For most people from different parts of the world who come here it seems to be like this, however the perception of us Europeans varies: For instance the events, which take place in the Middle East for years now, touch, move and affect us quite essentially.
The counseling of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg this week reflect these considerably. The situation in Syria, in Lebanon, Gaza and the European migration policy fill the agenda of the whole Thursday-session.
Furthermore, problems in Europe are not misremembered: Attacks on journalists and the freedom of press, online media problems, cyber discrimination, for example. The last divided country in Europe, Cyprus, and the attempts for its reunion is drawn attention to through the discourse of the state president in front of the Assembly.
What currently happens in Turkey will be a hot topic in a broadly based debate in April accounting a monitoring report.
Surfing over Internet all customers want to have an access to convenient services, honest and objective news and tolerant intercource in social network. But every coin has the other side. Some groups of people frequently moderated by illegal organisations, terrorists groups and quite often governments are interfering the web with hatered, discrimination, war propaganda, aggresive misinformation and incitiment to violence destroying the idea of free Internet targeting individuals, people commumities or even entire ethnic groups or nations. Respecting the freedom of expression guaranteed by European Convention for Human rights (ETS No. 5) the European Court of Human Rights has recognised that the protection of freedom of expression does not extend to racist or xenophobic speech irrespective of method of deleivering.
Using democratic instruments of Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe we have urged all responsible authorities to use their legitime power protecting users and encouraged all Internet intermediaries to fight against all displays of intolerance on their platforms. Our commitment to protect society from distributing all kind of brutality, offencive language, hatred and intolerance have been reflected in the report adopted on the current Assembly session. Voting for that principles we’re reaffirming our adherence to the world free of hate and fear.
The Monitoring Committee has carried out an intensive work over the years. Democracy, rule of law and respect of human rights are still work in progress. A lot of progress has been achieved by the member States of the Council of Europe that are monitored by the Assembly for their honouring of membership obligations, and we need to pay tribute to the efforts of all parties, which are clearly and objectively described in the report.
I especially welcome the periodic review of the honouring of the membership obligations to the Council of Europe by countries that are not subject to a monitoring procedure sensu stricto, or engaged in a post-monitoring dialogue with the Assembly: several countries – Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France and Germany – have implemented a number of reforms to combat corruption by strengthening the legal framework and adopting legislative measures. I also welcome the progress made and the efforts of France and Germany to combat racism, intolerance and extremism. In the context of fighting terrorism, I encourage the authorities of all member States to find effective measures in order to have a better protection of fundamental rights.
Positive developments and progress made during the reporting period in a number of countries under a monitoring procedure or engaged in a post-monitoring dialogue have been observed. I welcome the progress made by Albania, Armenia, Serbia, Ukraine and Bulgaria in reforming the judiciary; the acceleration of the reform process to fulfil the requirements of the European Union Association Agreement Roadmap by Republic of Moldova; the release of some human rights defenders, political activists, journalists and bloggers by Azerbaijan.
I regret that the Russian Parliament will not submit credentials of the new delegation to the Assembly during the January part-session, but I stress the importance to continue dialogue with Russian MPs. Regarding the functioning of democratic institution in Turkey I call on the authorities to ensure that the investigations into the failed coup d’état will take place in full respect of the principles of the rule of law and the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the Court.
There is a lot of work to do to strengthen human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.
“The refugee crisis is becoming unsustainable for Lebanon. Greater solidarity is needed,” the PACE Political Affairs Committee said today. It added that the international community should step up “as a matter of urgency, its contribution to support and assist the refugees presently in Lebanon”. States should, on the one hand, increase their financial support for the humanitarian response on the spot and, on the other hand, increase resettlement possibilities for those refugees who so wished.
In adopting a draft resolution on the situation in Lebanon, based on the report by Tobias Zech (Germany, EPP/CD), the parliamentarians said that over the last five years the situation of refugees has worsened and today Lebanon hosts an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees. “This number adds to the many refugees were already there making Lebanon the country with the highest number of refugees per capita in the world”.
The adopted text also underlines the fact that, although surrounded by conflicts, “the oldest democracy in the Middle East” is a good example of peaceful co-existence and “should be supported in continuing to do so”.
The committee welcomed “the election of Michel Aoun as President after the longest presidential void in Lebanon’s history”, thereby putting “an end to a constitutional crisis which posed a serious threat to the fragile balances on which the functioning of the Lebanese society is based”. This election does not however guarantee that “the other problems of the country will be solved”. “It also brings new challenges: the formation of the government by the new Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and over all, political reconciliation among the different interest groups”.
The parliamentarians said they would like to see the PACE “develop relations with the Lebanese Parliament, first by inviting Lebanese parliamentarians to follow its the work and then by “encouraging the Lebanese Parliament to consider applying for Partnership for Democracy status with the Assembly”.
“In facing the global challenges of today’s world, the United Nations must step up co-operation with regional organisations such as the Council of Europe,” said Aleksandra Djurović, acting Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on External Relations of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, at the end of several meetings in New York.
Ms Djurović further stressed the importance of a stronger involvement of parliamentarians in the work of the UN. “Our visit is a practical contribution to this aim: our UN interlocutors have appreciated this opportunity to exchange views with representatives of European people, and we have been able to voice concerns and receive first-hand information on key issues on the international agenda”.
The Sub-Committee gathered in New York from 7 to 9 December 2016 and held meetings with Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations; Helen Clark, Under-Secretary General, Administrator of the United Nations Development programme (UNDP); Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel; Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support; Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General, Head of the New York Office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); Jean-Paul Laborde, Assistant Secretary-General, Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED); El Ghassim Wane, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations; and Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs.
Parliamentarians also met with Ambassador Nicholas Emiliou, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Cyprus; Ambassador Román Oyarzun Marchesi, Permanent Representative of Spain, President of the UN Security Council in December 2016; and Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation.