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lundi 19 juin 2023 après-midi

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Ouverture de la troisième partie de session

Ouverture de la séance n° 15

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

14:41:56

The sitting is open.

I declare the Third Part-Session of the 2023 Ordinary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe open.

Can I remind all members that they should be sitting in their designated seat.

For the first time ever we are seated in political groups, so if there are any questions there is a place for you to sit, nobody will be left behind. And let's see at the end of this week how this system is functioning.

Madam Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, Madam Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly, ambassadors, members of the Assembly, all those who are following our meeting online or from the public gallery, I wish to welcome you all to this third part-session of our Assembly.

There's good news, there's bad news.

Let me start with the bad news.

While we are meeting here in peaceful Strasbourg, Ukrainian soldiers are engaging Russian invasion forces in an attempt to restore national sovereignty and territorial integrity in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russia's political and military leadership continue their terrorist attacks on Ukrainian cities, villages and vital infrastructure and still refuse to end their illegal criminal invasion of its neighbouring country.

Since the beginning of Russia's war of aggression, millions of Ukrainian citizens, mostly women and children, have had to leave their homes and even their country, seeking shelter in one of our other member States.

Some of those who could not flee in time became victims of war's oldest, most silenced, and least condemned crime: sexual violence.

Today, on the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, we mourn the victims of sexual violence in Ukraine as we mourn all other victims in this brutal illegal war that should never have started and must end as soon as possible.

To show our sympathy for all the victims and to show our unwavering support and solidarity with the citizens and state of Ukraine, including their representatives in this hemicycle, I again ask you to observe with me a moment of silence.

[Moment of silence is observed].

Dear colleagues,

We will maintain our focus on the consequences of the Russian aggression against Ukraine during this session with a view to generating new ideas on how Ukraine can be supported in a useful and meaningful way, and how peace based on justice can be brought back to Europe.

On Thursday a joint urgent affairs debate is proposed on the political consequences of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including a possible ban of Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

We will also discuss the challenges faced by the Belarusians in exile who oppose, as we do, the illegal support of Belarusian authorities for Russia's war of aggression.

More bad news, more sad news.

I refer to the tragic fate of almost 80 migrants who lost their lives when a fishing boat carrying more than 700 people sank off the Greek coast.

This toll may still rise as hundreds of people remain missing.

Such a horrific accident reminds us of tens of thousands of people who tragically died over the last decade trying to reach Europe, our continent, and underlines the importance of addressing this issue in a concerted, holistic and rights-based manner.

We have to end this massacre in the Mediterranean.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

14:47:05

Now for the good news.

This session is the first after the truly historic Reykjavík Summit in mid-May, which brought together the leaders of almost all our member States, and led to the Reykjavík Declaration. This declaration, which you should all read carefully and bear in mind at all times, will serve as an ambitious and forward-looking agenda for the whole of the Council of Europe, including our Assembly.

Dear colleagues,

I am proud of the fact that many of the decisions taken in Reykjavík seem to have been inspired by ideas formulated in the Assembly. I would like to thank all those who have contributed over the past year in committees, political groups and national delegations.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank once again our Secretary General and the Committee of Ministers, who are committed to ensuring that their ideas are reflected in the concrete decisions adopted by our Heads of State and Government.

Allow me also to salute, once again, the cooperation we enjoyed from the Secretary General and the Committee of Ministers in preparing the Reykjavík Summit. I am delighted by the Summit's proposal to further strengthen our cooperation, particularly within the joint committee of the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers.

We will meet again this week in this format to discuss how the Reykjavík Declaration can serve as a clear and challenging roadmap to help protect and rebuild a sovereign Ukraine, to re-establish rules-based European multilateralism, to strengthen democracy in all our member States to better protect all our citizens, and to enable the Council of Europe to remain the guarantor of the rule of law, human rights and democracy across the continent.

In this context, dear colleagues, this week's exchange of views in the Assembly on the Council of Europe's budget and priorities for 2024-2027 takes on its full meaning. We need to discuss how the Summit's decisions can best be implemented in the coming years, not least by the Assembly.

I invite all member States, following the adoption of the Reykjavík Declaration, to put their money where their mouth is.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

14:50:28

Our agenda this week includes an urgent debate on the very worrying situation in the Lachin Corridor, where tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan remains high. As a consequence, people who depend on the accessibility of this Corridor are under extremely heavy pressure.

We will hold our regular exchange of views with the President of the Committee of Ministers, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Mr Edgars Rinkēvičs, who will assume the post of President of his country next month.

We will also welcome here the president of Slovenia, Madam Nataša Pirc Musar, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, Mr Péter Szijjártó. As always we will have, of course, our dialogue with the Council of Europe Secretary General in a few moments.

Finally, please allow me to welcome all new members to our Assembly, and say thank you very much to those members who will be here with us for the very last time.

One of those I would like to mention by name is our former vice-president, committee chairperson and rapporteur on so many issues, my good friend and Dutch colleague, Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN. Thank you so much, dear Ms Ria OOMEN-RUIJTEN, for everything that you have done for this Assembly over the past years.

[Applause].

That concludes my opening remarks. It is now time to go and start our work.

The first item on the Agenda is the examination of the credentials of new members. The names of the representatives and substitutes are in Document 15792. If no credentials are challenged, the credentials will be ratified.

Are any credentials challenged?

I do not see any.

So, the credentials are ratified, and I welcome our new 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.

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

I do not see any objections, so they are agreed to.

Before we examine the draft agenda of this week, the Assembly needs to consider requests for debates on the urgent and current affairs procedures.

The Bureau has received the following: a request for a debate on the urgent procedure for ensuring free and safe access to the Lachin Corridor, requested by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons; requests for a debate under urgent procedure on the political consequences of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine, requested by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy; a request for a debate under urgent procedure on the war of aggression against Ukraine, participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, requested by the five political groups; and a request for a current affairs debate on recent political developments in Poland, requested by five political groups.

At its meeting this morning, the Bureau decided to recommend to you, to the Assembly, to hold the three debates requested under urgent procedures and the current affairs debate.

We will now consider the request for a debate on the urgent procedure. Does the Assembly agree to the Bureau's recommendation to hold an urgent debate on ensuring free and safe access to the Lachin Corridor?

I do not see any objections. The Bureau's recommendation is... Mr Samad SEYIDOV?

M. Samad SEYIDOV

Azerbaïdjan, CE/AD

14:54:37

Thank you very much, Mister President.

Sorry, I already raised my hand.

I'm completely against this urgent debate because, unfortunately, this debate could create more problematic issues, more headaches than we have.

[For the] first time in the history of the relationship between Armenia and Azerbaijan, we [have] come [much] closer to peace.

This intervention could create negative impacts.

That's why, on behalf of my delegation - [and] of course, we will take into account the decision of the Assembly - but this is not the right time to discuss this question, Mister President.

Thank you very much.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

14:55:19

Thank you, Mr Samad SEYIDOV.

There is an objection to the Bureau's recommendation on the request for an urgent procedure on ensuring free and safe access through the Lachin Corridor.

We therefore must proceed to a vote.

We heard one person speak against holding the debate, does anybody wish to speak in favour of holding the debate?

Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.

I do not see any need and we are go...

Mr Ruben RUBINYAN, you want to speak in favour of the debate. You have the floor.

M. Ruben RUBINYAN

Arménie, PPE/DC

14:56:08

Thank you.

Dear Colleagues,

Regardless of the fact that Armenia and Azerbaijan are negotiating a peace treaty, any kind of debate regarding pressing humanitarian issues and a crisis unfolding in Nagorno-Karabakh is important and cannot harm these negotiations in any way.

So, I'm strongly in favour of this debate.

Thank you.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

14:56:36

Thank you very much, Mr Ruben RUBINYAN.

Is there anybody who wishes to speak on behalf of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons?

A representative of the Bureau?

I do not see any.

The Bureau is in favour, as I told you.

We now shall vote on the request for urgent procedure.

The decision requires a two-thirds majority.

Is that correct?

Those who are in favour of holding this urgent procedure debate should vote "Yes". Those who are against holding such a debate should vote "No".

The vote is open.

Those who are meeting problems, please put your voting card in the right way in the slot.

Is there still anybody having technical problems?

If that is not the case and if the problem of Mr George KATROUGALOS is solved in a minute... then... Mr George KATROUGALOS, you can cast your vote and then I... yes, please, vote, and then I will close the vote.

I ask for the results to be displayed.

And there is a large majority:

More than three quarters are in favour of holding the Urgent Affairs Debate.

 

We will now consider the request for debate under the urgent procedure on the “Political consequences of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine”.

Does the Assembly agree to the Bureau’s recommendation to hold a debate on the “Political consequences of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine”?

I now do not see any objection, so the recommendation is accepted.

The request for the urgent procedures is therefore approved.

It is proposed that the debate will take place on Thursday as set out in the draft agenda/ We refer to the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy for a report.

And the other report is referred to the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons for report, and it also will take place in a joint debate on Thursday.

 

We will now consider the request for debate under the urgent procedure on “War of aggression against Ukraine – Participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Paris 2024 Olympics?” 

I have been informed that the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media proposes changing the title of the debate to: “War of aggression against Ukraine – Participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics?”

Does the Assembly agree to the Bureau’s recommendation to hold a debate on “War of aggression against Ukraine – Participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics?”?

I do not see any objection.

Therefore the Bureau’s recommendation is accepted.

It is proposed that the debate will take place on Thursday as set out in the draft Agenda and be referred to the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media for a report.

 

The Bureau was in favour of the request for a current affairs debate on the “Recent political developments in Poland”.

Does the Assembly agree to the recommendation of the Bureau that there should be a current affairs debate on this topic?

I do not see any objection, so:

The proposal is agreed to.

It is proposed that the current affairs debate on “Recent political developments in Poland” will take place on Tuesday. It will be opened by the two co-rapporteurs on Poland, Mr Pieter OMTZIGT and Ms Azadeh ROJHAN.

 

The next item of business is the adoption of the agenda for the third part of the 2023 Ordinary Session (Doc. 15779 provision 2).

The draft agenda submitted for the Assembly’s approval was adopted by the Bureau this morning.

 

Is the draft agenda agreed to?

I do not see any objection: it is agreed to.

 

The minutes of the meeting of the Standing Committee on 15 May in Reykjavík and on 26 May in Riga this year have been distributed as Doc. AS/PER(2023) PV 02 and PV 03.

I invite the Assembly to take note of these minutes.

 

The next item on the Agenda is the debate on the Progress Report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee (Doc. 15791 and Addendum 1 and 2) presented by Mr Iulian BULAI, the chair of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe.

This will be combined with consideration of the Report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Bureau on the Observation of the parliamentary and presidential elections in Türkiye on 14 and 28 May 2023 (Doc. 15793) presented by Mr Frank SCHWABE.

 

The debate must conclude by 5:00 p.m. I will therefore interrupt the list of speakers at around 3:55 p.m. I remind speakers that speaking time is 3 minutes.

I call Mr Iulian BULAI to present the Progress Report. Mr Iulian BULAI, you have 7 minutes.

You have the floor.

Débat : Rapport d'activité du Bureau et de la Commission permanente / Observation des élections législatives et présidentielle en Türkiye (14 et 28 mai 2023)

M. Iulian BULAI

Roumanie, ADLE, Rapporteur

15:04:43

Thank you so much, Dear President.

Dear All,

Before starting my report, I would like to thank both you, President, and you, Madam Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe, for having this way of sitting. I think this gives more clarity to this Assembly, and I very much appreciate it.

Thank you so much for this; it really is progress within our hemicycle. 

M. Iulian BULAI

Roumanie, ADLE, Rapporteur

15:05:05

Dear Colleagues,

The report I am presenting to you today covers activities since 28 April. It has been a very busy period, and the members of the Assembly have been very active.

The Summit of Heads of State and Government, a major historic event for our organisation, was held in Reykjavík on 16 and 17 May.

I would like to congratulate and warmly thank the Secretary General, the Icelandic delegation and ambassador, as well as the Committee of Ministers, for their commitment and our joint success, and also my colleagues in the Assembly Secretariat.

The parliamentary dimension of the Summit was ensured by the Assembly's Standing Committee, which met in the Icelandic capital on the eve of the Summit. The Parliamentary Assembly threw all its political weight behind the Summit, contributing numerous texts, including its recommendation on the Reykjavík Summit of the Council of Europe, based on the report by our colleague Ms Fiona O'LOUGHLIN.

In Reykjavík, the President of our Assembly, Mr Tiny KOX, made the voice of our Assembly heard, underlining the need to restore, strengthen and perhaps reinvent European democratic security and rules-based multilateralism. He expressed the Assembly's full support for the creation of a comprehensive system of accountability for Russia's aggression against Ukraine. He reiterated our unwavering support for the European Convention on Human Rights. The President also spoke of the importance of reversing the dangerous decline in democracy. Finally, you, Mister Tiny KOX, stressed the importance of the new generation of human rights, including the right to a healthy environment.

As a statutory body of the Council of Europe, our Assembly must now contribute to translating Summit decisions into concrete results, but not only that. Faithful to its role as the organisation's political mentor, it will always have to take the extra step, the step that will give the necessary impetus to go beyond the direction decided in Reykjavík.

Less than two weeks after the Reykjavík Summit, the Parliamentary Assembly turned its attention in Riga to the follow-up to the Summit decisions. The Standing Committee held a topical debate on the follow-up to the Summit and adopted a declaration.

We must continue our work. Faced with the urgency of democracy and climate change, we have no time to lose. We are counting on the Latvian presidency to embody this impetus.

Our unique position as members of the Parliamentary Assembly and as members of national parliaments gives us a particular responsibility. The Assembly's role is not limited to Strasbourg. As national legislators, we must ensure that the Reykjavík Declaration is followed up at the national level.

M. Iulian BULAI

Roumanie, ADLE, Rapporteur

15:08:40

Dear colleagues,

Not a day passes without war crimes being committed because of the Russian Federation's war of aggression against Ukraine, that remind us of the very reasons for the Summit and for the strong message of unity expressed by the Heads of States and Governments. On 6 June 2023, the Council of Europe's leaders, the Secretary General, the Chair of the Committee of Ministers and the President of our Assembly issued a joint statement condemning, in the strongest possible terms, the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka Dam in the Kherson region in Ukraine.

They stressed that such a reckless act triggered the displacement of numerous civilians and endangered their lives. Its dangerous consequences for the environment, energy security, and nuclear safety are a grave concern for the whole continent. We condemn the destruction of the dam as a terrorist attack from the Russian side. We continue to condemn and demand justice over the Russian Federation's war of aggression.

Dear colleagues,

Our resolve, our political will, as well as our political weight, are more needed than ever. Let us not fail.

Let us transcribe the words of the Reykjavík Declaration into action. As always, it starts with a miss. Let us put the money where our mouth is. We will have, on Wednesday, in the framework of our debate on the budget, the opportunity to push for the Summit's decision to be reflected immediately into the Council of Europe's daily work, to effectively deliver on the Summit's outcomes, the member States need to allocate the necessary resources. I strongly encourage you to participate actively in this debate at home, as the implementation of the Reykjavík Declaration should be at the centre of the organisation's programme and budget.

The Assembly must call on member States to invest sufficient additional resources into the Council of Europe zero and above zero real growth in order to allow it to effectively deliver on the Summit's outcomes and to respond to member States' and citizens' expectations. The need to match resources to ambition should be at the forefront of the discussions in the Committee of Ministers during the upcoming budgetary process.

Another very important issue currently on the Agenda of our Assembly and our organisation is the application for membership of Kosovo. Our Assembly has a great role to play in this process. It will produce an opinion to the Committee of Ministers. I really hope we will have a rapid, efficient and successful process.

Now allow me to tackle another issue that raises concerns. Last week, the European Commission announced it is suing Poland over a law creating a special body to prop Russian influence in Polish politics, which critics say violates the Polish constitution. It could be used to intimidate political opponents. This is very serious, and I understand that the Monitoring Committee expressed the wish to request an urgent opinion of the Venice Commission on this law. This is to be considered by the Committee this week.

Today, I feel duty-bound to once again announce the ongoing tragedy that unfolds on the European shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Thousands of children, women, and men have died, have drowned, while trying to reach European soil in makeshift and overcrowded boats. No later than last week, we witnessed one more time an awful tragedy off the coast of Greece with hundreds and hundreds of deaths: women and children trapped below the deck of a sinking boat that went down in a matter of minutes. One of the worst, if not the worst, maritime disasters in recent European history.

The Assembly has been consistent in calling for zero tolerance towards lives lost at sea, recommending clear, binding and common standards for search and rescue operations. We ask for further commitment to assisting coastal states and demand to end obstruction for private vessels to conduct rescues.

The Assembly also called for the creation of safe, legal channels to Europe, further harmonisation of common asylum procedures and solidarity. Last week's catastrophe once again reveals the crucial need for Europe and the rest of the world to fill in the gaps in the legal framework, policies, and practices of rescue at sea, but also our migration policies.

Now, on a more positive note, I would also like to highlight the launching by our Assembly of the Vigdís Prize for Women's Empowerment, a joint initiative of the Assembly with the Government of Iceland. The Vigdís Prize was launched in Reykjavík in May in the presence of the former Icelandic President, Ms Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the first woman in the world to be elected as a head of state. The Vigdís Prize will reward outstanding initiatives which promote the empowerment of women. The prize will be presented during each June part-session of the Parliamentary Assembly.

I would also like to highlight the good news that the European Union is about to finalise the ratification procedure of the Council of Europe's Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Six years after signing the Convention in 2017, in May, the European Parliament gave its consent to the European Council to adopt the decisions on ratification. Although the precise and detailed impact of this ratification is not fully clear as yet, it means that the six remaining EU States not having ratified the Convention – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia – will be both under pressure to ratify directly and under an obligation to implement and follow on the Convention...

[Interrupted by the President: "Now you have to come to a conclusion"]

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:15:03

Sorry, no, no. I already gave you three extra minutes; even in Romania you wouldn't have one minute left. You have already taken three, and I allowed you to do so.

Say your final sentence, and that is it for today, I would say.

M. Iulian BULAI

Roumanie, ADLE, Rapporteur

15:15:19

Dear Colleagues,

I will stop here. I am looking forward to listening to our colleague, Mr Frank SCHWABE, for his report on Türkiye and also my dear colleague, Mr Damien COTTIER, on the report on the election conference in Switzerland.

In front of you, I am thanking the Chair of the Turkish delegation, who is about to leave our Assembly. Dear Mr Ahmet YILDIZ, thank you so much for your presence here and good luck with your further work. 

Thank you so much to all of you for listening.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:15:46

Thank you so much, Mr Iulian BULAI, but take care.

I was gentle allowing you extra minutes, but if you then steal two minutes more, that makes me a bit less gentle. You had, indeed, to deal with two Standing Committees, and that's something more.

Now I give the floor to Mr Frank SCHWABE to present the report of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Bureau on the Observation of the parliamentary and presidential elections in Türkiye.

Mr Frank SCHWABE, you have 3 minutes.

M. Frank SCHWABE

Allemagne, SOC, Rapporteur

15:16:20

Okay, this is not possible in three minutes. What should I say in three minutes, Mister President? These are very important elections with two rounds for each round, maybe for each round three minutes, no? So, Mister President, anyhow I had the honour to lead the Election Observation Mission of the Assembly in Türkiye on the 14 May and the second round on the 28 May. I would like to thank the authorities for inviting us to the country. I really thank the Turkish delegation, Mr Ahmet YILDIZ, who is the Chair, for the hospitality.

In the end, we were there three times in six weeks and, as you know, we make our Election Observation Mission, as usual, together with OSCE. This is very necessary to do together and to have our common findings.

I would like to remind you that when it comes to elections, we always have to do two things. Sometimes we forget one thing or someone does not want us to look into two things. The first thing is what is going on on the election day, and the second thing is to look into the environment of elections.

On election day, we have to say in Türkiye, finally, in the first round and in the second round, the will of the people in the end is the result of the elections. This is very, very clear for us.

The second thing is that we have to say that the elections did not take place in an environment we ask as the Council of Europe as conditions for democratic elections. This is true as well because we have a lot of limitations on fundamental rights in the country.

We have a situation where we have a kind of self-censorship in the media, not just in the public media. We have a lot of, yeah, it is not easy to say just to have a better situation. The situation is between a little bit like zero and 100%, between the one who was the opposition candidate and the candidate from the ruling party. That is far away from a level playing field. We do not have the fulfilment of the basic and fundamental judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, and that brings the country into a situation where democratic elections are not very easy to hold.

If I have to say something in a few seconds, then I really urge the implementation of the recommendations from a lot of bodies of our organisation, from the monitoring procedures, and from the Venice Commission.

The most important thing, maybe, in the end, is the SEC. What is the SEC? The SEC is the Supreme Election Council in Türkiye. This Council has the most rights you can imagine worldwide. In the end, there is no possibility for any crowd to change the decision of the SEC. The problem is that it is really very, very non-transparent and not very clear to us how the SEC in the end is working.

I think it was a little bit better in the second round than in the first round, but it was still difficult. Usually, we can monitor the elections very well. People were friendly towards us. But, especially in the first round, a lot of people were not aware of what an International Observation Election Mission is, so we had difficulties reaching and getting into some polling stations. Even in some, we could not monitor the elections. It was better in the second round, but I still urge the Turkish authorities to inform the people about it.

Finally, I think whoever is the new government, we have a new government. We do not care if it is the old president or it were a new president.

There are obligations from Türkiye to this organisation and the fundamental obligation are to fulfil the judgments of the Court. I think we have to ask Türkiye to do so.

Thank you very much.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:20:42

Thank you very much, Mister SCHWABE, for presenting the report of your Ad Hoc Committee of the Bureau on the Observation of the parliamentary and presidential elections in Türkiye.

Now in the debate we are first going to listen to the five speakers on behalf of the political groups.

First in the debate, I call Mr Max LUCKS from Germany. He speaks on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

Mister Max LUCKS, 3 minutes.

M. Max LUCKS

Allemagne, SOC, Porte-parole du groupe

15:21:10

Thank you, Mister President.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues,

Our Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has 306 members and 306 deputies; that is the number of people who died last Wednesday off the Greek coast. With every person who dies in the Mediterranean, a piece of the European civilisation that we are here to defend also dies. It is enough to imagine that we were in that boat to understand. This fundamental rupture of civilisation on the Mediterranean must finally end, and we must appeal to our national governments for this much more strongly than before.

I would have liked to have seen a much clearer signal from the Summit in Reykjavík in terms of refugee policy, a clear signal for sea rescue in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, the Summit delivered good results in other areas, such as the damage register and the strengthening of human rights representatives here in the Council of Europe. We must now build on this and work all the harder for climate justice, for our youth centers and for minorities.

But allow me to point out one thing, one of the biggest problems of our institution, namely, the lack of implementation of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. How could we talk about this Court without mentioning those who rely on it? There is too much silence. There is too much silence about Osman Kavala. There is too much silence about Selahattin Demirtas and all those who put their hope in us. We must tell them very clearly that we do not forget them, but that we stand resolutely by their side. The illegal detention of Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtas shows the unfair environment of the past parliamentary election in Türkiye. It shows how much President Erdogan is a source of fear, and this is also clearly picked up on in the report.

My heartfelt thanks also go to all the delegation members who participated in this election observation mission and made it possible. The heads of state and government could not bring themselves to do this, which is bitter. On many issues, the Summit delivered a good result: the Commissioner for Human Rights strengthened and the damage register for crimes caused by Russia in Ukraine. Building on this, we need to focus on minorities like LGBT people, as well as climate justice and our youth centers. Allow me to point out our long-term, tragic problem: the failure to implement the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. How could we talk about the Court without mentioning those who rely on it?

We human rights politicians in this Council of Europe, after this past election, have all the more the duty to stand by those who rely on us, by the democrats. We must speak out much more clearly than before against the restriction of freedom of the press and freedom of expression, but also against nepotism. President Erdogan has created a new archenemy after his re-election. He has railed against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, and transgender persons in an unprecedented way. Yet, we LGBT persons are not pawns for these policies, and the European Convention on Human Rights has no exception clause for LGBT persons.

Stop the agitation against LGBT persons, Mister President Erdogan.

Thank you.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:24:32

Thank you, Mister Max LUCKS [said in German].

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

Mr Aleksander POCIEJ, 3 minutes.

M. Aleksander POCIEJ

Pologne, PPE/DC, Porte-parole du groupe

15:24:42

Dear President, Dear Colleagues,

The ambitious conclusions of the 4th Council of Europe Summit obliged us to reflect on our Organisation post Reykjavík.

The ambitions of our Heads of States and Governments require that we walk the walk in achieving the ambitious plans laid out in Iceland.

The enlarged partial agreement on the register of damage caused by the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine needs to be implemented and financed both in monetary and human terms. I take this opportunity to again thank all of you who contributed to make this Summit happen.

We need a clear path forward, having outlined our objectives. Our Heads of State and Governments stress that our organisation needs the financing to complete the task.

In parallel, the political groups at the Assembly often referred to as the motor, the beating heart of the institution, have been starved of resources and must now be given the financial aid needed to continue their work and to plan for a stable future.

In consequence, I invite our Secretaries General, both, to contribute not only to the bigger financing of this institution, but also to increase the groups' budgets.

This week the Assembly will debate and adopt two financial reports, ensuring this within both the Assembly and the institution as a whole. We look forward to the discussions in the Joint Committee on the follow-up of the Summit.

Last but not least, we shall add increased pressure on our parliaments and governments in order to implement the European Court of Human Rights rulings. This Court is the most precious part of our organisation, and we shall do our best to make it function and be relevant.

Thank you very much.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:27:26

The next speaker is Ms Mireille CLAPOT, from France, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Ms Mireille CLAPOT, you have the floor.

Mme Mireille CLAPOT

France, ADLE, Porte-parole du groupe

15:27:36

Thank you, Mr President.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, my first thoughts are with our colleagues in Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, as the Russian war of aggression has continued unabated for almost a year and a half now.

I would also like to mention the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan: we must apply the emergency measures decided by the Court - the freedom of movement order - to improve the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh due to the blockade in the Lachin corridor. Our emergency debate at this session will, I hope, enable progress to be made on this issue.

The Reykjavík Summit was a very constructive step, as you said, with important deliverables; in particular, the creation of an international register of damage caused by Russia's aggression. 43 countries have signed up: let's hope there will be more, and that this tool will be operational as soon as possible.

As part of the Reykjavík process on "Human Rights and the Environment", we would also like to mention our resolution on the environmental impact of armed conflict. The terrible human and environmental consequences of the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam have demonstrated the urgency of acting on these aspects too, as President Iulian BULAI pointed out.

Allow me, however, to focus on the polls observed by our Assembly, and in particular on the presidential and legislative elections in Türkiye, since I had the honour of going there three times as an observer for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group in the delegation led by Mr Frank SCHWABE.

Generally speaking, the elections remained fair and were relatively well managed, despite the terrible logistical and social challenges posed by the earthquakes in February. I was able to witness this first-hand on 14 May when I was in Gaziantep and İslahiye, the so-called "container city", one of the worst hit. The mobilisation of polling station assessors early in the morning and throughout the day, and the turnout of almost 90%, bear witness to the democratic vitality of the Turkish people.

Nevertheless, it was well before the election that irregularities and restrictions on fundamental rights had an impact on the fairness of the ballot.

Firstly, the press - it has to be said - largely favoured incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Secondly, the campaigns were extremely polarised and marked by inflammatory and provocative statements, particularly in the run-up to the elections.

In addition, it seems that the government made illegitimate use of public resources by offering electoral "gifts" to the population.

Finally, the Supreme Electoral Commission lacks independence from the government and refused to meet with our delegation.

Finally, these elections, which ended with the re-election of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan against his rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the victory of the ruling party, were recognised as regular and fair by both the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Despite our concerns, let's hope for the sake of the Turkish people and democracy that this new term of office will be marked by a genuine separation of powers and respect for oppositions: Türkiye could already be applying the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights to usher in a new era under better auspices.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:30:52

Thank you Ms Mireille CLAPOT [in French].

I now call in the debate Mr John HOWELL from the United Kingdom, speaking on behalf of the European Conservatives Group; you have three minutes.

M. John HOWELL

Royaume-Uni, CE/AD, Porte-parole du groupe

15:31:02

Thank you very much.

I would like to congratulate Mr Frank SCHWABE, not just for his leadership of the team, but also he may not have thought his three minutes was long enough, but he managed to get into that three minutes everything that I wanted to say.

So I shall be repeating a lot of what he said. But I think one of the things that he stressed which is very, very, important is the presence of rapporteurs on the pre-election mission.

It is really important that we do have people who know the country as part of that pre-election mission. The reason for that is because election observation missions are twofold in the way in which they are structured.

The first is to look at the environment, to make sure that we understand the environment in which those elections take place.

The second is to look at the process by which those elections take place.

Now if we look at the environment in Turkey, there are plenty of questions. Many of them are not directly related to the election, but they influence the context in which those elections take place.

If we look, there are still objections to Sweden from the Turkish government joining NATO. And of course, we still have the arrest of Mr Osman Kavala, who I was able to see on a previous occasion. Mr Frank SCHWABE has mentioned too the self-censorship that takes place in the press and media that goes way beyond anything that we would see in a normal Western country.

When it comes to the process of the election, then that is a completely different thing. The process of the elections in Turkey, I think, were fair, that was witnessed by the large number of people who participated in those elections and whose votes were cast. I think that a large number of people have stressed that, but it is important that we remember too that the environment was not up to the standards that we would have expected from a member of this organisation when it conducts elections.

I just want to finish by stressing the situation with regard to Mr Osman Kavala. He is not the only person that is imprisoned in Turkey, but he became for us the symbol that looks at all of the other prisoners who are there. He is the principal symbol that has had two European Court of Human Rights judgments made to get him free.

I hope that in in my time as rapporteur that I will be able to come to this Parliamentary Assembly and to say with absolute confidence that Mr Osman Kavala is free.

That is what I want to achieve, and that is what I hope everyone here wants me to achieve.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:34:14

Thank you, Mister John HOWELL.

The last speaker on behalf of the political groups is Mr Andrej HUNKO from Germany on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mister Andrej HUNKO, you have 3 minutes.

M. Andrej HUNKO

Allemagne, GUE, Porte-parole du groupe

15:34:23

Thank you very much, Mister President.

It is good that the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe have met in Reykjavík, for only the fourth time in history, by the way. I can say I hope that it will not be another 18 years before the next Summit takes place, but that it will take place more frequently.

Nevertheless, I would like to note a few critical observations that I also noted in the Standing Committee in Reykjavík. I have the impression that our discourse in the Council of Europe on human rights, but also on the war in Ukraine, for example, is becoming more and more disconnected from the discourse in other parts of the world, for example, from the UN Human Rights Council. I would repeat the suggestion that I made, that we communicate more with what is often called the global south, for example, by inviting Lula da Silva here to the meeting. Nevertheless, there were good and important points that were also mentioned. I would like to mention, once again, the need for the EU to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights and, above all, the strengthening of the Court of Justice.

On the election in Türkiye, I agree with everything that Mr Frank SCHWABE said, but I want to mention that two of our members, whom we have appointed here from the Assembly, could not participate because they have announced to Türkiye, so to speak, that they will not be allowed into the country. That is Ms Sibel ARSLAN from the Socialist Group and yours truly. The same is true for two observers from de OSCE. Our colleague Mr Søren SØNDERGAARD and also a Swedish Social Democrat. We cannot accept that. We have withdrawn, Ms Sibel ARSLAN and I. We did not want to escalate the process further and allow a full delegation, so to speak, but I think we cannot accept that. Otherwise, I agree with everything that Mr Frank SCHWABE has said.

Finally, I want to make an important point that has not been made yet, namely, the case of Julian Assange. Last week, after nine months, a judge dismissed all grounds of appeal with a paper trial, they say "a paper trial". The extradition of Julian Assange is closer than ever. I think the Council of Europe and the Convention on Human Rights really has a special responsibility here. I hope, dear British colleagues, that in the UK, if the Strasbourg Court is invoked, the authority of that Court will be respected.

I end all my speeches, meanwhile, in the Bundestag since last week in the style of Cato, "Ceterum censeo, Assangem esse liberatandum" [in Latin], "By the way, I think Julian Assange should be released" immediately.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:37:42

The next speaker is Mr Damien COTTIER from Switzerland.

Mister Damien COTTIER.

M. Damien COTTIER

Suisse, ADLE

15:37:53

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

When I arrived at the Council of Europe, people who had been there longer than I had said to me: "Observing elections is one of the best things we do in this institution, one of the most useful things." "One of", I emphasise, of course; there are many others. It was true. The Council of Europe was wondering about the impact of the current crises in our world.

On the subject of election observation, and as chairman of the Swiss delegation, I would like to thank the Parliamentary Assembly for proposing that this conference be organised in Bern. It took place on 9 and 10 May.

You were there, Mister President, and you opened the conference with the President of the Swiss National Council, the President of the Congress, and the President of the Venice Commission. A large number of people and organisations were represented: the various departments of the Council of Europe, the Congress, the Venice Commission, but also other international organisations such as the OSCE, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), the academic world, civil society, and numerous representatives of national electoral commissions from our various member countries.

The aim was to reflect on how to observe elections in a world that is regularly in crisis. We have all experienced the pandemic, of course, which has been very disruptive in our electoral processes. We have seen that one country, Türkiye, has unfortunately been hit by an earthquake that has posed challenges in terms of electoral organisation. Unfortunately, one of our members, Ukraine, is undergoing a war that is making it difficult to organise elections. We all know the impact of digital society and now of artificial intelligence on electoral processes.

After two days of constructive debate, the conference came to a conclusion, a final declaration that some are calling the Bern Declaration, and which I can sum up in two words: adaptation and anticipation.

We need to adapt our electoral processes to this changing world and to these crises, and we need to anticipate these crises and lay down rules in advance.

How will this country react, this process be adapted if there is a crisis? These are questions that need to be asked before a crisis occurs.

As far as election observation is concerned, this means that our organisations have to adapt their way of working. Back then, we used to observe elections on a single day, with a ballot that was mainly organised on paper. Today, there are many possible forms. Often, this process is much longer; we're even talking about electoral cycles that can last several months or years. We probably need to rethink our working methods, the declaration of principles, perhaps even the Venice Commission's code of good conduct. The Bern Declaration, in this respect, gives us a roadmap for action over the next few years. It would be desirable for our Assembly to work on a specific report to follow up on these Bern recommendations and, perhaps, a resolution from our Assembly.

I would like to conclude, Mister Chairman, by saying that our Council of Europe can certainly take the lead in supporting Ukraine in the organisation of its first post-war elections, because this will be an enormous challenge for this country. Our Organisation, along with others, can help it to do this, and here too, the Bern Declaration gives us some advice in this area and some avenues that we can follow.

Thank you very much.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:41:26

Thank you, Mister Damien COTTIER.

The next speaker in our debate will be Mr Ahmet YILDIZ from Türkiye.

You have the floor.

M. Ahmet YILDIZ

Türkiye, NI

15:41:36

Dear Mister President,

First of all I thank both rapporteurs.

In my absence in the next term I wish the Parliamentary Assembly an efficient follow-up to the conclusions of the Summit.

First of all, of course, one issue is the implementation of the European Court of Human Rights verdicts. The Parliamentary Assembly should think about what to do, as I raised today in the Bureau, what to do if the Committee of Ministers continues the selective enforcement of the verdicts of the Court.

Today the reply of the Secretary General was not efficient to me; she said some decisions are difficult to be implemented politically for some countries. So it is a selective and discriminatory approach by the Committee of Ministers.

When it comes to the elections in Türkiye, I am proud of the maturity and wisdom of Turkish people, Turkish voters. The turnout is exemplary, so the Assembly should be proud of it.

The conduct of the elections was close to perfect, despite the damage by the earthquake, despite the difficulties [caused] by the destruction of the earthquake. These Turkish elections constituted a big step, an exemplary step after the conference in Bern about the elections during the crisis. So it is exemplary in many ways.

I disagree with some comments:

The legal framework in any country may be different from others, so maybe the environment.

The same with the division of labour between the electoral bodies – it doesn't mean that it is less efficient than others.

Up until now the turnout – regardless of the result – proves that Turkish people and the government, authorities, care about the elections more than anybody else.

To the criticism by some colleagues, especially from Germany, who say that the environment was not good and [there were] some concerns of fear.

I should remind [them] that the turnout may have been better if the German authorities [had] allowed for an establishment of voting stations in some towns that we requested. Unfortunately they limited it: in some towns, in some regions, Turkish citizens couldn't vote.

So I think that the Turkish people and Turkish voters deserve congratulations on the conduct of the elections.

On the environment – electoral environment – and the general situation, we discussed this in the Monitoring Committee. We also have some valid counter questions on this.

In the end I think the rapporteurs, and members of the Observing Mission – we had some minor problems, disputes about this. We solved them in a spirit of co-operation, in a spirit of dialogue.

On the other hand, [interruption by the President asking for the speech to be finished], the so-called accident – what accident in the Aegean in the Greek Coast.

We have a saying in Turkish – some accidents come when we see it, when we predict it.

Unfortunately we raised this issue several times. It was not efficiently addressed by the EU authorities. I hope from now on our Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, our Assembly and EU authorities will be more caring about this.

Thank you.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:45:47

Thank you, Mr Ahmet YILDIZ.

I allowed you some seconds more because this is your last appearance in our hemicycle. You know that we appreciate very much your being with us.

The next speaker in the debate is Ms Hripsime GRIGORYAN from Armenia.

You have the floor, Madam.

Mme Hripsime GRIGORYAN

Arménie, SOC

15:46:06

Thank you, President.

Later this week we will be debating very specific topics under urgent procedure, as just mentioned, the horrendous war in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis in the blocked Lachin xorridor. While we are here to tackle existing issues, Azerbaijan just several hours ago, opened fire in the direction of a metallurgical plant being now built in Armenia with the involvement of foreign investment. 

Attention please, dear colleagues, not in Nagorno-Karabakhk, in Armenia.

Just a week ago, on 13 June, the Azerbaijani side had again opened fire, which was preceded by false accusations against Armenia, while we have stated that the construction of the plant fully complies with the international obligations of Armenia and that Azerbaijan's false concerns are simply aimed at hindering Armenia's economic development and foreign investments.

As a result of the shooting, two citizens of Indian origin working on the construction were wounded and underwent surgeries.

Azerbaijan demonstrates overt disregard towards Armenia's territorial integrity, human rights and international law, and this should come to the attention of the international community. We need to take action to curb Azerbaijan's expansionist ambitions and unacceptable policy of use of force to achieve their goals. 

Ironically, environmental protection has been used by Azerbaijan again when for months the Lachin corridor has been blocked by so-called eco-activists. And what happened to their environmental demands was that they stopped protesting after the illegal checkpoint was established on the corridor at the end of April. I leave this with no comment.

And now four days ago, on 15 June, the Azerbaijani side made another provocation. A group of Azerbaijani soldiers tried to establish a flag on Armenian territory. What can be seen from the footage on the spot, is that the Russian peacekeeping forces have been accompanying them. This is a very serious matter. Armenia called for an investigation to understand the circumstances of this provocation. Using this provocation as an alibi, Azerbaijan has blocked the traffic through the corridor completely, to make it clear if previously the International Red Cross could transfer emergency food and medicine, now the traffic is completely stopped. So we are not talking about a possible humanitarian crisis, but a crisis which is possible very soon if we take no action.

And, dear colleagues, I believe that now we are left in a situation to take decisive action.

A Presidential Committee should visit the Lachin corridor to have a chance to evaluate the situation on the ground. We need to send a signal. We need to take a step, not for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, but to reinforce that, while there is war in Europe, in Ukraine, no country can take advantage and carry out ethnic cleansing under the closed or busy eyes of all of us.

We should stand by our values to protect human rights, to protect people when their lives and rights to live in their homes are attacked.

Thank you.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:49:29

The next speaker is Mrs Marie-Christine DALLOZ from France.

Mrs Marie-Christine DALLOZ, you have the floor.

Mme Marie-Christine DALLOZ

France, PPE/DC

15:49:39

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

Rapporteurs,

Dear Colleagues,

My comments will be limited to the report by Mr Frank SCHWABE, whom I would like to thank for the quality of his work.

The parliamentary and presidential elections held in Türkiye last May, just a few months after the deadly earthquakes in the south of the country and in northern Syria, aroused great interest in international opinion, as the polls suggested a possible political changeover despite the fact that the country has been ruled for twenty years by Mr Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

I had the opportunity to go to Ankara to observe these elections, for the first round of the legislative and presidential elections.

First and foremost, we must salute the very high voter turnout, with a participation rate of 87% for the parliamentary elections and the first round of the presidential election, and 84% for the second round of the presidential election.

Access to polling stations was calm and serene. There was no tension whatsoever. The polarisation and invective that had marked the election campaign did not cause any disruption on voting day. The public wished to exercise their right to vote in a context respectful of democratic rules, and this is to be welcomed.

From an organisational point of view, all voters were subject to the same procedures regardless of the polling station to which they belonged.

The electoral process was very clear. The only difficulty faced by voters was of a practical nature. The size of the ballot papers for the legislative elections, one metre long, made folding complex and putting them in envelopes complicated.

Finally, I was able to observe that the vote count was carried out in compliance with electoral procedures. In fact, the results were not contested.

February's earthquakes provoked reactions of dismay and tension in the face of the inertia of the emergency services. The sometimes aggressive election campaign had led to fears that tensions would be exacerbated.

Despite this seemingly uncertain backdrop, Türkiye completed this two-step electoral process in a perfectly regular manner.

At a time when some member States are facing a sustained lack of interest in elections on the part of a large proportion of their citizens, Turkish society's commitment to democratic electoral rules is to be commended.

Thank you very much.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:52:33

Thank you very much, dear Madam Marie-Christine DALLOZ.

The next speaker in the debate is Mr Samad SEYIDOV from Azerbaijan.

Mr Samad SEYIDOV, 3 minutes.

M. Samad SEYIDOV

Azerbaïdjan, CE/AD

15:52:47

Thank you, Mister President,

We are proud of you, Türkiye.

We are proud of you, Türkiye.

You have done a really great job for democracy, for the future of the region, for stability, for your nation.

You are able to manage very many threats which, unfortunately, exist in the region.

It is really very strange that instead of support, we see a lot of criticism.

As an immediate neighbour to Türkiye, we were able to see how difficult, how transparent and how open elections have been organised.

Two rounds, especially the second round, gave [us the] possibility to understand that Türkiye is on the right path and on the path of democracy.

Today, Türkiye needs support from this Assembly, from the international community, because in a very difficult surrounding, after the terrible earthquake, they did what they should do for the Council of Europe, but first of all for their own nation. Thank you, Türkiye, for that.

A couple of words for my Armenian colleague: we are very close to each other. Negotiations between the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister Mr Nikol Pashinyan are going on.

Next week there will be another round of negotiations.

Did you see the rhetoric of my colleague from Armenia? They are dreaming with past terminology. They are not able to think about the future: a blockade which does not exist; a so-called genocide which is absolutely off the agenda; closing the Lachin Corridor, which is absolutely the wrong opinion. [These are] provocations from Armenia, not from Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, we can see hostilities, instead of understanding where we are, in which direction we should go, which we should see together, directly, Azerbaijanis and Armenians. We should think about the future.

They are begging international organisations. They try to present Azerbaijan in the wrong way. This is not the right position. With these attitudes, you are not able to achieve peace.

Come to us. Come to the region. Be Caucasian people. Have a little bit of courage to understand the new reality.

Thank you very much.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:55:33

Thank you, Mr Samad SEYIDOV.

The last speaker in the debate will be Ms Petra BAYR from Austria.

You have the floor, Ms Petra BAYR.

Mme Petra BAYR

Autriche, SOC

15:55:40

Thank you very much, Mr Tiny KOX.

I would like to take the occasion in my role as General Rapporteur on combating racism and intolerance to inform you and to share some information about the progress the Parliamentary No Hate Alliance made.

We had the possibility to meet in May in Vienna in the newly refurbished parliament for a seminar where we not only had the chance to dive deeper into the root causes of racism and intolerance and learn how NGOs are working to empower those who are targeted by racism and intolerance, we also had a chance to learn how police can, not only very actively, proactively, take over reports when hate occurs, but only also how they can produce evidence, disaggregated data, by taking over these reports.

Data which is very important for us to make evidence-based politics on how to combat racism.

We also learned how ombudsman institutions can work to empower and to help victims of racism, of intolerance, and how they can make an influence on how to change legislation and also this society as a whole in their approaches, that racism has no space in anymore.

Last but not least, we had the chance also to exchange with the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) with Mr Michael O'Flaherty, CEO of the FRA, and of course we know for many years because we get a lot of information and data, that the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union does very similar work as we do. I think that we can even foster synergies in the future, because we deal with the same issues and we have the same values and ideas on how to overcome racism and intolerance.

What I also would like to share with you is that I'm really very happy and proud today we had eight signatories of the European Charter, of the Charter for European Parties Against Racism and for Inclusive Societies.

I really want to encourage all of you who are interested in this work not only maybe to consider to become members of the No Hate Parliamentary Alliance, but also to speak back home in your countries with your parties whether you might also be ready to sign this Charter.

I think that some interpretation work has to be done, because some have problems with one single line, and we will try to clarify what is meant in reality.

So I'm really happy that it was such a strong sign today. I'm sure that it is also a step forward to a world where racism and intolerance have no space anymore. But we will have many more people who deserve the Vigdís Prize for Women's Empowerment.

That's the future we are working for.

Thank you very much.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

15:58:54

Thank you very much Ms Petra BAYR.

I must now interrupt the list of speakers, the speeches of members on the speakers list who have been present during the debate but have not been able to speak may be given to the Table Office for publication in an official report.

I remind colleagues that the texts are to be submitted in typescript, electronically if possible, no later than four hours after the list of speakers is interrupted.

Mr Iulian BULAI is entitled to reply but you already got 4 more minutes in the beginning so let us have a deal, you have 2 minutes to reply, Mr Iulian BULAI.

M. Iulian BULAI

Roumanie, ADLE, Rapporteur

15:59:32

Thank you, President.

You are very generous. Given the number of interventions in the elections in Türkiye, I would actually think that it would be more fair that Mr Frank SCHWABE should have the final word but it is not up to me to decide that. That being said I really call upon the Azerbaijani and Armenian friends to use this possibility of the urgent debate as an honest way to have a dialogue and one oriented towards solutions. So I wish you good luck with that, dear friends.

More than this, I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that several members of the Assembly have been recently prevented from participating in the Assembly's activities, including committee meetings, and I remind you all that our parliaments have the obligation to make participation possible and this obligation also concerns our colleagues who are substitutes.

Of course, we think of all the political prisoners who, today, are behind bars in both Belarus and Russia, and they fought for the values that this Assembly stands for, and we call for an immediate release of all of them.

And on a final note, I address a speech of thankfulness for the presentation of Madam Secretary General today in this Bureau's meeting on the announcement that next week the talks on the establishment of the registry of damage in Ukraine would be started as a dialogue between the Dutch side and the representatives of the Council of Europe, so congratulations on that.

Thank you for allowing me to have this presentation and I wish all of us a fantastic week with great debates and great results.

Thank you.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:01:16

Thank you Mr Iulian BULAI.

Although the rules do not foresee it, your remark was correct that a lot of remarks were made with regard to the Turkish elections, Mr Frank SCHWABE, could you say some words at the end of this debate?

M. Frank SCHWABE

Allemagne, SOC, Rapporteur

16:01:33

That is very nice, Mister President, but it is not necessary. I think everything was said already. In the end, we do not have to look into the regional situation although there was some recommendation. For sure, we see the resulting situation of Türkiye and some other countries as well. It is difficult and we really refer to the earthquake situation and there were a lot of challenges in the country. We can speak about the refugee situation but this is not our job here. Our job here is to monitor elections. And I would like to remind you again, we said that we could see the will of the people in the end in the result of the elections. I think this is very clear that we said it and at the same time, it is nothing new. It is something we have in our monitoring reports, in our reports from the Venice Commission and in the judgments of the Court, that Türkiye is not in a situation that we can be happy with the democratic situation there. And for sure, to fulfil all the necessities for democratic elections, Türkiye has to do much more, and we refer to the long report, if I cannot read it out here, and so you can read it, it is sometimes quite interesting and I think we can really learn a lot, not just for Türkiye but for ourselves as well, about what we should do looking into the Observation of Elections.

So thank you very much.

M. Stéphane BERGERON

Canada

17:37:13

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

Mme Laura CASTEL

Espagne, GUE

17:36:40

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

In this intervention I want to denounce the events that occurred during the Turkish elections, last May. A senator of my political party, ERC, a deputy of basque political party Bildu, a deputy of Podemos political party and the National Secretary of the political party CUP, all, were retained under police custody, from 6 pm on Sunday until the early hours of Monday morning. The reason for holding these elected officials, who went to monitor the elections, is unknown.

We see this case, as another sign of Turkey's repression and its will to annihilate the democracy and the different political views represented by other political parties. We have already seen how the Turkish government intends to ban democratic parties, such as the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). And now, we see how it is trying to detain and veto the entry of HDP’s allies or guests.

Indeed, we demand that these events do not happen again, especially during elections, but overall, we demand the end of any act that violates democratic parties.

M. Percy DOWNE

Canada

17:37:20

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Honourable colleagues,

On 14 May 2023 – and then again, on 28 May 2023 – almost nine out of 10 Turks voted in parliamentary and presidential elections.

In Canada, we’ve never come close to that level of voter turnout, so I congratulate the Turkish people on exercising their democratic right to cast a ballot.

I’ll also take this opportunity to echo Prime Minister Trudeau in congratulating the President of Türkiye on his re-election.

As everyone here knows quite well, however, an election can be free without being fair.

The Rapporteur and PACE’s partners in the International Election Observation Mission – the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights – made that clear in their statement of findings and conclusions.

I would like to highlight a few of those findings.

First of all, to quote the report: “The incumbent president and the ruling parties enjoyed an unjustified advantage, including through biased media coverage.”

According to Reporters without Borders, the President of Türkiye and his allies have effective control of 85% of the national media.

What is more, “from 1 April to 1 May, [the President of Türkiye] had exactly 60 times more coverage on the public TV channel TRT Haber (TRT News) than his main challenger.”

Secondly, certain popular potential presidential candidates, such as the Mayor of Istanbul, were prevented from even running.

Overall, I agree with the Rapporteur that Türkiye is not fulfilling some of “the basic principles for holding a democratic election.”

As a long-standing NATO ally and bilateral partner of Canada, we deeply value our relationship with Türkiye, but that doesn’t mean we don’t speak up when changes are clearly needed.

Thank you.

Mme Nicole DURANTON

France, ADLE

17:37:07

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

M. Mehmet Mehdi EKER

Türkiye, NI

17:37:52

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Dear President,

Dear Colleagues,

I would first like to thank the rapporteur and the other members of the PACE observer delegation for their work throughout the observation mission.

As it has been in the past elections, ensuring that the will of Turkish people is reflected in the ballot box in the most accurate way was the priority of Türkiye in the presidential and 28th term parliamentary elections of 14 and 28 May, in line with the Turkish legislation and international obligations.

The priority and the ultimate aim of an election observation mission to a country should be to assist its authorities to build stronger democracies for the benefit of their citizens and in the interest of the State, as rightly stated in the report.

However, the report unfortunately includes some statements and comments that go beyond this aim and exceed the framework of the election process.

It is stated in the report that fundamental rights and freedoms are not fully guaranteed by the Constitution and the legal framework, that freedom of assembly, association and expression are restricted by legislation, and that the independence of the judiciary is a long-standing concern.

However, I find these statements unfounded. Democracy, human rights and the rule of law are the very basis of the Turkish Constitution and society. The principle of separation of powers, as well as the independence and the impartiality of the judiciary, is strongly emphasized in the Constitution.

Besides, with the aims of making the judiciary more trustworthy and accessible, and contributing to the judicial system by increasing standards regarding individual rights, freedoms, and democracy, a judicial reform process has been underway since 2019.

In conclusion, contrary to the criticisms, I would like to stress that the elections were held in accordance with the standards of free democratic elections and with a level of participation that is exemplary.

Thank you.

M. Yunus EMRE

Türkiye, SOC

17:37:06

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

As a Member of Turkish Parliament, I would like to thank every single member of the PACE election observation mission for their detailed work and recommendations.

Their report correctly states that the elections enjoyed a very high turnout rate well above 85 percent of the electorate. This turnout is not only evidence to our Nation’s commitment to democracy but inspires us to continue our work despite the democratic decline our country is suffering.

The report also states that the elections were held in an atmosphere in which the incumbent government enjoyed certain advantages. While the voter was presented real political alternatives, few will seriously argue that their election campaigns enjoyed an equal playing field. The ruling party consistently abused state resources.

In addition to financial and logistic resources, the government leveraged public broadcasting and other media outlets as a propaganda tool. Both public broadcasting and private media failed to meet its legal and ethical duties to inform the public with impartiality.

Another aspect that poisoned the election atmosphere was the use of fake and increasingly harsh rhetoric by President Erdoğan and his party. While the election was ultimately conducted in a largely peaceful environment, the country was carelessly polarized with the sole purpose of mobilizing their own base.

Sadly these conditions certify that Turkish democracy has moved further away from the values and standards of the Council of Europe. Nonetheless, considering the high turnout, it is important to note that most of the electorate are still committed to those values and our future as a European Nation. We, as the main opposition party, will continue to advocate our shared values. We strongly believe that Türkiye deserves its place in European institutions and has much to contribute to a better future for all of us.

As a founding member of the Council of Europe, Türkiye is obliged to restore its democratic culture, re-establish the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. With this vision in mind, for the sake of our Nation, we will continue to tirelessly work for a stronger and more prosperous Türkiye that respects the principles we jointly agreed to protect.

Before I finish, I would also like to commemorate the victims of the recent earthquakes that we suffered. I am very well aware that all associates of the Council of Europe and you, distinguished deputies, have shown great solidarity with our citizens in their hour of need. On behalf of my country, I would like to express my gratitude for all these efforts

Mme Christiana EROTOKRITOU

Chypre, SOC

17:37:09

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear Colleagues

First of all let me congratulate the Rapporteur Mr Schwabe for this excellent report and congratulations are also due to the 40 members of the ad hoc committee, the co-rapporteurs and the representative of the Venice Commission whose tireless work made it possible for us to have this comprehensive and detailed report as to the recent election process in Turkey.

The report’s findings are alarming. And particularly alarming is paragraph 137 of the Recommendations which state, and I read “Turkey does not fulfill the basic principles for holding a democratic election. I also recall that key political and social figures are in prison even after judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, media freedom is severely restricted and Turkey is a long way from creating fair election campaign conditions”.

Dear Colleagues,

Selahedin Demirtas, the former leader of HDP party in Turkey and a Human Rights lawyer is in prison since 2016. He is currently in his 7th year in prison. The decision in 2020 of the European Court of Human Rights, of the Court of this Organization urged the Turkish government to immediately release Selahedin Demirtas as his imprisonment according to the Court, violated his Rights to liberty, security and freedom of expression. According to the ruling of the ECHR the detention of Demirtas goes against “the very core of the concept of a democratic society”.

This Assembly must be aware of the fact on the 30th April 2023, just a few weeks ago, the Turkish president stated in public that as long as he in office, Selahedin Demirtas cannot be released. As simple as that. So in essence, as long as Erdogan is in office, the Council of Europe, its values and its political and judicial tools WILL BE IGNORED.

So, we dear Colleagues have really to decide this. Are we prepared to forget the judgments of the ECHR? Are we prepared to forget the very existence of the ECHR and its value to democracy, human rights and the rule of law? Because that is the question that we have to answer. Are we prepared to allow member states to pick and choose which decisions of the ECHR they like, which ones they will abide by, which ones they don’t like, and which ones they will ignore, with our stamp of approval?

Osman Kavala, a businessman, a philanthropist and a civil rights activist is still in prison despite the ECHR’s decision demanding his release in 2019. He is still in prison on a life sentence and he will probably remain there until and unless the Council of Europe ensures the implementation of its values by the member states.

Dear Colleagues, freedom of expression is a fundamental value that goes to the very core of our existence. If we allow even the slightest doubt as to the decisiveness of this Organization to uphold and implement its values by its own member states then we will have limited ourselves to merely being an ineffective Organization.

Thank you.

M. Rafael HUSEYNOV

Azerbaïdjan, ADLE

17:37:10

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Debating the presidential and parliamentary elections held in member countries within the Progress Report has become a tradition. As a Council of Europe observer mission we observed the elections held in Turkey in May. However, this process that we have been witnessing, notably the presidential elections cannot be attributed to a series of traditional elections. Initially, because unlike the elections in many other countries, there was great interest in these elections in the world. These elections and their results were assessed as an event that would have a significant impact on the life of the region and interstate relations. Distinct countries had their own expectations, their own plans for these elections, and the elections went beyond just being a Turkish event. The attitude of Turkish society to the elections was directly proportional to these approaches. I do not suppose that such an unusual election activity of the population has been observed in recent years in any European country. In my opinion, this should be considered a great achievement for both the Turkish state and Turkish society. If the country had not enjoyed a democratic election atmosphere, under no circumstances would so many people have rushed to the polls to express their will. This is the utmost quality we expect from any election.

It is important to have a democratic, transparent, equal electoral atmosphere, the presence of a very developed electoral consiousness of the population of the country, the existence of the necessary conditions for the free expression of citizens. If they have been achieved, all minor defects can never affect the major results, and it is not difficult to guarantee that they will not be repeated in the future. Along with the youth flocking to the polls, we also saw many elderly people in their 80s and 90s, which was an indicator of the sense of civic responsibility in Turkish society and clear evidence that people are not indifferent to a significant event in the fate of the country. Nevertheless, there is one success that is greater than all these. However, the elections ended, the country took these results calmly, and the conflicts sometimes observed in individual countries had not been observed. This signifies that the citizens of Turkey have already made living with the values of democracy the criterion of their lives. And this should be considered Turkey's biggest victory in this election.

Mme Parvin KARIMZADA

Azerbaïdjan, CE/AD

17:38:21

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

I participated as an observer in the Presidential elections and the 28th General Parliamentary Elections held in the Republic of Turkiye on May 11-14. We observed the elections in various locations. Considering this, I want to share my thoughts with you. We met main political parties participating in the upcoming elections. The representatives of all the parties we met emphasized that the pre-election process was in order and there were no violations of the law.

On the voting day, all necessary administrative measures were taken for the free expression of people's opinions. Appropriate conditions were created for local and international observers. People were very active. We observed high voter turnout in all the stations we visited. Polling stations were accessible to persons with disabilities. We also observed the process of counting votes in polling stations. The counting of the ballots and the announcement of the results were carried out on time in accordance with the national election legislation. We did not see any problem that could affect the results of the election. We did not observe any attempt by outsiders to influence how voters would vote. All citizens freely came to the polling stations and cast their votes for the candidates they wanted. Equal conditions created for all the candidates in the press, which in turn served the legitimacy and transparency of the election process.

The elections were open, transparent and competitive, being in accordance with national legislation and generally accepted international election standards. In the parliamentary elections on May 14, "The People's Alliance", and in the second round of the presidential election on May 28, Rajab Tayyib Ardogan had another confident victory having the support of the people in Turkiye. Showing their will and trusting Erdogan again in the next 5 years, the people of Turkiye have supported the leader who had made Turkiye known in the world, and who conducts an independent policy. It was during Erdogan's 21-year ruling, that Turkiye became a powerful state and a key player in solving regional and global problems. Therefore, taking these points into account, the people of Turkey behaved very wisely and made the right choice.

The elections held in Turkiye also attracted the attention of the world due to its democracy and transparency. This election showed that democracy and its values are priority for Turkiye. The results of the election in Turkiye were also important for the region. I congratulate Turkiye and I am sure that it is a successful choice for Turkiye, for the region, and for the world. The Turkish people voted for their future, for their successful future. 

Sir Edward LEIGH

Royaume-Uni, CE/AD

17:38:46

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

 

Turkey is a complicated society and is a bridge between Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. These three different directions have either pulled or attracted Turkey for centuries. Since Ataturk and the foundation of the Turkish republic, the tendency has been for Turkey to become more and more European.

As a democratic country it has been a keystone in the NATO alliance and joined the Council of Europe within a year of our foundation. Recent elections give some cause for concern. Free and fair elections are the very foundation of a democratic society. Incidents like the arrest and imprisonment of the opposition mayor of Istanbul in December of last year are worrying. Ekrem Imamoglu was sentenced to two years in prison and subject to a ban for standing for election. His crime was to call the Turkish election council “fools” and thus he was convicted of insulting a public official. Surely a free society should have enough confidence so that election officials need not be so precious? It is difficult to conclude other than that this is a government seeking to use the judicial system to unduly upset democratic politics.

Turkey’s geography makes it so important: it is central to the safety of all Europe. Migration crisis has affected Turkey and Greece particularly, as has continuing conflict in Syria and elsewhere. European governments should do what we all can to support Turkey’s response to the migration crisis. We need to house genuine refugees as close as possible to their homelands. We need to work for peace and stability so that refugees can return home.

Economic migrants, however, have been abusing our generosity to refugees. There is a great deal of good will across Europe for people who are fleeing war and disaster. But we must not end up facilitating those who abuse asylum. Dangerous criminal gangs prey on the vulnerable. Unless there is a coordinated and vigorous response from Europe, there will be unnecessary deaths and tragedies.

It is also vital that Turkey drops its opposition to Sweden joining NATO. Western solidarity over Ukraine is vital, and Sweden brings significant defence, aerospace, and technological resources to the North Atlantic alliance.

M. George LOUCAIDES

Chypre, GUE

17:37:12

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear Colleagues,

Bearing in mind that Turkey constitutes the only member state that has returned from a post monitoring to a full monitoring procedure, allow me to say that the election observation mission in Turkey, has confirmed all the previous findings of the Assembly as regards the numerous and serious deficiencies observed in the functioning of its democratic institutions, the rule of law and the protection of human rights, more particularly after the failed 2016 coup. Thus, with this backdrop, the overall environment in Turkey was not conducive to the holding of free, fair and democratic elections.

Since the coup more particularly, we note the ongoing crackdown, intimidation and silencing of political opponents.

The third largest political party, namely the People’s Democratic Party, HDP, has faced unprecedented intimidation. The ongoing dissolution procedure against it, has deprived it, among other things, of state funding and obliged it to run under another coalition. Among the many thousands of dissenting voices who are in jail, including elected representatives, HDP’s leader Mr. Demirtas but also philanthropist Mr. Osman Kavala are still in prison despite the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the repeated calls of this Organisation for their release.

The use of certain provisions of the Criminal Code, Press and anti-terror laws and more recently, the misinformation law to create a climate of fear and intimidation to prosecute opposing voices, constitute serious violations in freedom of expression and have resulted in self censorship. Moreover, the control of the overwhelming majority of the media and the lack of overall oversight, the misuse and mobilisation of administrative resources in favour of Mr. Erdogan and the ruling party, provided an unjustified advantage to the incumbent and amounted to a growing blur between the AKP party and the state.

The accumulation of excessive power has allowed Mr. Erdogan to cement his hold by systematically weakening democratic institutions, the independence of the judiciary and the system of checks and balances.

Dear Colleagues,

This election result and Mr. Erdogan’s victory may very well mean that the current repressive environment in Turkey will worsen. It is likely that under his rule, democracy, human rights and the rule of law - the fundamental pillars of this Organisation that all member states must respect - will be further restricted. We must show no complacency and adopt a clear position of zero tolerance, whatever the trade off or interests at stake.

Thank you.

M. Didier MARIE

France, SOC

17:37:15

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

Mme Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ADLE

17:38:19

(Undelivered speech, Rules of Procedure Art. 31.2)

Dear colleagues, Mr. Bulai,

As a representative of Ukraine, I would like to emphasize the achievements we have made in the fight for our common values, which russia is trying to undermine.

The Bureau and the Standing Committee played a significant role in shaping the agenda of the 4th Council of Europe Summit, which brought a historic result.

A comprehensive Register of Damages caused to Ukraine was established. The final declaration of the summit consolidated strong support for the Ukrainian Peace Formula and the creation of a special tribunal for the crime of Russian aggression.

Our work in Reykjavik and Riga has largely shaped the agenda of this PACE plenary session. Soon, we will hold a debate under urgent procedure on the non-participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Olympics in Paris.

I thank everyone involved for your efforts.

Political and legally formalized support is very important. However, it is not enough. Our next steps, the follow-up to these decisions, must be even stronger and more decisive.

At our next meetings, I propose that we pay attention to topics that will deepen the decisions we have already made.

First – the effective functioning of the Register of Losses and monitoring of how the implementation of the decision is progressing.

Second – the issue of using frozen russian assets for the reconstruction of Ukraine. Some of our partners are already developing the appropriate legal framework. I urge you to join this process at the PACE level.

Third – Special Tribunal. Not all Council of Europe member states have joined the relevant Core Group, which already consists of 37 states. Ukraine invites those who have not yet done so to join its work.

Last but not least – sanctions. Some may believe that there are already enough of them, that there is no more room for their introduction. But this is not the case. We are still pushing for more sanctions against individuals and the nuclear sector of Russia. This is the matter of global security.

The Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly have consistently shown leadership in supporting Ukraine.

We must not slow down! Thank you all for your support and firm position.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:03:01

Thank you very much, Mr Frank SCHWABE.

That concludes the debate.

 

The Bureau has proposed references to the committees for ratification by the Assembly. [They are set out in Doc. 15791 and Addendum 2].

Is there any objection to the proposed references to committees?

 

I don't see any.

The references 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.

 

And that brings us to the next item on our Agenda. That is the questions to Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ, Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

I would remind the Assembly that questions must be limited to 30 seconds. Colleagues should be asking questions and NOT making speeches.

Before giving the floor, first to the five colleagues on behalf of political groups, I want to congratulate our Secretary General for the result of the Summit in Reykjavík. You spent a lot of effort to get it there, Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ, and the result, the Reykjavík Declaration, is a result I think that satisfies both you as the Secretary General, the Committee of Ministers, and our Assembly, which is quite unique.

Shall we now go to the questions on behalf of the political groups. First I call Mr Frank SCHWABE on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

30 seconds, Mr Frank SCHWABE.

 

Séance de questions : Mme Marija PEJČINOVIĆ BURIĆ, Secrétaire Générale du Conseil de l'Europe

M. Frank SCHWABE

Allemagne, SOC, Porte-parole du groupe

16:04:42

So now I collect all the seconds, but thank you very much, Mister President.

Madam Secretary General, I have to ask you something about Türkiye. You can imagine what it is.

So we have the elections now, and as I said before, whoever is the president now, the former president is a president now again.

But there is still the fulfilment of judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.

There is one judgment where we started a procedure under Article 46.4 already.

What are the plans of the Committee of Ministers? What are your plans for how to proceed with this procedure?

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:05:20

Thank you, Mr Frank SCHWABE.

Madam Secretary General.

Mme Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatie, Secrétaire Générale du Conseil de l'Europe

16:05:23

Thank you very much for this question and, of course, it is a continuation in a way of the debate you had so far.

So let me start with the generic response that the execution of the Court judgments and the final Court judgments are not a plea to the respondent state, it is the obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights.

I can only say that for developments so far, the last one concerning the decision for Regional Court of Appeal at the end of this December that upheld the earlier decision of the Istanbul court sentencing Mr Osman Kavala to life imprisonment, is disregarding the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judgment. And, of course, the fact that the decision was appealed still gives some room to find an implementation in good faith of the ECHR and Grand Chamber judgments.

As you well know, and you mention it is only the second time that Article 46.4 is triggered, and in this particular case, it is in a special way because in the previous search cases, the judgments were already underway of execution. In this case, we are not there. And the Committee of Ministers at its regular meetings, every regular deputy meeting considers this issue as a regular item on the Agenda, so it is given utmost importance. There are a number of things that – I will not numerate each one of them here – but it included also the distinguished members of the Parliamentary Assembly going to meet Mr Osman Kavala, and on different levels we send the message that this has to be executed. But so far, we are not there.

And the last review at the Committee of Ministers was held this month. The interim resolution asks for the Committee of Ministers and the Secretariat to prepare the next possible steps that we may take. So at this stage, the Secretariat is tasked by July to come up with proposals, and then the Committee will again review the case if nothing changes in the next session.

I can only call for the immediate release of Mr Osman Kavala because that was what the European Court of Human Rights, the Court, was asking for.

I can only deeply deplore that Mr Osman Kavala is still in prison and that we for this moment do not see the result yet.

But we know that this procedure has a very clear way of how it will proceed unless the judgment is executed, we will certainly have to take much more important measures, and it may also concern the Parliamentary Assembly.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:09:00

Thank you, Madam Secretary General. The next question comes from Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS from Lithuania on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

30 seconds, Mr Emanuelis ZINGERIS.

M. Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Lituanie, PPE/DC, Porte-parole du groupe

16:09:20

Yes, Madam Secretary, it was for huge support of our meeting at the Summit in Reykjavík, a new initiative you have registered. It was finally adopted like a step to a special tribunal.

My question will be short; I have two very short questions. The first question is related to how you will see in the future steps forward from registering to the special tribunal. Where will you go to see the concrete project of registering in The Hague? Thank you for that. How we will go forwards with initiating it in the world special tribunal, of course, should be done in the United Nations.

The second question related [interrupted by the President] to the workers who were working here and the former Russian staff, please.

Thank you, Madam.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:10:22

 Madam Secretary General, everybody has 30 seconds.

Mme Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatie, Secrétaire Générale du Conseil de l'Europe

16:10:25

First I start with the register.

Thank you for everyone - indeed we did propose the register, but I think it's really many people to thank for coming up with the decision. Next week's meeting of the parties will certainly continue this work.

Now how the register is linked with the Special Tribunal on the crime of aggression? The exact link is the accountability.

So both are within the accountability of the Russian Federation for the war of aggression and all its consequences.

So I see it as complementary, because I think what is aimed at with the possible establishment of the special tribunal on the crime of aggression is to fill the gap - at this moment it is difficult to see who should, and how it should be dealt with as a crime of aggression. This is, as has been often said, the mother of crimes, for many other crimes have been committed and continue to be committed in Ukraine.

But other than that they are two separate lines, I would say, of action, on accountability.

The register actually is first necessarily an urgent step that we had to take, in order to have the possibility for civilian damages to be recorded, in order not to be lost if the process were to take too long in establishing the register under the treaty.

So the way we establish it with this enlarged partial agreement was a good way to counter, also to gain time in respect to that.

But the register only makes sense within a larger compensation mechanism that needs to be decided by the international community.

Indeed we did this first step as forerunners.

We stand ready to play our part in working on two other steps, the next being a comprehensive mechanism for this, which is a compensation commission and compensation fund.

So we are ready to be part of that, but certainly it has to be decided in a much larger conference of the willing, if you wish so.

For the special tribunal, as we often said, we also remain ready to be part of that.

It has been discussed in this Parliamentary Assembly. It has been discussed by the Committee of Ministers.

It indeed needs bigger support, it needs hopefully a UN heading. I hope that all the efforts that are invested into that by different parties, starting with Ukraine but also with some others, will end up in having such a conference of people who would like to set up the special tribunal on the war of aggression.

But these are two separate things.

Now for the consequences of the Russian Federation's expulsion from the Council of Europe.

Again, it could be very long, but let me remain very pointed.

So, when we dealt with that in March 2022, there were legal, financial and institutional consequences.

So, within that, of course it was the consequences that the staff working at the Council of Europe who have, according to the rule, only Russian Federation nationality should leave the organisation because they don't comply with the requirement, which is to be nationals of a member State of the Council of Europe.

However, our current regulation, which is in place, provides that this requirement is looked at on employment and not later than that.

So, starting with that, and having a comprehensive approach for legal, financial, and other possible consequences for the Council of Europe – under the statute it is the duty of the Secretary General to propose – I proposed the approach that is known to you, so that all those who have only Russian Federation nationality leave immediately.

For those who had very short-term or different kind of employment with the Council of Europe, that could have been stopped immediately.

For those who have fixed-term contracts, there are a few remaining who are working still. By the end of this year, they will all leave, because if they reapply for the post they would not be eligible for the post.

For the the many of those who still work with us, they are double nationals, and in that sense they comply with the requirement of being nationals of the member States.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:16:21

Thank you very much, Madam Secretary General.

The next question from Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK from Ukraine on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group.

Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK, 30 seconds.

Mme Yevheniia KRAVCHUK

Ukraine, ADLE, Porte-parole du groupe

16:16:30

Thank you.

Madam Secretary General, my question would be very practical and precise. When do you foresee that the first Ukrainian citizen can file an application to The Hague for this register of damages? As you mentioned, it is the first step. We need to make sure that these claims will be paid sometime, better sooner than later.

So, what would be practical steps for establishing this comprehensive mechanism, especially with using the Russian assets?

Thanks.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:17:02

Thank you, Ms Yevheniia KRAVCHUK.

Madam Secretary General.

Mme Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatie, Secrétaire Générale du Conseil de l'Europe

16:17:04

I hope that this moment will be there soon.

We are really working on that very much, on the register of damage becoming operational very soon. It may take two to three months, but I hope that Ukrainians will be able to deposit their claims not only in The Hague, but we aim also for foreign office antennae, for an office of the register of damage in Kiev. Hopefully, people could choose which is the better place that they can come to and deposit their claim.

Now [as to] where we are with the activities, we are having, as I think it was mentioned, I summoned the first meeting of the parties next week.

We count 42 parties at the moment, members States and the European Union included. Among them there are all the G7 member states; [there] are also all our Observer States who could be eligible for that.

I'm very happy that we [will] also wait for a few more announced parties to the register of damage.

Of course, I would like to appeal, because this is what I'm going to do at my next meetings, starting with the one in two or three days, the Ukraine Recovery Conference (URC 2023) in London, and later in New York, [and] ask for more parties to the register of damage. The number we have is really very good. I believe that because we want to have accountability [and be] embraced by as many people as possible, all those who are defending the free world, I think [we] should not stop searching for more member States to join the register of damage.

The next steps at this meeting of the parties is the appointment of the director, because if we want to move on budget and other things, the director needs to be there. Some other rules of procedure [also] need to be decided by the state parties, so this will be done next week, on 27 June 2023. 

Then probably another meeting will be summoned. It will all depend on how quickly we will be able to work together before the summer break.

A very important landmark event is on 11 September 2023 in Riga, Latvia, where we will have an informal meeting of the Ministers of Justice and ensure another meeting of the parties to the register of damage after that.

We hope that by this meeting, and I'm sure that the Latvian presidency is aiming at that as well, that somewhere at this point in time we would be able to say that the register of damage is open for applications.

I hope that we will soon be [at] the speed that we were working [at] before and that we are working [at] now; that we will soon have the register open for people to deposit their claims.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:20:52

Thank you, Madam Secretary General.

The last question on behalf of political groups comes from Ms Laura CASTEL from Spain on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Ms Laura CASTEL, you have 30 seconds.

Mme Laura CASTEL

Espagne, GUE, Porte-parole du groupe

16:21:03

Yeah, thank you Chair.

Madam Secretary General,

It is urgent to ensure respect for the Human Rights Convention.

I am talking, of course, about the cases of Mr Selahattin Demirtaş and Mr Osman Kavala or even Mr Julian Assange.

But there are more cases, such Mr Dani Gallardo, sentenced to four years in prison for demonstrating in favour of Catalan political prisoners. Four years in prison.

This is why our group is wondering whether the Council of Europe will push for ending the political persecution inside the organisations.

Thank you very much.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:21:37

Thank you, Ms Laura CASTEL.

Madam Secretary General.

Mme Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatie, Secrétaire Générale du Conseil de l'Europe

16:21:40

In the case you mentioned, of course, we are following developments after the Supreme Court decided to examine the appeals filed against the government-granted pardons to the jailed Catalan pro-independent leaders.

Since there is the appeal, I can only reiterate a call to all sides to show restraint and not to escalate political tensions during the examination of judiciary. In that respect, I really trust in the independence of the judiciary in Spain. Needless to say, we continue to follow the matter very closely.

Of course, I cannot comment the decisions of any court, including the decision of the Supreme Court. In more general, I'm aware of the resumption of the dialogue on Catalonia. I can only encourage all parties to remain committed to the process, which can be of benefit to all.

I think nothing can replace dialogue in good faith, so I hope this will continue.

Thank you.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:22:57

Thank you, Madam Secretary General.

We now take three questions together as we are running out of time.

The first question comes from Ms Nigar ARPADARAI from Azerbaijan.

[You have] 30 seconds, Ms Nigar ARPADARAI.

Mme Nigar ARPADARAI

Azerbaïdjan, CE/AD

16:23:11

Thank you very much, Madam Secretary General.

Thank you for your time.

Bearing in mind the interest of the Council of Europe in the processes in the South Caucasus, and the normalisation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, I would like to ask if there are any plans by the Council of Europe on the restoration of transport links between the Nakhchivan region of Azerbaijan and the rest of Azerbaijan.

May I remind you that Nakhchivan is home to half a million people. It was isolated by Armenia for 30 years. All the existing infrastructure on the territory of Armenia was destroyed by the Armenian side.

This issue was stipulated in the trilateral statement, but unfortunately this urgent matter didn't find any address from the Armenian side.

So my question is if there are any plans of the Council of Europe, and what can you do in this situation.

Thank you.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:24:00

Thank you, Ms Nigar ARPADARAI.

The next question comes form Ms Hripsime GRIGORYAN from Armenia.

You also have 30 seconds.

Mme Hripsime GRIGORYAN

Arménie, SOC

16:24:07

Thank you.

Madam Secretary General, one of the key deliveries of the Reykjavík Summit is recommitting to the convention system and to the court, while a number of countries failed to implement the decisions of the courts, by this undermining the credibility of the convention system.

Among them is the decision of the court's interim measure on the Lachin Corridor blockade.

So my question is: what concrete steps are you going to take to ensure the rights of the people and their security living in conflict areas including Nagorno-Karabakh, and to ensure that the decisions of the court are implemented?

Thank you.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:24:46

Thank you very much.

I have to say very much sorry to Ms Eka SEPASHVILI from Georgia, because I forgot her on the list on behalf of the speakers.

Ms Eka SEPASHVILI is going to ask her question on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.

You have the floor. Sorry.

Mme Eka SEPASHVILI

Géorgie, CE/AD, Porte-parole du groupe

16:25:05

Never mind.

Thank you.

We highly welcome the Reykjavík Summit Declaration, especially considering Russia's aggressive war against Ukraine, ongoing occupation of Georgian territories, and other conflicts.

In this regard, the Summit succeeded, having most of the heads in place during the Summit.

Now the organisation experiences a shortage of financing and wide fundraising processes underway.

In this regard we are interested in which kind of activities and which fields will be financed in the case of attracting this additional amount of money.

Is the organisation going to spend more attention and more funds on the public awareness raising activities?

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:25:57

Thank you, Ms Eka SEPASHVILI. Again, I'm so sorry.

Madam Secretary General, could you answer these 3 questions?

Mme Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ

Croatie, Secrétaire Générale du Conseil de l'Europe

16:26:06

Thank you very much and thank you for mentioning, again, the Summit.

Indeed, I think that was the showcase of how, when we have a substantial event with the largest-ever gathering of our leaders in the history of the Council of Europe, we also had the largest-ever coverage throughout with more than 1 000 articles on the Summit itself. So, it is clear that the more information we can provide and the more attractive work we can have, that there is coverage.

Coming back to the issues that were decided at this Summit.

It was clear that the Summit was a success.

It was clear that the leaders gathered because there was an urgent need to address some issues – front and central – of how to continue assisting Ukraine, but also how to counter backsliding in democracy, how to give more prominence to the work of the European Court of Human Rights and the Convention system, how to address new or evolving challenges.

With the ambition that is certainly there in the Declaration, it was clear that in proposing the budget, which is my duty as the Secretary General, I had to address priorities that were tabled at the Summit.

I also had to propose the budget, which is the increase in real terms. This increase is in the framework document that I just presented to the deputies. It is actually mirroring the Declaration and the priorities. It is the structure that has changed as compared to what the structure of such a document would be without this document. Certainly, the amount that concerns and that I pledged for in this framework document is aimed at first to addressing the priorities, which were flagged by our leaders.

Now, for the general public awareness campaign, I think we have recently started with several things including more presence of the Council of European's respective member States. I can only repeat here, I know that quite a number of delegations are doing so back home and in the parliaments. Also we divide the public raising awareness of what we do here and what is important there for the citizens of each of us all together, all 46 member States, but also for each particular member State.

Certainly, awareness-raising is an important part, especially in the digital era where we live and where people really want to see information in real-time and information that they can easily, if I can say, absorb. In that respect, the Deputy Secretary General is working on a visibility project in our member States.

Now, for the issue of how to bring peace in the area of the Caucasus in our two countries, I can just say that what the Council of Europe proposed as one of the measures that would be important and completely fall within the competence of the organisation is confidence-building measures.

I can inform you that three rounds of these confidence-building measures have been concluded. We believe that continuing in this way would be, I would say, the Council of Europe way of dealing with issues, restoring the dialogue and, most particularly, the trust between the parties. 

Now, as to how to restore peace from different angles, the road to Nakhchivan or the peace in Nagorno-Karabakh, and something that pertains to human rights, which is the restoration of rights to free passage through the Lachin Corridor, I can tell you that what I, from my side, ask is a high-level secretarial delegation agreed with both parties to go to each one.

The one in Azerbaijan already took place two or three weeks ago. The one for Armenia is agreed in two weeks' time. The purpose of that is really to review all the pertinent issues linked with the Council of Europe and the particular countries, but also in this respect, linked with how to find a way to having more dialogue and restoring peace within Azerbaijan and Armenia.

I think that the work that is being done recently. Someone already referred to that, and it is very important. I could only encourage more dialogue, more listening to each other, and more working together on open issues. These delegations that go to both countries are also there in order to ask each particular side to address the issues that are open, like you know prisoners of war, the missing persons, the mine maps or all the respective other issues that are at stake. 

I believe that, again, nothing can replace this working together on peace.

Certainly, we can assist that the main and important part relies on the leaders of the two countries. I can see that the meetings are taking place, but also the problems are still there. They are not solved, but the problem is also not from yesterday.

To finish, you remember that when both countries acceded, back in history, to the Council of Europe, both undertook the obligation to find a peaceful solution to the important issues which are at stake.

I can only recall that because it remains pertinent more than ever.

In particular, when we have a war and fully-fledged aggression against Ukraine, we certainly need to have more resolution of conflicts rather than new ones arising.

Thank you.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:33:27

Thank you very much, dear Ms Marija PEJČINOVIĆ-BURIĆ, Madam Secretary General.

I now have to interrupt the list of questions.

May I thank you again for your fruitful dialogue with our Assembly and we are looking forward to seeing you next time in this hemicycle.

Thank you very much.

We now will hear the address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, Mr Péter SZIJJÁRTÓ.

After this address, Mister Minister will take questions from the floor.

Mister Minister, may I say welcome back, as you are an habitué of addressing our Parliamentary Assembly.

We especially recall your time as the chair of the Committee of Ministers during the Hungarian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers; that was two years ago from May to November 2021. You intervened in both our June and September sessions for an exchange of views about your presidency then.

The context is of course very different on several aspects since 2021, as we all know.

We are eager to hear your views on the current challenges facing Europe in the context of the ongoing war of aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine and the implementation of the Fourth Summit decisions.

Mister Minister, without further delay, could I invite you to take the floor?

Discours : M. Péter SZIJJÁRTÓ, ministre des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce de la Hongrie

M. Péter SZIJJÁRTÓ

Ministre des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce de la Hongrie

16:35:00

Okay, perfect, thank you.

Dear Mister Speaker, Madam Secretary General, Dear Colleagues,

First of all, I would like to express my appreciation to you, Mister Speaker, and to all of the colleagues to allow me to address the Plenary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

I have asked for this opportunity for two reasons. First, that I, myself, have been a member of the Hungarian Parliament for the 22nd year now; therefore, I pay great respect towards all our fellow parliamentarians. I know very well how important democratic legitimacy is behind governmental policies, which legitimacy is being ensured by stable support by the parliament.

The second reason why I have asked for this opportunity, Mister Speaker, was that I do believe, still do believe, in the importance of dialogue and discussion, especially in times when we have to be confronted with so many challenges, as you were kind enough to refer to. Currently, the Council of Europe is the widest platform in Europe offering a chance to discuss the most pressing issues ahead of our beloved continent. I have asked for this opportunity, Mister Speaker, even if I knew, even if I know, that what I'm going to say here will not fall in line with the opinion of the majority of the colleagues in this hemicycle. I know that many of you will absolutely not like what I would say now, but I do believe that democracy is about confronting our opinions, even if that opinion belongs to the majority or the minority.

Of course, I will not take too much of your time because, as once again, someone who spent more than 21 years in parliament, I would love to spare more time for questions and to address those issues which are of your concern. As an introduction, may I say that we are 78 years after the conclusion of the Second World War and there is a war again taking place on our continent, which is a regional war with global impacts. I do believe that the most pressing question today is whether this war will remain a regional war or whether is it going to become a global war. Currently, the impacts are global and the question is whether the war will become global.

Seventy-eight years after the conclusion of the Second World War, I do believe it is not an exaggeration to say that our continent is being faced with the most serious economic and security-related challenges.

Our firm opinion is that the European people are not responsible for the war in Ukraine. It is also our firm belief that the European people are not being involved in this war. Some of the political leaders, definitely, are in a state of war psyche. That is not a question. Well, I still do believe that this war in Europe is not the war of the people. This war in Ukraine is not the war of the people of Europe. All citizens, all people in Europe, do pay the price of this war in the form of skyrocketing energy prices, skyrocketing inflation, prices of commodities, food, and so on and so forth.

The war was launched a year and four months ago, and during this one year and four months, Europe was not able to push this war towards the end. We were not successful in reaching peace throughout these 16 months. The risk of escalation is more serious than ever. Unfortunately, our competitiveness, when it comes to the European economy, is worse than ever. What else could we say putting into consideration that we have to pay seven times more for gas than is paid in the United States or three times more for electricity than what is paid in China, for example?

We do believe, Mister Speaker and dear colleagues, and here I am pretty sure we will have a tough debate at the end of the introduction but we do believe that Europe has committed two major mistakes in this regard: first, that we have been going deeper and deeper into the policy of sanctions and, second, that we have kind of accepted or have not turned down the invitation of the United States into a competition, the name of which is who helps Ukraine more, militarily speaking. Entering into a competition with the number one military superpower in the world, regarding military support, that was a very illogical step, not to leave it out of consideration that since the war has been taking place in Europe, we Europeans have to be faced with the most serious impacts of it.

Unfortunately, we are getting deeper and deeper into a very dangerous spiral because the more weapons being delivered to Ukraine, the longer this war will take. The longer this war takes, the more people will die. We do believe that the most important duty of the international community currently should be to save the lives of the people. Saving the lives of the people is not possible with war; saving the lives of the people is only possible with peace.

On sanctions, I was there by discussing the issues of all 10 packages so far. I was there when the first package was discussed. I do remember very clearly the two goals which were attached to the sanctions. First, that because of the sanctions, Russia will go down on its knees when it comes to the economy. The second goal is they will have to stop the war. We are 16 months later, after 10 packages of sanctions  introduced, and we do not see any of these two goals coming closer. Russia is definitely not on its knees when it comes to the economy, and the war is getting more and more brutal.

If you look at what the United States has done, economically speaking, they have introduced the IRA, the Inflation Reduction Act, which is a regulation which openly, openly, gives priority to US companies countering the European companies. Here with the sanctions, the European companies are being confronted with more and more economic challenges and hurdles. If you put these two next to each other, it becomes obvious that because of the difference in the approach of the economic reactions given to the war on both sides of the ocean, the competitiveness of the European companies, thus the competitiveness of the European economy, is declining very badly.

Dear Colleagues,

We Hungarians are in a very, very special situation here. We are a neighbouring country to Ukraine. Therefore, the risk of escalation is the most serious for us neighbours, because if a war is being escalated, it is not being escalated thousands of kilometres away but in the direct neighbourhood for the first time.

Second, I am standing here representing a nation, dear colleagues, a nation, members of which are dying in this war given the fact that there is a significant Hungarian community living in Ukraine: 150 000. Since they are Ukrainian citizens, they are being mobilised to the Ukrainian army, and most of them are being deployed on the front line. Unfortunately, a lot of them are dying. We do not want any more Hungarian people – we do not want any more people – to die in this war. Therefore, once again, I would like to underline that the most important duty of the international community nowadays should be to save the lives of the people.

We see another very serious impact of this war coming, Mister Speaker and dear colleagues. This impact is that the world is going to be divided into blocks again. If the world is being divided into blocks again, that is the worst possible news we can be confronted with. We Hungarians, who are located in Central Europe, know how it feels when there is a conflict between East and West. Whenever there was a conflict between East and West throughout our history, we always turned out to be the losers. Whenever there is civilised co-operation, a civilised division of labour, a civilised way of working together between East and West, it is always much better news for us than a conflict between the two. Instead of the world being divided into blocks, we would prefer connectivity in the future. Connectivity is based on mutual respect and targeting mutual benefits. Unfortunately, there are some impacts which are strengthening and are about to accelerate this phenomenon of the world being divided into blocks, namely the efforts of some European friends of ours to decouple the European economy from the Eastern economies.

Please do remember that for long decades, a very firm basis for European economic growth was a good combination, good co-operation between the highly developed Western technologies and the cheap, relatively easily accessible natural resources from the East. These two, technologies from the West, natural resources from the East, have been combined for the sake of a quickly-growing European economy. Now that is over. Everybody knows it is over. But if we decouple the European economy from the Chinese, now that is going to be a knockout for the European economy. Why? Because you cannot decouple two economies which have a trade volume of €865 billion in a year.

Not to speak about the fact, dear colleagues, that based on political decisions, the backbone of the European economy and the backbone of European competitiveness, namely the automotive industry, has to become a totally new industry by going through a revolutionary set of changes. When the strategy of creating electromobility in Europe was fought over, those who are thinking about this issue thought about how Western companies will be able to build fantastic electric cars in the future but no one thought about who will provide the batteries for that. This is the first time ever when in a major European industry, which determines the achievement of the entire European economy for many, many years or decades, our European companies are totally dependent on Eastern supplies, whether we like it, whether we dislike it, whether we are brave enough to speak about it, whether we are not. This is a situation which has been created by political decisions here in Europe.

Dear colleagues,

We look at the Europe–China co-operation and we look at the East-to-West division of labour as a chance, as an opportunity, and not as a threat or not as a risk.

We in Hungary have proved that if we become a meeting point for Eastern and Western investors, we can take a lot of benefit out of it for our people.

Therefore, I think it would be great if, instead of decoupling here in Europe, we could start a debate about how to build connectivity further and how we Europeans take advantage of East-to-West co-operation and sharing labour in the future.

Mister Speaker and dear colleagues,

I would like to raise an issue when it comes to the possible long-term negative impacts of the war in Ukraine, an issue which has been raised now more and more often by our African colleagues, some of them who asked the question of what will happen to those weapons which are being delivered to Ukraine?

What will happen to them? Is there any guarantee that these weapons will not appear in certain regions of the world which are fragile and where just part of these weapons could cause tremendous tragedies? This is not my question. This is the question of representatives of those regions and countries which are fragile and which can be destabilised very easily. We all know that in these fragile regions, regional conflicts can occur very easily. If they do occur, then extremism, the threat of terror, and additional flows of illegal migration are going to be launched.

Dear colleagues, Mister Speaker,

Here in Europe, I understand that we Hungarians do belong to a minority when it comes to our position regarding the war, regarding how the war should be resolved, and how we should reach peace as soon as possible. Please do believe me that the war is more and bigger than just Europe and than just the transatlantic area.

When it comes to the world, the vast majority of countries are absolutely interested in peace coming as soon as possible. We Hungarians do believe in this big global majority which wants peace as soon as possible once again.

We Hungarians have been under constant attack and pressure obviously because of representing this position of ours.

I have to tell you that, like in all cases, we Hungarians will always represent a Hungarian position in this regard. We cannot look at these issues from the angle of anyone else, just our own one. Therefore, we will always represent the Hungarian national interest, which is to create peace as soon as possible in our neighbourhood. This is not only the position of the government in Hungary. I would like to underline this at the end of my introduction, Mister Speaker. This is not only the position of the Hungarian government. This is the will of the people in Hungary.

We had elections just a bit more than a month after the war had broken out. There were two very clear alternatives offered by the ruling party and the opposition.

We, the ruling party, made it very clear that if we were elected, we would do our best in order to keep Hungary out of the war in order to maintain our safety and security and contribute to all efforts to create peace and that we would definitely not take part in delivering weapons to this war.

The opposition has represented the, let us say the European mainstream position. The outcome of the election was very clear: a landslide victory for the ruling party, more MPs than ever, a bigger majority than ever, more votes and more support than ever. More than two-thirds of the seats in the parliament are being occupied by the government parties as an outcome of the election just right after the outbreak of the war. Therefore, we consider it as our obligation, as our duty, to stand up for our national interest. That is why regardless of all of the pressure and all of the attacks and knowing that this is now not a majority position in Europe, we will stand up for peace in our neighbourhood, and we stand up for the necessity of saving lives of the people.

Mister Speaker,

I really do appreciate the opportunity that I could address the Plenary. I am more than honoured to take the questions of fellow parliamentarians.

Once again, thank you so much for this opportunity. 

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:54:19

Thank you very much, Mister Minister, for your address to this Assembly, and [for] your awareness that not everything that you say would be supported by the whole Assembly as a whole.

As a parliamentarian, you are prepared. Now you have shown your preparedness to take questions from our parliamentarians.

We first take the five speakers of the political groups.

The first question comes from Ms Arta BILALLI ZENDELI from North Macedonia. She speaks on behalf of the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group.

Madam Arta BILALLI ZENDELI, you have the floor. (Your microphone...)

Mme Arta BILALLI ZENDELI

Macédoine du Nord, SOC

16:55:02

Thank you, Mister Chair.

Dear Minister of Hungary, there is no doubt that upon accession into the Council of Europe, the Republic of Hungary has accepted the values and the principles of the organisation. But recently, some very important observers and bodies have stated that there are some lacks of rule of law and democracy in Hungary, unfortunately.

I would like to know what your government is doing in order to address the issues related to judiciary independence, the restrictions on civil society organisations, as well as restrictions on the freedom of the media.

Thank you.

M. Péter SZIJJÁRTÓ

Ministre des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce de la Hongrie

16:55:49

Dear colleagues, thank you so much for your question.

This is an ongoing debate for the last 13 years, for the time we have been in government. I have to tell you that these are perceptions. These are perceptions which have nothing to do with reality.

I can probably tell you that Hungary is a democracy where the freedom of the media, freedom of speech, freedom of the judiciary is being absolutely guaranteed for every individual and for every community in the country. We are proud of that.

The reason why we have had this debate for such a long time is that the mainstream in Europe cannot digest that for the last 13 years a government has won four continuous elections with a two-thirds majority, which represents a right-wing, patriotic, Christian democratic conservative approach, anti-mainstream approach, if you like, and is being successful.

I think as long as we are there in office and as long as we are successful, these attacks and these accusations will be out there. Once again, I'd like to ensure you that we in Hungary are absolutely committed to those values which this organisation is so proud of.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

16:57:17

Thank you, Mister Minister.

The next question comes from Ms Andrea EDER-GITSCHTHALER from Austria. She speaks on behalf of the Group of the European People's Party.

Ms Andrea EDER-GITSCHTHALER.

Mme Andrea EDER-GITSCHTHALER

Autriche, PPE/DC, Porte-parole du groupe

16:57:28

Thank you, Mr President,

Dear Minister,

I actually wanted to ask you about the release of the traffickers in Hungary. Now, because of your speech, I have to ask you how you stand on solidarity in Europe, on the values of the European Parliament and on Europe? I am a bit shocked by what you said. We all want peace in Europe and we all support Ukraine in its struggle. But what you said; that it is not sure where the weapons will go, that shocked me a bit. How do you come to that statement?

M. Péter SZIJJÁRTÓ

Ministre des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce de la Hongrie

16:58:11

Dear colleagues,

Thank you very much for your question.

I understand we both are representing countries which are not delivering weapons to Ukraine.

I hope I understand it clear.

Your Minister of Defence had a very fruitful and constructive meeting with our Minister of Defence, where both of them have made it very clear that our two countries have not been delivering weapons to Ukraine and will not deliver weapons to Ukraine.

On migration and on the traffickers or the smugglers, I have to tell you that we feel that we are being left alone a bit. We are located at the external border of the European Union. It is our duty to protect that border, it is our duty to protect the European Union as well. It is our duty to keep the migrants out.

Last year we have kept 265,000 migrants out of Hungary and out of the European Union.

I regret to say it, but it would be much better if your border guards helped us to protect the external border of the European Union than lining up on the Hungarian-Austrian border. We Hungarians have spent around 2 billion euros so far on protecting the border, including the costs stimulated by the traffickers kept in jail in Hungary.

We have received one percent, one percent of this sum of money from Brussels, so when we speak about solidarity I'd like to ask you to put this into consideration as well. Keeping the migrants out of Europe, contributing to the security of Europe, is a very clear sign of solidarity, which we will perform in the future proudly as well.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:00:12

The next question is from Mr Damien COTTIER, from Switzerland, on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mr Damien COTTIER?

M. Damien COTTIER

Suisse, ADLE, Porte-parole du groupe

17:00:23

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

We've already had the opportunity to have dialogues and discuss our disagreements. Thank you for being here to discuss these disagreements, but they run deep.

Back then, we were talking about the situation of LGBT communities in your country who are under pressure. Today, the disagreement is about what peace means, because you talked a lot about interests but little about values. This organisation is about values, but it's also about Europe's interests, because it's not in Europe's interest to let one country, the Russian Federation, invade another country. It has already done so, in part, in Georgia, then in Crimea, and now throughout Ukraine, because this will destabilise our continent.

Instead of just talking about interests and appeals for peace, wouldn't you do better, Minister, to use your influence with Moscow to prevent this country from violating international law on a daily basis through an illegal war of aggression, and from committing almost daily violations of the Geneva Conventions?

[Applause]

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:01:23

Thank you, Mister Damien COTTIER.

Mister Minister, the floor is yours.

M. Péter SZIJJÁRTÓ

Ministre des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce de la Hongrie

17:01:32

Dear colleague, thank you so much for your question.

First of all, I'd like to make it clear that I think that there's no difference between us when it comes to the question what do we think about the war, because this war must be condemned, as we have condemned it from the very beginning and as we keep saying this.

The question is how quickly this war can or should come to its end and how we can save the lives of as many people as we just can.

Therefore, I'd like to tell you that I still do believe that it is important to keep the channels of communication open, because if we do not keep the channels of communication open, for me it would mean that we give up the hope for peace and this is something that we would not like to do.

When it comes to our interactions with our Russian counterparts, we always make it very clear that this war is bad to us, this war has very negative and bad impacts on Hungary and this war has put a lot of challenges ahead of us as well. Therefore, it would be our interest as well that this war comes to its end as soon as possible.

So, I think we have no difference in what we think about the war itself, but we definitely do have a difference in how we see to come to the end of the war as quickly as it is just possible.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:03:07

The next speaker is Mr Thibaut FRANÇOIS, from France, on behalf of the European Conservatives Group.

Mister Thibaut FRANÇOIS, you have the floor.

M. Thibaut FRANÇOIS

France, CE/AD, Porte-parole du groupe

17:03:21

Thank you, Mister Chairman.

Dear Minister,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The European Pact on Migration and Asylum presented by the Brussels Commission aims to remedy the shortcomings of European asylum policy by organising, and I quote, "the management of asylum". Ultimately, the only consequence of this pact will be to organise the unconditional recovery of illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean Sea, and to dispatch them in an authoritarian manner to all EU member States, thereby giving a free hand to smugglers and human traffickers, and transforming the Frontex agency into a mere hostess for migrants.

Mister Minister, can you explain Hungary's position on this disastrous migration pact, and on what is at stake for other European countries?

Thank you very much.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:04:04

Thank you Mr Thibaut FRANÇOIS [spoken in French].

Mister Minister. 

M. Péter SZIJJÁRTÓ

Ministre des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce de la Hongrie

17:04:09

Well, dear colleague, thank you so much for your question.

I think it's an extremely important issue now and one of the major challenges ahead of us in Europe. Your question gives me a chance to make it very clear that we make a clear distinction between refugees and migrants, because we in Hungary are located in the neighbourhood of Ukraine, in the neighbourhood of the war.

So far we have accepted more than a million, I want to underline: more than a million refugees from Ukraine. We have allowed everybody to come in. Currently there are 1 300 schools and kindergartens in Hungary which are enrolling refugee kids and refugees students. We encourage the employers to employ the refugees who come to us, we ensure them equal access to healthcare and education as well.

So, when it comes to refugees, it's a total different issue compared to when it comes to migrants. And here I think the major distinction comes from international law, and I do hope that international law... there's an agreement among all of us that international law has to be respected in this regard as well. Because international law says that if someone is being forced to leave his or her home because of war or any other events, then he or she is entitled to stay temporarily on the territory of the first safe country, as long as the reasons why he or she had to leave his home are there.

But international law does not say that anyone would be allowed to pick a country where he or she would like to live in and get there by violating borders of a series of countries.

First safe country.

This is a phenomenon that should be respected. We in Hungary are protecting the external border of the European Union. Our neighbour is Serbia. The neighbour of Serbia is North Macedonia, then Bulgaria, Türkiye, and the others. These are all peaceful countries, no one has the right, I want to underline, no one has the right irrespectively from any other circumstances to violate the borders between these countries, because these are peaceful countries, and no one is allowed, no one is entitled to violate a border between two peaceful countries, because that's a violation of a sovereignty of those countries.

Therefore, we Hungarians will always stick to our right to make a sovereign decision whom we allow to enter the territory of our country and whom not, and with whom we are ready to live together and with whom not. And we cannot let this sovereign right of ours to be transferred either to Brussels or to Berlin or to Paris or to Washington or whatever. This is a sovereign decision, must be a sovereign decision of a sovereign country and this must be the case in the future as well.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:07:23

Thank you, Mister Minister.

And the last question on behalf of the political groups comes from Mr George KATROUGALOS from Greece on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

Mr George KATROUGALOS, 30 seconds.

M. George KATROUGALOS

Grèce, GUE, Porte-parole du groupe

17:07:37

Dear colleague,

If I understood you well, you believe that the war in Ukraine would end by some kind of diplomatic plan.

I'd like to ask you if your country is ready to propose such a plan, and what are going to be the main points of it, especially in comparison with plans that we already know - the Draghi plan, the Chinese proposal, the Brazilian proposal.

Thank you.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:08:06

Thank you, Mr George KATROUGALOS.

Mister Minister?

M. Péter SZIJJÁRTÓ

Ministre des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce de la Hongrie

17:08:09

My dear colleague,

It's good to see you again, and thank you for your question here.

You're right, I mean, I hope you agree, and I hope I'm right. You think that this war does not have a solution on the battleground; this war only has a solution around the negotiating table. Now, I'm not representing a world power which would be entitled to put forward the peace plans. There's one thing we can definitely do, and I have done it already.

A couple days after the launch of the war, I called Minister Sergey Lavrov, and I called the head of the presidential administration in Kyiv, Mr Andrii Yermak. I told both of them that we Hungarians are always at their disposal: both. Hungary is ready to provide both sides with a platform, with a physical location of any kind of talks, ensuring level playing fields, safety, security, fairness. I told them that I would not call them another time because I think that this is such a serious issue that if you make a statement once, you have to stick to it. And we stick to it. Whenever the two sides need us, we are there.

One thing for sure is we don't want more people to die. The longer this war takes, the more people will die.

Therefore, for us, it totally doesn't matter where the peace plan comes from. If the plan is about peace, I think it's worth having a look at it, and it is worth discussing it.

Therefore, I do hope that both sides will find the opportunity. We'll have the readiness to sit around the same table and discuss the issue of how to come to peace while respecting the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:10:15

Thank you, Mister Minister.

We now are going to take three questions together, if you allow me. And after the three questions you can answer them.

The first question comes from Mr Samad SEYIDOV from Azerbaijan.

Mr Samad SEYIDOV?

M. Samad SEYIDOV

Azerbaïdjan, CE/AD

17:10:29

Mister Minister, glad to see you again here.

We, together with Hungary, have a very close relationship.

Azerbaijan is very well known, not only for our oil and gas project, but at the same time, just recently in 2022, we signed a new renewable energy project with Georgia, Romania and Hungary.

What do you think, Mister Minister, about the future of these energy projects?

Thank you very much.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:11:00

Thank you, Mr Samad SEYIDOV.

The next question comes from Ms Elvira KOVÁCS from Serbia.

Ms Elvira KOVÁCS?

Mme Elvira KOVÁCS

Serbie, PPE/DC

17:11:07

Thank you, President.

Mister Minister,

It's a pleasure to see you here. As a representative of the Hungarian minority living in Serbia, I'm really witnessing the really good relations between Serbia and Hungary. I think part of it is because Serbia is constructive. Serbia understood in receiving our constructive proposals.

Therefore, I would like to ask you about minority rights: how we can refrain different countries from withdrawing already-achieved minority rights and how we can ensure that the rights of national minorities can be exercised also collectively. We should speak about collective political language, educational rights, and not only about individual rights.

Thank you.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:11:55

Thank you, Ms Elvira KOVÁCS.

And the third question before you are entitled to answer, Mister Minister, comes from Ms Hripsime GRIGORYAN from Armenia.

Ms Hripsime GRIGORYAN, you have the floor.

 

Thank you, and then we take a third question more from Mr John HOWELL from the United Kingdom.

Mr John HOWELL?

M. John HOWELL

Royaume-Uni, CE/AD

17:12:22

Thank you very much.

Can you please tell me why your country voted against Kosovo becoming a member of this Assembly and what it would take for you to change your mind on that?

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:12:39

Mister Minister, three quite interesting and not completely related questions.

Up to you.

M. Péter SZIJJÁRTÓ

Ministre des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce de la Hongrie

17:12:46

So, I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that the answers will be not related to each other either.

Dear colleagues, thank you so much for raising these important questions.

First of all, to our colleague from Azerbaijan, Mr Samad SEYIDOV, thank you very much for raising the issue of energy security in Europe.

We are a landlocked country in the heart of Europe, without any significant natural resources, when it comes to oil and gas, at least.

Therefore, we are dependent on imports, we are dependent on deliveries. And we hear, day by day, the demands from our European and American friends to diversify. We would be extremely happy to do so. Therefore, we have concluded very successful negotiations with Azerbaijan on starting the gas deliveries from Azerbaijan to Hungary, and we have a common political view that we build it up to a contract reaching one or two billion cubic meters annually.

But why we cannot perform this contract now is the lack of infrastructure in the South-Eastern part of Europe. And everybody should understand that the issue of energy supply has nothing to do with politics, and nothing to do with ideology, and nothing to do with political tastes. This is an issue of physical reality. And as long as gas can be delivered by pipeline and not in a backpack, the infrastructure determines the possibilities of the countries given by geography.

When we raise this issue in the European Union asking for European funds to upgrade infrastructure in the South-Eastern part of Europe to be able to add new sources to our national energy mix, the answer was that, well, the European Union is not very happy to spend on gas deliveries anymore because we need new renewables.

Fine, in 25 years. So we know what's going to happen then. But the question is what's going to happen until then. And when we are demanding day by day to diversify and when we make it clear that the issue of buying energy from different sources is not a matter of political taste and we ask for financial assistance to be able to add new sources and new delivery routes to our energy mix, then we get no support.

Therefore, I do believe that the European Union has lost credibility in this regard.

I do hope that together with our Romanian, Bulgarian, Turkish, Serbian friends together with Greece and Slovakia, we will be able to upgrade the regional energy infrastructure in a way that we can add alternative sources to our energy supply.

So we will be happy to welcome the first deliveries this year from Azerbaijan. But it comes to the question of Ms Elvira KOVÁCS. Thank you so much for raising this issue, Ms Elvira KOVÁCS. I'd like to tell you that we are proud to consider the rights of the national minorities as collective rights, as rights of communities. Therefore we are extremely grateful to the Serbian authorities, to the Serbian president, to the Serbian government to provide the Hungarians in Serbia with the rights which you are provided with.

Serbia should be a role model in this regard, my colleagues. A role model.

Therefore I'd like to ask you to take into consideration the recent opinion announced by the Venice Commission. Thank you Mister Titus CORLĂŢEAN for cooperating with us in this issue. If someone had told me eight years ago that we would cooperate on national minority issues with Romania, I would have laughed at it, but now this is the reality. So thank you for the co-operation.

The Venice commission made it very clear that the regulations which have been passed in Ukraine regarding the national minorities are absolutely not fitting with the international standards in this regard. I do hope that this plenary and this institution will do its best in order to ensure that all member States here will respect the international regulations and standards regarding the rights of the national minorities.

And our colleague from the United Kingdom raised the issue of our vote when it comes to the membership of Kosovo in this organisation. I have to tell you that we Hungarians who are living in the neighbourhood of the Western Balkans are super interested in peace and stability in that region. We do know that one of the very important preconditions of this long-lasting piece and stability is the settlement of the debate between Belgrade and Pristina. Principally speaking, we support all initiatives which bring us closer to the resolution of this conflict. We never support any initiatives that we think would not bring us closer.

I do believe that as long as this debate between Belgrade and Pristina is being resolved, the application on behalf of Kosovo to any international organisations is not helpful. I understand we have a debate on this issue, I respect your opinion and I do hope that you will respect mine as well. So, as soon as the debate between Belgrade and Pristina is being resolved, we are ready to come back to this issue.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:18:54

Thank you, Mr Minister.

I now can allow the last four questions, and then you can answer, and then we will be running out of time.

The first question comes from Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN from Romania.

M. Titus CORLĂŢEAN

Roumanie, SOC

17:19:09

Thank you President, Mr Minister, 

A topic related to national minorities as individual rights according to the European standards.

Mr Minister,

I'm interested in raising the same question that I raised to you in September 2021.

I'm interested in finding out if Hungary and the Hungarian government will adopt in the end, after all these years, the appropriate measures to assure a real representation of national minorities living in Hungary, in the Hungarian Parliament, starting of course with the ethnic Romanians, knowing the fact that the spokesperson system is not a real representation system in reality.

It's something that has been requested for more than 30 years by the ethnic Romanians living in Hungary, by the Romanian state as a key state in our bilateral dialogue, which represents a European standard, and after last year's judgment of the European Court of Human Rights against Hungary.

Thank you so much.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:20:04

Thank you, Mr Titus CORLĂŢEAN.

The next question comes from Mr Yuriy KAMELCHUK from Ukraine.

Mr Yuriy KAMELCHUK?

M. Yuriy KAMELCHUK

Ukraine, PPE/DC

17:20:10

Thank you.

I want to remind you; in 1956 more than 2 600 Hungarians were killed and almost 20 000 were wounded in Hungary in three days time by the Soviet Kremlin Army. Maybe you expected the same scenario in Kyiv. Ukraine is a shield of protection of European democracy. Ukraine is a part of European values and they always defend them.

Why has Budapest blocked the next transfer of funds from the European peace fund for military assistance to Ukraine? Why did Hungary try to block anti-Russian sanctions? How many Russian assets were blocked in Hungary, and when did you plan to transfer them to rebuild in Ukraine? Where is the Hungarian reaction for ecocide against Ukraine in Kakhovka? Who initiates the war in Ukraine? Who is responsible for all deaths of Ukrainian civilians? And the last one; 11 defenders of Ukraine who were held as prisoners of war by terrorist country Moscovia are actually located on the territory of Hungary. How does this happen actually? And when will they come back home to their families?

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:21:19

Thank you Mr Yuriy KAMELCHUK.

I give the floor to Mr Darko KAEVSKI from North Macedonia.

M. Darko KAEVSKI

Macédoine du Nord, SOC

17:21:26

Thank you Mister President, dear Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary,

The German Bundestag voted on a resolution that recognises the Macedonian language, identity and culture.

This resolution encourages North Macedonia to continue with the next steps of the EU accession process.

As a state, North Macedonia's path to the Union is supported by a credible and tangible progress.

Respected minister,

Which forthcoming action will Hungary undertake to clearly express its support for North Macedonia?

Thank you.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:21:59

I do not see Mr Andrej HUNKO for the fourth question.

I said we would have four, so the last. [said in French]

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:22:09

The last speaker is Mr Bernard FOURNIER from France.

Mr Bernard FOURNIER?

M. Bernard FOURNIER

France, PPE/DC

17:22:18

Dear Minister,

In its report published on 9 June, the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) called on Hungary to implement new measures to combat corruption among high-ranking politicians and the National Police.

What is your assessment of this report, and what measures do you intend to take in response?

Thank you very much.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:22:46

Thank you, Mr Bernard FOURNIER.

Mister Minister, could you please answer these four questions?

M. Péter SZIJJÁRTÓ

Ministre des Affaires étrangères et du Commerce de la Hongrie

17:22:55

Thank you, dear colleagues, for your questions. 

First of all, regarding the question of Mr Damien COTTIER, yes, you did raise this issue two years ago as well. I think there we were able to discuss that we have been applying two different systems when it comes to the representation of national minorities in our parliaments.

As we have been applying two different election systems, as well as you apply a double-chamber parliament and we have a single-chamber parliament, and in our case, all 13 recognised minorities are being represented in the parliament through their spokespersons who can initiate regulations and laws which are being discussed by the parliament, and there is a preferential right attached to the election of the representatives of the national minorities.

There, one-fourth of the votes is enough to elect a member of a national minority compared to elect anyone from a list of a party running in the elections. Currently, the German minority could overcome this 25 per cent preferential vote threshold so they are represented by a member of parliament, and the other 12 minorities are represented by spokespersons. I can assure you that we Hungarians are proud of those national communities, which have been living in Hungary. As a sign of that, we have increased the budgetary support to these minorities six times, compared to the budgetary support to them back in 2010 when we came to office.

When it comes to the question of Mr Yuriy KAMELCHUK,

Dear colleague,

In 1956, my country was run over by the Soviet Red Army. At that time, the whole Western world looked at what had been happening in Budapest and Hungary, and every kind of support was promised. Radio Free Europe circulated the biggest-ever fake news in our media history, saying that the Americans were around the corner to come to help us; no one came to help; and then my country stayed under communist occupation until 1990. And the whole European continent was very comfortable with that since until 1990, we have not received any kind of support, any voice heard that Hungary should be a free and sovereign country with the other Eastern European fellow countries of ours.

On the other hand, when it comes to the sanctions, dear colleague, I am pretty sure you are absolutely aware that Hungary has not vetoed any sanction packages so far in the European Union. But what we have also made clear, is that since the Hungarian people are not responsible for this war, we will not let the Hungarian people pay the price for this war. So, therefore, when it comes to the security of the energy supply, we would never agree with any sanctions which would endanger that because, as I just said in answering the question of our colleague from Azerbaijan, the matter of energy supply is a purely physical issue and has nothing to do with political taste.

When it comes to the European Peace Facility, my dear colleague, here I would like to ask you to help us. Your anti-corruption agency has listed the biggest Hungarian bank – the biggest systemic Hungarian bank – on the list of international sponsors of the war, based on four lies. And you know what kind of risk it takes when the number one bank of a country with the accounts of more than three million Hungarians is being listed on such a list in an absolutely unfair and false manner. The only thing we asked from the Ukrainian authorities in order to enable us to let the proposal through in the European Parliament, and European Union regarding the European Peace Facility, was to remove this bank from this list where it has nothing to do. And this very simple request of your authorities has not been heard. I would like to ask you to help us and remove the number one Hungarian bank from this list where it is totally unfairly listed and then we will be happy to come back to this question.

And when it comes to the 11 prisoners of war, my dear colleague, I think it is good news. I think it is good news they are free and there were discussions between the church and religious organisations, where the state of Hungary was absolutely not involved. Based on this agreement, these people were let free and those are free people, they are free in their movements in Hungary, and they do whatever they want to do. If they would like to get in touch with the Ukrainian authorities, they are free to do so - I can guarantee this to you.

When it comes to the issue of North Macedonia, dear colleague, Hungary is a fan of the enlargement of the European Union. We all know that the European Union needs the countries of the Western Balkans more than you need the European Union because this is the only possibility for the European Union to grow and now we need that very badly. The European Union has to be bigger, has to be stronger and has to include countries with huge growth potential like your own country.

This is one of the reasons why my experts from my ministry, paid by my ministry, are working for your Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help this very complicated procedure of European integration. You can be sure that Hungary is going to be the number one supporter of yours in the future as well when it comes to your European integration, as it has been the case for a very long time now when it was about your NATO integration. This is going to be the case now. We do consider it a shame that you are not members of the European Union yet. Your country should have been a member of the European Union from yesterday, and not from tomorrow, alongside the other countries from the Western Balkans. So you can count on us.

When it comes to our French colleague and for your question regarding corruption, you know, the Hungarian economy has performed a growth rate over the European average for the last years continuously. I am pretty sure that we can agree that in case there is systematic corruption in a country, the economy of that country cannot perform at such a growth rate. The Hungarian economy, based on our own specificities, we are pretty much dependent on FDI – on foreign direct investments – and foreign companies investing in Hungary.

Would you believe that we would have been able to break records of FDI in the last eight years year-by-year if there was systematic corruption in Hungary? They might be isolated cases.

I do believe that it might happen in every country, every country that is represented in the Council of Europe. These individual cases must be looked after and must be sanctioned according to national legislation. But when it comes to a question of systematic corruption, I just would like to ask you to talk to your French investors. I would ask you to talk to the German investors, who constitute the biggest group of investors in Hungary, or talk to the American investors and ask them whether they had been confronted with such a phenomenon, otherwise, we are speaking about perceptions again.

So we are proud of our achievements in this regard as well. You can be sure that your investors coming from France, Germany and other countries can count on the best possible circumstances and I will not be confronted with such a phenomenon.

Thank you so much, Mister Speaker.

M. Tiny KOX

Pays-Bas, GUE, Président de l'Assemblée

17:32:39

Thank you so much, Mister Minister.

I now have to conclude the questions to you.

May I thank you very much for your address to the Assembly and may I thank you and the members of our Assembly for the questions posed and the answers given. I wish you well.

The Assembly will hold its next public sitting tomorrow afternoon at 2:15 p.m. with the agenda that was approved today.

I invite you all to be in the hemicycle at your seats in good time tomorrow because before our presentation by the Chair of the Committee of Ministers, we shall enjoy a short performance by the Volny Chor who are from Belarus.

 

The sitting is adjourned.

La séance est levée à 17h30