Nikol Pashinyan: ‘Armenia is today unequivocally a democratic country’

Published in Politics
Friday, 12 April 2019 13:28

“Armenia is today unequivocally a democratic country with absolute freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and our government is continuing to enhance respect for human rights,” said Nikol Pashinyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, addressing the Assembly today.

“We have managed to root out systemic corruption and to create real prerequisites for everyone’s equality before the law,” the Prime Minister added, evoking “vast political changes” in the country since “the non-violent, velvet, people’s revolution” about a year ago.

However, Mr Pashinyan underlined, “our democracy needs to be reinforced with economic and institutional safeguards. The development of democratic institutions, the existence of an independent judiciary, and the creation and strengthening of anti-corruption institutions are all key areas in which we need the support of the Council of Europe.”

“This is important not only for consolidating the outcomes of our political revolution, but also succeeding in our recently-launched economic revolution, aimed at encouraging the economic activity of our citizens, creating real opportunities for them, making Armenia even more attractive for investments and tourism,” the Prime Minister said.

Mr Pashinyan also said that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remained a serious challenge for the whole region and that Armenia’s government was committed to the principle of only peaceful settlement of the issue. “I am convinced that mere dialogue between the leaders is not enough for settling the issue. It is very important to launch a dialogue between societies, as well, so that we prepare our respective societies for peace and not for war,” he concluded.

PACE called on Russia to pay membership fees

Published in Politics
Thursday, 11 April 2019 13:05

PACE has called on Russia to “appoint a delegation to the Assembly and to resume obligatory payment of its contribution to the Organisation’s budget” since failure to do could lead to its suspension in both statutory bodies, if applied by the Committee of Ministers.

PACE adopted the regarding resolution on April 10.

As concerns the Russian Federation, PACE called for intensified dialogue to “avoid a situation in which the biggest member State would be asked to, or chooses to leave the Organisation”, with all the geopolitical implications this would have and consequences for Russian citizens.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe deprived Russia of voting right in 2014 for illegal annexation of Crimea. Moscow has no right to work at the Assembly’s managing body and to send observers on behalf of the Assembly. In June 2017, the Russian Government’s decision, in reaction to this situation, to suspend payment of its contribution to the budget of the Organisation. Russia’s annual contribution is € 33 million, which is 10% of the total budget of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly.

The Prime Minister of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze, addressing the Assembly in Strasbourg said that, as a sign of gratitude, the Georgian government decided to make voluntary contributions to the Treasury of the Council of Europe.

Star of Zurab Zhvania opened in Strasbourg

Published in Politics
Thursday, 11 April 2019 12:53

The star of Zurab Zhvania, former Prime Minister of Georgia has been opened outside the building of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg. Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, being with a working visit in Strasbourg, unveiled the star.

The star of Zhvania has the politician’s one of the most popular phrases on it that the late PM said during the PACE sitting 20 years ago.

“I’m Georgian, and therefore I am European.” These are the words of late Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania while speaking in front of the Council of Europe in 1999. During the speech, he expressed Georgia’s EU aspirations and outlined the country’s foreign policy agenda for the next decade.

Family members of the late Prime Minister attended the star’s opening.

Prime Minister Bakhtadze hails Georgia’s progress as a "country on the rise"

Published in Politics
Thursday, 11 April 2019 12:23

Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, addressing the Assembly today in Strasbourg, hailed the progress Georgia has made in the 20 years since it joined the Council of Europe, citing constitutional reform, a more independent judiciary, and greater oversight of human rights.

He thanked the Assembly – as well as the other institutions of the Council of Europe – for their part in helping to reform Georgian institutions and society. Pointing out that there was more work to be done, he pledged a big increase in the resources devoted to education.

“The success of my country, accomplished in the last 20 years, belongs to both Georgia and the Council of Europe, and therefore we can both be proud of it,” he told parliamentarians. “Georgia has managed to make a dramatic transformation, and today we are a country on the rise.”

Mr Bakhtadze said his country still faced a major challenge in the occupation of parts of Georgian territory. While deploring the serious humanitarian and human rights situation in these regions, he pledged that Georgia would only seek to resolve the conflict peacefully.
The Prime Minister ended his speech by recalling the words of Georgia’s then-Speaker, Zurab Zhvania, when the country joined the Council of Europe 20 years earlier: “I am Georgian, and therefore I am European”.

 

Council of Europe should retain ‘primacy’ when assessing EU states’ basic values

Published in Politics
Wednesday, 10 April 2019 14:18

PACE has suggested the Council of Europe should retain “primacy” when it comes to assessing EU member states’ compliance with common fundamental values – while stepping up its “political co-ordination” with the EU.

As the EU considers setting up a new democracy-monitoring mechanism for its member States, the Assembly said it should be invited to take account of Council of Europe reports, opinions and recommendations when reaching its conclusions to ensure “consistency of views”.

Approving a resolution and recommendation to governments based on a report by Petra De Sutter (Belgium, SOC), the Assembly said any new EU mechanism should continue to use Council of Europe standards as a “benchmark” for human rights and the rule of law on the continent.

“Both organisations have a shared responsibility for upholding the effectiveness of their respective legal frameworks, ensuring that any overlapping of competences does not create conflict, and ensuring that this set of shared core values and principles is interpreted in a coherent way.”

The Assembly also called on the Council of Europe’s ministerial body to regularly assess the EU’s various initiatives, hold more direct dialogue with the relevant EU institutions, and set up a body for regular co-ordination between the two organisations.

For its part, the Assembly should invite the EU to co-operate on establishing an “annual parliamentary debate on the rule of law”.

Commissioner Mijatović highlights main human rights challenges in Europe

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 09 April 2019 16:13

Today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, presented her first annual activity report in a debate before the Parliamentary Assembly of the organisation.

While the report covers a variety of the most pressing human rights issues in the Council of Europe member states, the Commissioner highlights migration, women’s rights, human rights of persons with disability, the protection of human rights defenders and the safety of journalists as the most recurrent topics of her work.

“Migration is among the most pressing human rights issues on my agenda”, she says. “National authorities should improve the treatment of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, and put human rights and the principle of responsibility sharing at the centre of their migration and asylum policies”.

As regards women’s rights, the Commissioner underscores the need to tackle gender stereotypes and prejudices and to put an end to violence against women. She also calls on national authorities to reduce the gender pay gap, which remains a “major obstacle to effective equality between men and women, and a widespread problem all over Council of Europe member states, both in the public and private sectors.”

The protection of human rights defenders and of journalists also requires more attention by the authorities of member states. “Violent physical attacks, as well as laws and practices significantly reduce the ability of human rights defenders and journalists to provide their contribution to the democratic fabric of our society.

Another problem that the report highlights is the difficulty that many member states still face in tackling discrimination or deep rooted prejudices against persons with disabilities, children, older persons, Roma and LGBTI people. The Commissioner notes that long-standing cultural, social and economic problems continue to breed inequalities and segregation.

“There is still much work to be done in order to protect human rights throughout Europe. I am determined to commit my energy to this task, and I fully intend to develop constructive co-operation with governments and civil society for the common goal of upholding human rights.”

Addressing the Council of Europe crisis requires constructiveness from all parties, says Timo Soini

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 09 April 2019 14:20

 “Finding a solution to the current political and institutional crisis would require close co-operation with all member States and both statutory bodies – the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers. It is time to start consolidating the different views into one,” said Timo Soini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, addressing the Assembly today.

“If we want results, this will require constructiveness from all parties. All member States need to fulfil all their obligations. Payment of membership fees is also an obligation, for all member States,” he added.

Mr Soini believes that a common response would strengthen the Organisation as it would not be a response by one part only, but a response from the whole Organisation. “That would make the response strong, effective and legitimate,” he said, recalling that the aim was to have a constructive outcome at the Helsinki Ministerial meeting.

The Chairman of the Committee of Ministers also evoked a number of events organised in the framework of the Finnish Presidency with regards to its priorities, namely the strengthening of the system of human rights and the rule of law, equality and women's rights, and inclusion, with a focus on young people and the prevention of radicalisation.

Spring session: addresses by the Prime Ministers of Georgia and Armenia

Published in Politics
Thursday, 28 March 2019 15:26

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will hold its spring session in Strasbourg from 8 to 12 April 2019, with addresses expected by the Prime Ministers of Georgia and Armenia.

The Assembly will hold joint debates on stopping hate speech and acts of hatred in sport - as well as the role of political leaders in combating hate speech - and on strengthening co-operation with the UN and implementation of the sustainable development goals.

There has been a request for an urgent debate on "The budgetary crisis at the Council of Europe".

Other topics to be discussed include promoting parliaments free of sexism and sexual harassment, the implications for human rights of social media, and a report on balancing the rights of parents, donors and children during the anonymous donation of sperm and oocytes.

The Assembly will also look at so-called “laundromats” and new challenges in combating organised crime and money-laundering, and will take a stand on the creation of a new EU mechanism on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights will present her annual activity report for 2018 and take questions, while there will be the usual exchange of views with the current head of the Council of Europe’s ministerial body, Finnish Foreign Affairs Minister Timo Soini, and question time with Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland.

The Assembly will decide its final agenda on the opening day of the session.

 

http://assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/News/News-View-EN.asp?newsid=7388&lang=2&cat=8

PACE to observe the Presidential election in Georgia

Published in Society
Tuesday, 23 October 2018 16:08

A 25-member delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), headed by Andrej Hunko (Germany, UEL), will travel to Georgia from 26 to 29 October to observe the conduct of the presidential election alongside observers from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, European Parliament, NATO Parliamentary Assembly and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

The delegation will meet candidates, the Chairperson of the Central Election Commission, and representatives of civil society and the media, before observing the ballot on 28 October.

A joint press conference is scheduled on Monday 29 October at 2.30 p.m. in the Radisson Blu Iveria Hotel, Tbilisi (location to be confirmed).
 

Council of Europe anti-torture Committee visits Georgia

Published in Justice
Thursday, 27 September 2018 10:10

A delegation of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) carried out a periodic visit to Georgia from 10 to 21 September 2018.

During the visit, the delegation assessed progress made in the implementation of the recommendations made by the CPT following the previous visit in 2014. In this context, the delegation paid particular attention to the treatment of persons in police custody and the situation of prisoners in penitentiary establishments, in particular those in high-risk and semi-open prisons, as well as juvenile inmates. In addition, the delegation carried out visits to several psychiatric hospitals and, for the first time in Georgia, to an immigration detention facility.

In the course of the visit, the delegation held consultations with Tea Tsulukiani, Minister of Justice, Giorgi Gakharia, Minister of Internal Affairs, David Sergeenko, Minister of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs, and with several other senior officials from the aforementioned Ministries. In addition, the delegation had meetings with Nino Lomjaria, the Public Defender (Ombudsperson) and staff of the National Preventive Mechanism Department of her Office, as well as with representatives of international and non-governmental organisations active in areas of concern to the CPT.

The visit was carried out by the following members of the CPT:

  • Mykola Gnatovskyy, President of the CPT (Head of delegation)
  • Marzena Ksel, 1st Vice-President of the CPT
  • Gergely Fliegauf
  • Alexander Minchev
  • Ceyhun Qaracayev
  • Vytautas Raskauskas.

They were supported by Borys Wόdz (Head of Division) and Natacha De Roeck of the CPT's Secretariat, and assisted by an expert, Clive Meux, forensic psychiatrist, Oxford, United Kingdom.

The delegation visited the following places:

Establishments under the responsibility of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • Temporary Detention Isolator (TDI) in Batumi
  • TDI in Dusheti
  • TDI in Khashuri
  • TDI in Kobuleti
  • TDI in Mtskheta
  • TDI in Rustavi
  • TDI in Samtredia
  • TDI in Tbilisi
  • Old Tbilisi Police Department Division No. 7
  • Temporary Accommodation Centre of the Migration Department, Tbilisi
Establishments under the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice
  • Pre-trial and High-Risk Penitentiary Establishment No. 3 (Prison No. 3), Batumi
  • Pre-trial and High-Risk Penitentiary Establishment No. 6 (Prison No. 6), Rustavi
  • Pre-trial and High-Risk Penitentiary Establishment No. 7 (Prison No. 7), Tbilisi
  • Pre-trial and Closed-Type Penitentiary Establishment No. 8 (Prison No. 8), Tbilisi (Gldani)
  • Pre-Trial and Closed-Type Penitentiary Establishment No. 9 (Prison No. 9), Tbilisi
  • Rehabilitation Establishment for Juveniles No. 11 (Juvenile Prison), Tbilisi (Avchala)
  • Semi-Open and Closed-Type Penitentiary Establishment No. 15 (Prison No. 15), Ksani
  • Medical Establishment for Pre-trial and Sentenced Inmates No. 18 (Prison Hospital), Tbilisi (Gldani)
Establishments under the responsibility of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labour, Health and Social Affairs
  • Batumi Health Care Centre (Khevalchauri Psychiatric Hospital)
  • National Centre of Mental Health named after Academician Bidzina Naneishvili (Kutiri Psychiatric Hospital)
  • East Georgia Mental Health Centre (Surami Psychiatric Hospital)

 

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