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lundi 21 janvier 2019 matin

2019 - Première partie de session Imprimer la séance

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Ouverture de la partie de session

M. Boriss CILEVIČS

Lettonie, SOC, Président de l'Assemblée

11:34:41

Mr Cilevičs, the doyen of the Assembly, took the Chair at 11.35 a.m.

The sitting is open.

I declare the first part of the 2019 ordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe open.

Dear colleagues, just over a month ago, on 11 December, Strasbourg – our city, European capital and capital of the rule of law, democracy and human rights – was deeply wounded by deadly and indiscriminate violence. In this attack five persons were killed, and 11 others were injured. Those who died tell us something about Strasbourg, our multicultural capital of Europe. Three persons were from Strasbourg: one was French, one was Polish and the third Afghan. Of those who did not live in Strasbourg, one was an Italian journalist and the other a tourist from Thailand.

On 13 January, Pawel Adamowicz, Mayor of Gdansk, was vilely physically assaulted during a charity event. The next day, he succumbed to his wounds. Mr Adamowicz had been the Mayor of Gdansk for more than 20 years. He was known and appreciated for his open and progressive views, and for being truly committed – as his city is – to the values of tolerance, respect and living together. As with all terrorist and violent attacks, the intention was to divide, to instil hatred and mistrust in our minds and in our hearts. But we will not let this happen. Today, as we remember the victims and stand united, in solidarity with their families and all those affected by these acts, we should all take a page from the notebooks of Strasbourg and Gdansk. They have not let hatred ferment. They have remained anchored in their tradition of being inclusive and diverse cities.

I now invite you to pay tribute to the victims of these senseless tragedies with a minute of silence.

The Assembly observed a minute’s silence.

Exactly 20 years ago, I became a member of this Assembly. The political landscape of Europe was very different at that time, but our Assembly still can and must play a crucial role in reaffirming and upholding our fundamental values of democracy and human rights. Today, that task is not easier than it was 20 years ago – rather the opposite. Our Assembly reflects political evolution in national parliaments and in European politics in general. We in Strasbourg also face all the major challenges emerging in Europe and beyond. Let us be honest: nowadays, we face growing opposition to our basic values, both explicit and hidden, from both outside and inside Europe. Besides that, we encounter increasing financial pressure and reduced resources. Under these conditions, we must adjust our activities.

First, we must set clear priorities for our work. There is widespread consensus that the European Court of Human Rights is the crown jewel of our Organisation. Strengthening the Court, particularly by resolutely opposing any attempt to undermine its authority or independence, must be a top priority for our Assembly. The right to individual petition must be upheld for every person under a European jurisdiction and it must remain effective, including in respect of the factor of time. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Secondly, the Council of Europe has a unique system of monitoring bodies – both treaty-based and non-treaty-based – such as the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, the Committee on the European Social Charter and the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. The Framework Convention has proven to be the most efficient instrument to manage growing cultural diversity while preserving basic values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It seems that, in recent years, strong practical support for the Advisory Committee has been regularly replaced by abstract minority rights rhetoric. In my view, this trend is highly regrettable and must be reversed. I also mention such outstanding bodies as the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Venice Commission. Our Assembly must do its best to support and strengthen them.

Thirdly, our Assembly itself plays a crucial role in the entire Organisation, giving voice not only to governments but to all Europeans, through their elected representatives. In view of this, cutting down the resources available to the Assembly, to the extent that it undermines its ability to fulfil its functions, is clearly unacceptable. I believe that the President of the Assembly that we will elect today will actively tackle this issue, with the Secretary General and the Committee of Ministers.

In the meantime, we have to sort out our own agenda too. For all of us, our duties in the Assembly are a second mandate; our primary obligations are at home. It is not often that we can successfully sell our work here to our voters. Nevertheless, we should not surrender to populist temptations. We ought to concentrate our work on key issues relevant to our statutory functions, rather than issues that may ensure more publicity back at home.

Dear friends, when we speak about European values we mean the values of the founding fathers and mothers of the Council of Europe: democracy, human rights, the rule of law, solidarity, equality and the fight against xenophobia, discrimination and racism. However, we all know that, along with a Europe based on those values, another Europe has also emerged. This other Europe – the Europe of populism, xenophobia and nationalism – builds new fences at the borders, interferes with the independence of the judiciary, spies on its citizens, hinders the activities of non-governmental organisations, detains human rights defenders, closes universities and independent media and eliminates education in minority languages.

Our Assembly can have a substantial impact on the outcome of the struggle between these two Europes. I very much hope that the Europe of solidarity, democracy and equality will prevail, and that our Assembly will resolutely contribute towards that. Thank you.

The first item on the agenda is the examination of credentials of members for the 2019 ordinary session of the Assembly. The names of the representatives and substitutes are in Document 14800, which is available to all members. If no credentials are challenged, they will be ratified. Are any credentials challenged? I see none, so the credentials are ratified. I welcome our new colleagues.

The next item on the agenda is the election of the President of the Assembly. I have received only one candidature: that of Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER. I therefore declare Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER elected, or should I say re-elected, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for this ordinary session. Miss MAURY PASQUIER, I congratulate you on your election and welcome you to the chair.

Ms Liliane MAURY PASQUIER, President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Boriss CILEVIČS. 

Vérification des pouvoirs

Élection de la Présidente de l'Assemblée

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

11:45:19

Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you most sincerely for renewing your confidence in me and re-electing me as President of the Assembly. I appreciate your support all the more since this time you were able to choose in full knowledge of the facts and, if I may say so, on the basis of the evidence of having seen me at work over the last seven months. For my part, I have been able over the last half year to better grasp the importance of the task that you assigned me and the need for me to devote all my energy to it. I will keep up my commitment here with an unbroken desire to champion the values of the Council of Europe against a difficult background, without compromising and while always promoting dialogue.

In this mid-term review, as it were, I take this opportunity to thank those who work unstintingly for the Assembly and the Council of Europe in general. Even more so than in the past, since being elected President of the Assembly I have been able to count on the administration of the Parliamentary Assembly to ensure that the Assembly remains a very effective body that it is pleasant to work for. I thank the administration and the staff who work for us for their commitment.

As members will know, the Council of Europe turns 70 this year. Created out of the ashes of the Second World War, it is today the largest pan-European Organisation. This success story would not have been possible without one vital prerequisite – peace and reconciliation. Promoting reconciliation and building democratic security in Europe has been, in my opinion, one of the greatest achievements of the Council of Europe in the past 70 years. However, peace can never be taken for granted. Building peace is always a work in progress. It requires a constant effort from each and every one of us.

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Those words of Eleanor Roosevelt should guide our action. Maintaining peace is one of our key responsibilities, and one that is shared by all member States and Council of Europe bodies and institutions, including the Parliamentary Assembly. We all have a role in that, both individually and collectively.

On an individual level, we all undertake, as members of the Assembly, to subscribe to the fundamental principles and objectives of the Council of Europe, including its aim, as set out in the Statute, “to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress.” We therefore share a responsibility, with every word we say and every action we take as parliamentarians, as national delegation, as the Assembly or as members of the Committee of Ministers, to contribute to the success of the project that the Council of Europe champions – building a Europe united around the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Dear colleagues, I shall focus, respectively, on our ethical, institutional and political responsibilities. First, I shall look at our ethical responsibility. The unprecedented allegations of corruption among members of the Assembly have tarnished its image and undermined our credibility. However, we took the issue extremely seriously and addressed it in a straightforward and transparent manner. We have considerably strengthened our rules to create safeguards against unethical behaviour. The rules give authority to the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs to investigate cases and take appropriate action, including sanctioning violations of our ethical framework.

It is in this context that the Rules Committee examined the cases of acting and former members of the Assembly whose names were mentioned in the report of the independent external investigation body on the allegations of corruption in the Parliamentary Assembly. After careful examination, which included hearings with the persons concerned, the Committee took decisions on all cases and enacted sanctions where appropriate. The Rules Committee’s decisions demonstrate the Assembly’s determination to shoulder its ethical responsibilities.

That said, we should not forget that although the allegations of corruption concerned the Parliamentary Assembly directly, the causes – and possibly motives – behind these practices are found at a domestic level. Therefore, the responsibility to prevent corrupt practices and unethical behaviour is ultimately shared between the Assembly and the national authorities, particularly parliaments.

That is why, after the adoption of Resolution 2216 (2018), we asked the speakers of national parliaments to examine the report of the independent external investigation body and to take appropriate actions at national level. I am glad that a number of parliaments – 20 to date – have replied and some have informed me of the actions taken. I look forward most eagerly to receiving more replies soon, which should help us to assess whether everything has been done to resolve the matter. Together, we should continue to combat unethical behaviour and the cancer of corruption, which destroys our institutions and our societies from within. I count on your support.

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

11:52:29

Turning now to institutional responsibility, it is our duty to ensure that the Parliamentary Assembly continues to be a pan-European parliamentary platform that fulfils its statutory responsibilities as an organ of the Council of Europe. A situation where one member State, the Russian Federation, is not represented in the Assembly but participates in other bodies of the Organisation is “counterproductive” – to use the term of one of our resolutions – and “adversely affects” our “overall impact as a guardian of human rights and democracy throughout the continent”. The future of the Organisation is at stake and it is therefore our responsibility to find a solution.

Let me first highlight two important points. First, we should not forget about the origins of the difficult situation in which we find ourselves and the position the Assembly took in response to major political developments that went beyond what is permissible under international law. Secondly, we should not forget that all member States must honour their obligations, including financial ones. The Council of Europe cannot be held to ransom. That said, we must find a way forward. Rather than crystallising disagreements, our responsibility is to openly address them and to seek solutions together.

First, we must continue political dialogue. The members of the Assembly, as well as the members of the Russian Parliament who, regrettably, are not participating in our work for a fifth consecutive year, must fully contribute to this process. We should address the issue in a frank and open discussion, concentrating on practical solutions rather than emphasising disagreements. Above all, our dialogue should pursue the objective of safeguarding our Human Rights Convention system, in the interests of 830 million Europeans.

As you are aware, since my election I have maintained political dialogue with the representatives of the Russian Parliament, including at the highest political level. This dialogue was useful for me, as well as for my colleagues, the leaders of political groups. I believe that now we understand each other’s positions better. Therefore, it is high time to shoulder our responsibilities and to put on the table concrete proposals leading to a solution. I count on everyone’s constructive approach.

We must also address the institutional issues that emerged, in particular the need to strengthen relations between the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers. Here, too, we must continue a frank and open dialogue, respecting each other’s prerogatives, roles and specific features, but focusing on what unites us: the objectives of the Council of Europe defined by the statute. It is our shared responsibility to strengthen our own institutional mechanisms, in order to be able to speak with one voice when the future of the Organisation is at stake.

I believe that we are on the right track and, in this context, let me commend the efforts of the Finnish chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. As you are aware, since the October 2018 part-session, we have held two meetings between the Presidential Committee and the Bureau of the Ministers’ Deputies, with the participation of the Secretary General and of the Deputy Secretary General. This afternoon we will hold another meeting in this format, with the participation of the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, Finland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Timo SOINI. I look forward to continuing this fruitful dialogue.

Another institutional issue arose following the consultations launched by my predecessor, Mr Michele NICOLETTI, within the framework of the ad hoc committee of the Bureau, which emphasised the need to review the Assembly’s own rules, particularly the procedure for challenging the credentials of national delegations, and the extent to which the exercise of rights of representation and participation can be restricted. We have taken some steps in this direction recently, notably by clarifying the issue of the right of participation of Assembly members in the elections of Council of Europe high officials. However, we must continue the process of revision of the rules, in the interests of the good functioning of the Assembly. All Assembly members need to shoulder their responsibilities in this matter and participate constructively in the process.

Of course, I do not and I cannot predict the conclusions here: the Assembly is sovereign to decide on its own rules and procedures, within its statutory competence. But, we must clarify the situation as swiftly as possible to move forward. We have now devoted enough time to these issues without coming up with answers. I count, in particular, on the support of the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs in this respect.

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

11:58:35

Let me now also address the issue of our political responsibility for safeguarding our system of values and standards, based on the European Convention on Human Rights. The convention system faces many challenges, including major attacks on freedom of expression, freedom of the media and freedom of assembly, undemocratic and illiberal trends, the rise of nationalist and populist rhetoric, threats to the rule of law and challenges to the authority of the Strasbourg Court, to give but a few examples. Unfortunately, these trends are likely to grow further during 2019, which is especially alarming because important elections are scheduled in several of our member States and European elections are on the horizon. As committed democrats, we must stand firm to defend the values we share against populist and undemocratic temptations.

Equally, and importantly in the forthcoming electoral context, we should continue to champion the principle of equality between women and men. I often say that women are a bit like oxygen: the higher you go, the less you find. That is especially true in politics. As the champion of pluralism and non-discrimination, the Council of Europe must continue to promote gender equality with full resolve. Our Assembly is leading that process by ensuring a fair representation of women and men among the members of national delegations, with this being at least in the same proportion as in national parliaments. Statistics in the Assembly’s progress report show that in many national delegations the proportion of women is higher than it is in national parliaments, which is a very positive development indeed. Therefore, although there is still a way to go to ensuring a 50:50 split in representation, we are on the right track.

We should, however, do more to foster gender equality. We must ensure a full gender balance in the appointment of rapporteurs, committee chairpersons and vice-chairpersons, as well as all Assembly officials. I invite you to study the statistics on that, as they, too, show that there is room for improvement. We must also denounce sexist stereotypes, which result in open and sometimes subtle discrimination, as well as in harassment, intimidation and violence. There should be no place for such disgraceful and shameful behaviour in parliaments, including in our Assembly, be it towards female parliamentarians or towards female staff members working for our Assembly.

I am proud and happy that our Assembly has launched the #NotInMyParliament initiative to denounce sexism, harassment and violence against women in parliaments. I am grateful to many of you who have participated in the launch of this initiative at the Standing Committee in Helsinki. Today, I invite you all to participate in the #NotInMyParliament event that will be held in this Chamber at 12.45 p.m. sharp. Moreover, I invite you to have your picture taken at the #NotInMyParliament lightbox installed in the lobby of the Chamber. You will then be able to disseminate the photo via social media and elsewhere. I hope that the #NotInMyParliament initiative will spread to other sectors, with other such possible examples including #NotInMyCity, #NotInMyUniversity and #NotInMyOffice. Together, we can launch a real social movement against sexist stereotypes and violence, so as to raise awareness of this unacceptable phenomenon, and combat it with resolve and determination. Again, I count on your support in that.

Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, as I said, we have a challenging year ahead of us, but the difficulties we face should not discourage us. We should recall the courage and determination of the founders of the Council of Europe, who, in the aftermath of the most devastating conflict in human history, committed themselves to promoting peace and reconciliation throughout the continent, by adhering to the fundamental values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. It is also to pay tribute to their courage and efforts that we are determined to continue championing those values today. Together, we must stand up for our rights, our freedoms and our Europe. Thank you very much for your attention.

Élection des Vice-Présidents / Vice-Présidentes de l'Assemblée

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

12:04:05

The next item on the Agenda is the election of Vice-Presidents of the Assembly.

I have received 18 nominations for Vice-Presidents in the proper fashion, which are listed in Document AS/Inf (2019) 01.

If there is no request for a vote on one or more candidates, the candidates nominated by national delegations will be declared elected without a vote.

Since there has been no request for a vote, I declare these candidates elected as Vice-Presidents of the Assembly, in accordance with Rule 16 of the Rules of Procedure. I am delighted to see that there are as many women Vice-Presidents as male Vice-Presidents. They will take precedence by age.

 

Nomination des membres des commissions

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

12:05:02

The next Item on the Agenda is the appointment of members of committees.

The candidatures for the general committees of the Assembly have been published as Commissions (2019) 01 and Addendum 1.

Are these proposals approved?

The proposed candidatures are approved and the committees are appointed accordingly.

Demandes de débat:

Débat d'urgence: «L'escalade des tensions autour de la mer d'Azov et du détroit de Kertch et menaces à la sécurité européenne»

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

12:05:29

Before we adopt the draft agenda, the Assembly needs to consider requests for debates under urgent procedure, which we will consider in the following order:

A request from Mr Volodymyr ARIEV and 58 members of the Assembly for an urgent procedure debate on “The escalation of tensions around the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and threats to European security”;

Débat d'urgence: «L’aggravation de la situation des opposants politiques en Turquie: que faire pour protéger leurs droits fondamentaux dans un État membre du Conseil de l’Europe?»

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

12:05:50

Secondly, a request from Mr Tiny KOX on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left for an urgent procedure debate on the “Worsening situation of opposition politicians in Turkey: what to do to protect their fundamental rights in a Council of Europe member State?”.

At its meeting this morning, the Bureau took note of the request for urgent debate and agreed to support the debate on “The escalation of tensions around the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and threats to European security”, and therefore recommends to the Assembly that this matter be debated during this part-session.

Does the Assembly agree to this recommendation?

The Bureau’s recommendation is accepted, and the request for urgent procedure is therefore approved. The Bureau proposes that the urgent procedure debate be held on Thursday morning at 10 a.m.

The Bureau proposes that the topic of the debate we have just agreed be referred to the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy for report.

Is this agreed?

The reference is agreed.

At its meeting this morning, the Bureau took note of the request for urgent debate and agreed to support the debate on the “Worsening situation of opposition politicians in Turkey: what to do to protect their fundamental rights in a Council of Europe member State?”, and therefore recommends to the Assembly that this matter be debated during this part-session as set out on the draft agenda as issued.

Does the Assembly agree to this recommendation?

The Bureau’s recommendation is accepted, and the request for urgent procedure is therefore approved. The Bureau proposes that the urgent procedure debate be held on Thursday afternoon as the first item of business.

The Bureau proposes that the topic of the debate we have just agreed be referred to the Monitoring Committee for report.

Is this agreed?

The reference is agreed.

Adoption de l'ordre du jour

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

12:08:16

The next item of business is the adoption of the agenda for the first part of the 2019 ordinary session (Document 14785 prov 2). The draft agenda submitted for the Assembly’s approval was drawn up by the Bureau on 14 December and updated this morning, and it has been distributed.

I remind you that we have just agreed to hold an urgent debate on the “The Escalation of tensions around the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait and threats to European security”. I propose that the debate take place as the first item of business on Thursday morning.

We have also agreed to hold a further urgent debate on the “Worsening situation of opposition politicians in Turkey: what to do to protect their fundamental rights in a Council of Europe member State?”. I propose that the debate take place as the first item of business on Thursday afternoon.

Is the draft agenda agreed to?

It is agreed to.

In the light of the large number of speakers who wish to speak in many of the debates in this part -session and to enable as many members as possible to speak, the Bureau proposes that speaking time be limited to 3 minutes throughout the week, with the exception of Friday.

Is that agreed?

It is agreed.

I may make further proposals on these matters as required.

Approbation du procès-verbal de la Commission permanente

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

12:08:56

The minutes of the meeting of the Standing Committee in Helsinki on 23 November 2018 have been distributed (AS/Per (2018) PV 03).

I invite the Assembly to take note of these minutes.

Débat : Rapport d'activité du Bureau et de la Commission permanente

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

12:09:31

The next item on the agenda is the debate on the progress report of the Bureau and Standing Committee (Document 14796 and Addendum 1 and 2 and Document 14799) presented by Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER.

This will be combined with consideration of the Report of the ad hoc Committee of the Bureau on the Observation of the presidential election in Georgia (28 October and 28 November 2018) (Document 14784) presented by Mr Andrej HUNKO; and the Report of the ad hoc Committee of the Bureau on the Observation of the early parliamentary elections in Armenia (9 December 2018) (Doc. 14801) presented by Mr Aleksander POCIEJ.

I remind members that speaking time in this debate will be limited to 3 minutes.

The debate must conclude at 12.45 p.m. for the presentation of the hashtag initiative #NotInMyParliament to counter sexism, harassment and violence against women in parliaments. This debate will continue this afternoon at 5 p.m.

I call Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER to present the progress report. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between the presentation of the report and the reply to the debate.

You have the floor.

M. Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER

Royaume-Uni, CE, Rapporteur

12:10:37

First, Madam President, may I congratulate you on your re-election as the President of the Council of Europe, which is greatly deserved? On a more sober note, may I say how sorry we all are for the terrible terrorist attack in Strasbourg and the awful attack on the Mayor of Gdansk? I do not think that any of us are not aware of the threats that we face in Europe and as parliamentarians in our countries. It is a sad indictment and a great shame that Europe is a less safe place that it has been for many years.

I also remind my esteemed colleagues that until the end of February, we need to register all our declarations of interest. Without submitting them, we will be excluded from being rapporteurs or observing elections for the whole of 2019. I ask all colleagues to make sure they get them in; it is an important part of being a parliamentarian to make sure that we keep the highest level of propriety. The President commented that we have been through a difficult time. Like all parliamentarians, we have come through it, we are coming back and we have to show that we are leading the way forward.

I also remind colleagues that we have elections coming up in Ukraine, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Moldova and I ask people to volunteer. We are all under enormous pressure, but a crucial part of what we do is election monitoring.

I welcome the many new members of the Assembly, particularly the many female members, as the President said. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has a better record than most national parliaments when it comes to gender balance, but, as the President said, of course we can do better.

I also thank the Croatian chairman of the Council of Ministers and welcome the new Finnish Council of Ministers chairman. I particularly welcome the efforts of the Finnish Foreign Minister to improve relations between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Council of Ministers, which are incredibly welcome. As one of the presidents, I find our conversations with the Council of Ministers are not only incredibly stimulating but incredibly useful. Crucially, we understand what they are doing on behalf of our respective governments, and they know what we are doing as parliamentarians.

We are getting a new Secretary General in June, and we all, as parliamentarians, need to support that process. There are four candidates whose CVs are readily available and I am sure that they will turn up in most of our capitals to make sure that they get their thoughts, words and deeds across. The President said that we face challenges in the future – we do – and we need a Secretary General who will take the Organisation forward in years to come and make sure that it stays relevant.

Later this week, we will elect new judges for Sweden and Italy. Recently, the Court issued a few decisions that upset public opinion, so we need to be careful whom we elect to it. We do not want to lose the public’s support because of judicial decisions, so we all need to be careful about that. We all have a moral obligation to support the Court, and conversely, the Court has a moral obligation to support parliamentarians.

I regret the Russian delegation’s situation. The statements made by the Federation’s council, the State Duma, do not really correspond to reality. The only time that the Russian Federation has had its credentials revoked was after the annexation of Crimea. Since then, the Russian delegation has refused to submit its credentials, so it cannot complain that it was not able to vote for a number of judges of the European Court of Human Rights and the Commissioner for Human Rights. That was the result of its own reactions and actions, not of what we have done here in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

It is not correct that a small number of Russophobes, as we will call them – that is not really a word, but it will do – are blocking the Russian return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. There is cross-party consensus that it is better to have the Russians here than outside, but, as the President said, we as parliamentarians or as an Organisation cannot be held to ransom by anybody who feels that they can use their money and their influence through that money to say that they can or cannot do something. We are the wrong side of €60 000 000 because of what is happening. We cannot ignore what we as parliamentarians would do in our own countries; it would be iniquitous to do that in our countries.

The Russian Federation was a full member of the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly when the Rules of Procedure were agreed in the Council of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. To complain about them afterwards and demand that they be changed in favour of one delegation, and then to refuse financial contribution, is actually rather scandalous and not worthy of any State, regardless of where or who it is.

I regret that Secretary General Thorbjørn JAGLAND has not, in my view, reacted more proactively. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has asked on numerous occasions to have a new budget that it can take forward. We need to save about 11% of the budget. I do not need to tell any parliamentarian what that means – we will have to save a lot of money and this place will have to change. He is only just about to present that new budget, which accepts the reality that we have all known for the last two to three years. We may want to deny that in our hearts, but the reality is that we have known about it.

We must also make sure that we look at the whole Council of Europe. I will give one example. The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development is the most staffed of all committees. Why? I am taking it as an example; I am not saying that it should or should not be. We need to look at the whole Council of Europe. We are trying to save money, but I look at the front of the building, which is being completely redone, and there are new lifts and a lot of new boards and so on. We need to take reality seriously.

In June, if we are not careful, we will hit a wall. I say to colleagues that I cannot believe that any of our countries – I may be wrong, but I do not believe so – will say, “No, we will give extra money to do whatever within the Council of Europe.” I am not including one-off payments that we do make to help, dare I say it, reports here. In reality, we do not have the ability to say that we can go on the way we are, which means that we need to know what the plan is. I strongly suggest that the staff here also need to know what the plan is, as do our respective governments, because they pay.

I believe that the details of the new budget will be presented to the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs on Wednesday. It is an 11% cut, as I have said, so there will be changes. We have to sort it out carefully. I gently say to Mr JAGLAND that I believe, Sir, that you are getting €100 000 a year for three years. As a statesman, perhaps you should look at that and, to help us to do what we have to do, forgo certain golden handshakes. That would be a very good mandate to put forward.

We are 70 years old. The Assembly was set up after the worst war Europe had seen – whether you take that as the First World War or the Second World War – with the highest number of people killed. In 1948, it was set up to foster democracy and human rights, but we have no right to exist. The Western European Union was shut down because it had lost its relevance. I am not saying for one minute that that will happen here, but we have to reinvent ourselves if we are to move forward into the future.

We have to look at stuff. Do we do too many reports? Do we have too many committees? Do we, dare I say it, have financial obligations that we cannot commit to? We have to think about the future. If we do not, that decision could be taken away from us.

We are not in a happy time in Europe. I do not need to tell any of you that. You can all see it for yourselves and you know what is going on – least of all in my own country, where chaos reigns. The Council of Europe is a very important organisation; it was one of my former statesmen, Sir Winston Churchill, who saw that it would be a force for good. It is indeed a force for good, but we have to move forward together – as the President intimated – to ensure that that force for good continues for the next 70 years and that the visions, the freedoms and the Europe that parliamentarians would like to see are enacted and enabled. But to do that we are going to have to look in the mirror and say, “Maybe we need to change for the future. Maybe we, as parliamentarians, need to live up to some of the responsibilities that we would naturally live up to in our own parliaments.” Occasionally we forget that that is ultimately what we are – parliamentarians, and representatives of parties and countries. That is the argument that we must take forward.

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

12:20:36

Thank you, Mr LIDDELL-GRAINGER. You will have three minutes to respond to the various comments. I now give the floor to Mr Andrej HUNKO to present the observation of the presidential election in Georgia. You have three minutes.

Débat : Observation de l'élection présidentielle en Géorgie (28 octobre et 28 novembre 2018)

M. Andrej HUNKO

Allemagne, GUE, Rapporteur

12:21:04

Our Assembly has observed all presidential and parliamentary elections in Georgia since 1995. I chaired the Assembly’s delegation in the pre-electoral mission, and the first and second rounds of the presidential elections in Georgia on 28 October and 28 November 2018, together with the delegations of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the European Parliament, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the OSCE-Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights election observation mission.

Our delegation was composed of 26 members of the Assembly, representing all political groups of the Assembly and 15 Council of Europe member States. The delegation was accompanied by the legal experts of the Venice Commission. The high level of expertise and the added value of the legal experts of the Venice Commission were highly appreciated by our partner observation organisations. I thank the members of the delegation for their excellent cooperation and active participation in our mission, as well as the authorities of Georgia for their cooperation.

After the first round, the two best placed candidates – Salome Zurabishvili and Grigol Vashadze – took part in the second round of the election on 28 November 2018. Salome Zurabishvili obtained 59.5% and Grigol Vashadze obtained 40.5%. For the first time in the history of Georgia, a woman was elected President of Georgia.

Let me turn to our main conclusions regarding the presidential elections in Georgia. The members of our delegation noted that, on election day, the first round of voting was well-organised and electors made their choice without restrictions. The second round was competitive, and candidates were able to campaign freely. However, one side enjoyed an undue advantage and the negative character of the campaign on both sides undermined the process. Our delegation noted – in some polling stations or in the vicinity of polling stations – the presence of so-called coordinators, who were directing and “assisting” voters, and noting who voted. Such practices must be excluded from the electoral process.

As for the election campaign, as in the case of previous elections we were informed about isolated cases of violent incidents, disruption of campaign events, concerns regarding the alleged misuse of administrative resources and the participation of public employees in campaign events during working hours. We expressed our concern and pointed out that all these activities blurred the line between the State and party and were at odds with Council of Europe standards in the field of democratic elections.

As for the election campaign financing, we noted that party and campaign finance legislation lack uniformity, and recent legislative amendments did not address long-standing recommendations of the Group of States against Corruption. There is a substantial imbalance in donations, and excessively high spending limits did not contribute to a level playing field.

There were 25 registered presidential candidates. Our delegation was informed by different interlocutors about a considerable number of “technical” candidates who were campaigning in favour of other candidates using media time and public funding. In this regard, our observation delegation noted that the system of campaign expenditure was surprisingly generous with money coming from the State budget and private donations – and this in a country with a high level of poverty. I would like to address the role of big money when we discuss a different report, because it is not only a problem in Georgia.

Finally, we invite the authorities of Georgia to continue their close cooperation with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission to improve the quality of elections.

Thank you for your attention.

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

12:22:49

Thank you. I call Mr Aleksander POCIEJ to present the observation of the early parliamentary elections in Armenia. You have three minutes at your disposal.

Débat : Observation des élections législatives anticipées en Arménie (9 décembre 2018)

M. Aleksander POCIEJ

Pologne, PPE/DC, Rapporteur

12:25:36

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has observed the election in Armenia held in December last year. Our delegation worked with the legal experts of the Venice Commission

On 10 December, during the press conference in Yerevan after voting day, I declared on behalf of our delegation that the 2018 peaceful Velvet Revolution, in conjunction with the clear political will of the Armenian authorities, enabled the holding of democratic elections in Armenia. The Parliamentary Assembly has observed all elections in Armenia since 1996, and those elections – despite the complex electoral system – were exempted from recurrent electoral irregularities that previously contributed to an overall lack of public confidence in the electoral process and raised concerns about voters’ ability to cast their votes free of fear and retribution.

I congratulated the Armenian people and added that it is not enough to organise just one democratic election; it is now up to the elected representatives of Armenia to launch legal reforms to consolidate the democratic process in the country. However, I also underlined the massive intimidation on social media of certain members of parties, which could have intimidated participants in the election; this could be a reason for the relatively low participation.

On 16 December, the Central Electoral Commission announced the official results of the elections. Only three parties could enter the parliament: My Step Alliance with 88 seats; the Prosperous Armenia party with 26 seats; and the Bright Armenia party with 18 seats. The former ruling Republican party, which was in power almost 20 years, got less than 5% and could not enter the parliament. I have underlined that 70% of votes for one party means a lot of trust and big responsibility.

Let me turn to the conclusions and recommendations of the report. The 9 December early parliamentary elections were held with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust that needs to be preserved through further electoral reforms. Open political debate, including in the media, contributed to a vibrant campaign, although cases of inflammatory online rhetoric were of concern. The public television channel provided reasonably balanced coverage. Positively, for the first time in Armenia, the campaign culminated in a three-hour, live debate on 5 December on the public television channel. The general absence of electoral malfeasance, including of vote-buying and pressure on voters, allowed for fair elections. Finally, the election day proceeded calmly and peacefully with all stages assessed positively by almost all international observers, indicating general adherence to the procedures.

Thank you for your attention.

 

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

12:29:39

Thank you, Mr POCIEJ. We now come to speakers on behalf of the political parties.

Mme Boriana ÅBERG

Suède, PPE/DC, Porte-parole du groupe

12:29:49

I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the pre-electoral mission as representative for the EPP Group and for the opportunity to observe the first round of the presidential election in Georgia. The first round was competitive and professionally administered, candidates were able to campaign freely, and voters made their choice without restrictions. However, there were some shortcomings, especially concerning the financing of campaigns and the misuse of administrative resources by the ruling party. There were also concerns expressed about the selection of members to legal election bodies, which led to suspicion of nepotism or political interest – or both.

I was not able to observe the second round, as the day of the election was a Wednesday, and decided on short notice. To have an election on an ordinary working day is not in the interests of all voters and leads to suspicions that it was politically motivated. The conclusion of the international election observation mission was that the legal framework insufficiently regulated key aspects of the second round. Unclear regulation of the campaign, including in the media, led to inconsistent and contradictory interpretations and did not provide legal certainty.

The national public broadcaster was clearly biased against the opposition and failed to meet international standards of impartiality. The private media similarly demonstrated bias in their polarising political reporting.

Nor was the election environment for the second round optimal – the tensions between both sides increased, a harsh rhetoric poisoned the campaign, and isolated violent incidents occurred. A number of anti-opposition and anti-government demonstrations took place before the run-off, increasing the tensions between the two sides. Despite the international election commission calling attention to the misuse of administrative resources during the campaign in the first round, similar incidents occurred in the second round. Public sector employees were threatened with the loss of their jobs, for example.

There is no doubt that debt relief for 600 000 individuals by a private financial institution linked to the chairperson of the ruling party benefited its candidate. It was a clear case of sophisticated vote-buying. The tracking of voters initially occurred on a minor scale in rural areas during the first round, but seemed to increase to a greater scale during the second round. This raised concerns about the ability of voters to vote free from fear of retribution.

I completely share the opinion that the Assembly should continue its close co-operation with Georgia’s institutions in order to resolve the problems observed during the presidential elections.

M. Stefan SCHENNACH

Autriche, SOC, Porte-parole du groupe

12:33:34

On behalf of my group, I would like to pay my best respects to you, Madam President. It is wonderful that you have been elected President and we are very lucky to have you here once again.

With regard to the Progress Report and the various observations of elections, a referendum also took place in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the last few months. Of course, the politicians were invited to take responsibility with regard to the referendum and whether it would be a consultative referendum or not. I am glad that the Macedonian Parliament has voted for the official name of the country to be “Northern Macedonia”. The events that we have seen in Greece, including the poison of nationalism and populism that has seemed to spread in that country, are very unfortunate, particularly in view of the positive result of the referendum and the parliamentary vote on the name for the country. We hope that this will be resolved in the near future.

I also wish to express my dismay and unhappiness at the murder of the Mayor of Gdansk. Such terrible events are a cause for great concern.

In the Caucasus, elections have taken place in Georgia and Armenia, but as rapporteur I will focus on Azerbaijan. The hunger strike in detention in Azerbaijan by the blogger and journalist Mehman Huseynov is of great concern to us, and we condemn his imprisonment. I hope that the Government of Azerbaijan will immediately release this young man.

With regard to the two elections, I was also in Georgia. There was a very negative campaign, particularly the comments made against the woman candidate for the presidency – it was a hate campaign, essentially. When we look at the resources and the financing, regardless of the various issues that have been brought up about financing in Georgia, Salome was finally elected. Right now, the Parliamentary Assembly is in intense discussion and negotiation with the countries in order to improve the election process in the future.

M. John HOWELL

Royaume-Uni, CE, Porte-parole du groupe

12:37:36

There are three items that I want to cover in this speech. First, we have two important elections in the territory of the former Union of Socialist Sovietic Republic territory, in Georgia and Armenia. It is important to see how democracy has been embedded in those countries.

In Georgia, I have talked to my colleague Sir Edward LEIGH, who was one of the monitors there. There is a difference of opinion between our monitors and the monitors that the United States State Department report refers to, in looking at the country and how the elections were handled. I have noted the comments from our own monitors that the number of violent incidents in that country were isolated, whereas I did not get that impression from the United States State Department. It did see the election of a woman, who was supported by the ruling party. As Georgia faces challenges on women’s potential, I think the impact of that will be excellent. I would also point out that we have an excellent Georgian representative in our own political group, who makes a very valuable contribution.

In Armenia, we saw a very positive campaign, with a high degree of transparency in the elections. From what I can gather, it was also an election that was free from the influence of what one might call “big money”.

On the contribution of Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER, I note with much heartfelt regret that the Russians are not presenting their credentials. Among other things, this leaves a gap of about €60 000 000 in our budget and raises questions about where this place is going. I would like to suggest a new vision statement as a way of responding to that. That would be a very suitable 70th birthday present for this Organisation. It would ensure that this venerable institution keeps up to the mark and is very valid in the years ahead.

I am an enormous supporter of the Council of Europe. I have championed it in my own country very ferociously and I still do so. I want to ensure that the activities it undertakes in the future are relevant for the future activities of not just the Council of Europe, but Europe as a whole. I recommend that as an urgent message to be taken forward.

M. Mart van de VEN

Pays-Bas, ADLE, Porte-parole du groupe

12:40:50

On behalf of ALDE, I would like to congratulate you, Madam President, on the renewal of your appointment as President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I thank Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER for the progress report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee. I also thank Mr Andrej HUNKO and Mr Aleksander POCIEJ for reporting, respectively, on the presidential elections in Georgia and Armenia. Factual information is crucial to our function as members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I will focus on the efforts of the Assembly to come to a solution to the problem of the absence of the Russian delegation in our midst and the declaration of interests.

On the absence of the Russian delegation, Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER's report deals with the list of rights, participation and representation of members and how they can be taken away. The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs was commissioned to arrive at a solution and it delivered that. We, as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, delivered a solution to the issue of the election of the Vice-Secretary General, the Secretary General, the judges and the Commissioner for Human Rights. It is somewhat disappointing that both the Russian Federation and the Duma did not take up our invitation. We delivered on what was expected of us, but, as of today, their reaction has been to not accept our invitation to present their credentials.

On the financing of our Organisation, you, Madam President, pointed out that we have to make progress. We must undertake action and we should all commit to arriving at a solution. We will hear more in the next few days. At this moment, everything is unclear, but we think the financing of not only the Parliamentary Assembly but the Council of Europe as a whole is a very thorny issue that we should deal with very, very carefully.

On the declaration of financial interests by members of the Assembly, it was rather disappointing that a number of members did not report their financial interests. The Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs tried to find solutions to how we can improve the system, to make it possible for our members to present an insight into their financial interests. The committee did good work and I hope we will now have some rest in this respect.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Porte-parole du groupe

12:44:08

It is good to see you again in the Chair, Madam President. On behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left, I endorse the reports presented by Mr Ian LIDDELL-GRAINGER, Mr Andrej HUNKO and Mr Aleksander POCIEJ, as I did in the Bureau. What I do not endorse are the additional remarks made by my good friend Ian with regard to the Secretary General and his responsibility for the financial problems we are in. Ian, dear colleagues, only two member States are really responsible for the mess we are in: the Russian Federation, which refuses, against all regulations, to pay its contribution; and the United Kingdom, which has for years refused a real-terms increase in the contribution to our finances. Whereas other countries are willing to do so, the United Kingdom has blocked that. Whoever is to blame for this financial situation, it is not the Secretary General. It is the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom. They both share that responsibility.

On behalf of my group, I deplore the fact that the Russian Federation, our biggest member State, once again did not present its credentials. This is against the very idea of the Council of Europe. If you want to be in the Council of Europe, you have to be present in both the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly. We are not a cafeteria where you can pick and choose; we are a serious treaty Organisation where you have to accept your responsibilities. I again urge our colleagues in the Russian Parliament to take their obligations seriously and present as soon as possible a serious delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly.

I also urge the Assembly to work harder to overcome this problem. It does not make sense for our biggest member State to not be here, refusing to pay its contribution fee. We talk about sanctions. The sanctions we are implementing are only backfiring on us. In my opinion and in the opinion of my group, the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly should not be taking unilateral measures. We need combined action from both organs together to deal with member States that do not live up to their obligations. That is the solution. That is the way out. During the presentation of my report on the future challenges of the Council of Europe, which I hope to present to the Assembly in June, I will come up with some proposals.

We have to overcome the situation where we only create problems instead of working on the solutions to problems. There are so many problems going on in the whole of Europe that we have to do that. I hope that this year, instead of continuing to talk about problems we will pay more attention to our role and focus more on what we should do to promote democracy, the rule of law and human rights. We need synergy between the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly; for them to see each other not as enemies, but as friends. We need to end the situation where the Hemicycle is used as a battlefield between nations and political groups, and instead becomes once again an arena and a forum for interparliamentary democracy, which is the very aim of this Organisation.

M. Mustafa YENEROĞLU

Turquie, GDL, Porte-parole du groupe

12:47:54

Dear President, I congratulate you on your election as President. I wish you and all my colleagues a successful year. There will be significant challenges facing the values of this august body, the Council of Europe. I would like to touch briefly on some of them.

An important topic in the coming year is the election of the new Secretary General. The election of the Secretary General should reflect the wishes and desires of the people of Europe.

The non-participation of the Russian delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is an outstanding issue that merits our utmost attention. Unfortunately, once again the Russian Federation has not presented its credentials. We cannot urge it to present its credentials and then reject them. We must finally decide on whether we want the future of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council Europe to be with or without the Russian Federation.

I believe one of the most important challenges confronting the Council of Europe is rising xenophobia and racism in member States. As the Free Democrats Group, we firmly believe that the Council of Europe should take every possible measure to counter this mounting menace. The Parliamentary Assembly has a special role to play in that regard. It has the power to direct the Committee of Ministers and the international community to address these challenges in the most effective way.

On a separate note, I want to emphasise that Turkey, as a founding member, is resolute in fulfilling its obligations. Turkey was and always will be an integral part of the Council of Europe.

Finally, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe, and is a timely opportunity to reflect seriously on the Parliamentary Assembly’s efforts and its possible contributions to addressing these challenges.

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

12:50:11

That brings to an end the list of the speakers on behalf of the political groups. We shall resume the progress report debate and the list of speakers this afternoon.

Présentation de la campagne #PasDansMonParlement

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

12:50:28

As you know, dear colleagues, the promotion of gender equality has always been one of my political priorities. As a female parliamentarian and President of the Parliamentary Assembly, I wish to mainstream it into the policies, practices and cultures of our parliaments and the Parliamentary Assembly itself. Regrettably, violence against women remains one of most contemptible violations of human rights. It is one of the serious consequences of the inequality between men and women.

In October 2018, with Inter-Parliamentary Union president Gabriela Cuevas, I introduced a joint Parliamentary Assembly proposal on combating violence and sexism against women. It showed that sexism, harassment and violence against women, including the staff of parliamentary bodies, are commonplace in political forums in Europe. Such acts are committed with apparent impunity and a form of acceptance, which is shocking. Did you know, for example, that one in four female parliamentarians has been a victim of sexual harassment, and that half of them have received threats of death, beating or rape? Did you know that one out of two female parliamentarians has been the target of sexually oriented comments?

I put forward the #NotInMyParliament initiative to bring us together to say no to all forms of intimidation, sexist behaviour, violence and harassment, to break down the walls of silence and to promote equality through education. The initiative was formally launched in Helsinki on 23 November last year during the meeting of the Standing Committee. I decided to take advantage of this part-session to give every member of the Parliamentary Assembly the opportunity to give their full support. That is important, because we need the investment and participation of every one of us to make a tangible contribution and build societies in which sexist behaviour, harassment and intimidation are deemed completely unacceptable. I am counting on your support and active involvement. I propose that we watch a short video on the results of the study.

[The Assembly watched a short video]

Dear colleagues, I remind you once again that, throughout the week, you have the opportunity outside the Chamber to have your picture taken with the #NotInMyParliament banner. You also have the full text of the joint study, with ways and means of making this campaign more visible on social media and in your countries. I invite you, the ambassadors, the staff of the Assembly and anybody else able to do so to meet in the Chamber to have a group photo under the #NotInMyParliament banner. Bring with you the orange panel that you all have on your tables, which you received when you came to the Assembly this morning.

I remind you that the next public sitting will take place this afternoon at 5 p.m.

The sitting is closed. Thank you in advance for joining us for the group photo.

Prochaine séance publique

Mme Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Suisse, SOC, Présidente de l'Assemblée

13:00:07

I remind you that the next public sitting will take place this afternoon at 5 p.m.

The sitting is closed. Thank you in advance for joining us for the group photo.

The sitting was closed at 1 p.m.

La séance est levée à 13h00