Georgian Foreign Minister: Situation in occupied territories significantly deteriorated, process of annexation and occupation continues

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 28 January 2020 14:52

The situation in occupied territories significantly deteriorated, unfortunately, the actual process of annexation and occupation continues, – Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani answered questions of the members of the PACE after delivering a speech at the Winter Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg today.

“Installation of barbed wire fences and artificial barriers is in progress. Even when we speak now, the process is going on. I would like to recall the recent case of kidnapping and illegal detention of the doctor, who was visiting a patient on the occupation line, which was outrageous fact. The only instrument we have is consolidation of the international community, and that we are doing constantly, with your support, through different instruments and frameworks”, – Minister said.

According to the Georgian Foreign Minister, the pressure should be increased on the force exercising control over the occupied territories.

“The issue of access to the occupied territories is another important challenge that we also have to deal with on a daily basis. The recent case that took place in the Akhalgori district of the Tskhinvali region was the violation of the fundamental principles of international law – freedom of movement. We face this challenge in both occupied regions of Georgia – in Abkhazia and in Tskhinvali regions.  In Gali district of Abkhazia, ethnic Georgians are forced to abandon Georgian citizenship. They have no access to get an education in their native language, they are denied to get immediate medical treatment, they have no access to their agricultural lands, and this is happening in the twenty-first century, which is unacceptable. This should be discussed very carefully in all international formats. I’ve mentioned that only instrument is a constant raise of that issue and drawing the attention of the international community. We should not turn a blind eye on these illegal activities, otherwise, it will encourage the occupation force, the Russian Federation, to continue all these illegal activities”, – Davit Zalkaliani said.

Adopting its final agenda at the opening of the 2020 Winter Session, the Assembly decided to hold an urgent debate on the theme “International obligations concerning the repatriation of children from war zones”, as well as a current affairs debate on “Recent developments in Libya and in the Middle East: what consequences for Europe?”. The Session opened this morning with the election of Rik Daems (Belgium, ALDE) as the new PACE President.

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.

Parliamentarians will also discuss threats to media freedom and journalists’ security, a report on “Democracy hacked? How to respond?” and the protection of freedom of religion in the workplace.

The Assembly will hold two joint debates – one on migrant trafficking and missing refugee and migrant children, and another on organ transplant tourism and trafficking in human tissues and cells.

A report on minimum standards for electoral systems and a report on the observation of elections in Belarus are also on the agenda.

Avtandil Otinashvili, Strasbourg

Rik Daems elected PACE President

Published in Politics
Monday, 27 January 2020 18:54

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.

Opening of the Winter Session 2020

Published in Politics
Monday, 27 January 2020 17:04

Adopting its final agenda at the opening of the 2020 Winter Session, the Assembly decided to hold an urgent debate on the theme “International obligations concerning the repatriation of children from war zones”, as well as a current affairs debate on “Recent developments in Libya and in the Middle East: what consequences for Europe?”. The Session opened this morning with the election of Rik Daems (Belgium, ALDE) as the new PACE President.

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.

Parliamentarians will also discuss threats to media freedom and journalists’ security, a report on “Democracy hacked? How to respond?” and the protection of freedom of religion in the workplace.

The Assembly will hold two joint debates – one on migrant trafficking and missing refugee and migrant children, and another on organ transplant tourism and trafficking in human tissues and cells.

A report on minimum standards for electoral systems and a report on the observation of elections in Belarus are also on the agenda.

 

PACE President, addressing parliament, congratulates Georgia on 20 years of solid progress

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 30 April 2019 17:51

Speaking at the solemn ceremony to mark Georgia’s 20 years as a member of the Council of Europe, Liliane Maury Pasquier, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), congratulated the country for having progressed far along the path of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

“Georgia’s accession to the Council of Europe 20 years ago was a major step in consolidating democratic institutions and a huge boost for reforms in several important areas. I highly congratulate Georgia for the significant progress made over 20 years: it is a more stable Georgia, based on strong democratic institutions, that is preparing to chair the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from November 2019 to May 2020,” said the President.

Ms Maury Pasquier welcomed, in particular, the significant progress made in a number of key areas, including the fight against corruption, reform of the judiciary and the smooth functioning of Parliament. She emphasised that this progress was made possible thanks to the political will and constant efforts of all Georgia’s institutions and political players, along with input from Council of Europe bodies and experts.

“I am proud that Council of Europe bodies and institutions – including the Venice Commission, the Human Rights Commissioner, GRECO and also our Assembly – have been associated with the most important reforms in order to provide the most appropriate expertise. I am sure that this close co-operation will be further strengthened over the next 20 years, and that Georgia will continue to take advantage of our expertise and put our recommendations into action, and that the Council of Europe will continue to benefit from Georgia’s experience and achievements,” she said.

“Georgia now needs to preserve and further develop this democratic acquis, and I am sure that, with the support of the Council of Europe, it will be able to meet the remaining challenges and continue to make progress. In the same way, I hope that with Georgia’s support and input into our organisation, we will also be able to meet the challenges we face,” she concluded.

During her working visit to Georgia, Ms Maury Pasquier met with the Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Irakli Kobakhidze, President Salome Zourabichvili, Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze, Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani and the members of the Georgian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly.

Prime Minister of Georgia Hosts PACE President

Published in Politics
Tuesday, 30 April 2019 14:59

Today, the Prime Minister of Georgia hosted the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The meeting emphasized the productive cooperation between Georgia and the Council of Europe.

Mamuka Bakhtadze thanked Liliane Maury Pasquier for participating in the events celebrating the 20th anniversary of Georgia's accession to the Council of Europe, and for visiting Tbilisi. The upcoming 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe was also emphasized.

The parties discussed Georgia's upcoming Chairmanship of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, along with the challenges facing the organization.

The conversation also revolved around Georgia's European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The Prime Minister singled out European integration as the Georgian nation's civilizational choice and the country's commitment to this trajectory.

Special emphasis was placed on Georgia's impressive progress toward democratic consolidation and reforms in the course of the past few years. The PACE President praised the country's achievements in terms of human rights and empowering the role of the Parliament.

The Prime Minister and the PACE President also discussed the dire humanitarian and human rights situation in Georgia's occupied territories. Mamuka Bakhtadze informed Liliane Maury Pasquier about the Georgian Government's peace initiative A Step to a Better Future seeking to ensure confidence-building between the conflict-torn communities, to improve social and economic conditions for the populations in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region, and to offer them new opportunities.

Stella Kyriakides elected PACE President

Published in World
Tuesday, 10 October 2017 17:57

Strasbourg, 10.10.2017 - Stella Kyriakides (Cyprus, EPP/CD) has been elected President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe following the resignation of Pedro Agramunt (Spain, EPP/CD) on 6 October 2017.

She obtained a large majority over the other candidate, Emanuelis Zingeris (Lithuania, EPP/CD), in the third round of voting. She will remain in office until the opening of the next ordinary session (Strasbourg, 22-26 January 2018).

She will be the 30th President of PACE since 1949, the first Cypriot, and the third woman to take up the post.

“This election comes during extraordinary times for this Assembly, times that have seen our credibility and integrity questioned. Times that have led to the often wrong type of publicity for the work done in this Assembly, leading to the questioning of the principles of transparency and integrity of the institutions of the Council of Europe. These are challenges and responsibilities for us all. But mostly, for myself as a newly elected President of this Assembly,” said Ms Kyriakides.

“My decision to run for the Presidency stemmed solely from my firm belief in Parliamentary Assembly, in democracy, human rights and the rule of law and my passion to work tirelessly. Today you have given me the opportunity, with the trust you have placed in me, to work towards these. In the upcoming few months my priority is to bring about calmness, consensus, credibility and unity. To work tirelessly and openly against corruption. To raise the bar so that we all follow the same principles and code of ethics. To do this, I will need the support of all political groups, of the Secretary General and the staff of the Council of Europe. Because this is why we are all here,” she concluded.

***

Born on 10 March 1956 in Nicosia, Cyprus, Stella Kyriakides studied psychology at Reading and Manchester Universities. At the Cypriot Ministry of Health, she was in charge of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry from 1979-2006. She was elected to the Parliament of Cyprus in 2006, where she is a member of the Committee on Health Affairs and of the Committee on Foreign and European Affairs and Vice-President of the Democratic Rally Party.

President of the First Breast Cancer Movement in Cyprus in 1999, she was appointed by the Ministerial Council as President of the National Committee on Cancer Strategy in 2016. She organised the first breast cancer awareness campaign at the Council of Europe in 2013.

At the Assembly, she was Chairperson of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development as well as a member of the Monitoring Committee and the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. She was a contact parliamentarian for the “No Hate Parliamentary Alliance” and the Council of Europe campaign against Child Sexual Abuse (2013-2015), as well as the General Rapporteur for Children's Rights (2013-2015). Stella Kyriakides is the Chairperson of the delegation of Cyprus to PACE and a member of the EPP/CD group.

Pedro Agramunt resigns as PACE President

Published in Politics
Friday, 06 October 2017 17:04

Strasbourg, 06.10.2017 - In a letter, Pedro Agramunt today announced his resignation as President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

A motion for his dismissal had been scheduled for debate at the opening of the plenary session in Strasbourg on 9 October. This debate will not take place.

Following his resignation, the most senior Vice-President of the Assembly, Sir Roger Gale, automatically becomes Acting President. In line with the PACE Rules, he shall act until the election of a new President at the following part-session of the Assembly.

 

The meeting of the Parliamentary Delegation with the PACE President

Published in Politics
Wednesday, 25 January 2017 13:28

The Parliamentary Delegation, headed by the First Deputy Chairperson, Ms. Tamar Chugoshvili, visits Strasbourg to participate in PACE session and Committee sittings.
Within the visit, the MPs held the meeting with the PACE President, Mr. Pedro Agramunt. The parties discussed future plans of the renewed Georgian Delegation and the activity of the State Constitutional Commission.
According to Ms. Chugoshvili, the parties also touched upon the statement by Mr. Agramunt concerning release of the former Tbilisi Mayor, Gigi Ugulava.
We spoke about the working strategy of the new composition of the Delegation, the issues we plan to actively work on during the next years. We informed Mr. Agramunt about the activity of the State Constitutional Commission and the involvement of CoE, namely Venice Commission in this process, which was positively estimated. We also spoke about the comment by Mr. Agramunt made yesterday to which he responded that he has no doubts about this issue”, - T. Chugoshvili stated.

PACE President calls for respect of democratic institutions and Council of Europe standards in Turkey

Published in World
Saturday, 16 July 2016 13:50

"Turkey is our member state and we support Turkey's democratic institutions and authorities. Attempts to change a democratically elected government by force are unacceptable and I condemn last night’s violence that has made at least 90 victims" stressed PACE President.
"It is now important to restore order, keep calm and uphold democratic principles and institutions. The Assembly and all Council of Europe bodies are at the disposal of Turkey to provide support" concluded PACE President.

PACE President commends Georgia’s true European aspirations

Published in World
Sunday, 03 July 2016 19:13

Ending his official visit to Georgia, Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, commended Georgia’s European aspirations and commitment to Council of Europe values.

“During my official meetings with the Georgian authorities, I felt a genuine and heartfelt desire to further European integration and commit to the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” President Agramunt said. “Georgia has been a member of our organisation for 17 years; during this time it has made considerable progress in terms of democratic reforms and strengthening state institutions. I am sure that with the recently launched Action Plan 2016-2019, Georgia will continue on this positive path and reach its reform objectives”.

In his discussions, President Agramunt focused, in particular, on the forthcoming parliamentary election. “With all my interlocutors I raised the recent reports of violent attacks against political activists. All acts of violence should be firmly condemned and fully investigated. All parties should refrain from provocative acts which could lead to further tension. I was reassured by the authorities that they would devote even greater energy to adopt and implement measures aimed at preventing further violence in order to deliver to Georgian citizens the fair, democratic and peaceful environment they deserve”, he said.

In discussing the forthcoming elections, President Agramunt also raised the issue of electoral reform. While welcoming that some progress has been achieved in particular with regard to redrawing election districts, PACE President noted that the majority and the opposition had not been able to agree on a new electoral system in time for the October elections. “The new Parliament will have an important mission to find a common agreement on the new system before the 2020 elections,” he concluded.

Trials against former officials, as well as the recent judgement of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Merabishvili vs. Georgia were also discussed. “I made it clear to my interlocutors that there should be no impunity for corruption offences and human rights violations. However, investigations and trials should be conducted in a transparent, efficient and independent manner, from the outset to the completion. The recent judgement of the ECtHR highlighted some issues of concern and I encouraged the authorities to address them effectively and to carry out appropriate investigations”.

Turning to the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, and South Ossetia, Georgia, PACE President reiterated that the Assembly fully supported Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He praised the Georgian authorities' current policy, which was based on increasing confidence building measures and reducing political tensions. “Rebuilding trust between the sides is of utmost importance and I welcomed some positive steps taken, including opening the doors of educational institutions and medical centres to all. I am, nonetheless, concerned by some recent developments which do not help this process, notably the murder of a Georgian citizen on 19 May near the administrative boundary line in the village of Kurcha”.

Finally, President Agramunt welcomed the commitment made by the Georgia Prime Minister to put in place the necessary conditions for the ratification of the Istanbul Convention in the near future.

During his official visit, PACE President met with the President of the Republic, Giorgi Margvelashvili, the Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mikheil Janelidze, the Speaker of Parliament, David Usupashvili, as well as members of the delegation of Georgia to the PACE.

In Tbilisi, President Agramunt also participated in the 25th Annual Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, during which he met with the OSCE PA President, Mr Ilkka Kanerva, and addressed the Assembly at its opening plenary session. In his speech, PACE President praised the excellent cooperation existing between the two Assemblies and highlighted some topics on which this collaboration should be strengthened, including the fight against terrorism and the search for a common response to the migration and refugee crisis.

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