Lord Russell-Johnson, President of the Assembly, took the Chair
at 10 a.m.
THE PRESIDENT.- The sitting is open.
1. Adoption of the minutes
The minutes of proceedings of the previous two sittings have been
Are there any objections?
That is not the case.
The minutes are adopted.
Conflict in Chechnya and credentials of the delegation of the Russian Federation
THE PRESIDENT.- As we agreed yesterday, the first item of business this
morning is the joint debate on the two reports from the Political Affairs Committee -
conflict in Chechnya, Document 8630, presented by Lord Judd, and on the credentials of the
delegation of the Russian Federation, Document 8633, presented by Mr Davis.
The reports are accompanied by four opinions from other committees.
This will be a difficult debate, arousing intense emotions and
consequently, because of the unavoidable shortage of time, hard to manage in a way that
everyone considers to be fair. I had a meeting yesterday with Terry Davis, Chairman of the
Political Affairs Committee, Lord Judd, its rapporteur, and Rudolf Bindig, the Rapporteur
for the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. I begin by publicly thanking them for
their approach, which was to seek to have an open and balanced debate that does justice to
all arguments. I hope that that is what we will have.
Mr Igor Ivanov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation,
is present and will make a statement after the rapporteurs. At about 11.45 a.m., Mr Ivanov
will also respond to questions asked during the debate - that is, before the address by Mr
Schüssel, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria - so members may take the
opportunity during their speeches this morning to put specific questions to Mr Ivanov.
At about 12 noon, I shall interrupt the speakers list so that we
can hear an address by Mr Wolfgang Schüssel, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria and,
specifically on this occasion, Chairman-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and
Co-operation in Europe.
The debate will resume at 3 p.m. at the point in the speakers
list at which the debate was adjourned. Debate will conclude at about 4.15 p.m., when we
shall move to votes on both documents. A further joint debate on health security and
antibiotics in agriculture is due to start at about 5.30 p.m. The sitting today will
continue until 7.15 p.m. to accommodate our heavy workload. The ambassador should take
note of that, because of the joint committee meeting that follows on immediately.
The list of speakers closed at 7 p.m. yesterday. There are fifty-nine
names on the list, and twenty-nine amendments have been tabled to the report on Chechnya,
with two to the report on credentials.
In order to accommodate the large number of members who wish to speak,
I propose to limit the time available for individual speeches from the floor to four
minutes each. This four-minute limit will also apply in the joint debate later today on
health security and antibiotics in agriculture.
Are these arrangements agreed?
They are agreed to.
I call Lord Judd to present his report on the conflict in Chechnya. He
has eight minutes.
Lord JUDD (United Kingdom).- Mr President, the debate on
Chechnya that has been taking place throughout the Assembly at all hours and in all places
has, in my view, been a good one. It has been candid, sincere and respectful. It has been
about the very purposes at the heart of what the Council of Europe exists to secure.
I want to make one point clear beyond doubt. I do not just respect the
concern of those who call for a different approach from my own; I identify totally with
them in their concern. What I question is the effectiveness of what they advocate.
The situation in Chechnya is grim. It remains a living nightmare, as we
enjoy the luxuries of Strasbourg. It has also been grim for the victims of terrorism,
whoever perpetrated it, for the people of Dagestan and for the bereaved families of young
If events in Chechnya are grim, we must face the sobering reality that
the crisis in Chechnya may be symptomatic of something more profound. A disturbing new
nationalism is growing in Russia, hence the broad-based popularity of the war. History
will judge us hard if, whatever our good intentions, we fan the flames of that nationalism
in what remains a nuclear power.
The challenge is to open up the debate in Russia, not to close it down
and the approaching presidential election underlines the point. It will not be easy, but
we must try. We must be uncompromising in making clear the principles on which the Council
of Europe was founded. We must be equally firm about what is required of member states in
terms of human rights, international humanitarian law and meaningful democracy.
We must do our utmost to support those who share these objectives. Our
argument is primarily with the executive arm of government in Russia. We must strengthen
the possibilities for Russian parliamentarians credibly to widen the debate in the Duma
and to call the executive to account. Would suspension, let alone the humiliation inherent
in second-class status with no voting rights, help or hinder in this? That is the question
with which we must wrestle. Action that enhanced our sense of self-righteousness but
failed to help the innocent children, women and men on the frontline of suffering would
simply be wrong.
Questions are asked of me. People may ask, "Are you, Frank Judd,
being duped? Are you being used? What rational reason do you have to believe that any
change will come if we delay suspension, or if we fail to remove for the time being the
right of Russian delegates to vote?" It is argued that we have called before for
change but that nothing has happened. Why would that change? Do we really believe the
words of acting President Putin?
To those who pose those questions, I must ask whether - even if we are,
in fact, up against such cynical obstinacy - there is any evidence that suspension or the
removal of voting rights will help. The report proposes and the Political Affairs
Committee recommends that we test the statements made by acting President Putin and others
in their meetings with the delegation, which you, Mr President, led with such distinction.
We are stipulating, more firmly than we did in the past, precise criteria by which a
change for the better will be measured. We are setting a firm time limit within which the
evidence must become clear.
Let me summarise our criteria. First, there must be a convincing and
immediate attempt to achieve a ceasefire. That will, of course, require a convincing
response from all parties to the conflict. Secondly, indiscriminate military action
against ordinary citizens must stop. That is essential if we are to protect human rights,
and if the whole population of Chechnya is not to be driven into increased dependence on
Thirdly, there must be a move towards negotiations and an acceptance
that there can be no military solution. It must be recognised that a lasting and viable
solution will require the consent of the majority of the people that it affects and of the
key parties to the conflict. Those negotiations must be as open and as broadly based as
possible. There should be no preconditions. Russia must talk to the people who matter, not
just to those who are easily acceptable. That route has been taken in Northern Ireland,
and is currently being followed in the Middle East.
Fourthly, an international presence is required in the region to
monitor human rights and other developments, and to assist in building peace.
Interestingly, acting President Putin has said that he is not averse to that. Fifthly,
humanitarian agencies must have full access to those in need, and the Russian and
international media must be given free access to the region.
There has been no monopoly of unacceptable behaviour in this tragic
saga. The Chechens must take their responsibilities seriously, and my report addresses
that point. No matter what vicious, uncivilised and brutal action has been taken by
elements in Chechnya, Russias action is unacceptable, and it cannot be exonerated.
As a solemnly committed member of the Council of Europe, Russia must demonstrate that it
is better than that.
I believe that our strategy of setting firm criteria and a time limit
within which convincing action must occur is a muscular policy rather than a rhetorical
one. Without sufficient convincing progress, Russias continued membership of the
Council of Europe will inevitably be discussed by the Assembly in April. In the meantime,
we look to our Russian colleagues, as full fellow members of the Assembly, to do their
utmost to turn into action the undertakings of commitment to the values of the Council of
Europe that were given at the time of Russias accession. We look to acting President
Putin and his government to respond without delay.
We demand deeds, not words - and fast. The historic challenge facing us
all is the creation of a lasting peace, without which few of our humanitarian objectives
can be fulfilled. Peace building is a far more exacting task even than peacekeeping or
peace enforcement. It will require stamina and a positive commitment from all of us.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Lord Judd. I call Mr Bindig on behalf of the
Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. You have five minutes.
Mr BINDIG (Germany) said that the task of the Committee on Legal
Affairs and Human Rights had been to look at the legal aspects of the conflict in Chechnya
and whether human rights and international law were respected. The report also had to deal
with how the Chechen side dealt with human rights and international law. The European
Convention on Human Rights stated that fundamental rights included the right to life,
freedom and security. It was clear from the number of casualties on each side that human
rights had been violated. International law, particularly the Geneva convention on war
victims, forbade the use of heavy arms and bombardment against the civilian population.
Another question to consider was whether the Russian Federations
activities were within its law. No emergency had been declared. When entering the Council
of Europe, the Russian Federation had committed itself to Council of Europe standards.
Russia had a right to fight terrorism, but it had to respect the principle of
Russia also had to respect humanitarian international law. The Chechen
side had seriously violated human rights, for instance, by hostage taking. It was unclear
how captured Russian soldiers had been treated and abused. The basic standards of the
Council of Europe had been seriously violated by both sides. The question was how to
respond. The Council had to condemn human rights violations. The Council and its Assembly
had a duty not only to defend human rights but to maintain relations with Russia and her
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mr Bindig. I call Mr Iwinski to present the
opinion of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography. You have five minutes.
Mr IWINSKI (Poland).- Political and humanitarian issues
are closely interlinked, so our three reports are mutually supportive. Civilians in the
North Caucasus, including refugees and internally displaced persons, have again become the
innocent victims of this war. The two parties to the conflict have committed human rights
violations, which are still continuing on both sides.
The most precarious situation is undoubtedly that of up to 20 000
civilians who remain in Grozny, vulnerable to military action despite earlier attempts by
Russian forces to get them to leave either by such measures as the infamous "leave or
die" ultimatum of December or the organisation of "safe" corridors. Most
civilians are believed to have been hiding in cellars for weeks without electricity or
adequate food or water. That situation is worse even than during the siege of Sarajevo.
Considerable concern was expressed by the international community about
the January order forbidding all males between the ages of ten and sixty to enter or leave
Chechnya. It would, of course, be totally unacceptable to deny safety to those fleeing the
fighting and to separate families in that way. Our delegation was unable to substantiate
fears that men and boys might be taken to detention or "filtration" camps to
determine their loyalties. I therefore stress that it is an absolute priority to keep open
the borders with neighbouring republics for internally displaced persons from Chechnya
seeking shelter and humanitarian assistance.
Since last August, more than 250 000 people have been displaced by the
fighting, mainly in Ingushetia. Many of them have returned to Chechnya, but more than 170
000 remain in Ingushetia, accounting for 50% of the population of that republic. Some 80%
of IDPs are accommodated in private homes, which imposes a considerable burden on the poor
host families. Others are living in seven refugee camps such as Karabulak, which we
visited, in uncomfortable but not impossible conditions.
There is a great need for humanitarian assistance from the
international community to support the considerable efforts of the Russian authorities.
Recently, the medical condition of the displaced persons in Ingushetia has worsened. To be
frank, international assistance at the moment is neither sufficient nor efficient. I urge
Council of Europe member states to respond positively to the appeal by the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees for economic support. Our Organisations strong
presence in the North Caucasus is necessary to monitor the humanitarian situation of IDPs
and to facilitate communication and confidence building between the IDP community and the
authorities. Our delegation was pleased by the position of acting President Putin, who
told us in Moscow that security would never be used as a pretext to prevent international
monitoring in the region. By and large, there is a need for more humanitarian
Many other problems are a cause for serious concern. Amnesty
International and Human Rights Watch have documented several instances of disproportionate
and indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets, including the apparently deliberate
bombing of columns of refugees leaving Chechnya. Moreover, the same sources report that
Chechens living in Moscow and other Russian cities have been subjected to serious
harassment by the security forces. Massive sums will be required to rebuild the republic
after the war. The cost of rebuilding Grozny will exceed $1 billion, according to Mr
Koshman, the governments representative in Chechnya. International assistance will
Poverty in the region has paved the way to old and new conflicts. There
is massive unemployment, and many young people who do not have salaries approved without
hesitation the proposal to join armed groups of, for example, Islamic separatists for just
$200 a month. That means that, unless we solve the economic problems of the North
Caucasus, the drama affecting the Chechen people, including refugees and IDPs, will not
come to an end in the short term. During the winter, however, the main challenge is to
step up humanitarian aid and to ensure that it gets through.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you. I call Mr Davis to present his report on the
credentials of the Russian delegation. You have eight minutes.
Mr DAVIS (United Kingdom).- I shall be brief because the report
on credentials follows consequentially from Lord Judds report, and was adopted by
the Political Affairs Committee. We expect action by the Russian authorities, and we felt
that it would be inconsistent if, on the one hand, we supported the strong recommendations
in Lord Judds report and accepted its tone and, on the other, deprived the Russian
delegation of their credentials and rights. The Political Affairs Committee therefore
adopted the report that said that we should support Lord Judd in his recommendations.
Clearly, the issue of credentials will not go away - it will certainly need to be
re-examined in April - but we should not at this session deprive the Russian delegation of
their credentials or any of their consequent rights.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mr Davis. I call Rudi Vis to present the
opinion of the Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities. You have five minutes.
Mr VIS (United Kingdom).- Colleagues, I shall not detain you
unnecessarily by taking up all my allocated time. Document 8635 gives all the details. The
Committee on Rules of Procedure and Immunities plays an important but limited part in
these proceedings and I shall make only two points. The committees role is not to
discuss the credentials of the Russian delegation; it is only to investigate whether the
proposals in the Political Affairs Committees report are in accordance with the
Assemblys Rules of Procedure and the statutes of the Council of Europe. The
committee met yesterday to discuss these matters, with the assistance of its secretary, Mr
Schade, to whom we owe our thanks. The committee was of the unanimous opinion that the
report of the Political Affairs Committee was fully in accordance with all the relevant
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mr Vis. I call Mr Frunda to present the
opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
Mr FRUNDA (Romania).- There is no doubt that fundamental human
rights are seriously violated in Chechnya. More than two-thirds of the Chechen population
have already left their homeland. There are between 10 000 and 40 000 people in cellars
with no food, heating or light and with minimal medical assistance. Those aged between ten
and sixty are not allowed to go to a safer place.
None of us supports terrorism and we are not asking for the recognition
of any borders other than the official borders of the Russian Federation. However, we
cannot allow such serious violations of basic human rights to be perpetrated in a member
country in the name of defeating terrorism.
We have three options under Article 8: to recognise the credentials of
the Russian Federation without reservation, to suspend them or to apply some form of
sanctions. What is the best solution? Confirming the credentials with no restrictions or
sanctions would show that the Council of Europe was not strong enough to take a decisive
step when basic human rights were not assured in a member state. That would strengthen
Russias extremist forces and would not help the countrys further integration
in the Council of Europe. Suspending Russia would be too strong a measure. It would mean
the countrys isolation in the Council of Europe and the building of a new wall
between Russia and the other member states.
We have to avoid those two options and find a third way to show that
the Council of Europe can take action when human rights are not respected. That is why my
committee has proposed an amendment to the draft recommendation of the Political Affairs
Committee. We propose to suspend the Russian delegations right to vote in the
Assembly and its committees until Russia meets the Council of Europes basic
principles laid down in Article 3 of the convention. That would be a wise solution which
would have a serious influence on the policy of the Russian Federation and help the
democratic forces in the Russian delegation. It would also enable the Council of Europe to
act in accordance with its principles and fulfil its targets.
Address by Mr Igor Ivanov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
THE PRESIDENT.- I should now like to welcome to our Assembly the
Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Mr Igor Ivanov.
Mr Ivanov, I have already spoken at some length on the subject of the
conflict in Chechnya on the occasion of the opening of this part-session. I would just
wish to say one thing. Today's debate does not need to concentrate excessively on why
Russia intervened in the North Caucasus. Everybody agrees that the situation before the
intervention had become intolerable and that something had to be done. What we are
principally concerned with is how this intervention is taking place, whether Russia had to
intervene militarily and whether the means used are proportionate and in compliance with
our rules and principles. Finally, the main purpose of the debate is not to condemn
Russia. This is a critical discussion among friends committed to the same values and
should be recognised as a genuine offer of help.
The proposal for a Council of Europe presence in the North Caucasus,
agreed to in the meeting with acting President Putin, could be a part of this help. I hope
that we shall be able to discuss concrete ways to implement this proposal in the
I would be obliged if you could contain yourself to ten minutes,
because so many people wish to speak. You have the floor.
Mr IVANOV (Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation) thanked
the Assembly for its invitation to him to participate in its discussion.
The Council of Europes interest in the situation in Chechnya was
understandable. Some parliamentarians were trying to achieve an objective view of the
situation - for example, a delegation had visited Chechnya. Some were worried about the
effect of the conflict on the stability of the region. There were also some
parliamentarians who wanted to use the situation as an excuse to treat Russia harshly.
Such people were, however, isolated and did not dominate the Assembly.
The view of the Russian Federation was transparent, and the government
had nothing to hide. Details were contained in the reply, which had been sent at the
request of Mr Schwimmer, relating to Article 52 of the European Convention on Human
Rights. That contained a full range of information, which delegates could read in their
Some people had talked about human rights violations in Chechnya, but
in order for rights to be violated they needed to exist in the first place. That was not
the case in Chechnya, as anyone who had visited it over the past few years could confirm.
Even the ICE Group had abandoned the permanent post for fear of its safety. There had
been the adoption of Sharia law, trade in people and abuses of economic and social rights.
That view had also been confirmed by the Soviet dissident, the Minister of the Interior in
Israel. There had not even been respect for the basic right to life.
The web of linked terrorist organisations on the southern borders of
Europe constituted a significant threat to peace. An all-embracing approach to regional
security was needed to halt extremism in the Caucasus. Russia would continue to be a
stabilising force in the region and its aim in Chechnya was to re-establish law and order.
It was wrong to refer to the events as a conflict. Russias actions were an
anti-terrorist operation against criminals. It was wrong for violations of the law by one
side to be met with violations by the other, but the actions that Russia was taking were
entirely within the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. The active
phase of the anti-terrorist operation was now coming to an end and for most of Chechnya
peace and normal life were returning.
Any final settlement could only be politically based, and there was a
need for co-operation with international bodies to help re-establish democracy in the
Republic. The Council of Europe could help in that respect and there was scope for it to
contribute to other areas, such as judicial training and the opening of a regional
information centre. That would require mutual respect between the Council of Europe and
Russian negotiations to become a member of the Council of Europe had
been difficult and taken four years, but voluntary accession, which had been of mutual
benefit, had occurred. In a few years, Russia had achieved more democratic reforms than
any other country and done what other countries had taken decades to do. That would be
confirmed by the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
It would be a serious mistake to assess the situation in the North
Caucasus in isolation. He hoped that the Council of Europe would make a wise decision.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mr Ivanov.
Conflict in Chechnya and credentials of the delegation of the Russian Federation (resumed
THE PRESIDENT.- We now move back to the main debate. I call
Mr LAAKSO (Finland).- The Chechen Republic is today not what it
was at the beginning of the 1990s, before the collapse of the Soviet Union. At that time,
the population was more than 1 million, including 750 000 Chechens, 230 000 Russians, more
than 30 000 Ukrainians and thousands of Armenians, Tartars and other nationalities. In
September last year, only 350 000 Chechens were left in the Republic and about half a
million were living in other regions of Russia. Before the war, there were already more
Chechens in Moscow than in Grozny. Last September, there were only 20 000 Russians living
During the de facto independence of Chechnya, the Chechen
leadership has been unable to ensure the rule of the law and respect for fundamental human
rights and individual freedoms. The way in which Sharia law has been implemented, with
public executions, torture and other cruel methods is inconsistent with the European
Convention on Human Rights.
There have been widespread violence, kidnappings, drug and arms
smuggling and even terrorist attacks from Chechnya on neighbouring republics. President
Aslan Maskhadov has been unable to stop that. Other countries have armed and financed his
rivals. There has been a steady flow of armaments and foreign fighters from Afghanistan
Even the terrorist attacks from the Chechen Republic and the
indisputable right of Russia to defend its territorial integrity do not give the Russian
Federation the right to use indiscriminate and disproportionate force. The toll of
civilian victims is already too high. I am afraid that the violence will breed a whole new
generation of terrorists and fighters. That is why it is absolutely necessary to find a
political solution through dialogue; otherwise, the armed confrontation will continue for
Our delegation discussed with acting President Putin the presence of
the Council of Europe in the region. His response was positive and he said that he was
willing to listen to our proposals. I hope that we will continue to discuss proposals with
Mr Ivanov. We must study the proposals carefully.
Knowing our Organisation's limited resources, I doubt that in the first
phase, before the cessation of hostilities, we will be able to establish a permanent
presence in the area. That is why we should agree with the Russian authorities on
immediate new missions to the area. The rapporteurs of the relevant committees should
visit the area as soon as possible. I will lead the delegation of my political group, the
Unified European Left, to Moscow to discuss the implementation of our decisions with the
We cannot exclude Russian parliamentarians from the dialogue and
co-operation. There is a danger that we will exclude not only them but ourselves from the
proposals. The credibility of our Organisation demands that we are involved in the process
and take concrete steps.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mr Laakso. I ask delegates to keep to the
time limits. That is very important if we are to get in as many people as possible. I call
Mr de Puig.
Mr de PUIG (Spain) said that the Socialist Group was unanimous
on some issues in the report but divided on others. It was unanimous in condemning human
rights violations, attacks on the civilian population and the lack of any rules of war.
The unacceptable situation made the actions recommended in the Judd report necessary.
However, no one should believe that the Chechens were being favoured. The Chechen regime
was one of abuse and excess, and its undemocratic nature was unacceptable.
Russian actions had to be judged in the context of Russias
membership of the Organisation. The issue was not just a moral one or one of principle.
The Organisation was not a church, but a political institution and, beyond condemning the
situation, it was the Organisations duty to seek a political solution.
It would not be right to isolate Russia. Two-thirds of the Socialist
Group supported the Judd recommendations, but one-third were in favour of strengthening
the Judd report with the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and
felt that the Organisation should not wait until April to act. However, the majority felt
that it was not appropriate to place sanctions on parliamentarians. The new State Duma
might be the most effective political institution in Russia, and might be the only place
where forceful criticism could be made and the Putin government could be forced to act. Mr
Ivanov should act now to reverse the situation, otherwise the Assembly might be forced to
suspend Russia in April.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you. I now call Mr Van der Linden.
Mr Van der LINDEN (Netherlands) speaking on behalf of the Group
of the European Peoples Party, said that Russia was an important member of the
European family. The issue at stake was not one of territorial integrity or the fight
against terrorism. The EPP Group did not condone the banditry of the Chechen regime, but
nor did it condone the massive violations of human rights which were taking place. The
issue was not whether sanctions should be placed on Russian colleagues, but whether the
Organisation should raise its voice against those flagrant human rights violations. It was
a question of credibility. On 4 November, the Organisation had condemned Russian
violations in the strongest terms; the answer was a massive wave of violence. On 10
November, the Organisation had called for a ceasefire and for peaceful negotiations; that
was answered by continuing and escalating violence. Since then, the situation had
If the two months deferral was accepted, what would the
Organisations statements be worth? The aid organisations were still denied access:
would that access be granted in the next week? There was no doubt that there were
substantial grounds to question the credentials of the Russian delegations. What was the
purpose of Article 8 of the Rules of Procedure, and if it were not invoked when the time
came, could it be invoked in future years? The EPP Group stood for debates on fundamental
rights, which was also the justification for the existence of the Organisation. The
Organisation should not give the wrong signal. The EPP had made consistent and modest
proposals in accordance with the Organisations principles.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you. The next speaker is Mr Atkinson, leader of
the European Democratic Group.
Mr ATKINSON (United Kingdom).- This is the second time that the
Assembly has debated Chechnya. The first time was five years ago when, because of the
excessive brutality that Russia was using in its first Chechen war, the Assembly suspended
dealing with the Russian application.
That suspension produced results. It allowed the three rapporteurs to
conduct quiet diplomacy in order to exercise influence on behalf of the Assembly. All
three of us went to Moscow to meet General Lebed. We also went to Grozny to meet President
Maskhadov. That resulted in a ceasefire and produced a peace agreement under which Russia
would leave Chechnya alone for five years, when its status would be resolved. We allowed
Russia to join the Council of Europe.
This week, the Assembly is once again being asked to suspend Russia
from the Council of Europe, this time as a full member. That is an understandable demand.
Russia has demonstrated that it has yet to accept its new obligation, which denies the use
of brute force to eliminate ethnic opposition. Russia has yet to understand what Moldova,
Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have all understood: that ethnic conflicts and separatist
movements can be resolved only by political and peaceful means, no matter how many
painstaking and frustrating years that takes. Until Russia understands that, it will never
enjoy peace in Chechnya.
In the motion before us today, we rightly condemn Russia for failing to
live up to its obligations, for imposing hell on a civilian population, for using
17-year-old conscripts as cannon fodder, and for the brutalisation of a society that has
lost its way. If I thought that suspending Russia from the Council of Europe would result
in the end of the war in Chechnya, that would have my support.
Suspension of Russia would not end the war. What it would do, however,
is end whatever influence we have to end the war. No, unlike 1995, today Russia does not
need suspension. It needs help. That is what President Russell-Johnston offered in Moscow
and that is what the motion offers today. The Council of Europe, the European Union and
the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe will all have a part to play,
with the new Russian Government, to do for Chechnya what we are doing in the Balkans, and
to help and encourage Russia on the road to reform. That is what we want Mr Ivanov to
When we invited Russia to join the Council of Europe five years ago, we
knew that it would take years, perhaps a generation, for it to achieve our standards of
democracy, human rights and the rule of law, and so the second Chechen war is proving. We
were right to allow Russia to join. We are right to encourage Russia, and to monitor and
assist it on its rocky road to civilised values. The alternative is that Russia will
become ever more nationalist while remaining brutal. A Russia deprived of western values
would fall increasingly under the influence of forces that hark back to the Soviet past.
My co-rapporteur, Mr Bindig, who is of Russian origin, said that our task was to remind
Russia of the historic document of commitment to the Council of Europe and its values,
which was signed by Yeltsin, Chernomyrdin, Shumeyko and Rybkin. We must not suspend
Russia, but help it to achieve that commitment.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mr Atkinson. The next speaker is the leader
of the Liberal, Democratic and Reformers Group, Mrs Kristiina Ojuland.
Mrs OJULAND (Estonia).- Four year ago, when Russia acceded to
the Council of Europe, there was war in Chechnya. Russia was also in a pre-election
period. Circumstances today are the same. The Russian authorities tell us that they must
fight against criminals, terrorists and the separation of Chechnya from the Russian
Federation. The Liberal Group agrees that we must always fight criminals and terrorists,
but we cannot agree with the use of brutal force. No one else in the world fights
terrorism with an entire army. The Assembly cannot accept that.
The Russian authorities must appreciate that European parliamentarians
have eyes and brains. We can see that economic and political reasons lie behind the war.
Young Russian soldiers are fighting in Chechnya - and dying there. The Russian authorities
do not care about the lives of their own young soldiers. Mothers are not informed of what
is happening to their sons in Chechnya. However, Russia is a full member of the Council of
Europe, and most liberals feel that it must remain a member but fulfil its obligations
under international agreements, including the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Russian Federation must keep the resolution that we shall agree
today. It must meet its obligations to the Council of Europe. Expelling Russia or
depriving it of voting rights would not help the people I met in Chechnya a few weeks ago,
or those in refugees camps in Ingushetia whom I met last week. We must help those people
to get out of the terrible conditions that they are suffering. Expelling Russia will not
improve their position.
I ask my colleagues to be aware of what is really happening in Chechnya
and in Russia. However, we should not isolate Russia, as that could have much wider
consequences for the whole of Europe.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mrs Ojuland. I call Mr Gross on behalf of
the Socialist Group.
Mr GROSS (Switzerland) said that if the only question to be
considered was whether Russia was perpetrating human rights violations against tens of
thousands of people, the answer would be clear and Russia would have to be suspended. That
was not, however, the case. Even if there had been no human rights before the conflict,
that was no excuse for Russia to violate them.
The role of the Council of Europe was not simply to make judgments
about events which had already taken place; it had a responsibility to ensure that its
principles were adhered to in the future. The Assembly should rejoice in the commitment by
President Putin to consider any proposals for peace. Any peace plan had to include clear
deadlines and dates. Co-operation between the Council of Europe and Russia on any peace
process relied on the ability of other member states to accept the commitments made by the
Russian Government. President Putin had not given any reason for others to doubt his
commitments and, unless that happened, he should be supported and taken seriously. At the
same time, the Assembly should send a clear message that, if those commitments were not
fulfilled, it would resort to the steps available to it, such as suspension of Russia from
the Council of Europe. One requirement which had to be fulfilled was for Russia to allow
humanitarian aid to be delivered in Chechnya.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mr Gross. I call Mr Zierer.
Mr ZIERER (Germany), speaking on behalf of the European
Peoples Party, said that the Council of Europe should not be silent in the face of
the massive contravention of human rights which was occurring. For assistance to continue
to be given to Russia it was necessary for Russia to pay attention to the concerns of
other European countries. The Chechen fighters did represent a terrorist threat, but it
was wrong to try to solve that by carpet-bombing innocent women and children. Russia had
to choose between upholding human rights and pursuing military action. The Council of
Europe should consider suspending Russias voting rights.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mr Zierer. The next speaker is Mrs
Mrs POPTODOROVA (Bulgaria).- Like all stories, the story of
Chechnya has two sides. There have been many reports of brutal, violent deeds committed on
behalf of terrorist elements in Chechnya. As Foreign Minister Ivanov pointed out,
legitimate concern was raised by the introduction of the Sharia law in Chechnya, with all
its brutal consequences and implications for the Chechen population, especially women. I
was asked to raise that issue in this debate on behalf of the Womens Socialist
Group. We are equally concerned that once again, as in similar wars, the problems of rape
and harassment of women have been strongly to the fore.
On the other side of the story, there has already been indiscriminate
military action against civilians, which has recently intensified. The Soldiers
Mothers Committee has already made public protests against conscript soldiers being sent
to Chechnya and about the lack of adequate information about their fate.
The two sides of the story have now come down to one dramatic dimension
- the heavy loss of human life and the impending humanitarian crisis. No other
considerations could or should be placed above that human tragedy.
I support the Political Affairs Committees report and draft
recommendation, as presented by Lord Judd. I emphasise that, although the Chechen crisis
is an internal issue, it has already entered the domain of international concern and
responsibility. It cannot be resolved without international assistance and perhaps
mediation. The Council of Europe must lead that effort. The conflict can be resolved only
by modern means, not those by which similar conflicts in the 19th and 20th centuries were
resolved. That understanding and obligation should be impressed on the Chechen side.
I was encouraged to hear from Foreign Minister Ivanov about the
intention to establish a regional security system in the Caucasus. I have faith in a
co-operative effort by countries such as Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. I would expect
such a system to develop as part of the European security system. Mr Ivanovs
proposals for specific programmes of co-operation with the Council of Europe should be
carefully studied and taken up seriously by the organisation. However, we must realise
that those programmes can be implemented only after a cessation of hostilities.
Priorities are difficult to rank in this case. They run in a
horizontal, not a vertical, order. However, two urgent steps need to be taken immediately.
First, there must be full access by the media and humanitarian organisations to the entire
area of the conflict. Our colleagues in the Russian delegation and the Duma should be
given the chance to bring about a ceasefire, which is imperative, and to begin talks for a
Scholars of Russian history know that it took Russia seventy years to
conquer Chechnya - three whole generations. This debate should send a message that today
neither Russia - least of all Russia - nor Europe could afford to allow another three
generations to go by before this conflict in particular and the Caucasian security issue
in general were resolved. The message is that time is running out. I trust that in early
April, with the indispensable co-operation of our Russian colleagues, this Assembly will
be able to register progress in that direction. Such a development will befit
Russias position as a democratic, sovereign member state of the Council of Europe.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mrs Poptodorova. The next speaker is
Mr KRZAKLEWSKI (Poland).- In the past, the Polish struggle for
freedom was usually supported by western societies, but governments believed in a negative
stereotype of Polish troublemakers and treated our case as an internal affair of Russia.
That false stereotype was changed only by Solidarity. Because of that experience, Poles
are sensitive to any instances of western double standards in judging events in the
eastern part of the continent.
Today, some try to present the problem of Chechnya as a fight with
Islamic terrorists. However, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin said to the nations of
the Russian Federation: "Take as much power in your hands as you can." We should
not therefore be surprised that Chechens, who were subjugated by the Russian empire in the
19th century and deported by Stalin in the 20th, were not satisfied with autonomy.
We are entering a third century in which Chechens have to fight not
only for human rights but for survival. Chechens are accused of terrorism, but no credible
evidence has been produced. Even if we assume for a moment that there were instances of
terrorism, would that justify killing thousands of innocent civilians, persecuting all men
between the ages of ten and sixty and systematically levelling Grozny? Grozny reminds
Poles of Warsaw, which was totally destroyed in 1944.
Russia sometimes compares the Chechen problem with Kosovo. If that is a
fair comparison, the situation is worse than we thought. Miloevics policy was aimed
against not only Kosovars, but the west. By creating an image of internal and external
enemies, he was able to gain popular support and use democratic procedures for
anti-democratic aims. If those who compare Russias policy in the Caucasus with the
situation in the Balkans are right, we should be worried, because that means that the
Chechens are only a scapegoat, used to strengthen internal power in Russia on the basis of
neo-imperial resentments. Such a policy would lead to self-isolation and economic disaster
and could be dangerous not only for neighbouring countries but for Russian society in the
It is never too late for peace. The war can be stopped and worse
scenarios can be prevented. Such drastic disrespect for human rights and other treaties,
such as the conventional forces in Europe treaty, puts the credibility of our institutions
and our whole security system at stake. The Assembly should call on all European countries
to limit their financial help to Russia further as long as the fighting continues. On
behalf of Polish Solidarity, I support the motion to challenge the credentials of the
Russian delegation as long as the Russian Federation does not respect the principles
described in the preamble and in Article 3 of the statute of the Council of Europe.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mr Krzaklewski. I call Mr Eörsi.
Mr EÖRSI (Hungary).- Some of our values need clarification and
discussion, whereas others are obvious. Russia is clearly entitled to protect its
integrity and fight against terrorism, but nothing can justify a country sending tanks and
heavy artillery against its people. If Mr Ivanov insists on calling it an anti-terrorist
action rather than a war I am happy to accept that, but nothing can allow a country to use
tanks and heavy artillery against civilians in an anti-terrorist operation.
Let us be frank. If we were dealing with any country other than Russia,
we would not be talking about credentials and voting rights; we would be considering
suspension, if not expulsion. However, I am not naïve and I understand that Russia
presents different challenges. I am not advocating being too tough against Russia. Nobody
wants to isolate Russia and I do not want to make the anti-Europeans in Russia happy or
damage the reputation of those who are our friends and want Russia to develop closer links
However, if we do nothing and just talk, we will be shutting our eyes,
and I do not know what we will be able to say to other countries in the future against
which we want to impose sanctions because of breaches of human rights that are much less
serious than what Russia has done. What can we do? Mr President, you headed a delegation
to Russia. You met Mr Putin, who was open with you and made some promises. Unfortunately,
your meeting with Mr Ivanov was not so successful, even though he was present at your
meeting with Mr Putin.
Unfortunately, nothing has come of Mr Putins many promises. We
should at least ask Russia to give us written promises with a timetable for their
implementation. If Mr Ivanov is to justify his claim that the military action is
aimed against terrorism, we need evidence that the terrorist attacks in Moscow were
carried out by Chechens. We need evidence that the bloody war in Chechnya has nothing to
do with the forthcoming presidential elections in Russia. Until we have such evidence, the
least we can do is suspend the voting rights of the Russian delegates. Who can say that
that would isolate Russia? Who can say that it would discontinue the dialogue between
Russia and the Council of Europe? It would be only a very small, but at least clear,
signal to Russia that we take our words seriously.
We are here to protect human rights. While we are talking in the
Council of Europe, people in Chechnya are dying. That is unbearable.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mr Eörsi. I call Mr Goulet.
Mr GOULET (France) said there was a danger of creating illusions
in peoples minds. He gave examples of previous disasters where media coverage had
highlighted the duty to intervene. Enough words had been spoken and enough promises made.
There was a danger of becoming professionals of misery. The principle of aggression was
implicitly approved by merely giving humanitarian assistance. That would take time, which
was too long for children in Grozny.
Despite the spectacle being seen each day on television screens, the
European Union was only envisaging action and the United States was approving aid
programmes to Russia. Last year, in the newspapers, the honour of the Council of Europe
was in tatters. The future credibility of the Council of Europe depended on its attitude
towards Russia. Action should not be left to OSCE alone.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you. I call Mr Behrendt.
Mr BEHRENDT (Germany) said the second Chechen war had proceeded
apace. Thousands of people had been displaced and people were hiding in cellars in Grozny.
The realities of the war were horrific.
He stressed that the Chechens were also responsible for serious crimes.
It was necessary to have a frank conversation between friends, and to indicate to Russian
partners that they had seriously breached international rules of conflict and the
principles of the Organisation.
It was also necessary to balance the facts carefully and to ensure a
continuing dialogue. No one wished to punish or to exclude Russia; nevertheless it was a
fact that, in November and December, the Organisation had clearly stated that if the
situation did not change, sanctions would follow. When would the Organisation ever act
against a member state? How long would the Organisation tolerate breaches of its
principles? It would be difficult to act without cutting links with Russia. On the one
hand, the dialogue had to continue, but on the other, the Organisation had to take a
stand. Such a stand would not be discriminatory: a twin-track strategy of active support
for the Russian Federation and a refusal to countenance any violation of the principles of
the Organisation was required. The recommendation by the Committee on Legal Affairs and
Human Rights would achieve that, and would allow the Organisation to reach out a hand to
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you. I now invite Mr Ivanov to reply. Mr Ivanov,
will you please take account of the fact that Mr Schüssel from Austria is due at midday.
Mr IVANOV (Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation)
said that the debate demonstrated that the vast majority of members of the Assembly were
committed to the principles of the Organisation and wanted those principles applied across
the entire continent. The Russian Federation shared that view, and wanted standards to be
maintained. However, 20 million Russian citizens lived beyond the borders of the Russian
Federation and, sadly, their rights were not always respected.
Clearly, the Assembly wanted to receive an accurate picture of the
situation in the North Caucasus. He stressed that no request from any foreign delegation
to visit the region had been refused: that included the request from the European Union,
of which Russia was not a member. Similarly, no accredited journalist had been refused
access. That compared favourably with media access during the Desert Storm campaign and
the unilateral coverage of conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. The Russian Federation was
committed to the provision of complete and objective information.
He had listened to the views expressed by the political groups.
Parliamentarians from the State Duma were also members of the Assembly, and they too
represented different groups. With few exceptions, they wholeheartedly supported the
actions of the Russian Government in the Caucasus. They too had a keen awareness of the
history of Russian involvement, and many of them had also struggled and suffered in the
cause of human rights. They had been elected by the mothers of those soldiers who were now
fighting in the North Caucasus, yet they supported the war and understood that the future
of the Caucasus, and perhaps many wider issues, were at stake.
Specific points had been made during the debate. There was no
nationalism in Russia, which was a multi-national state. Any isolated manifestations of
unwelcome nationalism which occurred were dealt with appropriately. There was no
discrimination on grounds of nationality or of religion. It was noteworthy that Belgium
had recently withdrawn from the Schengen area because of its problems with illegal
immigration; one could ask why the government could act in that way without being accused
of violating rights of freedom of movement. In the Russian Federation millions of
individuals had no official documentation; nevertheless, they could move across thousands
of miles of borders. Refugees from states of the former Soviet Union usually fled into the
Russian Federation, and Russia was now providing shelter for hundreds of thousands of
Armenians, Ukrainians and Georgians, for example, without their being subjected to
He was not a parliamentarian, and he made decisions on the basis of
facts, not emotions. Comments had been made about the duties and obligations of Russia to
resolve internal conflicts through peaceful means, but there was no internal conflict
within the Russian Federation. The war in Chechnya was against international terrorism -
not Chechens, but international bandits and terrorists. Russia had sent information via
the secret service to a number of countries showing proof of the international network
supporting those terrorists.
The Spanish delegate had made comments about the scale of the conflict.
He himself had been to Spain and understood the difficulties of fighting against the
Basque terrorists. But in Chechnya it was not a matter of individual terrorists planting
the odd bomb here or there; it was a question of an army of tens of thousands of people
who were armed with heavy artillery including, for example, anti-aircraft missiles and
tanks. How else had the Russian helicopters been shot down - with a hand gun? Terrorists
would have to be dealt with if law and order were ever to be established in Chechnya.
The delegation that had visited Chechnya had seen for itself that
plenty was being done to restore civilian life. In the budget for 2000, money had been
allocated specifically for that purpose. Some regions of Russian, which were themselves
poor, had twinned with regions in Chechnya, and were providing assistance through that
Persecution had been alleged and comparisons drawn between the Caucasus
and Kosovo, but there was no parallel between the two situations. The armed conflicts of
the former Republic of Yugoslavia resulted, for example, in flows of refugees into
neighbouring countries, whereas the conflict in Chechnya resulted in refugees flowing into
Russia. There were 6 000 refugees in Georgia, but that number was trivial compared with
the total number of displaced people, and negotiations were under way for their movement
Some people had accused Russia of using excessive force, but that was
difficult to define. Looking at world history since the first world war, one could ask:
had the use of excessive force in saving the world from fascism resulted in the deaths of
innocent people? Had people not suffered in the name of ideals? It was true that people in
Chechnya were dying. Russia was prepared, as it should, to take full responsibility for
them and do all it could to ensure their security and facilitate their return to a normal
On the provision of humanitarian assistance, Kofi Annan, the Secretary
General of the United Nations, would be visiting Moscow the next day for discussions. The
World Food Programme, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Childrens
Fund were already working with Russia, and through them $13.5 million had been already
been committed. A further $13 million was being channelled through the Red Cross. The
combined total represented 18% of the humanitarian aid being spent on internally displaced
persons and refugees from Chechnya, with the rest being provided by Russian organisations.
Any decision about an international presence had to be made on the basis of careful
analysis and thought, not least about what it was intended to achieve.
Anyone could examine the reports produced by the OSCE mission in Grozny
since 1995. Previously, there had been no political dialogue because there had been nobody
to negotiate with. Talks were now taking place with a number of organisations. Local
government structures were being put in place, and life was slowly returning to normal.
Once the terrorists had been defeated, elections would be carried out in Chechnya, and at
that time the assistance of the Council of Europe could be crucial.
THE PRESIDENT.- Mr Ivanov, unfortunately it is midday. Time moves on
Mr IVANOV said that he had not been able to answer all of the questions
raised, but hoped he had addressed most of the key points. He thanked the Assembly.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you very much indeed, Mr Ivanov. I must now
suspend proceedings on Chechnya to give the floor to Mr Wolfgang Schüssel, the
Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE. The speakers list will be resumed this afternoon at
the point at which it has been interrupted.
Address by Mr Wolfgang Schüssel, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria and
Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE
THE PRESIDENT.- Mr Schüssel, I believe that this is one of your first
public engagements in the role of Chairman of the OSCE, and it could be your last, in view
of other developments, which are not our principal concern today. Your predecessor,
Mr Knut Vollebaek, addressed us exactly a year ago today, and he, too, gave
priority to coming here and to co-operation between our two organisations.
Since last year, our co-operation has significantly improved. Today,
the OSCE and the Council of Europe meet often and at many different levels. We have our
2+2 meetings, we have ambassadorial consultation meetings, we have joint colloquies and we
observe elections together. Our co-operation is facilitated by the fact that we have
complementary means - accumulated experience, a set of legal and political rules and
standards which the Council of Europe has developed in its fifty years of existence and an
operational and logistic capacity which the participating governments put at the disposal
of the OSCE.
The Parliamentary Assembly is privileged to have in its midst several
members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, including its Chairperson, Helle Degn, who I
see is present.
Our joint efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Kosovo are an
excellent example of how helpful we can be in resolving difficult political situations and
in rehabilitating societies in post-conflict periods, when we pool our experience. The
conflict in Chechnya, which is the subject of our debate today, presents us with a new
Mr Chairman, we will listen to your address with the closest attention.
I give you the floor.
Mr SCHÜSSEL (Minister for Foreign Affairs of Austria and
Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE) (Translation).- Mr President, Your Excellencies,
ladies and gentlemen, it was a great pleasure, as the new Chairman of the OSCE, to accept
your invitation to present the Austrian presidencys programme for this year to the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I know the importance of your Assembly as
the Councils political driving force, as well as its role in preparing for the
admission of new member states and monitoring the honouring of their commitments.
I should like to explain our approach and to answer questions
afterwards. Austria took over the Chairmanship of the OSCE at the beginning of the year.
We appreciate the responsibilities that this difficult job entails and we will do our best
to measure up to them. When I addressed the OSCE, I mentioned two changes that are
fundamental to the framing of security policy. Those changes militate in favour of
attaching greater importance to the parliamentary dimension of the OSCEs work, as
well as that of other organisations.
The first is the change in the nature and perception of the risks to
security and stability. Alongside, or even ahead of, military threats, there are the
non-military causes of conflict. Increasingly, it is the effects of an uncivil society
that we associate with instability and insecurity.
The second is the growing number of players who determine how stability
and security are shaped. Nowadays, not only politicians and the military, but businessmen
or industrialists, non-governmental organisations and journalists make decisions about
security and co-operation. The success of efforts by the international community is
therefore measured by practical, often unspectacular, improvements in peoples
everyday security, and not so much by pronouncements and abstract discussion about
In this changed context, I can see several ways in which the work of
parliamentarians can be more important. Security policy today demands far greater
democratic legitimacy. Because of their roots in their constituencies, parliamentarians
are better able to convey the concerns of ordinary people as input into the framing of
security policy. Furthermore, in co operation between states, the parliamentary
dimension is a crucial component, supporting the governments foreign policy or
taking a pioneering role.
We therefore greatly appreciate the important and often innovative
contribution of parliamentarians to the work of international organisations. We especially
welcome their active role in monitoring elections, and want close co-operation in this
area. The missions and visits by the Parliamentary Assemblies of both the Council of
Europe and the OSCE to the new democracies are a useful instrument for promoting democracy
and inter-parliamentary dialogue. Your invitation affords me the opportunity to engage in
such dialogue with you, parliamentarians of the oldest pan-European organisation.
For the OSCE, 1999 was not a wholly successful year. There were many
who saw Kosovo and Chechnya as OSCE failures. It is true that the wars in Kosovo and the
Caucasus could not be prevented, but I would plead for realism. The OSCE alone cannot
decide between war and peace. The organisation does not have access to military
The whole international community is powerless in the face of such
bloody conflicts and humanitarian tragedies, but we are able to deploy many practical
measures in areas of dangerous tension to prevent the eruption of military hostilities.
The OSCE gives priority to the situation of individual human beings. I believe that that
is a crucial starting point. For the Council of Europe, too, the protection of human
rights is traditionally the main concern.
The Council of Europes new Commissioner for Human Rights and the
Parliamentary Assembly were able, through their involvement in Chechnya, to enhance the
role of the Council of Europe in the concert of international institutions. However, care
must be taken to ensure that the international community presents a coherent front and
offers no opportunity for what is known as forum shopping.
Before going into the concrete challenges facing the OSCE presidency,
let me mention some of the main aims and principles by which, in my view, the work of the
OSCE must be guided. Success in creating a uniform security area founded on the values of
democracy and the rule of law stands or falls with the honouring of OSCE commitments and
the values on which the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the European Union are equally
founded. These apply to all member states and are not negotiable. Violations of the common
standards must be addressed openly. That is essential to the credibility of our efforts.
Furthering a culture of conflict prevention is the real task of any
forward-looking peace and security policy. We should also like to try to bind democracy,
human rights and minority rights more closely together with the economic reform process in
order to bring about stable conditions in the new democracies. Prompt action is most
important for a security organisation such as the OSCE, which sees its very raison
dêtre in crisis prevention and crisis management. The REACT scheme agreed in
Istanbul must accordingly be put into effect without delay. Equal consideration and equal
treatment of conflicts, whatever their geographical location, must be a central concern
because security and stability are indivisible. We must not allow zones of differing
security to exist in the OSCEs area.
Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the
rule of law form the core of a comprehensive security concept. For us, strengthening civil
society is the human dimension of security policy and our first priority. We are very well
aware that the foundation for Europes system of human rights protection was laid
fifty years ago by the Council of Europe, with the European Convention on Human Rights and
its implementing machinery. They created the context for the formation of civil societies,
not least in the new democracies.
The OSCEs image as an organisation that addresses peoples
concrete problems depends above all on the work of the missions and field operations. It
is in these areas that I see the greatest demands on the presidency. Concrete problems
demand clear and concrete objectives for the year 2000. By the end of Austrias
one-year presidency, I should like to be able to record significant progress in the return
of 7.5 million refugees and displaced persons, including 2.5 million in the former
Yugoslavia and Bosnia, and in Kosovo and other parts of what used to be Yugoslav
territory. The parliamentary elections in Croatia give reason for hope in this respect.
I should also like to be able to record a stability pact for the
Balkans that works and offers hope and a sense of direction for the whole region. I should
like to be able to record political, not military, solutions to the conflicts in the
Caucasus. I should also like to be able to record conduct of free and fair elections in
Kosovo and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We also attach great importance to the observation
of the many other elections, in close co-operation with the parliamentary assemblies of
the OSCE and the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. These are the main
landmarks for our presidency.
Let me now look more concretely at some of the challenges facing the
OSCE in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and crises. In south-east Europe this
year, work will focus mainly on aftercare, help in reconstruction and help to build up
functioning democratic societies and constitutional structures. Free and fair elections
have a fundamental part to play in that. They can make a major contribution to stabilising
fragile political landscapes. This is especially true of Kosovo, where the elections, at
local level for the time being, must be held as soon as possible, but must be prepared as
thoroughly as necessary. Also in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the conduct of elections - local
elections in the spring and parliamentary elections in the autumn - will be one of the
OSCEs main tasks. We hope that the elections will make a constructive contribution
to the transfer of more responsibility - for which the OSCE and the High Representative
have been pushing hard - to the population and their elected representatives.
True democratisation, by which I mean a political leadership emerging
from free and fair elections, is a prerequisite for participation by the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia in the work of the OSCE. Such full partnership of the Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia is desirable from the point of view of the regions stability. Only then
will it presumably be possible to consider the Federal Republic of Yugoslavias
application to join the Council of Europe. In south-east Europe, preventive diplomacy will
naturally also have a major role. For the OSCE, this will mean giving Montenegro our full
Lasting stability in all these countries will require much greater
co-operation between states and a co-ordinated approach by the international community.
The stability pact has raised huge hopes that must not be dashed. Since the OSCE has been
asked to take charge of the pact and is involved - like the Council of Europe - in the
democratisation and security table, it carries special responsibility. Transparent and
efficient co-operation now has to be brought about with the structures of the Stability
Pact for South-eastern Europe.
One of our main concerns will be to pay equal attention to all the
conflicts and problems in the OSCEs area. Only by doing so can we make it clear that
the oft-proclaimed intention to create a uniform security area is to be taken seriously.
Since areas of varying security ultimately impair the stability of all the participating
states, this is in our own self-interest.
The bloody conflicts and humanitarian tragedies in the North Caucasus
remind us how difficult it is to combat terrorism in a targeted way. How quickly such
efforts can degenerate into humanitarian tragedy. Combating terrorism is necessary and
justified, but the means employed must be proportionate and political solutions must be
preferred to military ones. In accordance with the Istanbul Summit declaration, we shall
accordingly continue the efforts of the Norwegian presidency and offer the OSCEs
services to find a political solution to the conflict. In our view, a concrete
humanitarian commitment necessitates the prior setting up of an appropriate infrastructure
in the region.
We have followed with great interest the efforts of the Council of
Europe through the Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Gil-Robles, and the Parliamentary
Assembly, and especially last weeks mission by a delegation led by you, Mr
President. Your Assembly has already held an intensive topical debate on the subject,
which is to continue. The fact that the Russian Foreign Minister is attending the whole of
this debate and the acting President, Mr Putin, spent several hours with your
delegation in Moscow discussing this conflict and possible solutions, especially the
question of protecting human rights and resolving the humanitarian problems, is a sign of
an effort to co-operate with the international community and the international
organisations, which - each in its own way - can make a valuable contribution. I therefore
look forward with great interest to my later talks with you, Mr President, and with
you, Mr Ivanov.
We also wish to seek a political solution to the conflict in
Nagorno-Karabakh. We hope that the positive momentum induced by a series of direct talks
between the heads of state of Armenia and Azerbaijan - both applicants for membership of
the Council of Europe - will be maintained, and that with support from the Minsk Group a
comprehensive and lasting solution can be brought about. The implementation of a possible
peace agreement could be a further, if not the main, challenge for the OSCE this year.
Every possible confidence-building step, such as the meeting initiated last year by your
Assembly between the speakers of the parliaments of the three Caucasian states, which
resulted in a remarkable joint declaration, is important in such a process.
The OSCE must also pay more attention to central Asia. Terrorism and
violent extremism, organised crime, arms and drug trafficking, as well as economic and
environmental problems, threaten the stability of the whole region and have an impact on
Europe. These problems cannot be effectively tackled at a national level alone. In
addition to closer regional co-operation, a wider international effort is needed, and that
will include the OSCE. We accordingly plan to engage as soon as possible in substantive
dialogue with the governments of central Asia regarding a larger, action-oriented role for
After many years of deadlock, there has been some movement on
Transnistria, thanks mainly to Russian willingness to offer a new plan for troop
withdrawals and weapons destruction. It is now a question of putting this into effect in
time and mobilising the necessary financial and technical assistance.
Finally, I should briefly mention Belarus, as a member of the OSCE; to
me, this is a good example of how the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE can make an
important contribution through democratisation activities. Free and fair parliamentary
elections can smooth the path to genuine democracy here, too. Such elections presuppose
dialogue with the political opposition and free opposition access to the media. I
therefore welcome the addition of a Council of Europe expert to the OSCEs advisory
monitoring group in Minsk, who will help to work out the requirements for free elections.
The OSCEs comprehensive approach to security gives pride of place
to the human dimension, taking into account the close relationship between the stability
of international relations and peace-generating effect of self-confident civil societies.
The Council of Europe is the OSCEs natural partner in this sphere and I am gratified
by the co-operation that already exists in various missions. We now know that the human
dimension is the lasting signal of the Helsinki Final Act. Accordingly, in Vienna this
summer we shall celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Final Act with those who, as
dissidents and civil rights campaigners, worked to enable the citizens of their countries
to, as Havel put it, live in truth. To these celebrations, we should also like to invite
you, Mr President, the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers and you, Mr Secretary
In close co-operation with the Office for Democratic Institutions and
Human Rights, the High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Representative on Freedom
of the Media, the heads of the OSCE missions and the field operations and the NGOs, we
shall endeavour further to strengthen the promotion of human rights and fundamental
freedoms, democracy and the rule of law in the OSCEs work. We wish to give special
attention to questions of the reintegration of refugees and displaced persons, of the
fight against torture and inhuman treatment, and of equality and media freedoms. In all
these areas, we will not overlook the achievements and rich experience of the Council of
Europe and we will seek, in the interests of the cause that we serve and of the countries
concerned, to co-operate in a spirit of complementarity. Like parliamentarians, the NGOs
also have an important part to play in relation to the human dimension, in drawing
attention to human rights violations and raising public awareness of these issues. They
are our best allies in building up civil societies. In areas of conflict, the OSCE must
work with them more closely than hitherto.
We have many international organisations, which contribute in their
particular fields to making the world a little safer. The OSCE alone could not effectively
combat the varied and complex threats to security. This can be done only through flexible,
problem-oriented division of labour between individual, international organisations. We
shall therefore endeavour to ensure that the blueprint agreed in Istanbul is translated
into everyday action.
The Council of Europe, the United Nations and the OSCE are natural
partners in the common effort for peace and prosperity. Despite some remaining
co-ordination problems, co-ordination in Kosovo represents a quantum leap in relations
between the three organisations. We shall endeavour to ensure that the three leading
players in Europe - the OSCE, the European Union and the Council of Europe - work closely
together and support each other in pursuit of the common aim of a peaceful, free Europe
founded on democracy, the rule of law, economic prosperity and social justice.
I believe that it is extremely important for the OSCE to make full use
of the Council of Europes wealth of expertise. The proposal to draw up a Common
Catalogue of Co-operation Modalities strikes me as the right way to secure long-term
co-operation between the two organisations despite the OSCEs structurally determined
lack of an "institutional memory". The Austrian presidency will therefore
actively work towards finalising and signing such a catalogue, a draft of which already
exists. One important concrete area for improved co-operation will in any event, in my
view, be election monitoring.
The ultimate focus of all our efforts must be the individual citizen,
and the improvement of his security and hence of his living conditions. Our work must give
people hope - hope for life in a democracy based on human rights and in prosperity thanks
to economic freedom and social justice. We must endeavour to contribute together to
achieving this objective.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mr Schüssel. We now move to questions,
which you have indicated that you are willing to answer.
There are fourteen questions. With grouping, cutting out
supplementaries and succinct questions and answers - if I may be so bold as to say that -
we should be able to get through them all.
Three of the fourteen questions concern the internal political
situation in Austria. Although, as I said at the beginning, you are here principally as
Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE, if your personal position changes, Austria will continue
to hold the chair. I therefore feel that questions about the structure and aims of a
possible future Austrian Government are legitimate, but I shall take them at the end.
The first four questions are about the stability pact, from Mr Eörsi,
Mr Gligoroski, Mr Hegyi and, if she is here, Mrs Durrieu. I call Mr Eörsi.
Mr EÖRSI (Hungary).- I hope that you will not be angry with me,
Mr President, but as the Chairman answered my question in his speech I should like to take
this opportunity to ask a slightly different supplementary question on an equally
important issue. What role do you envisage for the OSCE in overcoming the humanitarian
problems in Chechnya?
Mr GLIGOROSKI ("The former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia").- What is the OSCE planning during your presidency to stop the ethnic
conflicts in Kosovo and to ease ethnic tensions in south-eastern Europe? What role does
the OSCE play in the Stability Pact for South-eastern Europe?
Mr HEGYI (Hungary).- I have a similar question. As a rapporteur
of this Assembly, I have studied the situation in Kosovo carefully. There is very little
good news from that part of the world. Ethnic groups are disappearing from the region,
there is no free, elected assembly for the Kosovars and the basic financial means for
development are missing. How do you view the chances of the development of a multi-ethnic,
democratic Kosovo? Can that be achieved in the coming years, or is it just a naïve idea?
THE PRESIDENT.- Mrs Durrieu is not here. I call Mr Schüssel.
Mr SCHÜSSEL said that the role of the OSCE in providing humanitarian
assistance in the Chechen conflict was to work closely with NGOs, the UNHCR and Red Cross.
Given its political mandate, it was also involved in monitoring the humanitarian
situation. Plans were being made to move the regional office from Moscow to Grozny in the
near future. The OSCE was working closely with the Russian authorities to ensure access by
refugees into camps outside Chechnya. The real problem, however, was the humanitarian
situation inside Chechnya where the conflict was taking place. There were, for example,
more than 40 000 civilians still in Grozny, and the OSCE would be involved in helping them
to get out if the need was stated. Fundamentalist rebels in villages were using civilians
as human shields. That was contrary to rules of engagement, and had to be stopped. A great
deal of work would also be required in the aftermath of the conflict.
One area in which the OSCE had been working successfully was in
monitoring the border of Chechnya with Georgia. The problem of ethnic conflicts within
Kosovo, in particular against Roma and Sinti people, was very serious. In fact, in many
countries they were not welcomed. In Kosovo there had been reports of attacks taking place
right in front of UN-authorised troops. The OSCE had been involved in work to create a
mixed police unit structure. An academy had been set up for police training, and the first
graduates were to due to emerge. Roma people and Serbs who were still in Pritina
needed soldiers to protect them whenever they went out. That situation had to be resolved.
The OSCE was involved in an ambitious programme in Kosovo to support a
free and fair media. All that work required money, and of course the OSCE always could put
more money to good use. He called on parliamentarians to make the money available to the
OSCE - that always paid good dividends.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you, Mr Schüssel. There are three questions on
other regional conflicts, including Chechnya, which I had not intended to be covered in
the first group on Kosovo. The three questions are from Mr Wójcik, Mr Nedelciuc and Mr
Cox. I call Mr Wójcik. I do not know whether you want to ask anything, because the
minister has already spoken about Chechnya at some length.
Mr WÓJCIK (Poland).- What co-operation is there between the
Council of Europe and the OSCE to prevent human rights violations and to guarantee all the
legitimate rights of the Chechen people? Could you give us some specific examples?
Mr NEDELCIUC (Moldova).- What is the OSCEs reaction to the
Russian Foreign Ministry statement from 21 December 1999 which states the aim of
synchronising weaponry withdrawal from the Transnistria region of Moldova with
Transnistrian conflict settlement, which is in contradiction of a recent OSCE Istanbul
Summit declaration on that issue?
Mr COX (United Kingdom).- My question is somewhat different from
the previous two. Various conflicts are taking place and we are discussing the conflict in
Chechnya today. Conflicts must be followed by the rehabilitation of communities and
people, and you touched earlier on the work that the OSCE does. Can you elaborate a little
more on that? Who funds that work and is the funding adequate for the ongoing and varied
work that you outlined in your excellent presentation?
Mr SCHÜSSEL said that there had been improved co-operation between the
OSCE and Council of Europe over the previous three years. They had shared missions and the
task of monitoring elections and that had given more weight to their initiatives. The
monitoring in Croatia and in Russia provided good examples of that involvement,
highlighting the need for regular contact and shared information. It was often more
efficient for the two organisations to co-operate and share resources, as had been done in
Pritina, and their work should be organised to fit in with each others
On Moldova, in recent discussions, Russia had committed itself to the
withdrawal of troops from Transnistria. A political solution on the status of that region
and an international fact-finding mission were necessary.
On rehabilitation, it was easier to rebuild houses than peoples
lives. In Kosovo remarkable progress had been made in reconstructing homes, but
re-establishing trust would take longer among those who had personally experienced
tragedy. That was likely to require a prolonged international presence and economic
assistance. The OSCE was now having to carry out administrative tasks in the region,
including those linked to increased democratisation and to dealing with refugees and
displaced persons. Modest resources were required for the few hundred staff needed to do
THE PRESIDENT.- We still have seven questions but only ten minutes, so
we will have to accelerate a wee bit. Mr Goulet and Mr Pollo wish to ask about election
monitoring, as does Mr Iwinski, who also wishes to ask about
conflict resolution. I shall take those three questions together. I call Mr Goulet first.
Mr GOULET (France), referring to his participation in electoral
monitoring in Croatia, asked how such tasks could be better shared out between the OSCE
and Council of Europe.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you. I call Mr Pollo.
Mr POLLO (Albania) questioned the Minister about the
contribution of the offices in Tirana and Pristina to free and fair elections and asked
how the OSCE would help Kosovan prisoners of war still imprisoned in Serbia.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you. I call Mr Iwinski.
Mr IWINSKI (Poland) asked the Minister whether the
platform adopted in Istanbul was enough for encouraging co-operation over conflict
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you. I invite Mr Schüssel to reply.
Mr SCHÜSSEL said that there was a strong OSCE in mission in Albania.
Local elections in 2000 would be decisive in restoring political trust. The European
dimension was important. He supported any efforts to redress the rights of Albanian
citizens. On Belarus, it was a good idea for the Council of Europe and the OSCE to work
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you. Mrs Squarcialupi wants to ask about the OSCE
and natural disasters.
Mrs SQUARCIALUPI (Italy) asked what was being done to further
OSCE intervention after natural disasters.
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you. I invite Mr Schüssel to reply.
Mr SCHÜSSEL said that more could be done under the aegis of the
European Union and more had to be done by nations with economic power, as the OSCE had
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you. We find it slightly odd that you come to the
Council of Europe and plead poverty, because we are poorer than you.
We now have three questions about the internal situation in Austria,
from Mr Gjellerod, Mr Annemans and Ms Herczog. I call Mr Gjellerod.
Mr GJELLEROD (Denmark).- Minister, I am sorry to disturb you
with a domestic issue, but in my report on the threat posed to democracy by extremist
parties and movements, which the distinguished Assembly adopted here on Tuesday, the
Freedom Party of Austria, Mr Haider's party, was referred to as a party with xenophobic
and racist tendencies. The recommendation contained a strong warning about forming
coalitions with such parties. If you form such a coalition, what impact do you expect that
to have on Austria's reputation and on international co-operation, especially in your role
as Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE?
THE PRESIDENT.- Thank you. I call Mr Annemans.
Mr ANNEMANS (Belgium).- In my view, the talks that you recently
started in order to form an Austrian federal government legitimately broke the so-called
rule that one should not be allowed to talk with certain parties excluded from the
democratic process. If one excludes parties, one also excludes citizens, and that is
undemocratic, yet no more than two days ago a report was adopted here in which the FPÖ is
explicitly named and in which those who conduct talks with it are condemned. What is your
Ms HERCZOG (Hungary).- What is your view of your potential
coalition with the FPÖ following our adoption of the report on extremist parties, and
especially considering that party's anti-European policy on enlargement of the European
Union? How will Austria's foreign policy change if such a coalition comes about?
Mr SCHÜSSEL accepted it was legitimate to answer questions about
Austrias domestic politics because of Austrias role as Chair-in-Office of the
OSCE. Preferably, there should be continued co-operation with the Social Democrat Party,
but a coalition required agreement on a shared programme and they could not reach such
agreement. Austria needed a government which could govern. Discussions had started with
the Freedom Party, but he would not be part of a government that was not based on clear
He supported the European Union, the Euro and proposals for enlargement
and a security union. Austria would have to remain an open and tolerant country which
respected human rights and he was happy to give a guarantee on that. People should not
apply preconceived ideas; they should examine what was said and done.
THE PRESIDENT.- We must now conclude the questions to Mr Schüssel. On
behalf of the Assembly, I thank him most warmly for his statement and for his answers.
time and orders of the day of the next sitting
THE PRESIDENT.- The sitting must now be adjourned. The Assembly will
hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3 p.m. to conclude the debate on Chechnya
and the credentials of the Russian delegation, with votes relating to the two reports, and
a further joint debate on the two reports on health security and the use of antibiotics in
Are there any objections?
That is not the case.
The orders of the day of the next sitting are therefore agreed.
Does anyone wish to speak?
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 1 p.m.)