at the end of this meeting, is there anybody for whom this is the last session they will participate in?

Mr Tiny KOX

Netherlands, UEL, President of the Assembly


I see one, I know I see one. To the left you see Mr Bob van PAREREN, which is not exactly his political position in the spectrum I think he agrees, but he has served this Assembly for several years. He was always here and I would like to thank him and with him, all those others for whom this was their last session, for the great work that they did to make this Assembly a relevant Assembly. Bob and all the others, thank you very much.

The fourth part-session of the 2023 session will be held from 9 till 13 October of this year.

I declare the third part-session of the 2023 Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe closed.

I would like to remind members to return their voting cards to the dedicated box at the entrance to the chamber before leaving the Palais.

The sitting is closed. 



The sitting is closed at 1 p.m.