AS (2013) CR 05

2013 ORDINARY SESSION

________________________

(First part)

REPORT

Fifth sitting

Wednesday 23 January 2013 at 10 a.m.

In this report:

1.       Speeches in English are reported in full.

2.       Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.

3.       Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.

4.       Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.

The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the report.

      (Mr Mignon, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 10.05 a.m.)

THE PRESIDENT* – The sitting is open.

1. Changes in the membership of committees

THE PRESIDENT* – Our first business is to consider changes to the membership of committees set out in Document Commissions (2013) 01 Addendum 5.

Are the proposed changes in the membership of the Assembly’s committees agreed to?

The changes are agreed to.

Members will recall that some committee nominations were disputed at our Monday morning sitting. As required by the rules, I returned those disputed nominations to the national delegations concerned. The nominations in respect of Mr Gaudi Nagy have now been confirmed by the Hungarian national delegation and are submitted again to the Assembly.

Mr Gaudi Nagy was nominated to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. The details are set out in document Commissions (2013) 01, Addendum 6.

Are those nominations agreed?

Mr Frécon, you have the floor for 30 seconds.

Mr FRÉCON (France)* – President, I would like to challenge this nomination if I may do so. I believe that that is what we need to do under the procedure.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Frécon. Under Rule 43.7, if a confirmed committee nomination is disputed a second time, it is for the Assembly to decide the matter.

We will proceed directly to vote on each disputed renomination. I call Mr Gaudi Nagy. You have the floor for 30 seconds.

Mr GAUDI NAGY (Hungary) – I would like to inform my distinguished colleagues about the decision taken yesterday by the Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs. The committee rejected the challenge to my credentials and said that it was against the Rules of Procedure. I and many of my colleagues are aggrieved because we feel that such a challenge has no legal grounds. My colleague did not refer to any facts related to the challenge. It is an extraordinary case, because I am an active member of the committee and I am devoted to the defence of human rights. It would be undemocratic to challenge my credentials, so I ask colleagues to support my membership and to give the floor to the opinions of everyone who is working for human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Europe.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Gaudi Nagy. I did say 30 seconds, and you went a bit beyond that. Before you arrived, I reminded members of the committee’s position and I explained the situation. I will not repeat that. A member is challenging the nomination, which it is his right to do under the rules. In accordance with the rules, I must now ask the Assembly to vote on whether to approve your nomination.

       We come to the nomination of Mr Gaudi Nagy to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee.

The vote is open.

The nomination is confirmed.

      We come next to the nomination of Mr Gaudi Nagy to the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.

The vote is open.

The nomination is confirmed.

2. Georgia and Russia: the humanitarian situation in the conflict- and war-affected areas

THE PRESIDENT* – The first item of business this morning is the debate on the report entitled “Georgia and Russia: the humanitarian situation in the conflict- and war-affected areas”, Document 13083, to be presented by Ms Tina Acketoft on behalf of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.

In order to finish by 12 noon, in time for our free debate, we must interrupt the list of speakers at about 11.10 a.m. to allow time for the reply and the votes.

Is this agreed?

It is agreed.

I call Ms Acketoft, rapporteur. You have 13 minutes in total, which you may divide between presentation of the report and reply to the debate.

Ms ACKETOFT (Sweden) – In war, there are generally winners and losers. However, for those caught up in a war, there are only losers. In the war between Georgia and Russia there continue to be losers year after year. That is how a frozen conflict works. After working for two years on this topic, my conclusion is that no one can escape responsibility for this continuing conflict. Georgia and Russia, and the de facto authorities in Sukhumi and Tskhinvali, are all responsible for ensuring that the people continue to be losers in economic, social and human terms. The people have been taken hostage by politics; that is the sad reality.

When I started work on the report, I never realised I was going to be looking at such a humanitarian Pandora’s box. The previous rapporteur on this issue, Ms Jonker, former Chair of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, was right to say there were only three issues: access, access and access. I would add that there is a fourth issue: access, still.

Access affects everything from earning a living to visiting the graves of deceased relatives, from the water pipes leading to people’s houses to the gas pipes providing them with heating. It involves access to gas, to firewood and to grazing land for cattle. It involves schoolchildren’s education and whether adults can cross borders, as well as missing persons and persons who have lost their homes. It has implications for the security of individuals, the families and communities. So much more could have been done – even small things – to improve the lives of the people on both sides of the administrative boundary line who have been affected by the conflict. However, while the elephant of status and recognition remains in the room, little progress will be made.

At the bottom of Pandora’s box we find hope, and that is the theme I want to explore. First, I shall say a few words about my hopes for Georgia. One cannot address this issue without first dealing with the issues of security and the safe return of internally displaced persons and refugees. The security situation is better now than it was immediately after the conflict, even though there are regular low-level incidents along the ABL. Having armies facing each other across the ABL is not a long-term solution. An international peacekeeping solution would serve the interests of the people living there, and the return of the IDPs is the goal. Little progress has been made on that, however, and the de facto authorities in Sukhumi and Tskhinvali openly say they will not allow the return of ethnic Georgians. Steps should be taken to build a climate of trust for eventual returns. Return is not an option; return is a right.

Accommodation is still a massive issue, and it is linked to livelihood, as that would help end the cycle of dependency that IDPs so often face. The government’s strategy on displaced persons and its action plan are constructive and show some commitment to dealing with the issue, but ongoing international support for both sides will be required. There are currently about 100 000 IDPs living in collective centres and 150 000 living in private accommodation.

The Government of Georgia has a strategy on the occupied territories, and its action plan is a mechanism for having some contact with the de facto authorities in order to deal with a number of issues. However, its need for control has killed some of the good intentions and weakened the impact. There are indications that the new government is ready to relax that control, which could allow for better relations between parties and improve prospects for easier access across the ABL.

I visited the Georgian region of Abkhazia, and I saw some hope at the bottom of the Pandora’s box, even though it was subsequently dampened down a little. There were signs in Gali region, which is almost entirely populated by ethnic Georgians, that life was gradually improving: water pipes were being replaced in the roads; security had improved after the appointment of the de facto president, who had started attacking racketeering and corruption; and people were crossing the ABL at Akhalgori bridge. Some children were able to cross the ABL, too, to pursue their education, and people were sorting out the documents needed for everyday life, obtaining so-called Abkhaz passports and keeping or reapplying for Georgian passports. The issue of missing persons was back on the agenda, too.

I could also see how things could be made a lot better by relatively small measures. Opening additional crossing points on the ABL or easing formalities would help to relieve the poverty of those living in the region and allow families easier access to one another. I saw, too, some of the problems for mother tongue education for children. This applied notably but not only to ethnic Georgian children. Steps should be taken to help mother tongue education for all ethnic groups. Children are the future and getting it wrong today means that we will lose this generation.

I am sad to say that I was unable to visit the Georgian region of South Ossetia. I was blocked by the issue of access. Where to enter and where to leave the territory were more important to the politicians than my getting in to look at humanitarian issues. However, I had the opportunity of visiting Moscow, where I gathered information about South Ossetia. It is an isolated region with a population of anything between 15,000 and 30,000 — we do not know. Already traumatised after previous wars and conflicts, the presence of thousands of Russian troops has certainly given the remaining population some sense of security in the short and medium term. However, for those forced to flee, it had the opposite effect. Conditions are harsh and making a living is difficult. The region is cut off geographically from one side and by the ABL from the other. Trade and economic activity across the ABL must be the single most important matter to improve the lives of people on both sides of the boundary and to start some confidence building.

The situation in Akhalgori is much more complicated. This area, which was taken over during the war, was predominantly ethnic Georgian. I was informed that it may now be only 50% ethnic Georgian, although some people have returned, while others are going back and forth but do not stay. There appear to be problems with safety, education for children, access across the ABL and documentation. All these problems create great uncertainty, preventing people from moving back.

The war and earlier conflicts also had an impact on the Russian Federation. A substantial number of people have ended up in Russia as refugees or as persons who have simply tried to make a better living for themselves. Again, housing remains the biggest issue. Another issue is the attitude of the authorities in the Russian Federation to Georgians, who have been singled out following the war with Georgia. It is still hoped that the new government in Georgia will provide a catalyst for better relations.

I have tried to give you a picture of the situation and the challenges ahead for us. No matter which side of the conflict you are on, I hope that you can read into this presentation an honest desire for progress and a belief that progress is possible without having constantly to be hijacked by status or recognition issues. I have tried throughout my work to bridge the divide between the two opposing positions. I have refused to introduce terminology insisted on by the Georgian side and to take out terminology at the insistence of the Russian side.

I believe that the Council of Europe and the Committee of Ministers can have a great impact, which is why I have made four recommendations. Anything that the Committee of Ministers can do to promote access is too important to neglect. Confidence-building measures in the region may seem a drop in the ocean, but they are essential for creating dialogue. Mother tongue education of children is essential and tackling violence against women, which is a growing issue in the area, is very important. Finally, I have also recommended that the Council of Europe assist the Georgian authorities with the integration of the IDPs. There are no miracle solutions for this region, but small steps can have a large impact on an individual person’s life.

The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. You have three minutes left to respond. I call Mr Sasi, who speaks on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party.

Mr SASI (Finland) – The war between Georgia and Russia on 08/08/08 was a striking event for the Assembly, as two member countries were at war. The Council of Europe took a political stance in Resolution 1633 in 2008 and Resolution 1683 in 2009, which we now recall. However, little progress has been made on the basis of those resolutions or in the negotiations in Geneva. Meanwhile, ordinary people in the area are suffering and their human rights are not respected. We now need practical steps that can be implemented to guarantee those human rights and I think that these proposals are something of that kind. A year ago, the Monitoring Committee discussed the need to do something realistic that could be implemented. These proposals are along those lines.

Therefore, the EPP fully supports the proposals made by Ms Acketoft in her excellent report. As she said, the key question is access, access and access. The number one issue is free movement across the administrative boundary line. It must be easier to cross the line and there should be more crossing points. That is a key question for the economic recovery of the area. On the right to property for those people who have property on the other side of the border, access is the key question for their ability to maintain their property. Access is also key to their ability to return to the area later.

The second point is to guarantee mother tongue rights for all minority people. That is a key question for the Assembly and one to which every member country has committed itself. That must be taken care of, as it reduces people’s fear about moving back to the area. The third item is the integration of resettled IDPs. It is important that those people can become a productive part of society. They should not be left in a camp; they should be able to participate in their society doing useful, good things. The Georgians especially need to do that. The fourth item is combating domestic violence, which is one way of combating violence more generally – it should start at home.

I emphasise the importance of having non-partisan international peacekeeping and monitoring organisations on both sides of the administrative boundary line. That is an important start for the peace process. We will now see whether the Council of Europe is relevant, which is why I ask both parties in the question to do their utmost to show that they are indeed committed to the values of this Assembly.

The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Sasi. I call Mr Bataille, who speaks on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Mr BATAILLE (France)* – I congratulate the rapporteur on the report and on the proposals, which are highly relevant. As she rightly recalled, the war between Russia and Georgia in 2008 led to a great deal of human tragedy in an area that had already suffered from a terrible war in 1993. Today, the issues of status and the demarcation lines must be resolved for the IDPs, who are living in situations of great distress. Some progress has been achieved, admittedly. Last week, the de facto authorities in Abkhazia announced that they would open three new crossing points, which is good news.

However, I am concerned about other aspects. The incident prevention and resolution mechanism for Abkhazia has been suspended since 2012. The framework of the Geneva discussions is now stalemated, but the Geneva talks constitute the only forum for dialogue between the two parties today. Among the issues that need to be addressed in that context are the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, which is of course the heart of the political problem. On Monday, when we put questions to Mr Saakashvili, the point was made that respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member States is a cardinal value of our Organisation.

In point of fact, the vast majority of the member States are committed to that principle. We need to envisage a new status that is agreeable to all parties to avoid a fresh humanitarian disaster, but we cannot compromise on territorial integrity and Georgian sovereignty. If we are to have a viable peace, we must address difficult questions about the right to return of the populations that had to flee separatist areas. Another factor that makes a complex situation even more complex is that no lasting solution can be envisaged unless the Russian Federation makes a positive contribution to the resolution of the conflict.

      Following the Georgian legislative elections in 2012, it seemed that there would be a new approach to relations with the Russian Federation. On 14 November, the Prime Minister, Mr Ivanishvili, called for normalisation of relations between Georgia and the Russian Federation. Last December, Mr Abashidze, the special representative for relations with the Russian Federation, and Mr Karasin, the Russian deputy Foreign Minister, held a meeting, which should be commended as a step in the right direction.

      I am still convinced that the Russian Federation, which will host the Winter Olympics in Sochi, only a few kilometres from Georgia, must commit itself to the stabilisation of the region, according to procedures that show respect for all parties. If we are to ensure an improvement in the humanitarian situation, we at least want the rapporteur’s proposals to be implemented. That means putting a stop to so-called die-hard public statements made by the de facto authorities in the separatist entities, and that the co-chairs of the Geneva talks should play their roles to the full.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Bataille. I call Mr Xuclà who will speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

      Mr XUCLÀ (Spain)* – We congratulate the rapporteur, our colleague Ms Tina Acketoft, on an excellent piece of work. It goes without saying that our group supports the report. This is our first opportunity in two years to debate the issue and to adopt various conclusions. I certainly support the rapporteur’s view on how progress can be made on the issues, but if we are to achieve consensus, we must look back to 8 August 2008, when war was declared between two member States of this international Organisation for the first time. I very much hope that we can one day revisit some of the political and legal issues on which we have been unable to agree in previous part-sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly.

      The fact is that there are 500 000 refugees and thousands of people in collective centres who are prohibited from moving freely around the territory. The IDPs cause all kinds of problems in terms of access to housing, and such internal movements also have a knock-on effect on education. That clearly leads to breaches of fundamental educational and linguistic rights, particularly in relation to mother tongue teaching. In this Chamber of the Council of Europe, we are particularly alive to any breaches of linguistic rights in Georgia, including in the occupied areas of the country flagged up by the rapporteur.

      Finally, we in the Parliamentary Assembly often suggest practical measures to improve people’s living standards, which is why we support the report and the draft recommendation. All members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe will of course support them, and I draw members’ attention to Amendment 4. I hope that you will consider all such measures as a first step, while we in the Assembly await a definitive debate on the consequences of the war between Georgia and the Russian Federation.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Xuclà. I call Mr Clappison, who will speak on behalf of the European Democrat Group.

      Mr CLAPPISON (United Kingdom) – I too congratulate the rapporteur on her work. The report is on the humanitarian situation, as it states in its title. It is important to maintain a tight focus on the humanitarian aspects, because that is how we can best serve the people affected. In what I will say, I certainly do not express or imply any views on the merits of the issues encompassed in the overall situation. We must recognise that there is a need for objectivity in separating humanitarian from other issues, and in not using them as a way of exploring other issues.

      I agree with the other speakers, including the rapporteur, that we should focus on the consequences for the everyday lives of the ordinary individuals, families and communities who are caught up in the situation. Their wishes for the future must, as much as possible, be respected. Where people have been displaced, we must create the conditions for them to return home and ensure their safety. It must be right and in the interests of those people for movement and communication across the administrative boundary line to be facilitated as much as possible, and for additional crossings to be opened. Looking at the issue in the round, some progress seems to have been made in those respects, but more work has to be done by the relevant authorities. I pay tribute to the International Committee of the Red Cross for its work, particularly in relation to missing people.

      The Assembly should continue its work on this matter. We should add our voice to all those who, internationally, are seeking conditions that are conducive to the voluntary, safe, dignified and unhindered return of all internally displaced persons and refugees to their places of origin. We must keep a tight focus on the humanitarian implications.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Clappison. I call Mr Kox who will speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

      Mr KOX (Netherlands) – I thank Ms Acketoft for the very difficult work that she has undertaken for the Assembly. The problem has a long history and continues to have huge consequences for the citizens involved – the IDPs and refugees.

My group thinks it unacceptable that Ms Acketoft was not given access to South Ossetia. Whatever the political reasons, this Assembly should not accept our rapporteurs being unable to do their work. I call on the Governments of Georgia, the Russian Federation and South Ossetia to find ways to allow our rapporteurs to do their work. It is impossible for the Assembly to be given a clear sketch of the situation if Ms Acketoft is not allowed to go there. The Council of Europe should demand unhindered access to South Ossetia, otherwise there is a black hole in Europe where the Council of Europe does not exist, which is unacceptable.

I hope that speakers in this debate do not talk too much about who did what and so created which problems. We should concentrate on who will do what in order for us perhaps to find solutions step by step, as Ms Acketoft is proposing. It is time to bring in parliamentary diplomacy. Until now, the governments have not been able to make progress, so members of the Assembly, and especially the Russian and Georgian parliamentarians, should now do what they were elected to do and represent the interests of the citizens involved.

      I call on you, Mr President, to put all the weight that comes from your re-election behind dialogue between the Georgian and Russian delegations to improve the situation. My group supports the report and the draft resolution. One country putting forward an avalanche of amendments is not helpful, because we want to adopt and endorse the report. I thank Ms Acketoft again for doing an extremely difficult job, although it is not time for congratulations because much work remains to be done. Let us call on our Russian and Georgian colleagues in the Assembly to come up with some form of dialogue, which you, Mr President, should put your weight behind.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Kox. I am open to your suggestion and, as far as I can, I will facilitate dialogue between the two parties. I believe in talking and in the value of parliamentary democracy. The refusal of access to Ms Acketoft to the two regions is unacceptable, and it is important that both sides understand the importance of all 47 member States allowing rapporteurs easy access to the relevant regions. We should discuss this issue in the Presidential Committee and in the next Bureau meeting.

      Would you like to answer the spokespersons of the political groups now, Ms Acketoft? No.

      I call Mr Bockel.

      Mr BOCKEL (France)* – I was an observer on behalf of our Assembly of the elections held in Georgia last October, and I noted the importance of this issue to people in deciding how to vote. The announcement in the middle of December of a meeting between Georgian and Russian diplomats was the first indication that the new government had some positive intentions. Although the first meeting led to no concrete decisions, it should nevertheless be welcomed, because without high-level meetings nothing will be resolved.

      Three years since we started work, the matter is still one of urgency. Apart from the political issue, the excellent work of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons reminds us of the quotidian drama experienced by displaced persons on both sides of the administrative boundary line. As rightly noted by the rapporteur, a slow but sure freezing of the conflict is taking place, so poverty and distress remain the quotidian experience of several groups of the population concerned.

Although I support the observations and recommendations of the Committee, I believe that we will not obtain results unless we act at a high level. Like Mr Kox, I believe that the Council of Europe could act as a mediator and organise regular dialogue among the parties concerned, as the European Union has managed to do in the case of Serbia and Kosovo. The exchanges between the two countries have allowed the solution of a number of practical and technical difficulties affecting the populations of the two countries, especially the minorities, all without getting into the issue of the status of Kosovo or any recognition of independence. I draw that parallel because I think that parliamentary diplomacy in the Assembly, through the President, could be helpful and that it would serve the Georgian, Abkhazian and Ossetian populations without any question of legitimising a situation that contradicts the most elementary rules of international law.

I also invite our Georgian and Russian Federation colleagues, especially those who are members, to participate in such a dialogue within the Assembly, as parliamentary forums often allow a more dispassionate analysis. The framework of the Parliamentary Assembly is well suited to organise such exchanges. Combining the efforts of states, our efforts, and the efforts of Georgian and Russian parliamentarians would make it possible for thousands of people to live decently. I congratulate the rapporteur on the report, and I believe that the Parliamentary Assembly can contribute to a solution.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. We have received the message loud and clear.

I call Ms von Cramon-Taubadel.

Ms VON CRAMON-TAUBADEL (Germany)* – I thank our rapporteur, Ms Acketoft, for her well balanced report. Mr Tiny Kox is right that we should not only look at what has happened in the past, but ahead. At government level, little is happening, so parliamentarians should pursue their own initiatives and diplomacy. Given what happened in 2008, we must look at the situation in Abkhazia and the Gali region. Political discussions are important. I had discussions at the time and noted the poverty of the population in that region. Since 1992, these people have been poverty stricken, and the report is right to say that there is much to be done in the Gali region. Neither the Russian, nor the Georgian nor the Ossetian Governments have done much to help those people. The housing situation for IDPs is very poor, with sometimes a second or even third generation living in very difficult circumstances.

Given the political situation, we should look at implementing previous recommendations and resolutions, extending and widening the dialogue, and dealing with the situation of the refugees. The rhetoric of the Georgian Government in the last few years, with different reintegration ministries, has been anything but helpful. So far, alas, the Russian side has failed to ratify and implement the six point plan of 2008. We should demand access for our observers to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and also request that the ratified treaties be implemented.

We should look at the efforts made towards the end of 2012, try to change the rhetoric, and make suggestions for proper dialogue. The Council of Europe should demand that agreements be respected. There is an opportunity for the Russian authorities to bring the conflict to an end, but a political solution will require the Council of Europe to ensure that the situation of the IDPs and the population concerned is also improved, through education and other measures.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Von Cramon-Taubadel. I call Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin.

Ms de POURBAIX-LUNDIN (Sweden) – I thank my dear colleague, Tina Acketoft, for an excellent report. War is always a disaster for civilians. Since the war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008, we have passed five or six resolutions. Georgia has done almost everything that we have asked of it, but Russia has hardly done anything.

      Last December, I visited the United Nations in New York, where I met the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, Ambassador Churkin. I asked whether he saw a solution to the frozen conflict in the near future. The answer was simply, “No.” The frozen conflict has to be solved in order to solve the humanitarian situation.

      I observed the election in Georgia last October. My area was the administrative border of South Ossetia, so I saw many camps for IDPs and many bombed houses, and I felt a lot of tension. As we all know, the election went well. It is the first time that power has changed hands in Georgia without a revolution. I therefore went home with a good feeling.

On winning, the leader of Georgian Dream said that the priority was to solve the frozen conflict. However, instead of solving the frozen conflict with Russia, the new government has put a lot of effort into doing other things. First, it has arrested opposition politicians, especially at the local level. More than 30 politicians have been arrested. To me, that suggests just one word: revenge. Secondly, it has blackmailed MPs and threatened their families in an attempt to get them to join Georgian Dream or to support it in parliament. Thirdly, it is attacking the independence of the judiciary. Fourthly, it is attacking the independence of the media.

Those are worrying developments for Georgian citizens, who already face the stress and pressure of the frozen conflict. Citizens in Georgia voted for the Georgian Dream; it seems that they have got a Georgian nightmare.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Chikovani.

      Mr CHIKOVANI (Georgia) – I thank Ms Acketoft for the tremendous job that she has done. The report and the resolution have been on the table for a long time. This is the first time in two years that the Council of Europe has addressed this issue.

      I remember a great Georgian statesman standing in this Chamber and saying, “I am Georgian, therefore, I am European.” Today, 500 000 Europeans are IDPs and refugees. Those people do not have access to their homes, their relatives, sufficient health care or a decent livelihood.

I call on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to stand resolute and say that the situation needs to be improved. We must do all that we can and support the resolution. None of us should forget why these things are happening. It is because more than 20% of the territory of my country is occupied by a foreign military force, which hampers direct relations between Georgians and our Abkhaz and South Ossetian brothers.

Those of us who represent the new Government of Georgia state resolutely that we will do our utmost to ensure that the rights of the IDPs and the refugees are restored. We have said numerous times that we will seek every opportunity to have direct contact and to start negotiating. It will not be easy, but it is our primary obligation to restore the essential rights of the IDPs. Today, those people are suffering tremendously. They have nothing that they can count on. Every word that the Council of Europe inscribes on its resolution will provide light at the end of the tunnel.

I call on members to support the amendments that reiterate the Assembly’s position that the territories of Georgia are occupied and that the rights of the IDPs should be restored and maintained.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Chikovani. I call Ms Erkal Kara.

      Ms ERKAL KARA (Turkey)* – I congratulate the rapporteur on her excellent report, which focuses on the humanitarian issues and leaves to one side the political issues. I am pleased to note that Ms Acketoft’s report is constructive and well balanced. It summarises the situation in that part of the world very well.

The report provides a clear and detailed map of how to deal with the internally displaced persons and with the sense of insecurity among the people who are affected by the lack of free movement. It is obvious that the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly have a role to play in improving the humanitarian situation and in restoring peace and calm to the areas affected by the conflict.

The possibility for refugees to return should not be confined to certain regions. Return to South Ossetia and Abkhazia should also be made possible. Humanitarian organisations should facilitate access to the areas affected by the conflict. It is a pity that Ms Acketoft was not able to observe the situation in South Ossetia. I share the view of some of my colleagues that new measures to build confidence should be introduced under the aegis of international organisations.

The task ahead is difficult and complex, and will require substantial resources. The Council of Europe may not have much money, but it has manpower, expertise and skills. I am delighted at how committed our Assembly has been to improving the humanitarian situation in the Caucasus. I hope that the proposals in the report will be implemented speedily.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Erkal Kara. I call Mr Hancock.

      Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom) – Like other members, I am full of admiration for Ms Acketoft. I am proud that a member of my group has written such a wonderful and forthright report. She should be congratulated by members across the Chamber on her enthusiasm and on her determination to bring the issue before the Assembly in this format, which is extraordinarily helpful in determining how we want the situation to develop.

      The report raises a number of questions that are still to be answered and rightly poses challenges to those on both sides of the debate. I do not want to go over what happened in the war; it is the repercussions that I want to address. One colleague has said that the last people who win in a war are the human beings who are so badly affected by it. Restoring the lifestyle and fulfilling the needs of those people should be our prime objective. The report sets out the challenges for both the Russian and the Georgian authorities with regard to the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They cannot hide from those challenges.

      It is a disaster when aid is given and much of it disappears, as the report suggests has happened with the financial resources that have been put into this area. The report talks about three areas of prime importance. The first and biggest issue is housing on both sides of the divide. We must ensure that people have fit, habitable homes. The report welcomes the medical initiatives of both Russia and Georgia, but says that they are insufficient.

      There is also the issue of security. People who have lived through a war need some semblance of security. If normalcy is ever to return, the people of the region must be secure in the knowledge that never again will they be attacked by one side or the other. They must have well-being. Once again, I pay tribute to the ICRC, which is working in several areas there and trying to find a solution that will allow some closure on the matter of missing persons. None of us who has not been in that situation can understand how awful it must be.

      If the young people in the region and in Georgia are to have a future, then education is be of prime importance. I congratulate the rapporteur, and I hope that the report is supported unanimously at the end of the day when we vote on it.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Kalashnikov.

      Mr KALASHNIKOV (Russian Federation)* – I have a lot of respect for colleagues’ opinions, but I really cannot understand why a political commitment that harks back to the Cold War is getting in the way of an objective assessment of the situation, without which we cannot find appropriate solutions to the problems. There is no war between Georgia and the Russian Federation. There was never a war. Georgia attacked South Ossetia, and an international contingent of peacekeeping troops had to defend themselves. Secondly, there is no occupation. There is simply a guarantee on Russia’s part to ensure that Georgia does not try to do it again.

      However, that is not the main point. I appeal to our Georgian colleagues. I have been in Abkhazia several times over the last few years. I was the leader of an observation group during the elections, and I was in the Akhaltsikhe region to see what the situation is there. Two peoples – Abkhazians and South Ossetians – do not want to live with Georgians. What was imposed on them by the Soviet Union has now been ruptured. You say that it is Georgian territory, but facts are facts. They are not a part of Georgia, and will not be in the historical perspective. Unless we accept that fact, no humanitarian attempt and no attempt to resolve the multiple cross-boundary problems will be possible, and that would be a pity for Georgia. It is a political impasse. You do not want to recognise that they are independent States, but they do not want to be part of Georgia.

      You keep appealing to the Russian Federation, but the Russian Federation has nothing to do with it. These are two sovereign independent States, recognised by the Russian Federation. That is simply a political fact. I am not happy with some of the things being done by those States, but they are de facto sovereign independent States, and the Russian Federation can do nothing except provide humanitarian assistance.

      The Russian Federation does not have a refugee problem; that is a problem within Georgia. Georgia needs assistance. Despite what we heard from President Saakashvili recently, it is a poor country, which is President Saakashvili’s fault to a large extent. Russia should not be blamed for that situation; it is not Russia’s fault.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Taktakishvili.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia)* – I will not bore you by commenting on the remarks made by the gentleman who spoke previously, but he considers the Soviet Union to be a place where countries could live together peacefully. It is up to you to judge whether what he said is true.

      Mr President, I thank you for visiting the displaced persons camps set up in Georgia. The housing made available is now occupied by Russian soldiers, so people cannot go back home. They are unable to visit the cemeteries where their relatives are buried, due to the Russian occupation. The term “occupation” is not meaningless; it has major implications. People are in distress and are subject to tragic circumstances. Children are growing up far from home who cannot even remember where they came from. I humbly appeal to you to support the proposals of the Georgian delegation, which are supported by the committee and the rapporteur.

      The fact is that Georgian territory is occupied in violation of international law. Nor can it be forgotten that international observers such as those from the European Union are barred from the territory. More than 500 000 people are displaced persons or refugees, denied all right to return to their homes. I also appeal to you to bear it in mind that Georgian historical monuments, such as Georgian churches from the middle ages, are being attacked by the Russian authorities and the puppet authorities of the separatist entities, in flagrant violation of UNESCO standards. The church in Ilori and churches in Abkhazia have been painted white, and Russian Orthodox-style onion-shaped domes have been added to the steeples. If this vandalism continues, it can only prove that what the authorities are really keen to do is eradicate any trace of the Georgian people in Abkhazia and the other regions. I appeal to you to support the amendments that we have proposed concerning these issues, so that we can establish a legal framework that, in time, will ensure resolution of the problems stemming from the 2008 war.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Slutsky.

      Mr SLUTSKY (Russian Federation)* – Humanitarian reports have always played an important role in the work of our Assembly. Let us recall the issue of humanitarian assistance during the situation in the Chechen Republic, when Mr Iwiński and many other colleagues risked their lives to go to conflict-affected zones and meet people. That played an extremely important role in re-establishing normalcy and stability post-conflict. Similarly, let us remember the humanitarian consequences of the situation in Kosovo. The priority was to work with people to help individual human beings, citizens of Council of Europe member States, as we all are ourselves. We succeeded in helping them. I am convinced that the humanitarian approach could provide for greater unity and harmony between the Russian and Georgian delegations.

The new Georgian delegation will understand that we need to help people who have been affected by the conflict. We are not yet in a position to reach agreement on political issues, but I think that we will manage – I think that we are obligated – to come to a common position on the humanitarian consequences, and that will be a new and glorious page in the history of our Parliamentary Assembly.

      Unfortunately, the report concentrates on Georgian refugees, and very little is said about others in South Ossetia who have suffered in the conflict. Considering that, in August 2008, in the time of the so-called Olympic peace, parts of Tskhinvali were bombed to smithereens, that is one of the most striking examples of a double standard in the history of the Council of Europe. Furthermore, Ms Acketoft says nothing about South Ossetia because apparently she was unable to go there and talk to people. You do not have to go to the region to do that. Last June, agreement was reached on entry from the Russian Federation and departure through Georgia, but following pressure from the Georgian side, that agreement was broken.

Unfortunately, we are not in a position to support today’s resolution, but we will nevertheless continue to work on dealing with the humanitarian consequences.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms Čigāne.

Ms ČIGĀNE (Latvia) – I thank the rapporteur for this grim but compassionate and detailed account of the humanitarian situation in the two regions that were forcibly amputated from the bloodstream of the Georgian state in 2008. I share her belief that politics should not dominate people’s fate, but politics is exactly what started this conflict, and we cannot ignore its political context.

I share the rapporteur’s concern that the continued presence of a large Russian military force will not lead to a solution of this potentially frozen conflict. The Russian Federation has not fulfilled the obligations undertaken in the ceasefire agreement. Several of the Assembly’s resolutions have said that the Russian army has to be withdrawn and an international monitoring force brought in instead. I share also the rapporteur’s concern that the expected enhanced presence of the families of the Russian military will impose an extra burden on the social infrastructure of the occupied territories.

I ask the rapporteur to set the record straight on why she did not have access to South Ossetia. Was it really due to prevention by the Georgian authorities? I would like to hear a candid account.

As colleagues have mentioned, the parliamentary elections in Georgia left the political spectrum quite divided. However, as we see, the Georgian delegation to the Council of Europe has submitted amendments on which its members agree, despite representing different political parties. The amendments have the potential to bring the language of the report in line with that of the earlier statements and resolutions of the Council of Europe. Therefore, dear colleagues, I kindly ask you to support them.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Mr Vareikis is not here, so I call Mr Hovhannisyan.

Mr HOVHANNISYAN (Armenia) – While acknowledging that there may be a variety of opinions about the report, and even some objections, we must admit that the rapporteur has done fine, detailed work. It is not easy to prepare a report about a region with several frozen conflicts and manage to present a full spectrum of the multi-layered problems. Wars and local conflicts have different causes, durations and solutions, but they have one thing in common – human suffering and loss.

The conflict between Russia and Georgia is no exception. The report highlights a large number of humanitarian problems caused by the conflict, as a result of which hundreds of thousands of people suffer daily, regardless of their ethnic, religious or national identity, and regardless of their citizenship. A great many of the problems cannot be solved at the appropriate levels until we take the steps necessary to reduce the tension between countries and to rebuild the trust between nations.

Among those steps is one to which I would like to draw your attention – the so-called Abkhazian railway, which is a route linking Russia, Georgia and Armenia through the territory of Abkhazia. It has not functioned for some 20 years. Let us imagine the hundreds of settlements, villages and towns along the railway and how the economic conditions would change there if the railway started functioning again. Is it possible to resolve a humanitarian issue and ease the tension in the region without ensuring economic growth? Let us not lie to ourselves. It most certainly is not. Is it possible to create an atmosphere of confident and mutual respect between nations without ensuring everyday communication among the peoples? Now we must ask the most important question. Is there a reasonable argument justifying the decision by States in the region to keep the railway closed? There are railways in the South Caucasus that, without logic, are kept closed, such as the one between Armenia and Turkey.

After the parliamentary elections in Georgia in October, we have an exceptional chance significantly to ease the tension in the Caucasus, to build a new kind of relationship between our States and to resolve the existing problems in a peaceful, constructive way. The reopening of the rail communication between Russia, Abkhazia, Georgia and Armenia would be one of the most important steps in that direction. If we really want to build a safer Europe, and if relieving human suffering is of real importance to us, we must set our priorities and understand the main reasons for the unsolved questions in these conflict areas.

Once again, I thank the rapporteur for a detailed report on a complex topic.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Makhmutov.

Mr MAKHMUTOV (Russian Federation)* – A great deal of effort has gone into this report. I was a member of the committee and contributed to it, but unfortunately it has become more of a political and legalistic document than a humanitarian one. The rapporteur was unable to visit South Ossetia to get a real sense of the situation on the ground there. She was under very strong pressure from the outside and was working on the report under difficult circumstances not necessarily of her own making.

I stress the fact that the Russian Federation is making a great effort to ensure stabilisation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, making many resources available to ensure reconstruction and a normal life for the residents of those regions. We are prepared to engage in a constructive dialogue with the Georgian side to improve the situation, and in the course of preparing this report we got in touch with our Georgian colleagues in the Assembly on a number of occasions, saying that a visit to South Ossetia was a necessity and that the South Ossetian authorities were in favour. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach a compromise with the Georgian delegation. I very much hope that with the new composition of the Georgian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly it will be possible for us to work more constructively in that regard.

At the request of the South Ossetians, there are Russian soldiers in the territory, and that has been necessary because of the activities of the previous Georgian leadership. It was necessary for the Russians to protect the South Ossetians and Abkhazians from absolute destruction. There are some outstanding issues that cannot be resolved in the near future, but we must work to eliminate the humanitarian consequences.

In the 20th round of the Geneva discussions, some eminent experts on humanitarian law stressed that the Russian military presence is not excessive or a threat to anyone’s security. On the contrary, it provides balance and ensures security. The report, therefore, is not acceptable to the Russian delegation, and unfortunately I will have to vote against the resolution.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Schennach.

Mr SCHENNACH* (Austria) – I, too, pay my sincerest compliments to the rapporteur, because she has produced a genuinely impressive document, which as all previous speakers have said, homes in on the humanitarian situation.

We are faced with various frozen conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria and Abkhazia, for example. States can drag out a conflict for decades, but people tend to overlook the fact that people living in those areas are in a terrible situation, particularly those who have been driven out of their territory.

We have visited refugee camps in Abkhazia. The situation is unresolved. People are internally displaced and have no prospects of any resolution because the conflicts are frozen and the diplomatic positions have become entrenched. Just look at Palestine as one example. Generations will go by in which internally displaced people will have no prospect of an education. What about their housing circumstances? What realistic prospects for the future do they have? That is why it is so important that we look at the humanitarian implications of these frozen conflicts, and at education and housing. There is no point inveighing against the new Georgian Government, as certain colleagues have done, and saying that the former government engaged in these aggressive policies. That does not get us anywhere. You can also look at the governments in Transnistria and Abkhazia exchanging ambassadors.

      We need dialogue, dialogue and then more dialogue. I am going to take Mr Kalashnikov seriously. He said that Russia will grant a Council of Europe delegation access to Abkhazia and Ossetia, at long last, and I will take him at his word. That is of paramount importance.

I can understand the line of reasoning here. We have talked about this in respect of Kosovo, and a people living under the yoke of the majority population on that State’s territory. I urge people not to have a bellicose army controlling such a territory. Serbian houses are now being rebuilt by the international community. People are gradually coming back, so that is working there. That goes to show that internally displaced people can be given a prospect of housing, jobs and social integration, and that dialogue can be channelled, if it is pushed through the Council of Europe.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you.

I must now interrupt the list of speakers. The speeches of members on the speakers list, and present during the debate, who have not been able to speak, may be given, in typescript only, to the Table Office for publication in the Official Report.

I call Ms Acketoft, rapporteur, to reply. Because of difficulties that you have encountered in doing your work, I shall give you a few extra minutes. You had some interesting questions and, obviously, three minutes will not be enough.

Ms ACKETOFT (Sweden) – Thank you, President, I think that I will need that time.

I thank members for their kind words, and for the fact that almost all of you understood that this was not a simple task. I confess that I did not believe when I started that it would be simple. Mr Makhmutov said that I have been put under pressure. Yes, I have been put under pressure – by Mr Makhmutov, by the Russian delegation and by the Georgian delegation. But, believe me, I am sturdy Scandinavian stock and I am still standing.

We are politicians. I believe that you all entered politics for the same reasons I did. We wanted to change the world for the better and now you have the chance today to actually do something, not just speak about it. You have your ultimate chance to make this Parliamentary Assembly make a difference for the IDPs.

I do not give a toss about the Georgian delegation or the Russian delegation, although I like them as individuals. This report is about humanitarian issues relating to the IDPs; it is not a piece of politics. Sometimes we need to step back from politics. Sometimes politics is not the right tool. The tools to be used here are humanitarian issues. We should use them to make sure that these people have – remember the trigger word – access. Access, access, access. That is all I am asking for in this report.

I am asking the Russian delegation to please show that they are greater than their reputation, show that they believe in humanitarian issues and show that they are bigger than they have been today, if they are not voting for this. I am saying the same thing to the Georgians. Please step back from politics. Please see the IDPs’ rights to move, to make a livelihood and to be just the same as we are in this Chamber. Please step back from politics. Please show that we are bigger than politicians in this case.

I should like to answer a straightforward question that I was asked. Why did I not get access into South Ossetia? I am speaking frankly today. That was simply one of the games played with me. One day I was allowed to go into South Ossetia, if I just fulfilled certain commitments. The next day I was not allowed, because the other side understood that those commitments could never be fulfilled. This is how it has been played, going on and on, for the past two years. I am sure that the same games were played with my predecessor, Ms Jonker.

I will not use all my time. I have said quite a lot, and what I have not said members will probably be able to read between the lines. I love politics. I love politicians. I like my colleagues from Georgia and Russia. But, please, this is a humanitarian issue regarding the lives of the IDPs and it is for their sake that we are here. Please show that you are greater people than simply politicians, or an individual nation.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Acketoft, for your words, which have moved us all very much. We understand the great difficulties you encountered in carrying out your assignment and preparing your report. On behalf of us all, I thank you for that and for the words you have just spoken.

I call Mr Santini, Chairperson of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons.

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – I, too, am satisfied that we have been able to present in the Chamber something that we have been working on for the past four years. Ms Acketoft took over from a previous rapporteur and was able to rebuild many things that had been destroyed; she is the new Penelope of the Council of the Europe. Finally, she is able to bring to the Chamber this report, which we have been working on for so long. I also thank our chairman, and I thank the Russian and Georgian delegations for their passionate contributions – sometimes, very passionate indeed – to the debate in the committee and in the Chamber. But their passion, even at the risk of triggering a bit of conflict, has made it possible – I find myself looking at Mr Çavuşoğlu at this point. I pay particular tribute to Ms Acketoft, who overcame all difficulties and, despite not being able to visit some of the regions, was none the less able to present this report.

      Our concern is to underscore the humanitarian aspects of the conflict and not to investigate its causes – that is for another time and place. I appreciate the contributions from Mr Makhmutov and Mr Kalashnikov, which were more moderate than what we heard in committee and which make possible the report’s approval. We want not more deaths or greater poverty, but improved living conditions in this already poverty-stricken region.

We must overcome our divisions, be they ethnic, linguistic or whatever, because they do not make for an easy dialogue. I support the resolution. We want to offer a political road map for restarting dialogue and showing the path towards reconciliation and reconstruction – of a human, political, democratic and material kind. The Council of Europe’s mandate gives us few economic resources, so we must use our moral and political resources, and we must call on other institutions with more economic resources. We urgently need to improve living condition in the region.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Santini.

      The debate is closed.

The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons has presented a draft resolution to which 19 amendments and four sub-amendments have been tabled.

      The chairperson of the committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendment 13, which was unanimously approved by the Committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly under Rule 33.11. Amendments 5, 6, 14, 15 and 20 were also unanimously agreed by the Committee but cannot be taken under Rule 33.11 as they are the subject of further amendments.

      Is that so Mr Santini?

      Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – Yes.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone object? No.

As there is no objection, I declare that Amendment 13 to the draft resolution is agreed.

The following amendment has been adopted:

Amendment 13, tabled by Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr André Bugnon, Mr Josep Anton Bardina Pau, Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Ms Kerstin Lundgren, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Ms Ankie Broekers-Knol, Mr Joris Backer, Mr Margus Hanson, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, Mr Egidijus Vareikis, Mr Kimmo Sasi, Mr Latchezar Toshev, Mr Emanuelis Zingeris, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the paragraph 8.2, replace the words “open up a real dialogue on the issue of monitoring on both sides of the ABL, involving in this the European Monitoring Mission (EUMM)” with the following words: “grant full and unimpeded access to the European Monitoring Mission (EUMM) to the former conflict zones since occupied”.

We will proceed to consider the remaining amendments in the order set out in the Organisation of Debates, starting with Amendment 3. I remind you that speeches on amendments are limited to 30 seconds.

We come to Amendment 3, tabled by Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 1, delete the words “of the conflict”.

      I call Ms Taktakishvili to support Amendment 3.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia)* – The Assembly has already adopted five resolutions relating to the war between Russia and Georgia. The purpose of the amendment is to avoid replacing the term “war” with “conflict”. We need to support the position taken by the Assembly over the past five years. I insist on us using the term “war” rather than “conflict”.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

      I call Ms Acketoft.

      Ms ACKETOFT (Sweden) – This is another attempt to turn this into a political issue. I do not doubt that there was once a war, but it is not a war now – it is a conflict zone. I will therefore vote against the amendment.

      THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

      Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – The committee voted against it.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

      Amendment 3 is rejected.

      We come to Amendment 4, tabled by Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Ms Corina Fusu, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Ms Kerstin lundgren, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, Ms Renate Wohlwend, Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, Mr Egidijus Vareikis, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 1, insert the following paragraph:

“The Assembly reiterates its condemnation of the continuing human rights violations as a result of the 2008 war, including the grave violations of the principle of freedom of movement and right to return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of the occupation of the two breakaway regions of Georgia and the previous conflict.”

I call Mr Chikovani to support Amendment 4.

Mr CHIKOVANI (Georgia)* – The amendment reiterates the position of the Assembly in Resolution 1801 and simply acknowledges that the IDPs, the refugees and all the problems we are discussing exist because there was a war in 2008 between Georgia and Russia.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

I call Ms Acketoft.

Ms ACKETOFT (Sweden) – As with the previous amendment, they are trying to hijack the report for political purposes. I do not want this. Had it been the Monitoring Committee, I would probably have allowed it, but I will not have it in a report on humanitarian issues.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – The committee is against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 4 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 5, tabled by Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki, Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, Mr Egidijus Vareikis, Mr Kimmo Sasi and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 3, replace the words “Recent political changes in Georgia following the elections on 1 October 2012, provide an opportunity for a change of dialogue on all sides” with the following words: “Recent political changes in Georgia following the elections of 1 October 2012 provide an opportunity for a continued commitment to dialogue respecting the relevant Resolutions.”

I call Ms Taktakishvili to support Amendment 5.

Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – It is important that we stress the right of IDPs to return to their homes in safety and dignity. We need this wording in the resolution, although I am open to the compromise text proposed during the committee hearing.

THE PRESIDENT* – We come to Sub-Amendment 1 to Amendment 5, tabled by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, which is, at the end of Amendment 5, add the following words: “of the PACE”.

      I call Mr Santini to support the sub-amendment.

      Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – We discussed the amendment, and it was sub-amended. The committee will be in favour of the amendment, if the sub-amendment is adopted.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? That is not the case.

      What is the opinion of the mover of the amendment? I understood that you were in favour of the sub-amendment. Can you confirm that?

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – Yes.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The committee is obviously in favour, because it proposed the sub-amendment.

      The vote is open.

      Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 5, as amended? That is not the case.

      The committee is in favour of the amendment, as amended.

      The vote is open.

      We come to Amendment 6, tabled by Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Ms Corina Fusu, Mr Josep Anton Bardina Pau, Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Ms Kerstin Lundgren, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, Ms Renate Wohlwend, Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, Mr Egidijus Vareikis, Mr Latchezar Toshev, Mr Emanuelis Zingeris, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Mr André Bugnon, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 4, replace the words “It is important that avenues for return of all IDPs remain open, even if this needs to be on a step by step basis” with the following words:

“The Assembly is concerned by the statements of Russian and de facto authorities refusing the right of return for IDPs and property rights of ethnic Georgians. It is important that the right of all displaced persons to voluntary return in safety and in dignity is respected in accordance with international law”.

I call Ms Taktakishvili to support Amendment 6.

Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – The argument is the same as before. The amendment concerns the right of IDPs to return. We agree with the sub-amendment proposed during the committee meeting.

THE PRESIDENT* – We come to Sub-Amendment 1 to Amendment 6, tabled by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, which is, in Amendment 6, replace the words “The Assembly is concerned by the statements of Russian and de facto authorities refusing the right of return for IDPs and property rights of ethnic Georgians. It is important” with the following words: “It is important that avenues for return of all IDPs remain open, even if this needs to be on a step-by-step basis and”.

I call Mr Santini to support the sub-amendment.

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – The sub-amendment improves the amendment regarding the right to return in dignity and security. The committee was unanimously in favour of the sub-amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? That is not the case.

We know the opinion of the mover of the amendment.

The committee is also in favour.

The vote is open.

Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 6, as amended? That is not the case.

The committee is in favour.

The vote is open

      We come to Amendment 7, tabled by Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 5, delete the second and the third sentence.

      Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – I would like to confirm that for the sake of compromise, we will not move this amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – Amendment 7 is not moved.

We come to Amendment 1, tabled by Mr Anvar Makhmutov, Ms Nadezda Gerasimova, Ms Olga Borzova, Ms Olga Kazakova and Mr Vyacheslav Timchenko, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 5, replace the second sentence with the following sentence: “A large Russian military presence, both in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, is seen in contradictory ways.”

I call Mr Makhmutov to support Amendment 1.

Mr MAKHMUTOV* (Russian Federation) – In the debate, I mentioned that during the 20th round of talks in Geneva, international human law experts confirmed that the situation was as the amendment describes.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Ms Acketoft.

Ms ACKETOFT (Sweden) – I am against the amendment. It is another potential hijack of the report from the Russian side. Abkhazia and South Ossetia are parts of Georgian territory, therefore it states so in the report.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – The Committee is against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 1 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 8, tabled by Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, Mr Egidijus Vareikis, Mr Latchezar Toshev, Mr Emanuelis Zingeris, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki, Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, Ms Kerstin Lundgren and Mr Jordi Xuclà, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 5, replace the third sentence with the following sentence:

“On the one side, it is seen by Georgia and the international community as an occupation of part of the country by the troops of a neighbour, and on the other, it is seen by the Russian Federation and the de facto authorities as a guarantee against renewal of the conflict.”

I call Ms Taktakishvili to support Amendment 8. You have 30 seconds.

Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – Since 2008, different international Parliamentary Assemblies – including the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the European Parliament, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and a number of national parliaments – have taken a position on the consequences of the war. It is important that in the amendment we highlight the stance of the international community concerning the war between Russia and Georgia. At the same time, I am ready to agree with the sub-amendment proposed during the committee hearings.

THE PRESIDENT* – We come to Sub-Amendment 1 to Amendment 8, tabled by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, which is, in Amendment 8, after the words “On the one side, it is seen by Georgia and” insert the following words: “most of”.

I call Mr Santini to support the sub-amendment.

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – I would like to be clear with regard to the consensus of the international community that was suggested. As our colleague reminded us, this is a simple and brief addition. We must not hide the fact that most of the international community agrees on the subject. The committee was in favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? That is not the case. We know the opinion of the mover of the amendment and the opinion of the committee.

The vote is open.

Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 8, as amended? That is not the case.

The committee is in favour.

The vote is open.

We come to Amendment 9, tabled by Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr André Bugnon, Mr Josep Anton Bardina Pau, Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Ms Kerstin Lundgren, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, Ms Renate Wohlwend, Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, Mr Egidijus Vareikis, Mr Kimmo Sasi, Mr Latchezar Toshev, Mr Emanuelis Zingeris, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 5, insert the following paragraph:

“The Parliamentary Assembly is concerned by the permanent refusal by the Russian and the de facto authorities to grant access to the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) to the former conflict zones since occupied.”

I understand that Ms Taktakishvili does not wish to move Amendment 9.

Ms TAKTAKISHVILI – (Georgia) Once again, we have tried everything possible to reach a compromise. For that reason, we will not move Amendment 9, given that Amendment 13 will be supported.

THE PRESIDENT* – Amendment 9 is not moved.

We come to Amendment 10, tabled by Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr Roman Jakič, Ms Corina Fusu, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 7, replace the fourth sentence by the following sentence:

“There are some indications that access across the ABL could be improved through more flexible arrangements and additional crossing points, but for the moment the crossing is even more restricted since September 2012, having particularly severe implications for people travelling for healthcare purposes.”

I call Mr Chikovani to support Amendment 10. You have 30 seconds.

Mr CHIKOVANI (Georgia) – The amendment was tabled to reflect the worsening situation over the ABL, in particular for those who need medical help. They have faced many obstacles and problems in getting into the Georgian side and receiving subsequent medical help.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment?

I call Ms Acketoft.

Ms ACKETOFT (Sweden) – I hesitated because of the fact that it is very difficult to get transportation over the ABL, but in the original text we say that there are some positive indications, which is true. That is why I would like the original text to remain, so I am against the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – The committee is against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 10 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 11, tabled by Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr André Bugnon, Mr Josep Anton Bardina Pau, Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Ms Kerstin Lundgren, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Ms Ankie Broekers-Knol, Mr Joris Backer, Mr Margus Hanson, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, Ms Renate Wohlwend, Mr Egidijus Vareikis, Mr Latchezar Toshev, Mr Emanuelis Zingeris, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 7, insert the following paragraph:

“The Parliamentary Assembly deplores the situation regarding the places of worship of Georgians in Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia, Georgia, which also raises serious concerns over the situation of cultural heritage monuments in the war-affected areas.”

I call Ms Taktakishvili to support Amendment 11.

Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – In committee, I mentioned the deplorable situation of the Christian mediaeval churches in the occupied territories. Even if there is a call in the resolution for investigation visits by international organisations to explore the situation, we must deplore a situation where the conflict-affected areas are devastated and the places of worship of Christian Georgians are insulted. I would very much like to support the amendment, even though there was no agreement on it in the committee.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the amendment? I call Ms Acketoft.

Ms ACKETOFT (Sweden) – I am not against the churches as such, but we cover the matter in item 8.7, where we say that all the cultural heritage should be protected, not just the churches. I am against the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – The committee is against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 11 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 12, tabled by Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 7, insert the following paragraph:

“The Parliamentary Assembly regrets that despite numerous attempts, the co-rapporteur was not allowed to visit South Ossetia, Georgia.”

I call Ms Bokuchava to support Amendment 12.

Ms BOKUCHAVA (Georgia) – We believe it is important to highlight that the rapporteur was not allowed to enter one of the occupied regions. That is bad for this report, and the ramifications for future reports are bad, too, if such actions continue.

THE PRESIDENT* – I have received an oral sub-amendment to Amendment 12 from Ms Taktakishvili, which reads as follows: “In amendment 12, replace the phrase ‘South Ossetia, Georgia’, with ‘the region of South Ossetia, Georgia’”.

I remind the Assembly of Rule 33.7.a which enables the President to accept an oral amendment or sub-amendment on the grounds of promoting clarity, accuracy or conciliation and if there is not opposition from 10 or more members to it being debated. In my opinion the oral amendment meets the criteria of Rule 33.7.a. Is there any opposition to the amendment being debated?

That is not the case.

I call Ms Taktakishvili to support the oral sub-amendment.

Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – It reflects discussion in the committee. We look forward to having a compromise and a clarified text, by having both a reference to the region of South Ossetia and Georgia, as that highlights that South Ossetia is, and will be, part of Georgia.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment?

I call Mr Pushkov.

      Mr PUSHKOV (Russian Federation)* – The rapporteur was given the option to visit South Ossetia. She could have gone there from the territory of the Russian Federation, but she rejected that opportunity. The rapporteur keeps making reference to politicisation of the debate by Russia, but if the rapporteur had wanted to visit the territory to see what was happening, she could have done so.

THE PRESIDENT* – The mover of the amendment is in favour. What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – Life is complicated. There were two issues, one formal, the other a matter of substance. The formal issue was that the amendment refers to a co-rapporteur, but we only have one rapporteur. We therefore want to delete “co”. Turning to the second question, we wanted to maintain the reference to Georgia. In fact, the rapporteur refused to delete it.

THE PRESIDENT* – So the committee is against the oral sub-amendment?

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – Correct.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

The oral sub-amendment is rejected.

Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 12?

I call Ms Acketoft.

Ms ACKETOFT (Sweden) – In committee, we presented an oral sub-amendment adding a reference to the region of South Ossetia. That is why I am against the amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – The committee is against.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

Amendment 12 is rejected.

As Amendment 13 was unanimously adopted, we now come to Amendment 14, tabled by Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr André Bugnon, Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Ms Kerstin Lundgren, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Ms Ankie Broekers-Knol, Mr Joris Backer, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, Ms Renate Wohlwend, Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, Mr Egidijus Vareikis, Mr Kimmo Sasi, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, replace paragraph 8.4 with the following paragraph:

“ensure the voluntary return of all displaced persons in safety and in dignity, in accordance with international law and reverse the acts of ethnic cleansing of Georgians;”.

I call Ms Taktakishvili to support Amendment 14.

Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – This is an important amendment. It calls for “the voluntary return of all displaced persons in safety and dignity”. We also ask the Russian Federation and its proxy authorities to “reverse the acts of ethnic cleansing of Georgians”.

THE PRESIDENT* – We come to Sub-amendment 1 to Amendment 14, tabled by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, which is, in Amendment 14, delete the words “and reverse acts of ethnic cleansing of Georgians”.

I call Mr Santini to support the sub-amendment.

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – We discussed this matter in committee. We suggested the amendment should end immediately after the reference to international law, so as to remove the reference to reversing the process of ethnic cleansing. We hope that might encourage dialogue.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the mover of the amendment?

Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – I am against the sub-amendment because the ethnic cleansing happened. A number of credible international organisations, including the EU and the Council of Europe, have stated that it happened. Ignoring the facts will not contribute to resolving the humanitarian consequences of the war.

THE PRESIDENT* – The author of the amendment is against the committee’s sub-amendment. Obviously, the committee is in favour.

The vote is open.

Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 14, as amended?

That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – The committee is in favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

We come to Amendment 15, tabled by Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr Roman Jakič, Ms Corina Fusu, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 8.7, replace the words “improve the livelihoods of the local population” with the following words: “improve the livelihoods and basic needs of the local populations, such as healthcare”.

I understand that Mr Chikovani wishes not to move the amendment. Is that correct?

Mr CHIKOVANI (Georgia) – Yes, because there is an oral amendment from the Committee that covers the matter.

THE PRESIDENT* – Amendment 15 is not moved.

I have received an oral amendment from the Committee on Migration, which reads as follows: “In the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.7, insert the following paragraph: ‘cater for the basic needs of the local population, including in terms of health care.’”

I remind the Assembly of Rule 33.7.a which enables the President to accept an oral amendment or sub-amendment on the grounds of promoting clarity, accuracy or conciliation and if there is not opposition from ten or more members to it being debated.

In my opinion the oral amendment meets the criteria of Rule 33.7.a. Is there any opposition to the amendment being debated?

That is not the case. I call Mr Santini to support the oral amendment.

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – I believe that there is no objection to the oral amendment. We are trying to look ahead and to give, in addition to the immediate measures for survival, the beginning of guarantees that there will be provision of health services.

The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Does anyone wish to speak against the oral amendment?

That is not the case.

The committee is obviously in favour.

The vote is open.

The oral amendment is adopted.

We come to Amendment 16, tabled by Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Ms Kerstin Lundgren, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Ms Ankie Broekers-Knol, Mr Joris Backer, Mr Margus Hanson, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, Ms Renate Wohlwend, Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, Mr Egidijus Vareikis, Mr Kimmo Sasi, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.8, insert the following paragraph:

“ensure that the population is not forced to acquire Abkhaz, South Ossetian or Russian passports and is not punished for using Status Neutral Travel Documents issued by Georgian authorities;”.

I call Ms Taktakishvili to support Amendment 16.

Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – Before I present this, I would like to make a point of order. Has Amendment 13 been dealt with?

The PRESIDENT* – As I said, Amendment 13 was unanimously adopted, which means that it was adopted without a vote. I reminded you of that at the time. We are now on Amendment 16.

Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – Thank you for making that clear. Ms Khidasheli will present Amendment 16.

Ms KHIDASHELI (Georgia) – Amendment 16 concerns what the rapporteur was talking about: access. For access, you need to have travel documents. The amendment proposes that people should not be forced to get specific access documents and should not be punished for using other types of travel documents. I ask colleagues to support the amendment, as it is on the issue of access that we heard so much about.

The PRESIDENT* – What is the view of the rapporteur?

Ms ACKETOFT (Sweden) – I am against the amendment. As people will have understood by now, this is all about access. However, passportisation is such a complex issue that the report does not deal with it. I should just inform colleagues that there is no such thing as an Abkhaz passport.

The PRESIDENT* – What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – The committee is against.

The PRESIDENT* – The vote is now open.

Amendment 16 is rejected.

We come to Amendment 17, tabled by Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Ms Corina Fusu, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 8.10, replace the word “conflict” with the following word: “occupied”.

I call Mr Chikovani to support the amendment.

Mr CHIKOVANI (Georgia) – We had a discussion about the amendment and it is to be withdrawn.

The PRESIDENT* – Amendment 17 is not moved.

We come to Amendment 18, tabled by Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Ms Tinatin Bokuchava and Mr Giorgi Kandelaki, which is, in the draft resolution, after paragraph 9, insert the following paragraph:

“The Assembly calls on all member states, states with observer status with the Organisation and the European Union to:

reach durable solutions for both the old and the newly displaced populations, with a clear protection component;

continue to provide support and commit resources in order to strengthen the mandate of the EUMM and exert pressure on Russian authorities to ensure the access of EUMM to both sides of the ABL;

continue working towards the establishment of a genuine international peacekeeping/policing force in Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia, Georgia, in accordance with emerging needs for protection and peace-keeping”.

I call Ms Taktakishvili to support Amendment 18.

Ms TAKTAKISHVILI (Georgia) – We would like to withdraw Amendments 18 and 19.

The PRESIDENT* – Amendment 18 is not moved.

We come to Amendment 19, tabled by Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Ms Corina Fusu, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Mr Jordi Xuclà and Mr Giorgi Kandelaki, which is, in the draft resolution, paragraph 9.4, replace the word “review” with the following words: “advance the implementation of”.

      As you have just told us, Amendment 19, too, is not moved.

We come to Amendment 20, tabled by Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr Roman Jakič, Ms Corina Fusu, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Ms Kerstin Lundgren, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, Ms Dzhema Grozdanova, Mr Egidijus Vareikis, Mr Kimmo Sasi, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft resolution, before paragraph 10.1, insert the following paragraph:

“fully implement the European Union brokered ceasefire agreement, in particular to withdraw all Russian troops to pre-war positions;”.

I call Mr Chikovani to support Amendment 20.

Mr CHIKOVANI (Georgia) – The amendment calls for the implementation of the European Union-brokered ceasefire agreement and the withdrawal of troops. The agreement is one of the important tools that could be exercised and fully implemented. If that were done, we would face different consequences and there would be a different humanitarian picture on the ground.

The PRESIDENT* – We come to Sub-Amendment 1 to Amendment 20, tabled by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, which is, in Amendment 20, delete the words “, in particular to withdraw all Russian troops to pre-war positions”.

I call Mr Santini to support the sub-amendment.

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – We were reminded of the fragile borders in the debate about the humanitarian situation. They were one of the original reasons for the war. We need to look at the dividing line between the two sides. That is why we are proposing a sub-amendment that would say, “brokered a ceasefire thanks to the good offices of the European Union”. Then we would be referring to something political and not purely humanitarian. That is why we are moving that sub-amendment.

The PRESIDENT* – The committee has officially tabled a sub-amendment. Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the mover of the amendment?

Mr CHIKOVANI (Georgia) – We reached agreement with the committee on this.

The PRESIDENT* – The committee is in favour, as is the mover of the amendment.

The vote is open.

Does anyone wish to speak against Amendment 20, as amended? That is not the case.

The committee is in favour.

The vote is open.

We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft resolution contained in Document 13083, as amended.

The vote is open.

We will now consider the draft recommendation presented by the committee, to which two amendments and one sub-amendment have been tabled.

I understand that the Chair of the Migration Committee wishes to propose to the Assembly that Amendment 21 to the draft recommendation, which was unanimously approved by the committee, should be declared as agreed by the Assembly under Rule 33.11. Is that so, Mr Santini?

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – Yes.

The PRESIDENT* – Does anyone object? That is not the case.

The following amendment has been adopted:

Amendment 21, tabled by Mr Irakli Chikovani, Ms Chiora Taktakishvili, Ms Tinatin Khidasheli, Mr Levan Berdzenishvili, Mr Jordi Xuclà, Mr Giorgi Kandelaki and Ms Tinatin Bokuchava, which is, in the draft recommendation, in paragraph 4.3, replace the words “throughout Georgia, including in the conflict areas” with the following words: “in relation to the conflict affected population”.

We will now consider the remaining amendments to the draft recommendation, taking them in the order that they apply to the text. There is an amendment and two sub-amendments, so please pay attention.

We come to Amendment 2, tabled by Mr Anvar Makhmutov, Ms Nadezda Gerasimova, Ms Olga Borzova, Ms Olga Kazakova and Mr Vyacheslav Timchenko, which is, in the draft recommendation, to replace paragraph 4.1 with the following paragraph:

“provides education expertise to strengthen mother tongue education, in particular in Abkhazia, taking into account the needs of all linguistic groups;”.

I call Mr Makhmutov to support Amendment 2. You have 30 seconds.

Mr MAKHMUTOV (Russian Federation)* – Paragraph 8 of the draft resolution, which we have just adopted, confirms that all groups in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Georgia should have an equal right to study in their mother tongue, so that does not need to be expressed again. Paragraph 4.1 of the draft recommendation should refer to all linguistic groups, without identifying any of them.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Makhmutov.

We come to Sub-Amendment 1 to Amendment 2, tabled by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, which is, in Amendment 2, to replace the word “Abkhazia” with the following words: “the Gali region”.

I call Ms Acketoft to support the sub-amendment.

Ms ACKETOFT (Sweden) – The amendment relates to the Gali region. I have seen the situation on the ground – let us call a spade a spade in this case.

THE PRESIDENT* – Does anyone wish to speak against the sub-amendment? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the mover of Amendment 2? I call Mr Makhmutov.

Mr MAKHMUTOV (Russian Federation)* – In favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The author of Amendment 2 is in favour of the sub-amendment, and the committee is obviously in favour of the sub-amendment – that is entirely logical – so I shall now put the sub-amendment to the vote.

The vote is open.

We come to the oral sub-amendment to Amendment 2, which was tabled by Mr Makhmutov, which is, in Amendment 2, at the end of the sentence, to add the following: “including Georgian, Abkhazian and other”.

      The oral sub-amendment is admissible, provided there are no objections. If anyone thinks that it should not be considered, please indicate that by standing. Ten full Members or Substitutes would have to object to the oral sub-amendment. That is not the case.

I call Ms Bokuchava to support the oral sub-amendment.

Ms BOKUCHAVA (Georgia) – Our oral sub-amendment highlights the fact that the problem we face today in the occupied regions, particularly in the Gali region, is that the Georgian language is no longer being taught, that children cannot receive their education in their mother tongue and that teachers are terrorised if they try to teach children in their mother tongue. It is important that not only the Abkhazian language, but the Georgian language is mentioned.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Bokuchava. Does anyone wish to speak against the oral sub-amendment?

That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the mover of Amendment 2 about the oral sub-amendment?

Mr MAKHMUTOV (Russian Federation)* – I will abstain on the oral sub-amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – What is the view of the committee?

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – As you will understand, Mr President, the oral sub-amendment has not been submitted to the committee and we have not discussed it, so it is difficult for the committee to take a position. Bear it in mind that, until yesterday, we would not have thought that there would be amendments from both the Russian Federation and Georgian delegations. If they were working together, how could the committee be opposed? Formally, we cannot express a view but, informally, we welcome the oral sub-amendment.

THE PRESIDENT* – The committee does not have a view, which I can understand, because the oral sub-amendment has come out of the blue and we are dealing with it in real time. I had not expected it either, but I obviously had to ask the committee’s view. The committee does not have an explicit view and the author of Amendment 2 is abstaining, so I will put the oral sub-amendment to the vote and leave it to the Assembly’s wisdom to decide its fate.

The vote is open.

The oral sub-amendment is adopted.

Does anyone wish to speak against the Amendment 2, as amended? That is not the case.

What is the opinion of the committee?

Mr SANTINI (Italy)* – The committee is in favour.

THE PRESIDENT* – The vote is open.

We will now proceed to vote on the whole of the draft recommendation contained in Document 13083, as amended. I remind you that a two-thirds majority is required.

The vote is open.

I congratulate the rapporteur on a very good piece of work.

4. Free debate

      THE PRESIDENT* – We now come to the free debate. I remind members that speeches should not be about items on this week’s agenda. Please take your seats, so that we can start straight away. You have three minutes for each speech, and I remind you that we will have to interrupt the debate at 1 p.m.

I call Mr Ivanovski, who will speak on behalf of the Socialist Group.

Mr IVANOVSKI (“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – Let me inform you of the latest political developments in Macedonia that occurred on 24 December and caused extremely negative consequences for the country. The Macedonian Government and the ruling parties decided to adopt the budget by force, suspended the ongoing debate in parliament, and deprived MPs of the ability to talk freely and defend our voters’ interests. The parliamentary majority and the government breached the constitution, the law on parliament and the rules of procedure. In the sitting on 24 December, 42 opposition MPs were deprived of the right to participate by their not being allowed to register and get our voting cards, and we reacted.

What happened next was unlike anywhere in Europe, or perhaps the world. The speaker of parliament, the prime minister and the minister of the Interior issued an order physically to evict MPs from the plenary hall. Yes, dear colleagues, we were brutally, severely and physically evicted by police, most of whom were not even working in parliamentary security. We were pushed, kicked and thrown out by police officers, and several female MPs suffered injuries. Some of our MPs were brutally removed from their seats. Prior to our physical eviction by the police, the same officers physically removed journalists from the hall, so that they would not have any footage of the eviction of MPs that was to follow. It would have been a perfect crime against democracy, if two of our MPs, one a pregnant lady, had not used their smartphones to record the brutal scenes. They were also attacked and an attempt was made to take their phones. Fortunately this was unsuccessful, and now everyone can see the police coup on 24 December, on what we call the Macedonian black Monday.

You might ask whether it is possible for this to happen in Europe. Regrettably, it happened in Macedonia, which on that day ceased to be a parliamentary democracy. I encourage you to type “violence in Macedonian Parliament” into YouTube in order to convince yourselves. Since that day, the Macedonian Parliament has lost its legitimacy. The government deliberately threw us out of parliament. We neither planned nor wanted to boycott parliament, but following black Monday we have been outside parliament demanding early elections as the only way to restore legitimacy.

In one day, the Macedonian authoritarian regime violated and erased the rule of law, the freedom of media, our human right to speak, and the constitutional right to represent our voters – the basic principles and values of democracy, for which the Council of Europe was founded and is fighting. I am speaking on behalf of Macedonian citizens. This is no one’s internal political or party issue, but a question of whether Macedonia can and will be a real and full parliamentary democracy, which it is not at present, or turn itself, with the current government, into a totalitarian regime.

I call for your solidarity and for you to demand that Macedonia’s Government fulfil the commitments, core values and principles of the Council of Europe. Macedonia and its citizens need focused, strengthened, immediate and continuous Council of Europe monitoring so that our ruined democracy can be saved and rebuilt.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Hancock to speak on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Mr HANCOCK (United Kingdom) – I want to talk about how we organise the business of the Assembly. For a long time, I have felt that the d’Hondt method for selecting rapporteurs was slightly bizarre, because in many instances the best person never got to do the report. I have sat on committees in which the most qualified person to do the report has offered their services, but because it was not the right political group’s turn they were denied the opportunity and the Assembly was denied their expertise. Selecting chairs through the normal stitch-up, whereby political leaders decide in advance whom they will support, is also a bizarre contradiction of the status of this place as the home of the democratic process. It is hardly democratic if people have the right of veto over nominations to chair committees.

I crave the leadership of the Assembly looking at the wider picture for once, and finding a mechanism to order our business that will prevail in committee and in the Chamber. Certain reports are favourably received and allowed to progress, while others are turned down somewhat arbitrarily, and those who signed a motion for a report are given no explanation of why the report was not favoured. We need more transparency in deciding how business is organised.

I am not happy with political group leaders now being put on certain committees. Is it because they need to keep control of members of that committee? I would resent any group leader who tried to do that to me, and I hope that other members would also resent such control. A big brother situation is arising in which the group leaders have all the power and control. It is as if they have a mania to prevent free thinking and genuine democracy from prevailing. The sooner we examine that seriously, the better.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Hancock. There is room for improvement with all rules, and we will take account of your comments when we review our rules and how to make further improvements in addition to those introduced when we reformed the Parliamentary Assembly.

I call the Earl of Dundee to speak on behalf of the European Democrat Group.

EARL OF DUNDEE (United Kingdom) I would like to mention how the expedient of citizens’ diplomacy encourages good practice and better democracy and why it is therefore relevant to the Council of Europe in the 21st century.

We are fortunate to belong to a European group comprising 47 States that upholds human rights and peace in Europe. Within each of our countries, we are also grateful for the protection of democracy at national, regional and local levels. At grass roots within our cities and communities, however, good practice and well being are facilitated by paying attention to certain details and through comparisons with what is done elsewhere, so that mistakes and inadequacies can be identified, and thereafter necessary adjustments made. That is what citizens’ diplomacy is all about. Within our different States, two or three cities or regions may come together to compare notes and work together. Starting with mutual trade, the agenda would include cultural and educational exchanges as well as improved social and civic policies through examination of what produces the best results.

The Council of Europe’s Centre of Expertise already promotes this form of citizens’ diplomacy. It is a great pleasure for me to work with the centre this year on a scheme between certain parts of Croatia and the United Kingdom, where I am Scottish consul for Croatia. Through building up good practice, the extension of citizens’ diplomacy elsewhere stands to enhance Europe's wellbeing and democracy.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Kürkçü to speak on behalf of the Group of the Unified European Left.

      Mr KÜRKÇÜ (Turkey) – I would like to draw the Assembly’s attention to the ongoing talks between Turkish Government officials and Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan liberation movement who is serving a lifetime sentence on Imrali island.

My group urges Assembly members to approach the Kurdish question and the need for a peaceful solution not only as a domestic issue pertaining to a member country, but as a regional and international issue. Whatever the outcome, it will have a substantial effect not only in Turkey, but in Iraq, Syria and Iran. There will be repercussions for Turkey’s relations with Russia, the USA, the European Union and Cyprus.

The UEL supports the new initiative as a step towards ending the armed conflict in Turkey’s south-eastern provinces, which over 27 years has claimed the lives of at least 40 000 people. Most of those people were Kurdish militants, but the number also includes thousands of foot soldiers of the Turkish Army and innocent civilians.

My group denounces the killing of three prominent Kurdish figures in Paris last week. We urge the French Government to bring the killers to justice and to clarify the reasons behind the massacre.

With the previous abortive attempts in mind, the UEL recommends that the Turkish Government provides the maximum possible transparency in the process, brings all parties to the conflict around the negotiating table and refrains from unjustified exclusions. We fully support the official participation of the Peace and Democracy Party in the process.

To prepare the ground for a genuine peace process, we recommend that the conflicting parties declare an immediate and mutual truce, and thus bring an end to the bloodshed. We also call for Mr Öcalan to be given greater access to external relations – for example, with his lawyers and other parties to the conflict, so that those on the Kurdish side understand that this is a peaceful initiative to find a solution to the Kurdish question.

We expect the Council of Europe and the Assembly to take further initiatives through the talks with Secretary General Jagland and to provide the opportunity to discuss how Turkey can resolve the issues democratically in the April part-session.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Kürkçü. I call Mr Vareikis to speak on behalf of the Group of the European People’s Party. He is not in the Chamber. I call Mr Dişli.

      Mr DİŞLİ (Turkey) – My remarks follow on from those of Mr Kürkçü, because I want to give an overview, as a member of the governing party, of the new phase that Turkey is going through vis-à-vis the Kurdish issue.

      As we all know, Kurdish identity was the problem. The use of the Kurdish language in people’s daily lives was not allowed. We must first separate terror from this issue. Our government has a vision to provide equal rights and opportunities for all the people of Turkey, so it has been keen to address this issue. Indeed, it was in our government’s first urgent action plan.

In his speech in 2005 in Diyarbakir, Prime Minister Erdoğan said that “there have been faults in the past and we are strong enough to solve these faults and questions. And the Kurdish question is also my own problem”. That was the starting point for a new round of reforms, which we called “Kurdish opening”. We started by publicly honouring the Kurdish identity and removing the ban on the use of the Kurdish language. We have established Kurdish literature departments in universities and offered Kurdish as an elective subject in middle schools. A state-owned TV station is now broadcasting in Kurdish for 24 hours a day. We have paid compensation to displaced Kurdish people.

Equally importantly, we have allocated major resources to improve the infrastructure in eastern and south-eastern Turkey. We have provided free and good quality health care, introduced initiatives to motivate women to get into education and built new roads, airports and universities in the region. The living standards of our Kurdish citizens have improved significantly in line with the growth of the Turkish economy.

Those democratisation reforms were undertaken at a time when terror continued to claim the lives of innocent Turkish citizens. In the early days of 2013, a new round of talks has been launched to find a peaceful solution to the terrorism in Turkey, in an effort to end the cries of all the mothers who have lost their loved ones. Turkish state officials have held visits and talks with Öcalan. There is strong support for this effort from opposition parties and the public. The only distraction will come from those who benefit from the status quo. The resilience that has been shown while the funerals have been held for the three women who were killed in Paris is a sign of the support for peace.

I call on everyone to be vigilant and to refrain from any action that might be provocative. This is a sensitive issue and we must all act responsibly and carefully. Sincerity is the key word in this important effort for peace.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Dişli. I call Ms Durrieu.

      Ms DURRIEU (France)* – As rapporteur on Turkey, I fully subscribe to the comments of the two previous speakers.

      I want to speak as the chairperson of the Sub-Committee on the Middle East. Not much has been said about the Israel-Palestine conflict, because it has been overshadowed by what is going on in Syria and Mali.

      We have not had the final results of yesterday’s elections in Israel, but Mr Netanyahu, the outgoing Prime Minister, will apparently be re-elected with a smaller majority. He might well join forces with allies from the extreme right, which would strengthen a number of political demands.

      We have with us representatives from Palestine. I am delighted that since 2011 they have had the status of partners for democracy. Since 2012, the Palestinians have enjoyed non-member observer status at the UN. That is a strong sign that transcends pure symbolism. They have obtained that status through the law, rather than by force.

      It is important that the peace process is resumed. We cannot make do with the status quo. Although that might be convenient for some of our partners, it will not lead us anywhere. There are at least three preconditions for the resumption of the peace process. Both States need to be recognised. There must be a stop to Israeli colonisation. In yesterday’s debate, the representative from Palestine said, “Fair enough.” I am sure that they had been instructed to do so and am not convinced that it was spontaneous. We should also consider the possibility of a judicial appeal being lodged against the relevant statute at the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Tribunal. We are in favour of negotiations. However, we demand that, as a matter of urgency, the Palestinian people recover their unity and initiate talks between Fatah and Hamas. We have high hopes for 2013.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Ms Huovinen.

      Ms HUOVINEN (Finland) – In this Assembly, we have often discussed young people and the importance of keeping them involved in the development of our societies. Our Assembly has justly expressed concern about high youth unemployment rates and their effect on young people’s participation and future. We carry a great responsibility for ensuring that our youngsters do not become marginalised. We need concrete ways to improve education and employment for young people. At the same time, we must develop practices for hearing them. In Finland, we have about 200 youth councils. Many authorities also have teams of youth councillors to examine issues and proposals from a youth perspective.

      I thank the President of the Assembly for his personal engagement in promoting youth interests and giving young people the right to be heard within the Council of Europe. The youth assembly organised in connection with last year’s October session was a clear expression of that commitment. The Finnish delegation was surprised to receive some critical feedback from members of our youth delegation after they took part in the session. They were disappointed that so few parliamentarians attended, especially as assemblies are organised so rarely.

We regretted the situation and ensured that we gave the youngsters our time. Before Christmas, we met them separately and discussed issues important to them. Their central message was that youth matters cannot be mere image tricks; we adults must take their message seriously. The first step is to give youth participation the value it deserves. As decision makers, we must show them our interest and enthusiasm by taking part in jointly agreed events. Unfortunately, many of us were informed about the youth assembly quite late, which is why we could not all participate.

      The Council of Europe is well respected among young people and youth activists. Our meticulous work for young people in Europe has been seen and heard. However, it is not enough to settle for the status quo. We need to become better at constantly developing our contacts with young people. Many member States can share best practice in that field, and we need to ensure that good examples are widely distributed. The young generation must be more than just a topic of our speeches.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Huovinen. Mr Michael Connarty, who is in the Chamber, was much involved in ensuring that the second youth assembly was successful. I also thank the very good services of the Parliamentary Assembly, such as the youth department. We did not attract a great many parliamentarians, but that might be because the assembly coincided with the end of a session and clashed with the first ever World Forum on Democracy.

It was a big opportunity for the young participants. They sat in this Chamber along with those attending the world forum on democracy, and they had the opportunity to take the floor in this Assembly. It was a bit difficult – certain protocol problems had to be sorted out – but at least they were ultimately able to express their views. We also had a successful reception for those young people. They were fortunate to be able to attend the second youth event, and we hope that a third one is coming up.

      I call Ms Schuster.

      Ms SCHUSTER (Germany) – The issue that I wish to address has been doing the rounds in member States for an awfully long time: Europe and the future of Europe. We are well aware that the whole European integration project is being sorely tested – essentially, it is experiencing a crisis of confidence – but we must remember that Europe is far more than interest rates, spreads or rescue packages and far more than just the euro. We in this Chamber know that, because our work has a fundamental underpinning in the European Convention on Human Rights, to which we are all duty bound. We should tell people not to forget that the Convention is the cornerstone of Europe.

A lot of question marks are hanging over the future of Europe right now. People are debating the best way out of the sovereign debt crisis and considering what can be done to tackle high youth unemployment in many countries, as previous speakers pointed out. There are many controversial issues giving rise to heated debate, but in the midst of it all we should not lose sight of the fact that a united Europe is a tremendous achievement. We have a shared culture and a shared destiny. The fundamental values of 1789 and 1989 are the inviolable dignity of each individual, the freedom of the individual, protection of minorities, the rule of law and participation for all in democracy. To my mind, the answer to all those questions cannot be less Europe; rather, the answer is more Europe. We must dare to call for more Europe, because we want a better Europe.

People who think that they can rise to the challenges of the future with the nation State and more protectionism are deluding themselves. We live in a globalised, multipolar world. Our young people are dynamic and striving to get on. The burden of the old continent is sometimes too huge. Of course it is not easy to be a Council of Europe member State and be criticised, but remember that criticism is designed to help us shape a better Europe for the future, which is, after all, what we are here to do. Europe has a price, but at the same time, it has an inestimable value.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr David Davies.

      Mr D. DAVIES (United Kingdom) – For the last 25 years, western governments have been convinced that man-made carbon emissions are causing the earth to heat up, and that the solution is to tax cheap energy sources and subsidise less efficient and more expensive ones. In following such policies, we have relied heavily on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, whose predictions have been consistently wrong and many of whose so-called leading scientists have close links with various environmental movements and can hardly be considered dispassionate.

      Across Europe, all this has led to higher fuel bills for consumers and higher manufacturing costs, meaning that rather than cutting their emissions, businesses have simply moved eastwards, taking their jobs and skills with them. It is happening at a time when the latest figures from the Met Office, one of the world’s leading expert bodies on climate change – incidentally, it has signed up to the general theory of climate change – produced figures just before Christmas showing that there has been no global warming at all for the past 15 years. The hottest year was 1997; since then, there has been no increase in temperature at all, despite the fact that countries such as India, China and Brazil have been industrialising and producing vast amounts of carbon emissions.

      Before we continue with current policies, we need to stop and answer the following questions. How is it possible for carbon emissions to have risen but temperatures to have stayed the same? What percentage of the 0.7° C increase in temperatures recorded since we industrialised resulted not from carbon dioxide emissions but from natural warming as the earth emerged from a cool period? For how many years can we continue to hit manufacturers and domestic consumers with higher energy bills to solve a problem that we do not appear to have? A wise man once said, “When the facts change, I change.” The facts are changing now, and it is time for us to stop and consider our whole policy on energy and climate change. If we fail to do that, it will not be rising global temperatures that we have to worry about, but rising public tempers.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I call Mr Rzayev.

      Mr RZAYEV (Azerbaijan)* – I would like to thank Mr Mignon for the work he has done over the last year, and I wish him every success in the next year. One thing that he has done is try to work on frozen conflicts, and he has quite rightly stated that conflicts should be resolved only in a peaceful manner around a negotiating table. Today, unfortunately, Azerbaijanis and Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh are attempting to speak to one another but find it impossible to engage in such a dialogue because of certain actions being taken by the Armenian authorities. I appeal to you, Mr Mignon, and to all colleagues, to help us to start that dialogue, because it is extremely important that we stabilise the region and remove the tension.

      I hope that given the very high quality of the members of the Assembly it will be possible to sit down together, to start to talk to one another and to do everything that we can to contribute to the positive outcome of the negotiations being held by the Minsk Group.

      THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you for those words of congratulation. I am very moved by what you said, and I am sure that the subject that you dealt with will benefit from common sense and commitment. Of course, you have a major challenge ahead of you in Azerbaijan and Armenia: the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. Andorra is currently in the chair; in five months Armenia will take over and, after Austria, it will be Azerbaijan. It is only 2013, so I think that we have a great opportunity that will not come round again in the near future. You have a big challenge ahead, and I am sure that common sense will prevail.

The next speaker is Mr Gutiérrez.

Mr GUTIÉRREZ (Spain)* – I have always thought that local issues are more important than universal ones. Close, personal relations are most conducive to the achievement of aims and aspirations.

Let me tell you what happened when a major multinational company moved into a city in southern Spain and opened three factories. I happen to be the mayor of the city, which has about 80 000 inhabitants. The multinational has about 150 factories worldwide, including the three in Spain and has undergone great expansion. Why am I talking about this? I wanted to say something about the social dimension of delocalisation. The European Union has seen its industrial manufacturing base shrink by 2% or 3%. We know that delocalisations take place because of a crisis or because of policies of expansion. Countries such as Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States have undergone deindustrialisation, and of course major industrial changes have taken place in Europe over the last 10 years.

What about the social issues? Human life is a gift but it also entails duties and responsibilities. We exist to pursue our ideals, and I consider that companies, too, have social responsibilities that they need to shoulder. When things go well and companies are making profits, they do not behave in the same way as they do in difficult times. Society provides a great deal to companies – to promote their growth, profits and values – but we need to be attentive when times become hard. Those involved in manufacturing or industry create links to other people, and delocalisations are a very bad thing for Europe. Europe is the subject of envy because we have been able to strike the right balance between individuals and societies. Ingratitude is the only sin that can ever be pardoned.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The next speaker is Ms Čigāne.

Ms ČIGĀNE (Latvia) – I want to use the free debate to tackle an issue that remained unaddressed yesterday when we heard the communication from the Secretary General, Mr Jagland. I refer to a question asked by our colleague from the Estonian delegation, Mr Herkel. He asked the Secretary General to clarify the meeting with Belarus that his secretariat was supposed to have had at the beginning of January. There is general agreement that there is no high-level engagement with Belarus by the Council of Europe. However, Mr Jagland’s answer was not satisfactory, and I very much hope that we hear how it happened that a member of his secretariat supposedly went to Belarus at the beginning of January without the knowledge of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy or the Monitoring Committee.

Of course, engagement is always better than non-engagement. However, if we opt for engagement, we should be completely clear in all the institutions of the Council of Europe about the principles in accordance with which the engagement will happen. That has to be transparent for all.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Obviously, that information will be made available to interested parties. The next speaker is Mr Popescu.

Mr POPESCU (Ukraine)* – Legislative elections have taken place in Ukraine, the new parliament has started its work and its various bodies have been constituted. At the last minute, we managed to constitute our new delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly, and its credentials have been approved. We have also managed to elect a president of the delegation and to share out seats on committees among members of the delegation by consensus. After the adoption of the Progress Report of the Bureau and the Standing Committee by the Assembly, its contents regarding the Ukrainian elections were approved, which means that the elections have been recognised as free and fair.

Ukraine would like to thank the Council of Europe for its assistance in that regard, and for its assistance in the reform of its judicial system. In the last year, thanks to the assistance of Council of Europe experts, we have managed to fulfil two very important commitments to the Council of Europe. We have adopted a new criminal procedure code and a law on the bar and on the activities of lawyers. We are fully resolved to meet our last formal commitment remaining from the time when we acceded to the Council of Europe; namely, the drafting and adoption of a new law on prosecution. Subsequently, all the problems confronted by Ukraine will have been resolved in standard-setting terms.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Popescu. You are now in the presidency of OSCE, on which I congratulate you. I will visit Kiev shortly to meet your political authorities.

I now call Mr Mota Amaral.

Mr MOTA AMARAL (Portugal)* – I draw the Assembly’s attention to the growth of unemployment in a number of member States of the Council of Europe and the serious consequences of that. Unemployment has become a major problem in Europe. Millions of people do not have jobs, and most of them are young. We are confronted almost everywhere with an undermining of social protection systems, with the phenomenon of the new poor, with the impoverishment of the middle class and with the reduction in the possibility for individuals to develop.

Budgetary revenue is declining because fewer people are paying taxes, resulting in many grave problems. There is a growing gap between the richest and the poorest. We must recall vigorously that all individuals have the right to a decent life and decent work. The political leaders of our countries must act to ensure that jobs are created. This must be one of the key subjects and highest priorities of our political discussions. Private entrepreneurs also have the duty to do whatever they can to ensure that jobs are protected.

Reindustrialisation of Europe has been mentioned. The European Union is working on reindustrialisation programmes. There is also a challenge for the education system. It must take into consideration the needs of the job market when educating young people.

Unemployment must be seen as a scourge and in combating it no stone must be left unturned. Our values in the Council of Europe are humanistic, so let us proclaim the urgency of the right to work. Each citizen must be able to grow, to develop and to meet his or her own personal aspirations.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Mr Mota Amaral. I cannot see Mr Toshev, so I call Mr Jakič.

Mr JAKIČ (Slovenia) – Protection of national minorities forms an integral part of the international protection of human rights. By signing the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, States have agreed that protection of the rights of national minorities cannot fall within the reserved domain of States, as underlined in the explanatory report on the provisions of the convention. States have also agreed to follow the provisions of the respective convention in good faith, in a spirit of understanding and tolerance and in conformity with the principles of good neighbourliness, friendly relations and co-operation between States.

I therefore call on Austria, one of the parties to that convention, to abide by those provisions and to fully implement the convention, by respecting the protection of the rights of the Slovenian national minority on its territory. As noted in the latest reports of the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention and the Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, to which Austria is also a party, some progress has been made since the previous reports. I congratulate Austria on these achievements. However, there are still some substantial deficiencies in the implementation of both conventions concerning the rights of the Slovenian minority in Austria. I therefore call on Austria to implement fully and without delays the recommendations and resolutions of the Committee of Ministers regarding the implementation of the two conventions. I stress the obligation of Austria to fully honour and implement in good faith the international standards and commitments it has assumed, particularly Article 7 of the State Treaty of 1955, and to stress that the above standards and commitments are not further reduced by any new legislative or administrative measure.

THE PRESIDENT* – Thank you. I give the floor to Mr Connarty.

Mr CONNARTY (United Kingdom) – I want to speak about anti-sectarianism and the confusion that arises when distinguishing between people who criticise the Government of Israel and its behaviour and those who stand accused of anti-Semitism.

I am against sectarianism of any kind, as is this Assembly. I am against anti-Christian statements and actions in Muslim States, against anti-Semitic statements and actions worldwide, and against Christian sects attacking other Christian sects. My life is blighted, as are the lives of many of my constituents, by sectarianism between Catholic and Protestant across Scotland and in many parts of the United Kingdom. I am against those things. As a humanist, although not an anti-religious person, I support and work with all people of faith, supporting the right to individual belief for all.

I want to raise the case of Reverend Stephen Sizer, who is a Church of England priest and a humanitarian defender of the Palestinian people in Israel. He sent a link to an article criticising the Government of Israel, but it was not an anti-Semitic article. Unfortunately, the article was printed on a website that contained anti-Semitic statements made by others in the past, which Reverend Sizer did not know about. In fact, he has spoken very strongly against that, as a humanitarian and a person who is not anti-Semitic.

Unfortunately, the Board of Deputies of British Jews raised a complaint against Reverend Sizer with the Church of England, which will end up in the courts. That could lose him his job and his livelihood and his ability to work in the job that he does at the moment across the world.

This case has serious implications, particularly in respect of things we have discussed in the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. In an internet age for all, are those who link to one article to be held liable for every article that is hosted on the website where that one article is contained?

I support the right of the Board of Deputies of British Jews – and that of any of the hierarchies of the churches across the world – to take on and challenge those who put sectarian and anti-Semitic articles on to a website, and to take on those people who host such articles. Of course, that is who the Board of Deputies of British Jews should be taking on – not singling out a humanitarian person who has worked diligently for the last 15 years, to my knowledge, in a broad and non-anti-Semitic way, to raise questions about the behaviour of the Israeli Government, as I do myself in my Parliament.

We have a question here. If people link to a website, are they liable for everything on the website? I hope that the Council of Europe will look at this through the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media and try to get some common sense into this debate.

      THE PRESIDENT* – The last speaker will be Ms Pelkonen. I thank the interpreters for agreeing to stay with us past 1 p.m.

      Ms PELKONEN (Finland) – As we all know, recent figures on growing youth unemployment in the European Union are alarming. The current economic crisis is surely one explaining factor, but in many countries the situation is also the result of structural problems. The difficulties could be tackled by national decision making. It is essential that there is always something or someone to help, if a youngster decides to quit school, graduates or is dropped from an employment programme.

When a young person falls through the security net of society, the risk of marginalisation is significant. Starting this year, Finland has introduced a specific social guarantee for young people, guaranteeing a place of study, work or internship within three months of unemployment for under-25s and for recent graduates younger than 30. The youth guarantee also includes an education guarantee, ensuring a place of study for all those who have finished their basic education.

The aim of the youth guarantee is important in Finland as well as in the rest of Europe. The risk of growing unemployment and its subsequent marginalisation is serious, and the losses are both human and financial. I hope that the Finnish youth guarantee will serve as an example in our joint fight against youth unemployment and marginalisation in Europe.

THE PRESIDENT* – I am sorry to have to interrupt the list of speakers, but it is getting late. 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, in typescript, to the Table Office, Room 1083, for publication in the Official Report. I would have liked to get through to the speaker from Canada, but we did not quite make it.

5. Next public sitting

THE PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3.30 p.m. with the agenda which was approved on Monday.

The sitting is closed.

(The sitting was closed at 1.10 p.m.)

CONTENTS

1. Changes in the membership of committees

2. Georgia and Russia: the humanitarian situation in the conflict- and war-affected areas

Presentation by Ms Acketoft of report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, Doc. 13083

Speakers:

Mr Sasi (Finland)

Mr Bataille (France)

Mr Xuclà (Spain)

Mr Clappison (United Kingdom)

Mr Kox (Netherlands)

Mr Bockel (France)

Ms von Cramon-Taubadel (Germany)

Ms de Pourbaix-Lundin (Sweden)

Mr Chikovani (Georgia)

Ms Erkal Kara (Turkey)

Mr Hancock (United Kingdom)

Mr Kalashnikov (Russian Federation)

Ms Taktakishvili (Georgia)

Mr Slutsky (Russian Federation)

Ms Čigāne (Latvia)

Mr V. Hovhannisyan (Armenia)

Mr Makhmutov (Russian Federation)

Mr Schennach (Austria)

Replies:

Ms Acketoft (Sweden)

Mr Santini (Italy)

Amendments 13, 5 as amended, 6 as amended, 8 as amended, 14 as amended, 20 as amended, and oral amendment adopted

Draft resolution, as amended, adopted

Amendments 21 and 2 as amended, adopted

Draft recommendation, as amended, adopted

3. Free debate

Mr Ivanovski (“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”)

Mr Hancock (United Kingdom)

Earl of Dundee (United Kingdom)

Mr Kürkçü (Turkey)

Mr Dişli (Turkey)

Ms Durrieu (France)

Ms Huovinen (Finland)

Ms Schuster (Germany)

Mr D. Davies (United Kingdom)

Mr Rzayev (Azerbaijan)

Mr Gutiérrez (Spain)

Ms Čigāne (Latvia)

Mr Popescu (Ukraine)

Mr Mota Amaral (Portugal)

Mr Jakič (Slovenia)

Mr Connarty (United Kingdom)

Ms Pelkonen (Finland)

4. Next public sitting

Appendix

Representatives or Substitutes who signed the Attendance Register in accordance with Rule 11.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of Substitutes who replaced absent Representatives are printed in small letters. The names of those who were absent or apologised for absence are followed by an asterisk.

Francis AGIUS*

Pedro AGRAMUNT

Arben AHMETAJ*

Miloš ALIGRUDIĆ

Karin ANDERSEN

Lord Donald ANDERSON

Paride ANDREOLI/ Gerardo Giovagnoli

Khadija ARIB*

Volodymyr ARIEV

Mörður ÁRNASON

Francisco ASSIS*

Danielle AUROI/ Brigitte Allain

Þuriður BACKMAN*

Daniel BACQUELAINE/Dirk Van Der Maelen

Viorel Riceard BADEA

Theodora BAKOYANNIS

David BAKRADZE/Tinatin Bokuchava

Gérard BAPT

Gerard BARCIA DUEDRA*

Doris BARNETT

José Manuel BARREIRO/Ángel Pintado

Deniz BAYKAL

Marieluise BECK

José María BENEYTO

Levan BERDZENISHVILI/Tinatin Khidasheli

Deborah BERGAMINI*

Robert BIEDROŃ/Stanisław Huskowski

Gülsün BİLGEHAN

Brian BINLEY/David Davies

Ľuboš BLAHA/Darina Gabániová

Delia BLANCO

Jean-Marie BOCKEL

Eric BOCQUET*

Olga BORZOVA/Alexander Sidyakin

Mladen BOSIĆ/Mladen Ivanić

António BRAGA

Anne BRASSEUR

Márton BRAUN

Federico BRICOLO*

Ankie BROEKERS-KNOL

Piet DE BRUYN/Ludo Sannen

Patrizia BUGNANO/Giuliana Carlino

André BUGNON

Natalia BURYKINA

Sylvia CANEL/Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel

Mevlüt ÇAVUŞOĞLU

Mikael CEDERBRATT/Tina Acketoft

Otto CHALOUPKA

Irakli CHIKOVANI

Vannino CHITI/Paolo Corsini

Christopher CHOPE

Lise CHRISTOFFERSEN/Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa

Desislav CHUKOLOV/Stanislav Ivanov

Lolita ČIGĀNE

Boriss CILEVIČS

Henryk CIOCH/Grzegorz Czelej

James CLAPPISON

Deirdre CLUNE*

Agustín CONDE

Igor CORMAN*

Telmo CORREIA

Carlos COSTA NEVES

Joseph DEBONO GRECH

Giovanna DEBONO*

Armand De DECKER

Arcadio DÍAZ TEJERA/Carmen Quintanilla

Peter van DIJK

Klaas DIJKHOFF*

Şaban DİŞLİ

Jim DOBBIN

Karl DONABAUER

Ioannis DRAGASAKIS

Daphné DUMERY*

Alexander [The Earl of] DUNDEE

Josette DURRIEU

Mikuláš DZURINDA

Baroness Diana ECCLES*

Tülin ERKAL KARA

Gianni FARINA*

Relu FENECHIU/Ionuţ-Marian Stroe

Vyacheslav FETISOV

Doris FIALA*

Daniela FILIPIOVÁ*

Axel E. FISCHER*

Jana FISCHEROVÁ/Rom Kostřica

Gvozden Srećko FLEGO

Hans FRANKEN

Jean-Claude FRÉCON

Erich Georg FRITZ

Sir Roger GALE*

Jean-Charles GARDETTO*

Tamás GAUDI NAGY

Nadezda GERASIMOVA/Otari Arshba

Valeriu GHILETCHI

Paolo GIARETTA/Renato Farina

Jean GLAVANY/Christian Bataille

Michael GLOS*

Pavol GOGA

Jarosław GÓRCZYŃSKI

Svetlana GORYACHEVA/Anton Belyakov

Martin GRAF

Sylvi GRAHAM/Ingjerd Schou

Andreas GROSS

Arlette GROSSKOST/Marie-Louise Fort

Dzhema GROZDANOVA

Attila GRUBER/Péter Hoppál

Gergely GULYÁS/László Koszorús

Pelin GÜNDEŞ BAKIR

Antonio GUTIÉRREZ

Ana GUŢU/Corina Fusu

Carina HÄGG

Sabir HAJIYEV

Andrzej HALICKI/Marek Borowski

Mike HANCOCK

Margus HANSON

Davit HARUTYUNYAN

Håkon HAUGLI

Norbert HAUPERT

Alfred HEER

Martin HENRIKSEN*

Andres HERKEL

Adam HOFMAN/Zbigniew Girzyński

Jim HOOD*

Joachim HÖRSTER

Arpine HOVHANNISYAN/Vahe Hovhannisyan

Anette HÜBINGER*

Andrej HUNKO

Susanna HUOVINEN

Ali HUSEYNLI*

Rafael HUSEYNOV

Shpëtim IDRIZI*

Vladimir ILIČ

Igor IVANOVSKI

Tadeusz IWIŃSKI

Denis JACQUAT/Jacques Legendre

Roman JAKIČ

Tedo JAPARIDZE*

Ramón JÁUREGUI

Michael Aastrup JENSEN*

Mogens JENSEN

Mats JOHANSSON

Jadranka JOKSIMOVIĆ/Aleksandra Djurović

Birkir Jón JÓNSSON*

Čedomir JOVANOVIĆ/Svetislava Bulajić

Antti KAIKKONEN/Sirkka-Liisa Anttila

Ferenc KALMÁR

Božidar KALMETA*

Mariusz KAMIŃSKI/Łukasz Zbonikowski

Marietta KARAMANLI/Jean-Pierre Michel

Burhan KAYATÜRK

Jan KAŹMIERCZAK

Serhii KIVALOV

Bogdan KLICH

Serhiy KLYUEV/Volodymyr Pylypenko

Haluk KOÇ

Igor KOLMAN*

Alev KORUN*

Tiny KOX

Borjana KRIŠTO

Dmitry KRYVITSKY

Václav KUBATA*

Ertuğrul KÜRKÇÜ

Athina KYRIAKIDOU*

Jean-Yves LE DÉAUT

Igor LEBEDEV/Sergey Kalashnikov

Harald LEIBRECHT*

Orinta LEIPUTĖ/Algis Kašėta

Terry LEYDEN

Inese LĪBIŅA-EGNERE*

Lone LOKLINDT*

François LONCLE*

Jean-Louis LORRAIN*

George LOUKAIDES/Stella Kyriakides

Younal LOUTFI*

Yuliya L'OVOCHKINA*

Saša MAGAZINOVIĆ

Philippe MAHOUX*

Gennaro MALGIERI*

Nicole MANZONE-SAQUET/Bernard Marquet

Pietro MARCENARO

Thierry MARIANI/Bernard Fournier

Epameinondas MARIAS

Milica MARKOVIĆ*

Meritxell MATEU PI

Pirkko MATTILA/Riitta Myller

Frano MATUŠIĆ*

Liliane MAURY PASQUIER

Michael McNAMARA*

Sir Alan MEALE

Ermira MEHMETI DEVAJA

Ivan MELNIKOV/Tamerlan Aguzarov

Nursuna MEMECAN

José MENDES BOTA

Jean-Claude MIGNON/Marie-Jo Zimmermann

Djordje MILIĆEVIĆ/Vesna Marjanović

Federica MOGHERINI REBESANI*

Andrey MOLCHANOV/Alexander Ter-Avanesov

Jerzy MONTAG*

Rubén MORENO PALANQUES

Patrick MORIAU

João Bosco MOTA AMARAL

Arkadiusz MULARCZYK*

Alejandro MUÑOZ-ALONSO

Lydia MUTSCH

Lev MYRYMSKYI

Philippe NACHBAR*

Oľga NACHTMANNOVÁ

Gebhard NEGELE

Aleksandar NENKOV

Pasquale NESSA

Fritz NEUGEBAUER

Baroness Emma NICHOLSON

Elena NIKOLAEVA

Aleksandar NIKOLOSKI*

Mirosława NYKIEL*

Carina OHLSSON

Joseph O'REILLY*

Lesia OROBETS

Sandra OSBORNE*

Liliana PALIHOVICI

Dimitrios PAPADIMOULIS

Eva PARERA

Ganira PASHAYEVA/Sevinj Fataliyeva

Lajla PERNASKA*

Johannes PFLUG

Foteini PIPILI

Ivan POPESCU

Lisbeth Bech POULSEN/Nikolaj Villumsen

Marietta de POURBAIX-LUNDIN

Cezar Florin PREDA

John PRESCOTT/Michael Connarty

Jakob PRESEČNIK/Andreja Črnak Meglič

Radoslav PROCHÁZKA/József Nagy

Gabino PUCHE

Alexey PUSHKOV*

Mailis REPS

Eva RICHTROVÁ/Pavel Lebeda

Andrea RIGONI*

François ROCHEBLOINE/André Schneider

Maria de Belém ROSEIRA*

René ROUQUET

Marlene RUPPRECHT

Ilir RUSMALI*

Pavlo RYABIKIN

Rovshan RZAYEV

Giacomo SANTINI

Giuseppe SARO

Kimmo SASI

Stefan SCHENNACH

Marina SCHUSTER

Urs SCHWALLER

Damir ŠEHOVIĆ

Senad ŠEPIĆ

Samad SEYIDOV*

Jim SHERIDAN

Oleksandr SHEVCHENKO

Boris SHPIGEL/Yury Solonin

Arturas SKARDŽIUS

Ladislav SKOPAL/Kateřina Konečná

Leonid SLUTSKY

Serhiy SOBOLEV

Lorella STEFANELLI

Yanaki STOILOV

Christoph STRÄSSER

Karin STRENZ*

Giacomo STUCCHI

Valeriy SUDARENKOV

Björn von SYDOW

Petro SYMONENKO/Yevhen Marmazov

Vilmos SZABÓ*

Melinda SZÉKYNÉ SZTRÉMI/Imre Vejkey

Chiora TAKTAKISHVILI

Vyacheslav TIMCHENKO/Robert Shlegel

Romana TOMC

Lord John E. TOMLINSON

Latchezar TOSHEV

Mihai TUDOSE*

Ahmet Kutalmiş TÜRKEŞ

Tuğrul TÜRKEŞ*

Theodora TZAKRI

Tomáš ÚLEHLA

Ilyas UMAKHANOV/Alexey Ivanovich Aleksandrov

Viktor USPASKICH/Egidijus Vareikis

Giuseppe VALENTINO

Miltiadis VARVITSIOTIS/Liana Kanelli

Ljubica VASIĆ/Stefana Miladinović

Volodymyr VECHERKO/Larysa Melnychuk

Stefaan VERCAMER

Anne-Mari VIROLAINEN/Jaana Pelkonen

Luigi VITALI*

Luca VOLONTÈ

Vladimir VORONIN/Grigore Petrenco

Varujan VOSGANIAN*

Tanja VRBAT/Melita Mulić

Klaas de VRIES

Nataša VUČKOVIĆ

Zoran VUKČEVIĆ

Piotr WACH

Johann WADEPHUL*

Robert WALTER/Charles Kennedy

Dame Angela WATKINSON*

Katrin WERNER

Renate WOHLWEND

Karin S. WOLDSETH/Øyvind Vaksdal

Gisela WURM

Karl ZELLER*

Svetlana ZHUROVA

Emanuelis ZINGERIS

Guennady ZIUGANOV/Anvar Makhmutov

Naira ZOHRABYAN

Levon ZOURABIAN*

Vacant Seat, Cyprus*

Vacant Seat, Montenegro*

Vacant Seat, Romania*

Vacant Seat, Romania*

Vacant Seat, Romania*

Vacant Seat, Romania*

Vacant Seat, Romania*

ALSO PRESENT

Representatives and Substitutes not authorised to vote

Joris BACKER

David CRAUSBY

Elvira KOVÁCS

Spyridon TALIADOUROS

Konstantinos TRIANTAFYLLOS

Jordi XUCLÀ

Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot Community (In accordance to Resolution 1376 (2004) of the Parliamentary Assembly)

Mehmet ÇAĞLAR

Ahmet ETI

Observers

Aleida ALAVES RUIZ

Marjolaine BOUTIN-SWEET

Eloy CANTU SEGOVIA

Corneliu CHISU

Sladan ĆOSIĆ

Héctor LARIOS CÓRDOVA

Javier LOZANO ALARCÓN

Michel RIVARD

Bev SHIPLEY

Nycole TURMEL

Partners for Democracy

Mohammed AMEUR

Mohammed Mehdi BENSAID

Hassan BOUHRIZ

Ali Salem CHAGAF

Nezha EL OUAFI

Bernard SABELLA

Mohamed YATIM