Strasbourg, 20/6/2013 – “There are still 1200 stateless children in Estonia, a situation which prevents them from taking part in society as full members. This situation must be remedied urgently”, said Nils Muižnieks in his report on the visit to Estonia carried out in March 2013.
Welcoming the current reform of the Child Protection Act, Commissioner Muižnieks stresses that “sufficient staff and expertise for child protection should be made available in every municipality ".
Furthermore he stresses a need to improve equality legislation and working opportunities for persons with disabilities. Disability and incapacity benefits should be adjusted to meet social protection needs and requirements for long-term sustainability.
The report also mentiones the increased socio-economic gap between ethnic minorities and the majority population which is perpetuated among young people. (more...)
Strasbourg, 17.06.2013 – A decision on a request for the opening of a monitoring procedure in respect of Hungary and a debate on tackling discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity – to be addressed by the Women’s Rights Minister of France Najat Vallaud-Belkacem – are among the highlights of the summer plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg on 24-28 June 2013. There have also been requests for urgent debates on "Religious persecution in Iran" and on "The deteriorating situation in Georgia", and for a current affairs debate on “Riots in Sweden: European immigration policy in the spotlight”.
The President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz will also address the Assembly. Other topics on the agenda include the situation in the Middle East, corruption as a threat to the rule of law, and putting an end to coerced sterilisations and castrations. Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian will present the communication from the Committee of Ministers to the Parliamentary Assembly and answer questions.
The parliamentarians will also debate a report evaluating the Parliament of Morocco’s ‘Partnership for democracy’ with the Assembly – the first evaluation since it acquired this status in 2011 – and are scheduled to discuss keeping political and criminal responsibility separate.
The Assembly is also due to elect judges to the European Court of Human Rights in respect of Iceland, Lithuania and the Slovak Republic.
Strasbourg, 17.06.2013 – The Council of Europe’s anti-money laundering body (MONEYVAL) today published its report “Special Assessment of the Effectiveness of the Customer Due Diligence Measures in the Banking Sector in Cyprus”. The assessment was conducted at the invitation of the Eurogroup Working Group (on behalf of the Troika institutions) to assist the decision-making process on Cyprus's request for financial assistance from the Euro area.
The report builds upon the MONEYVAL fourth round report on Cyprus, but largely focuses on the particular risks and shortcomings in the Cypriot banking sector.
The assessors note that the Cypriot authorities have taken a range of legislative and other measures, in line with Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and European Union standards, to minimise the risk of money laundering and financing of terrorism. Sound preventive requirements have been in place for several years at the levels of customer identification, identification of beneficial owner, record-keeping and reporting of suspicious activities. The report also positively notes the high standards of knowledge and experience of anti-money laundering and combating of terrorism issues demonstrated by banks and their commitment to implement customer due diligence measures. (more…)
Cyprus and the Council of Europe
The European Commission for Democracy Through Law – the Council of Europe’s constitutional experts known as the “Venice Commission” – today issued an opinion that was critical of Hungary’s Fourth Amendment to its Fundamental Law, but welcomed the announcement of the Hungarian government to make certain revisions.
Requested in March this year by Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland and by the Hungarian government, the opinion concludes that "the Fourth Amendement perpetuates the problematic position of the President of the National Judicial Office, seriously undermines the possibilities of constitutional review in Hungary and endangers the constitutional system of checks and balances."
"Together with the en bloc use of cardinal laws to perpetuate choices made by the present majority," according to the opinion issued today, "the Fourth Amendment is the result of an instrumental view of the Constitution as a political means of the governmental majority and is a sign of the abolition of the essential difference between constitution-making and ordinary politics."
See also: Hungary and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 12 June 2013 - “The Upper House of the Russian Parliament should not approve the draft law prohibiting the ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’ among minors,” said Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland in a statement today. “This law clearly affects some of the most important principles in the European Convention of Human Rights, such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.“
“I have previously expressed my concern with regard to this legislation in a letter to the Speaker of the Duma. The majority does not have the right to adopt legislation that clearly discriminates minorities. On the contrary, the majority has the duty to protect the right of minorities. Public opinion may favour it, but this does not justify a law which will legalise prejudice.”
"Unfortunately, this initiative fits into a broader pattern in Europe, where vulnerable groups and minorities are attacked, and this fuels extremism and violence,” added Secretary General Jagland.
Strasbourg, 19.06.2013 – On the eve of World Refugee Day (20 June), the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Jean-Claude Mignon, has made the following statement:
“The drastic situation of the Syrian refugees is constantly worsening and has reached an unprecedented level of suffering. A million and a half Syrians have fled their country; it is an outright humanitarian disaster!
Failing a political agreement to resolve a situation which has lasted far too long, the humanitarian crisis is stalemated and will only make the trauma more severe and profound for the refugees.
Certain groups of refugees are naturally more vulnerable than others. Over half a million children, uprooted, disoriented, their schooling broken off, sometimes separated from their families, are paying the heaviest price for the conflict. Very often they flee with only their mothers, aunts or grandmothers who are themselves a vulnerable group, especially in the event of pregnancy. (more...)
Strasbourg, 18 June 2013 - The Conference on Participatory Democracy at Local Level will be held in Yerevan (Institute of Ancient Manuscripts) on 19 June. The conference is organised under the Armenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in close co-operation with the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. It will address the issues related to participatory democracy at local level, in particular the current situation in member states and the role of participatory democracy in improving the efficiency of local authorities. The Conference will also be an opportunity for an exchange of good practice and the progress achieved in member States of the Council of Europe.
Herwig van Staa, President of the Congress, Vice-Presidents and members of the Congress, as well as Armen Gevorgyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Territorial Administration of Armenia, representatives of other relevant state structures, local self-government bodies, civil society as well as international and local experts will participate in the Conference. The conference is open for the media. (more...)
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- Armenia and the Council of Europe
Strasbourg, 16.06.2013 - "I continue to follow the developments in Turkey very closely. I call on all parties to continue the dialogue. Any further escalation of violence must be prevented.
I believe it is important to recall the legally binding standards set by the European Convention on Human Rights regarding the freedom of assembly – and its limits.
It is true that this right is not absolute, but any restriction has to be prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society.
The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights is very clear on this.
Authorities have to take appropriate measures with regard to demonstrations in order to ensure their peaceful conduct and the safety of all citizens.
In case security forces have to intervene with force, this intervention has to be strictly proportionate and necessary. For example, in a number of judgments, the Court held that the use of tear gas in confined places, including hospitals, is neither necessary nor proportionate."
“I encourage the Greek government to accept the European Broadcasting Union’s offer of advice and assistance necessary to ensure ERT becomes a true public broadcaster corresponding to Council of Europe standards for public service media.
Strasbourg, 12.06.2013 – The Council of Europe today alerted its 47 member states to the risks of digital tracking and other surveillance technologies for human rights, the rule of law and democracy, and recalled the need to ensure their legitimate use.
In a Declaration issued to governments, the Committee of Ministers say that legislation allowing for overly broad surveillance of citizens can challenge their privacy and have a chilling effect on their freedom of expression and the freedom of the media.
The Committee recall that tracking and surveillance measures by law enforcement authorities should comply with the Council of Europe’s human rights standards set out in the European Convention on Human Rights. Such measures should also strictly respect the limits, requirements and safeguards set out in the Data Protection Convention 108.