Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed PACE’s Autumn plenary session
STRASBOURG. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) during its Autumn plenary session (Strasbourg, 10 to 14 October 2022). The Assembly also held an urgent debate on "Further escalation in the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine".
During the PACE plenary session there were addresses by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, and the President of the Swiss Confederation, Ignazio Cassis, as well as the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama.
The 2022 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, which honours outstanding human rights defenders, was awarded in a special ceremony, with the overall winner selected from among three shortlisted candidates.
The Assembly held current affairs debates on "Military hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia, including strikes against settlements and civilian infrastructures" and on "Threatened bans of Pride events in Council of Europe member States".
In addition, the Assembly debated a European perspective for the Western Balkans, countering Islamophobia or anti-Muslim racism, vaccine discrimination, and the impact of Brexit on human rights on the island of Ireland. The Assembly also discussed the honouring of obligations and commitments by Türkiye, Hungary and Romania.
Thomas Byrne, Ireland’s European Affairs Minister, presented the Communication from the Committee of Ministers in the framework of the Irish Presidency of the Council of Europe. The Organisation’s Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić held the usual question time with PACE members.
The Assembly also debated reports on the misuse of the Schengen Information system by States as a politically-motivated sanction, discrimination against women in sport, safe third countries for asylum seekers, illegal measures of migration management in the context of pushbacks on land and sea, and revisiting labour rights.
2023 Winter session: the legal and human rights aspects of Russia's aggression against Ukraine
An urgent debate* on the legal and human rights aspects of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine, with the participation of Oleksandra Matviichuk, Head of the Center for Civil Liberties, 2022 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, will be among the highlights of the Winter plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), to be held in Strasbourg from 23 to 27 January 2023.
#OnTheRoadToReykjavik, a report on the fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe, to be held in the Icelandic capital on 16 and 17 May, will present PACE's proposals.
There will also be addresses by the Prime Minister of Iceland Katrin Jakobsdóttir and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović Burić will present her communication to PACE members. The Assembly will also elect its President and Vice-Presidents.
Combating violence against women will also be a focus of the session, with a first debate on conflict-related sexual violence, and a second joint debate on the Istanbul Convention, on the role and responsibility of men and boys in stopping gender-based violence against women and girls, and on finding solutions for marital captivity.
Other topics on the agenda include the environmental impact of armed conflict, Daesh foreign fighters and their families returning from Syria and elsewhere, and the ethical, cultural and educational challenges of contact tracing applications.
* The Assembly will decide its final agenda at the opening of the session.
Grain from Ukraine: European Commission pays to ship 40,000 tons of Ukrainian grain via two boats
On 26 November, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the European Commission would pay for the transportation of 40,000 tonnes of Ukrainian grain on two ships, as part of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s ‘Grain from Ukraine’ initiative.
This will be on top of the 28 million tons of agri products shipped via the EU’s Solidarity Lanes and the Black Sea Grain Initiative, von der Leyen added.
Ukraine launched the ‘Grain from Ukraine’ initiative at the International Summit on Food Security, organised in Kyiv on the anniversary of the Holodomor, the starvation of millions of Ukrainians caused by Soviet policies in 1932-33.
“90 years after the Holodomor, we honour the memory of Ukraine’s victims. They died in silence, starving to death, and, at that time, the world did not rise to help them. We will not let this happen again,” said von der Leyen. “Today, Russia is again using food as a weapon.
As part of its brutal aggression against Ukraine, Russia has destroyed your agricultural production, targeted your grain silos, and blockaded your ports.”
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Georgian President visits France
Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili is visiting France to attend high-ranking meetings in Strasbourg and Paris.
The president will participate in the World Forum for Democracy 2022 and the Paris Peace Forum.
According to the President’s press office, Zourabichvili will meet with Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, and PACE President Tiny Kox.
On the sidelines of the World Forum for Democracy, Zurabishvili will also meet the Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrín Jakobsdóttir.
ADDRESS OF THE SPEAKER, SHALVA PAPUASHVILI TO THE PACE PRESIDENT, TINY KOX
The Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia, Shalva Papuashvili, wrote a letter to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Martinus Tiny Kox, stating that the inclusion of Mikheil Saakashvili in the amendment to the Resolution changes the essence and spirit of the Resolution and undermines the fundamental values of PACE and the credibility of the organisation in upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law across Europe. "News Day Georgia" offers this statement in full:
To the PACE President, Tiny Kox
A long-standing partnership of the Parliament of Georgia with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe allows me to address you with regards to Resolution 2463 (2022): “Further escalation in the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, debated under the urgent procedure of the fourth part of the ordinary session. Despite our full solidarity to Ukraine in the face of the Russian aggression, approval of the following amendment has prevented the members of the Georgian Delegation from supporting the Resolution: “the Assembly calls on the Russian authority for the immediate release of Vladimir Kara-Murza. The Assembly also calls for a review of cases of other political prisoners opposed to Putin in the Russian Federation and other countries, and for their release (including Mikheil Saakashvili – a Ukrainian citizen and former President of Georgia)”.
We believe that the inclusion of Mikheil Saakashvili in this amendment (a) changes the essence and spirit of the Resolution, and (b) undermines the fundamental values of PACE and the credibility of organization in upholding human rights, democracy and rules of law across Europe. The European Court of Human Rights issued over 100 judgements during Mr. Saakashvili’s rule, including 13 cases on Article 2 (right to life), 34 cases on Article 3 (prohibition of torture), 15 cases on Article 5 (right to liberty and security), and 44 cases on Article 6 (right to a fair trial). Moreover, the Court underlined in its Alexander Girgvliani murder case (Enukidze and Girgvliani v. Georgia) that Mr. Saakashvili hindered an effective investigation and appropriate punishment.
The Report on Human Rights Development in Georgia in 2004-2012 made by Mr. Thomas Hammamberg, former Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the EU Special Adviser on Constitutional and Legal Reform and Human Rights in Georgia in 2013 is a testament to systemic violations of the Convention-related rights during Saakashvili’s presidency. It identifies an alarming situation in areas of judiciary, penitentiary, law enforcement, rights of minorities, rights to take part in public affairs, freedom of expression, assembly and association, and social justice. Mr. Saakashvili has been convicted in Georgia in two criminal cases (the one on the above-mentioned Girgvliani case and the other on organizing an attack against opposition MP Valeri Gelashvili).
Three other criminal cases are pending (on the exceeding and abusing of official powers during the breaking up of anti-government protests on November 7, 2007, and the subsequence seizure of Imedi TV, an independent television broadcaster; on embezzlement of funds from the State Protection Service for personal use; and on illegal crossing of the Georgian state border). The ECHR refused to accept Mr. Saakashvili’s case regarding his treatment by Georgia’s penitentiary system. ECHR has found there were no “special circumstances” in the application relating to respect for human rights, which would have required the body to continue the examination of the case.
The decision of the European Court has once again confirmed that the rights and interests of Mikheil Saakashvili were fully protected in the penitentiary system per the standards of the ECHR. Georgia has both a clear track record of protecting human rights, democracy and rule of law since 2012 and closely cooperating with the ECHR in implementing its judgements. Georgian cases to the ECHR dropped 5,5 times in 2013-2021 compared to Mr. Saakashvili’s rule in 2004-2012, owing to the progress in credibility, independence and professionalism of the Georgian courts.
This progress has been duly reflected in the Resolution 2438 “The honoring of obligations and commitments by Georgia” adopted by the Assembly during the second part of the 2022 ordinary session. Having this in mind, we believe there is no evidence of political motivations in the charges against Mr. Saakashvili other than politically-driven speculations. Therefore, the adoption of language as in amendment 4 represents an unsubstantiated challenge for the Georgian legal system, invites unjustified suspicion against our country in international fora and undermines Georgia’s reform progress in human rights and the rule of law since 2012.
More importantly, the unfounded provisions on Mr. Saakshvili jeopardize the credibility of PACE within the wider Georgian public and erode our efforts to solidify support for the ambitious reform agenda aligned with recommendations of the relevant PACE resolutions.
We remain hopeful that PACE members will in future be guided only by the best interests of the organization and its fundamental values. We stand ready to provide detailed insight on any issue of your interest about Georgia. Please, accept, Mr. President, the assurances of my highest consideration and esteem.
The Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia
Russia’s so-called referendums in Ukrainian regions ‘null and void’, says PACE
STRASBOURG. PACE has strongly condemned the attempted annexation of Ukrainian regions by Russia, describing the so-called referendums in these regions as “an affront to international law” and “null and void, with no legal or political effects”.
The Assembly was debating a report by Emanuelis Zingeris (Lithuania, EPP/CD) on further escalation in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, following a video address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In a resolution, adopted unanimously, the parliamentarians called for a “comprehensive system” to hold the Russian Federation and its leadership accountable for its aggression and violations of human rights and humanitarian law – including speeding up the establishment of a special ad hoc tribunal to prosecute the crime of aggression against Ukraine.
The Assembly also called on Council of Europe member states to declare the current Russian regime as “a terrorist one”. It said the unleashing of a war of aggression by a permanent member of the UN Security Council “posed a challenge to global governance” and noted increasing support for reform of the Security Council.
Russia’s increased threats of nuclear warfare were incompatible with the responsibilities of a nuclear power holding a permanent seat on the Council, the parliamentarians said, as well as being “abhorrent and reckless”.
These issues should feature highly on the agenda of any future Fourth Summit of the Council of Europe, the Assembly added.