PACE President: “I consider that all countries should be under the monitoring now”

Strasbourg: President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Anne Brasseur’s interview with APA

– How are you going to advance in the Assembly after being elected as a President of the organization? Is there a need for reforms within the Council of Europe, for example, in committees, especially in the Monitoring Committee?

– As I noted in my speech in January after being elected as a President, all states should be treated equally regardless of their geography, history, culture or religious pluralism. Each country should be assessed in accordance with its own values, traditions and culture. However, it should be based on the values of the Council of Europe. It should be controlled, i.e. when a country becomes a member of the Council of Europe, control – monitoring mechanism should be used for controlling how the country is fulfilling its obligations. It should be used not only for new member states, but for other countries as well. For example, there are some conventions in my country, in Luxembourg, that we have not ratified yet and I’m not proud of it. I consider that all countries should be under the monitoring now. This process should be continued till new members get the status of countries fulfilling all obligations before the PACE.

– Azerbaijan stated that it is time for it to be included in the stage of post-monitoring of the Assembly. What do you think about it?

– It is true that Azerbaijan has already adopted most of the conventions and documents. This is a positive development, but there are still some points. I personally think that the Azerbaijani Chairmanship within our organization is a right moment for this country to speed up the reform process. I should underline the freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the press, independent judiciary and freedom of assembly among the key issues. Some laws adopted in this regard run contrary to the obligations undertaken by Azerbaijan. I want to mention the recent report of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in this regard. We still need to make progress on some issues. Azerbaijan’s involvement in the post-monitoring dialogue at this stage would be an early step. It’s a pretty good opportunity to boost the reform process during Azerbaijan’s chairmanship. It would be very positive.

– By the way, Azerbaijan has taken over the chairmanship of CoE Committee of Ministers this month. How do you assess this chairmanship?

– I had the opportunity to meet with the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe. I also met with the Azerbaijani Minister of Foreign Affairs in Vienna and talked about the issues in which Azerbaijan should take a step forward. Not only adoption of the legislative documents but their application and implementation are also very important. For example, I have made a written request for meeting with arrested Ilgar Mammadov, the Director of the Baku School of Political Studies of the European Council. So far I have not received any response. I think that the members of the Assembly should be able to visit their family members independently. So Ilgar Mammadov is a member of our family. Another example is that, on Friday of last week we were informed that the Azerbaijani side refused to grant a visa for the Vice-president of the Assembly (Rene Ruke, the member of French delegation to PACE, the Vice-president of the Assembly) to enter the country. This is contrary to the Paris Protocol. So each member of the Assembly is entitled to enter any member country of the council. I discussed it with Azerbaijani permanent representation to the Council of Europe, but unfortunately, the answer was negative.

– You speak of double-standard approach and delay by Azerbaijan in implementation of the adopted resolutions. However, official Baku clearly states that the Council of Europe carries out a double-standard policy against Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is approached differently and non-biased in these and other critical issues, while other countries are not subjected to such criticism. As for the implementation of the resolutions, for example, the Armenian side does not fulfill the requirements of the resolution #1416 dated 2005 of the PACE on the territories of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia, but the Assembly never raises this issue. So Azerbaijan also has arguments on these issues. And what do you think about it?

– I understand the concern of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijani delegation. I’d also like to note that I have a very good relationship with head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Assembly Samad Seyidov, and we’re able to have a comfortable talk about all issues. This is quite a good case itself. I accept their concerns. These issues are so much complicated that… We have our own principal position regarding countries’ territorial integrity. The Council of Europe must defend countries’ territorial integrity. That’s right, we must do these. But it should’t be used as an excuse. We cannot say to any country that if they don’t step up their efforts in this issue, then we’ll prevent the gathering of any group in downtown Baku, and the work of the media. That is to say, we must not mix up issues. It’s true that there are some issues that we, the Council of Europe, and its Parliament Assembly hold responsibility for. However, Azerbaijan also has responsibilities. I have to repeat; We’re operating here for the sake of human rights, democracy, and a legal state. At all aspects, both sides must comply with these at the same level.

– Talking about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by the way, as you know, there are “frozen conflicts” between several countries within the Council of Europe, like Russia and Georgia and Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan. And the resolutions of these conflicts have become much more urgent after the Crimea crisis between Russia and Ukraine. As the chairman of the Assembly, it would be interesting to know your opinions in this regard…

– Countries’ territorial integrity must be respected. But of course, if both sides reach an agreement… For instance, in the near past, we have witnessed the separation of Czechia and Slovakia, which was achieved through a common agreement. But if a part of a country departs from it and declares independence, or is annexed by another country, of course, that contradicts all the principles of the Council of Europe, the nature of resolutions we adopted. At the same time, there’s a need to stress and I stress that each country must accept the same terms and respect the rules of the same game.

– However there is also discrimination in and different approach to this issue. Especially, after the conflict between Russia and Ukraine over Crimea, European organizations, as well as PACE often talk about occupation and aggression, but they have a completely different approach to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. They talk about Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova, but when it comes to the occupation of Azerbaijan’s territories and Nagorno-Karabakh region by Armenia they remain speechless. In your opinion, what could be the reason for a different approach in Europe to similar issues?

– To my mind, all conflicts are different, and we can not compare them, because their history is different. Therefore, it would be wrong to compare it to any other frozen conflict. In fact, I don’t like the term “frozen”, because they have already reached a deadlock. But I consider that the OSCE Minsk Group should continue these negotiations with the participation of both parties. This conflict can only be resolved through negotiations. We accept the territorial integrity of countries, but the use of force in this context is unacceptable. We must repeat it always and I repeat once again, all necessary steps should be taken for parties to sit at the table. At present, the Minsk Group is responsible for carrying out this mission. Therefore, the Council of Europe says every time that this issue should be solved by the Minsk Group. Because if everyone starts dealing with this issue, it will not lead to a solution. Everyone has a great responsibility in this issue, but I would like to repeat once again, you don’t need to compare the incomparable cases. These conflicts are incomparable.

– What is a role of the Assembly in this issue? PACE established a sub-committee on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for conducting negotiations between Azerbaijani and Armenian delegations. Former chairmen tried to intensify the negotiations. But how will you act in this direction?

– In such matters I am very tough, strictly keeping my promises and I will not make consensus. I will do my best to unite delegations of both countries at the Assembly. But I am not sure whether the Azerbaijani chairmanship is the suitable time for it. Nonetheless, I am optimistic and we should continue the work for joint dialogue. Everybody bears responsibility in this, both he Council of Europe and its Assembly… As a chairman, I also understand my responsibility. But a lot depends on the delegations of both sides. During my visit to Azerbaijan I will discuss this issue with Speaker of the country’s parliament. At the same time, I hope that in the future I will meet with speaker of the Armenian parliament to discuss this issue.


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