PACE urges Georgian ruling majority to ensure introduction of election system that can have support and trust of all stakeholdersSaturday, 01 February 2020 12:09
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe addresses the Georgian Dream regarding the electoral system.
In a resolution adopted by the Assembly, the organization calls on the ruling party to provide the kind of electoral system before the 2020 elections that that can have the support and trust of all stakeholders.
“The Assembly urges the Georgian ruling majority to ensure the introduction of an election system that can have the support and trust of all stakeholders in time before the 2020 elections; to fully implement all the recommendations of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) formulated in the opinion on the selection and appointment of Supreme Court judges; to promptly implement the fourth wave of reform of the judiciary and for all political forces in the country to work to overcome the continuing polarisation in the political environment”, reads the resolution.
The resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe summarizes the results of monitoring in 10 countries: Georgia, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has voted to open a monitoring procedure for Poland over the functioning of its democratic institutions and the rule of law, declaring in a resolution that recent reforms “severely damage the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law”.
Poland joins ten other Council of Europe member States currently under full monitoring,* which involves regular visits by a pair of PACE rapporteurs, ongoing dialogue with the authorities, and periodic assessments of how far a member State is honouring its Council of Europe obligations and commitments.
In a resolution based on a report by Azadeh Rojhan Gustafsson (Sweden, SOC) and Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD) - adopted by 140 votes to 37, with 1 abstention – the Assembly said reforms of the judiciary and justice system in Poland “cumulatively undermine and severely damage the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law” and should be revisited to bring them into line with Council of Europe recommendations.
The parliamentarians said the judicial system was now “vulnerable to political interference and attempts to bring it under the political control of the executive, which challenges the very principles of a democratic state governed by the rule of law”.
They urged President Duda not to sign the amendments adopted by the Sejm on 23 January 2020, which they said “further deteriorate the independence of the judiciary and respect for the rule of law in Poland”, and were at odds with Articles 6 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. They called on the authorities to “fully respect the judgment of the Polish Supreme Court of 23 January 2020”.
Referring to the crisis over the composition of the Constitutional Court, the Assembly said: “No democratic government that respects the rule of law can selectively ignore court decisions it does not like, especially those of the Constitutional Court. The full and unconditional implementation of all Constitutional Court decisions by the authorities, including with regard to the composition of the Constitutional Court itself, should be the cornerstone of the resolution of the crisis.”
PACE called on the authorities to “revisit the total reform package for the judiciary and amend the relevant legislation and practice in line with Council of Europe recommendations”. In particular it called on the Polish authorities to:
• urgently separate the functions of Justice Minister and Prosecutor General and introduce into the law “sufficient safeguards against abuse and politicisation of the prosecution service”;
• reinstate the direct election, by their peers, of the judge members of the National Council of the Judiciary;
• reduce the “excessive and discretionary” new powers of the Justice Minister over the justice system and judiciary;
• address the issue of a possible so-called “extraordinary appeal”, which is of serious concern, and the composition and appointment of the members of the disciplinary and extraordinary appeals chambers of the Supreme Court;
• set up an independent public inquiry into reports of politically-motivated “smear campaigns” against judges and prosecutors opposed to the reforms.
The Assembly said it “recognises the challenges” faced by the Polish justice system and judiciary, and welcomed the stated priority given by the authorities to address shortcomings – but reiterated that any reforms should be “fully in line with European norms and standards and effectively strengthen judicial independence and the rule of law, and not weaken or undermine them”.
In addition, the Assembly called on all Council of Europe member States to ensure that the courts under their jurisdiction ascertain in all relevant criminal and civil cases - including with regard to European Arrest Warrants - whether fair legal proceedings in Poland, as defined under Article 6 of the European Convention for Human Rights, can be guaranteed for the defendants.
* Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine
The Council of Europe must take a leading role in overcoming new challenges to human rights, democracy and the rule of law, Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić has told the organisation’s Parliamentary Assembly.
Populism, hate speech, discrimination against minorities, attacks on the media, and the potential abuse of new technologies such as artificial intelligence were amongst her priorities, she said.
“As our societies change, and new challenges arise, we must be there to defend the standards in which we believe, and which are enshrined in law”.
President of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Members of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be here for my first January address to this distinguished body of the Council of Europe.
I want to begin by paying tribute to your outgoing, now former President, Liliane Maury Pasquier.
It has been a great pleasure for me to work with Liliane, most closely of course in recent months.
Like so many people in this Chamber, and outside it, I have been so greatly appreciative of her professionalism, her dedication, and her authority.
She has chaired proceedings with skill and determination.
She has worked for better, safer and more inclusive politics, not least through her championing of the Not in my Parliament initiative.
And she has played an important and constructive role in the search for a solution to the recent crisis that gripped our Organisation.
We wish her well, just as we have the pleasure of welcoming and congratulating you, Mr Daems, on your election on Monday.
Your commitment and support for the Parliamentary Assembly are well-known and long-standing, and I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead.
Certainly, you are taking office at an important and interesting time for our Organisation, and for Europe as a whole.
As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, now is a good moment to reflect on the positive progress that our continent has made over the course of the past seven decades.
The decline of authoritarian governments, and the end of the Cold War, have brought greater political freedom and ensured greater European unity.
Individuals have more opportunity and prosperity has spread, including to those parts of Europe that had least in the post-war era.
And, of course, the ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights by the 47 countries that are now members of the Council of Europe has created an unprecedented common legal space in Europe:
A space in which human rights take precedence over states’ interests, with a European Court of Human Rights to which every individual has the ultimate right of appeal.
Europe has come a long way in a relatively short period of time.
But each of us here today is aware that there are still significant challenges to human rights, democracy and the rule of law in our societies –
And that it is incumbent upon this Organisation to take a leading role in helping national authorities to address these.
Over recent years, some of our member states have witnessed the rise of populist and extreme nationalist politics.
This narrative often runs counter to multilateralism and the rule of international law.
And it can result in direct challenges to the authority of this Organisation whether through rhetoric, referendums, domestic legislation or other means.
Unchecked, this puts human rights at risk.
The rule of law and democratic institutions are also vulnerable to erosion in some countries.
Rampant corruption, ineffective public administration and efforts to undermine the checks and balances required in any healthy democracy –
All of these can be found in Europe today, with the loss of judicial independence, the intimidation and restriction of the media, and the shrinkage of civil society space as prominent symptoms of the sickness.
Other issues abound.
Hate speech, discrimination against minorities and the prevalence of violence against women.
The human rights implications of artificial intelligence, the continued and appalling practice of human trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation, and the struggle to ensure access to social rights for every European.
All of these require progress.
And it is right also to point out the growing awareness of the human rights implications of climate change.
This issue is a priority for the current Georgian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, for you, personally, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, and for many people here in this House and throughout our member states.
It cannot be ignored.
In each of these areas, we have the responsibility to act.
And we do so.
At our Ministerial Session in Helsinki, foreign ministers restated their commitment to our Convention system and the primary role of human rights in international law.
And discussions on EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights restarted in November, will continue in the coming days, and are expected to result in a first formal round of negotiations in the near future.
This is an important demonstration of will on both the Council of Europe and European Union sides:
Paving the way to greater coherence in the protection of European human rights:
And marking closer co-operation between this and other international organisations, which I have been clear is a priority for me.
There still exists in Europe the will to overcome populist politics and to ensure a functioning, multilateral system that upholds peoples’ rights.
I am determined that, together, we will sail with that wind.
Within member states themselves, we are working hard to help governments overcome the problems they face.
On corruption and poor public administration, we have a range of tools that raise standards, including work by our anti-corruption body GRECO, the Sibenik Network of corruption prevention authorities that operates across borders, and tailor-made joint action plans, funded by record levels of voluntary contributions from member states, often accompanied by national field offices.
When it comes to the independence of the judiciary, we have Strasbourg Court judgments, the Venice Commission, the Consultative Councils of European Judges and Prosecutors, GRECO, and the Commissioner for Human Rights:
All of these identify shortcomings in national judiciaries and proposed reforms, and point the way to overcoming them in line with European standards.
This continues, as does the important attention paid to these matters by the Parliamentary Assembly, as clearly demonstrated by your debate yesterday.
Regarding the media, I have been clear that freedom of expression is also a priority for me.
This right is a cornerstone of a democratic and pluralistic society and, as the Strasbourg Court has confirmed, the media has a unique role to play as a watchdog.
I deplore what concurring reports confirm – and what the Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists has also found:
Namely, that violent attacks on journalists and media actors continue to rise in number, often with impunity, and spreading a chilling effect throughout the profession.
Last month, I met all of the Platform’s partner organisations and it is my intention to raise relevant issues with the Committee of Ministers – the CM – on a regular basis.
But this is an area in which all bodies of our Organisation have an important role to play.
Again, the Parliamentary Assembly’s vigilance is vital, and I know that you debated your own report on this subject yesterday.
The CM is clear on the urgency of the issue and will hold a ministerial conference in May that should provide impetus for more work.
And, crucially, we must all continue to help member states apply Article 10 of the European Convention and the case law of the Strasbourg Court, so that their media environments are free to prosper.
On hate speech, ours is the first and only intergovernmental organisation to adopt an official definition of the problem.
And charters, guidelines and recommendations have been issued by all three of the CM, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and the Parliamentary Assembly to prevent and mitigate its impact, as well as support its victims –
In addition, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance published a 2015 General Policy Recommendation on combating hate speech, which is designed to help national authorities to tackle this problem, online and offline alike.
And given the ever-growing prominence of social media in our societies – and the vitriol that is applied there – it is more and more important that these tools are put to use.
Discrimination against minorities also remains a problem that we equip member states to address.
The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, for example, seeks to preserve and develop culture, religion, language and traditions.
And the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages provides important protection for minority language speakers specifically.
On these issues the Venice Commission has remained active and continues to issue opinions.
These should be followed.
Because Europe’s minorities must be able to live in security, and with opportunities equal to others who live alongside them.
And it is by following the law, and upholding rights, that member states can prevent the anguish that can so easily spread where minorities feel under threat.
Et la menace reste encore le lot quotidien de millions de femmes en Europe.
Notre Convention d’Istanbul sur la prévention et la lutte contre la violence à l’égard des femmes et la violence domestique est conçue pour rompre ce cycle.
Elle fait obligation à ses États parties de prendre des mesures pour prévenir la violence à l’égard des femmes, protéger les victimes et poursuivre les auteurs de cette violence.
Des idées fausses ou trompeuses sont répandues pour saper le soutien à la Convention d’Istanbul.
Mais nos récents travaux destinés à mieux éclairer le débat, des analyses juridiques émanant notamment de la Commission de Venise et, surtout, l’expérience des 34 États membres qui ont ratifié le traité contribuent à dissiper les idées reçues et les inquiétudes.
J’ai eu le plaisir de saluer le mois dernier la décision de la République de Moldova de soumettre cette importante Convention à la ratification parlementaire.
C’est là une avancée positive et j’espère que les progrès vont se poursuivre, afin que davantage de femmes puissent vivre leur vie en toute sécurité.
Depuis ma dernière allocution devant vous en octobre 2019, notre Comité ad hoc sur l’intelligence artificielle a commencé ses travaux.
Il examine actuellement la faisabilité et les éléments potentiels d’un cadre juridique pour le développement, la conception et l’application de l’IA.
Les algorithmes peuvent potentiellement perpétuer des biais ou être vecteurs de discrimination à l’encontre de groupes spécifiques – les femmes, les personnes LGBTI, les minorités religieuses et ethniques – et avoir un impact disproportionné aussi sur les travaux des minorités.
A mesure que nous progressons, nous devons veiller à ce que cette technologie n’affaiblisse pas nos normes communes mais au contraire les soutienne.
J’attends donc avec grand intérêt les propositions que le Comité ad hoc va formuler dans les mois qui viennent.
Nous avançons également sur le problème de la traite à des fins d’exploitation par le travail.
En novembre, j’ai publié une feuille de route pour la marche à suivre.
Notre Groupe d’experts sur la lutte contre la traite des êtres humains, le GRETA, prépare actuellement un recueil de bonnes pratiques et rédige une note d’orientation.
La version finale de ces documents sera présentée à la session plénière du GRETA en juillet.
Sur cette base, le Comité des Ministres pourra formuler une recommandation aux États membres.
Dans cette perspective, les travaux de l’Assemblée sur cette question viendront bien entendu enrichir ce processus.
En effet, grâce à notre entreprise commune, nous sommes les mieux placés pour éradiquer cette infâmie qu’est le commerce des êtres humains dans l’Europe du vingt-et-unième siècle.
En matière de droits sociaux aussi, nous progressons.
Notre Comité directeur pour les droits de l’homme a mené une analyse du cadre juridique existant et identifié des bonnes pratiques et des propositions au niveau national.
De leur côté, les gouvernements réfléchissent actuellement à de possibles mesures supplémentaires pour améliorer la protection des droits sociaux et le fonctionnement du système de la Charte sociale européenne.
Pour ce qui est de l’environnement, nous devons à juste titre nous demander si nous pouvons faire mieux et comment.
Le Conseil de l’Europe ne dispose pas actuellement d’un instrument complet et juridiquement contraignant pour la protection de l’environnement.
Certes, la Convention européenne des droits de l’homme protège le droit à la vie ainsi que le droit à la vie privée et à la vie de famille – y inclus le domicile.
La Charte sociale européenne garantit quant à elle le droit à la protection de la santé.
Dans une décision rendue le mois dernier et qui fera jurisprudence, la Cour suprême néerlandaise a confirmé que l’État a une obligation de réduire les émissions de gaz à effet de serre.
Elle a fondé sa décision sur la Convention.
A ces textes viennent s’ajouter d’autres traités liés à l’environnement, notamment la Convention relative à la conservation de la vie sauvage et du milieu naturel en Europe et la Convention européenne du paysage.
C’est pourquoi j’attends avec intérêt de la conférence à haut niveau sur la protection de l’environnement et les droits de l’homme, qui sera organisée en février par la présidence géorgienne du CM, qu’elle nous apporte de nouvelles réflexions et idées sur ce que pourrait être notre rôle à l’avenir et la manière dont nous pourrions travailler avec d’autres organisations internationales.
Nos comités intergouvernementaux posent à juste titre les mêmes questions.
Chers membres de l’Assemblée parlementaire, cette liste est déjà très longue.
Elle est loin cependant d’être exhaustive.
En effet, si nos droits sont clairs, nos sociétés changent, de nouveaux défis se font jour, et nous devons être là pour défendre les normes auxquelles nous croyons, et qui sont inscrites dans le droit.
Toutefois, pour s’acquitter efficacement de cette mission – pour améliorer notre capacité d’action en cette époque complexe -, notre Organisation se doit d’être à la hauteur de ces objectifs.
Je suis heureuse qu’en novembre dernier, le Comité des Ministres ait accepté ma proposition pour un Programme et Budget basé sur une croissance réelle zéro.
Cette décision met fin à la pratique des coupes en termes réels opérées chaque année dans le budget du Conseil de l’Europe, y compris dans celui de l’Assemblée parlementaire.
Cette décision constitue une avancée importante sur la voie de la stabilisation du financement de l’Organisation, ce qui nous permettra de préserver notre capacité à nous acquitter de notre mandat qui est si important.
Le CM a pris cette décision en indiquant clairement que nous devrions entreprendre des réformes supplémentaires.
Et j’ai fait clairement part aux délégations de mon engagement à effectuer des changements qui amélioreront notre efficacité et notre efficience.
Je me réjouis donc d’avance que les ambassadeurs puissent approfondir leurs idées à l’occasion de la retraite à laquelle je les ai conviés le mois prochain.
Nous y débattrons entre autres des priorités que nous devrions fixer dans un cadre stratégique à plus long terme.
Tout ceci nourrira ma réflexion pour des propositions spécifiques que je présenterai en temps voulu.
J’entends que ces propositions portent leurs fruits, tout comme le processus de réforme de la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme, qui a pris dix ans, a porté les siens.
Outre une simplification des processus et la forte réduction du volume d’affaires en souffrance, qu’il convient de saluer, on constate également une augmentation du nombre d’arrêts exécutés sous la surveillance du Comité des Ministres.
Les gouvernements évaluent à présent l’efficacité de ce « processus d’Interlaken » pour voir s’il convient de procéder à d’autres changements.
Nous avons là un processus qui a, jusqu’ici, produit indubitablement des effets.
Il est un exemple de ce que nous pouvons réaliser lorsque les différents pans de l’Organisation tirent tous dans le même sens.
Ceci est très important.
Pour que le Conseil de l’Europe conserve sa cohérence, sa crédibilité et sa réputation, nous devons exploiter les différents rôles et compétences de nos organes statutaires pour les mettre au service de nos objectifs partagés :
un Conseil de l’Europe auquel chaque État membre participe pleinement, et avec les mêmes obligations, afin de garantir l’égalité dans l’application de nos normes communes des droits de l’homme, de la démocratie et de l’État de droit, sur tout notre continent et dans l’intérêt de tous ceux qui y vivent.
Il est encourageant pour moi de voir l’esprit positif avec lequel le Comité des Ministres et l’Assemblée parlementaire se sont unis pour travailler à un mécanisme commun avec le ou la Secrétaire Général(e), qui pourra être déclenché en cas de violation grave du Statut par un État membre.
Cette mesure ne saurait être mise en œuvre à la légère, mais il ne faudra pas non plus hésiter à y recourir si des circonstances extraordinaires l’exigent.
Ce mécanisme devra être activé à bon escient et de manière équitable.
Ces quatre derniers mois, j’ai travaillé avec de nombreuses personnes dans toute l’Organisation.
J’ai été impressionnée autant qu’inspirée par leur engagement.
Dans les mois et les années qui viennent, je sais que je vais travailler avec encore bien d’autres interlocuteurs, y compris un certain nombre d’entre vous dans cet hémicycle.
C’est pour moi un privilège que d’avoir l’occasion de vous réunir pour partager nos idées et nos capacités, et pour aller de l’avant.
Car c’est en travaillant ensemble, et en conjuguant nos talents, que nous pouvons contribuer le plus à garantir aux peuples européens – à tous les peuples de notre continent – l’avenir qu’ils méritent,
un avenir où la paix et la sécurité reposent sur les droits fondamentaux qui sont les nôtres, des droits protégés par nos textes et systèmes juridiques.
J’ai hâte que nous commencions à y travailler ensemble, et toutes les questions que vous voudrez bien me poser sont les bienvenues.
Rik Daems (Belgium, ALDE) has been elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
Succeeding Liliane Maury Pasquier (Switzerland, SOC), he becomes PACE’s 33rd President and the third Belgian representative since 1949 after the Assembly’s founding father, Paul-Henri Spaak (1949-1951), and Fernand Dehousse (1956-9). Only one candidate was in the running.
In his opening speech the newly-elected President urged the Assembly to focus on values rather than national interests. “Interests divide, but values unite," he said. “We are sent by our national parliaments, but I doubt we are sent here only to support our national interests. We all signed the European Convention on Human Rights and we are here to defend human rights, the rule of law and democracy,” he underlined. “We may be a Council of Europe, but we are also a Council of Europeans. Being equal doesn’t mean we are all the same, but to cherish and uphold the same values. This is what ‘unity in diversity’ means, this is what the Council of Europe is all about.”
The President said the connection between human rights and the environment would also be a priority for him - he called for a new protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights on climate change. He will be asking the Committee of Ministers to follow a previous PACE recommendation and start work on this soon. Another priority will be gender equality and the Istanbul Convention.
Finally, the new President announced that he would work hard to encourage the three branches of the Council of Europe – the Assembly, the Committee of Ministers and the Secretary General - to work together in the form of a “trialogue”, with the aim of strengthening the impact of the organisation’s work. “It takes two to tango - but it takes three to dance!"
“We need politics by results, we need to make an impact on the daily lives of our 830 million citizens,” he concluded, announcing that he would like to visit all 47 member States to make PACE’s work better known in national parliaments. "I'll be a full-time President!" he told the members.
Irakli Kobakhidze, a member of the Georgian Parliament, has been elected as Vice President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
The voting was held as part of the Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg today. The Delegation of the Parliament of Georgia, headed by Irakli Kobakhidze, participates in the session.
19 candidates have been elected as Vice Presidents of PACE.
Twenty Vice-Presidents are elected annually at the beginning of an ordinary session and remain in office until the opening of the next session.
As a reminder, Georgia took over the chairmanship of Council of Europe’s (CoE) Committee of Ministers for a six-month term starting November 27.
Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani will deliver a speech at the Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg today.
On January 28, President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili will address Assembly members as well. The Presidents of Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, as well as the Georgian Foreign Minister and President of the Committee of Ministers and the newly-elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe, will address PACE and answer questions.
Debates on the agenda include a complementary joint procedure between the Committee of Ministers and the Assembly in response to a serious violation by a member State of its statutory obligations, the functioning of democratic institutions in Poland, and reported cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan.
Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani will deliver a speech at the Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg today.
Within the framework of Georgia’s Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Davit Zalkaliani will discuss Georgia’s activity report and presents the priorities of the Georgian Presidency. Georgian FM will also answer the questions from Assembly members.
On January 30, the Georgian Foreign Minister will attand the OSCE Permanent Council meeting in Vienna.
The President of Georgia will also leave for Strasbourg. On January 28, Salome Zurabishvili will address Assembly members and will speak about the ongoing developments in Georgia and the human rights situation in the occupied territories of Georgia.
At its winter session in Strasbourg (27-31 January 2020), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will elect its new President. Only one candidature has been received.
The Presidents of Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, as well as the Georgian Foreign Minister and President of the Committee of Ministers and the newly-elected Secretary General of the Council of Europe, will address PACE and answer questions.
Titus Corlatean (Romania, SOC) and Claude Kern (France, ADLE), co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for the monitoring of obligations and commitments by Georgia, will make a fact-finding visit to the country from 17 to 18 September 2019.
Discussions will mainly focus on recent political developments, the independence of the judiciary, the judicial reform, the functioning of the High Council of Justice, and the organisation of elections.
In Tbilisi, Mr Corlatean and Mr Kern are due to meet, in particular, the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs, as well as the State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality. Talks are also scheduled with various parliamentary committees, the political groups represented in Parliament, and the Georgian delegation to PACE.
The co-rapporteurs will also meet the Chair of the Central Election Commission, representatives of the judicial authorities, the Public Defender, and representatives of the diplomatic community and NGOs.
President Salome Zourabichvili participated in the parliamentary session dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Georgia’s membership to the Council of Europe.
The President of Georgia adressed the President of PACE, the Prime Minister, and the Chairman of the Parliament:
“I would like to welcome the Chairman of the Parliament and the Prime Minister. Let me greet the President of PACE, the distinguished Members of the Parliament, and our dear guests!
It may have been difficult to imagine for our society, 20 years ago, that Georgia, by joining the Council of Europe, had taken a step that fully determined our country’s European perspective.
By joining the Council of Europe, we opened the first and main door toward Europe, meant to start us anew with a substantially new agenda. By joining this important European institute, our country started its irreversible process – moving toward Europe.
Membership to the Council of Europe became a great opportunity for our country – for a post-Soviet society that gained its independence through unhindered development of democracy; through preserving those values that were persecuted by the Soviet system. The Soviet system trampled on those values on which our identity was standing and on which our identity depended.
By signing the European Convention on Human Rights, we affirmed that we are devoted to these values and by doing this, we returned back to our natural environment. It is a remarkable fact that Zurab Zhvania’s star was recently inaugurated in Strasbourg in front of the Council of Europe.
His historic words – “I am Georgian, therefore I am European” – remain modern even today. This must be our main symbol as any European contemporary and democratic state stands on free and protected people at first. European states depend on democratic constitutions, rule of law, freedom of speech, equality. Fully sharing these principles is the only right path.
The new constitution, enacted a few month ago, clearly illustrates our aspiration for the development of democracy. Together with the enumerated fundamental rights and freedoms, the new constitution foresees a whole range of new rights, including social, economic, and environmental rights. By doing this, we outlined the path for our future progress. Raising these rights on the constitutional level demonstrates the strong will of our people to make a step forward in overcoming the current world’s challenges.
We all are aware that there is a long way from the reflection of these rights in the constitution to their practical implementation and we should not spare our efforts. However, the paramount fact is that this constitution illustrates the attitude of whole society.
It is the united position of both the people and the government. The main challenge for our country is the grave humanitarian situation and the violation of human rights in our occupied territories. At first, it touches upon the right to life (the recent death of Irakli Kvaratskhelia); it touches upon the native language, both, I ought to emphasize, state languages; freedom of movement; freedom of expression; protection of religious monuments. These facts have a systematic character.
Now, while we celebrate Easter, it is especially painful for our citizens that they could not visit the graves of their family members and relatives. The report presented by the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, in which he pays attention to the importance of so-called “Dark Zones”, is extremely important.
Together with our European partners, we express our readiness to start active work in this regard within the frames of protected norms. Also, systemic kidnappings happening along the occupation line must be noted.
We need the strong support of our partners to avoid these gross violations of human rights. It is significantly important that Georgia will chair the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for a six-month term that illustrates this great confidence and recognition. This carries a high responsibility and Georgia is ready to take this responsibility. I believe that with this status we will further successfully accomplish our goal – Georgia toward Europe!’ said the President of Georgia.
PACE has expressed its deep concern at the extent of money laundering in Council of Europe member States, notably the recent examples known as the “Global Laundromat”, the “Azerbaijani Laundromat” and the “Troika Laundromat”, and has urged improved national mechanisms and international co-operation to combat it.
In a resolution based on a report by Mart van de Ven (Netherlands, ALDE), the Assembly said these “laundromats” involved large sums of money from wealthy businessmen, organised criminals and high officials. They exploited various weaknesses across multiple jurisdictions, including shell companies, often based in the United Kingdom or its Overseas Territories, and poorly regulated banks, notably in the Baltics.
The Global Laundromat involved corrupt Moldovan judges, the parliamentarians said, while the Troika Laundromat involved people close to the heart of state power and the Azerbaijani Laundromat contributed to corruptive activities within the Parliamentary Assembly itself. None has been adequately investigated by national authorities.
The Assembly makes a series of recommendations to member States, to the European Union and to the Committee of Ministers intended to reinforce the international fight against money laundering, organised crime and corruption.
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.