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Home arrow newsitems arrow CoE Assembly EPP+Socialist+Left Groups Chiefs Fischer+Nicoletti+Cox to EF on Chairman Agramunt row+

CoE Assembly EPP+Socialist+Left Groups Chiefs Fischer+Nicoletti+Cox to EF on Chairman Agramunt row+

Written by ACM
Friday, 28 April 2017

*Strasbourg/CoE/+Brussels/EPP Summit/Angelo Marcopolo/- The sudden Big Row about CoE Assembly's President, Pedro Agramunt, (a ChristianDemocrat/EPP from Spain), Hotly Denounced by several Critics for a Hasty Trip to Syria, where he met President Assad, with the Help of Russian MEPs, accused to have Ommitted to previously Warn PACE's Bureau, etc., while, possibly, rushing to seize any opportunity to help Peace through Dialogue, (See also Infra, on Agramunt's initial Explanations), has now Reached Proportions withOut Any Precedent in History, on which the Presidents of the ChristianDemocrat/EPP, Socialist and Left Group of MEPs, Axel Fischer, Michele Nicoletti, and Tiny Cox, respectively, briefly but Topically spoke with "Eurofora":


To put it in a nutshell :


    President Agramunt, (after Initially providing a first Explanation to Critics, Earlier this week in Strasbourg), he did Not Participate, this Time, to an Exceptional Meeting of PACE's Bureau, due to Focus on againg Criticizing him, and, apparently, Left from CoE's Building, probably even from Strasbourg. According to PACE's Rules, there isn't any Legal means to Oblige him to do otherwise, Neither to eventually Resign.

    A PACE's Bureau Majority published a Critical Note against its President, Agramunt, calling to Strip him from many of his prerogatives, (f.ex. to Speak on Behalf of the Assembly, etc), and Elected its Senior Member, British Conservative MEP Sir Roger Gale in order to represent them, according to a Press Statement that he has just Read to Strasbourg's Journalists, including "Eurofora".




   Lithuanian ChristianDemocrat/EPP MEP Egidijus Vareikis, observed that there were several Absents, as well as Critical MEPs who didn't understand why Agramunt would have, necessarily, to Resign, and noted the Fact that, according to PACE's Rules, a simple Majority inside the Bureau could Not Destitute an Elected PACE President.

   Center-Right French MEP Ponzo di Bongo expressed his Anger for, curiously, Not being Informed at all, about what really happened, by the out-going Chair of his National Delegation, MEP ... from the Socialist Party, (who appeared in a Hurry to immediately Phone somewhere).

   After an apparently Unconclusive meeting (with Many Absentees, as "Eurofora" witnessed on the spot) of PACE's Biggest Political Group : That of ChristianDemocrats/EPP, (Agramunt's Political Family), its President, German CDU MEP Axel Fischer, anounced to "Eurofora" and other Journalists present in Strasbourg, his intention to Travel to Brussels in order to Speak about that Agramunt issue with the President of the European ChristianDemocrat/EPP Party (which Federates together All National Center-Right ChristianDemocrats/EPP parties in all European Countries), the Experienced Joseph Daul.


   Daul, speaking to "Eurofora", Afterwards in Brussels, at the Conclusion of an EPP Summit of Heads of State/Government, while locacious on various Other Topical Issues, on the Contrary, prefered Not to make yet Any Public Statement on Agramunt's case, but Told us that he, indeed, just Met with Fischer and they spoke about that matter. His momentaneous Silence might, perhaps, be due also to the Fact that, Exceptionally, the Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy wasn't present at that EPP Summit, while Daul himself, even if he was an Experienced former Chairman of EPP Group in EU Parliament, and Long-Time MEP of Strasbourg (CoE's Headquarters' City), nevertheless, had not a frequent opportunity to deal with CoE Assembly's Internal Affairs as such, (two Points obviously pleading for a Careful Approach of such a Delicate and UnPrecedented Issue).  

  Meanwhile, while already in Strasbourg, "Eurofora" had also a brief but Topical encounter with the President of the Socialist Group in CoE's Assembly, Italian MEP Michele Nicoletti, (who had just met also with Other Strasbourg's Journalists earlier, but obliged to decline for several others, from various CoE Member Countries, for exceptional reasons Independent of his free will).



 Nicoletti told us, in substance, that his Group was among those who believed that Agramunt should Resign, but claimed that, in fact, this would be UnRelated to the existence or absence of a Political Will for Good Relations with Russia and for a Peace Deal in Syria, that his National Government in Italy, (including EU's High Representative for External Action, Federica Mongerini : originating from the Same Political Family as his own), reportedly supported. Indeed, Nicoletti prefered to Focus on matters of General Principle, particulalry as far as CoE Assembly's working methods are concerned, Criticizein mainly an alleged Lack of previous Warning of PACE's Bureau by Agramunt about his imminent Meeting with the Syrian President Assad, escorted by a Russian Delegation.

    Agramunt, (who had been, in fact, Accompagnied also by some Other PACE's Top MEPs, including, f.ex., the President of the Liberal Group, etc), had already presented his Excuses, for not being able to meet, Previously, with PACE's Bureau, and stressed, earlier this week in Strasbourg, that he visited Syria as part of a National Team from Spain, (where he is Senator), and had informed his Foreign Ministry. He did not felt personally responsible for any eventual exploitation that others might have done of his participation to that trip, while he was deeply Committed to the Need to Help Find a Peaceful Solution to the Syrian Conflict, through Political Dialogue, as a matter of General Principle. But, despite having briefly met him Earlier this week in Strasbourg, at a entirely Different occasion, "Eurofora" (and several Other Strasbourg's Journalists) had Not any opportunity to Timely and clearly know what, in fact, was PACE President Agramunt's real and full Version for what happened nowadays, the Criticism and Measures take by a Majority in PACE's Bureau.

    President Nicoletti, (who is also Expected, according to a usual Agreement between the Biggest PACE's Political Parties, to eventually take over PACE's Presidency since Next Year, from January 2018 : A Possibility the he did Not Deny, while also Avoiding to Confirm Now Explicitly, with a kind Smile), however told "Eurofora" that he "Understood" the personal Sorrow of Pedro Agramunt, (who due to Conclude his Mandate as PACE's President, normally, towards the End of this Year), and, at any case, would not have any objection for that Job to be, eventually, entrusted, in the MeanTime, to anOther Member of the ChristianDemocrat/EPP Group. But he Firmly Excluded any eventual Compromise that might imply for Agramunt to Stay Longer in PACE's Presidency now, as things stand.



    + A priori, even more Surprizing appeared the Strong Criticism of Left Group's President, Tiny Cox from the Netherlands, who is, however, a frequent Ally to Russia's attempts to Explain its Position during PACE's various Debates, as well as traditionally against Militarist Interventions and Wars, but favorable, in Principle, to any attempts to find Peaceful Solutions to Conflicts : Indeed, speaking to "Eurofora", Cox Strongly Denounced mainly the (uncontested) Fact that Agramunt should Not have given any Impression (even Involuntary) to eventually Represent Officially CoE's Assembly in such a Controversial Top Political Meeting withOut Previously Informing PACE's Bureau, and Lacking its Previous Agreement.  

    [NDLR : UPDATE = New French President Emmanuel Macron's subsequent Statements in Brussels, about Accepting Syrian President Assad's role in a Desirable Peace Deal for the Future, were Not yet Known neither to Nicoletti, nor to Fischer or to Cox, when we spoke with them at the CoE in Strasbourg]

    In the MeanTime, "Eurofora" confirmed, in parallel, that an Exceptionally Important PACE's Draft Report on the most "Explosive" BioEthical Issue Nowadays, about Interventions on the Genome of Human Beings, (which, notoriously, can have Crucial Consequencies on all Humanity's Future), is Still on the Pipeline for a possible Public Debate and Vote of a Resolution by a PACE's Plenary, apparently Before the End of this Year (2017).

    Curiously, that "Hot" Report's preparation has been entrusted to a Socialist MEP from Belgium, whose Previous Drafts, on Various Other BioEthical Issues, had notoriously provoked Exceptional UpHeavals and Strong Reactions by Critics in the Recent Past, (Resulting, f.ex., in Referrals Back to Committee, and/or Votes of many Amendments radically Changing her Initial Draft, etc). And, usually, it was mainly (even if Not Only) the ChristianDemocrat/EPP Group of MEPs (i.e. Agramunt's Political Family) which freqently intervened in order to Rectify various eventually Dangerous Shortcomings, by such Controversial Drafts, inside CoE's Assembly.

    In such Contexts, normally, the successive Presidents of PACE's ChristianDemocrat/EPP Groups in CoE's History, (f.ex., among others, also Luc Van Der Brande, Lucca Volonté, Pedro Agramunt, etc), used to play an Important (even  if Discreet) Role in the Way that such "Hot" BioEthical Issues were Dealt with, already several Times in the Past, until recently.

    But, now, one among the Various Consequences of that UnPrecedented Row against Agramunt, (current PACE's President, and former ChristianDemocrat/EPP Group's President previously), is that it obviously may put such a Mechanism in Jeopardy : Only the forthcoming Future will tell...








(NDLR : Partly UPDATED on 29 April 2017)





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People in Europe and the World expect from CoE to make a succes of its "Monitoring" for Human Rights and Democracy, despite difficulties, said Finland's President Tarja Halonen to "EuroFora" at a crucial moment for the mecanism built 15 years ago by the paneuropean organization which celebrates its 60th Anniversary in 2009.

Halonen, known as "Mother" of CoE's "Monitoring" mecanism, a long-time MEP and former Foreign Minister before becoming Finland's President, holds a long experience in the mattter, after also serving twice as CoE and EU Chairwoman in the past. That's why she is well placed to judge how CoE's "monitoring" should deal today with some crucial issues of importance both to CoE and to the EU.

The move came just a Month before a crucial, last visit to Turkey, scheduled for June, by the President of CoE''s "Monitoring" Committee, Ukranian MEP Serge Holovaty, to finalize his Report on Ankara, the CoE Member State with the longest Monitoring procedure. From its results depends its overall credibility.

This is a Test-case, because, in fact, it's in order to avoid Sanctions threatened against Turkey by a CoE's Assembly's April 1995 Resolution for grave Human Rights violations, Democracy gaps, the continuing Military Occupation in Cyprus, the unresolved Kurdish problem, Aegean differend with Greece, etc., that MEPs decided to create, for the 1st time on April 1996, a "Monitoring" proces, allegedly destinated to check, without excluding Countries who did not fulfill all CoE's standards.

In the Past, the obliged withdrawal of Greece's Military regime and of its "Civil" cover-up out of the CoE had helped bring back Democracy in 1974. But, on the contrary, since April 1996, the idea was to "monitor" Human Rights' respect while keeping most concerned Countries inside the CoE. After Turkey's oldest example, this was extended also to several former "Eastern" European Countries, even if CoE's Assembly has imposed to some of them (fex. Ukraine, Russia, etc., after Belarus, Serbia, etc) various "Sanctions", that Ankara always avoided. Curiously more succesful even than .. USA itself, (a CoE "Observer" since 1995), which has been at least threatened with sanctions some years ago..

EU-effects of CoE's Monitoring process became obvious between 2001-2008, since the "closure" of this procedure, when CoE felt that a Country had met most of its Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law obligations, (i.e. the "Copenhagen Criteria" for the EU), helped trigger Negotiations with the EU for "Accession" or other closer relations : This occured already before the 2004 and 2007 EU Enlargements to former "Eastern" European Countries, as well as for the commencement of "accession" negotiations with Croatia, and of "open-ended" negotiations with Turkey in 2005.

    But a stricking new development are Holovaty's recent findings that on core Human Rights issues as Torture and Freedom of Expression, Turkey, even "5 Years after" CoE closed its "Monitoring", back in 2004, inciting EU to start accession Negotiations in 2005, still presents grave problems.

    His findings are of crucial importance after a 2008 CoE Resolution called, "if need be", to "seriously consider the possibility of Re-Opening the Monitoring procedure for Turkey" : A move which might affect Ankara's controversial EU bid, since EU Accession Negotiations are based on the Hypothesis that the Candidate fullfils the "Copenhagen Criteria" (See above)..
    Holovaty expressed his will to check  "Matters still Outstanding" and  those that he "didn't have an opportunity to discuss" at an earlier visit this year, "in order to discuss the more complex issues in greater depth", at his forthcoming New Visit to Ankara, before the December 2009 EU Summit.  This is all based on the 2004 CoE Resolution which stresses that, CoE "will continue.. post-monitoring Dialogue with the Turkish authorities,...in addition to a 12-points list,..and on any Other Matter that might arise in connection with Turkey’s Obligations as a CoE member state".

    CoE's Resolution also asks  from Turkey "to secure the proper Implementation of Judgements, particularly in the Cyprus v. Turkey InterState case", of 2001, which concerns also the plight of many Hundreds of MISSING People. It adds Turkey's obligations to "execute" ECHR's Judgements in the Loizidou case,..and in particular adopt General Measures to avoid repetition or continuation of Violations found by the Court" to the detriment of Refugees.

    Nevertheless, Holovaty said to "EuroFora" that "MISSING" persons,"might be included" and cannot be excluded, but he has yet to examine the situation "to find out  which issues will be raised" to the Turkish Government.

    Therefore, "EuroFora" asked Halonen, as the Historic "Mother" of CoE's Monitoring mecanism, if she thought that, "whenever there are grave Human Rights Violations, as fex. "MISSING" persons, attested even by ECHR's judgements, they should be always checked by a Monitoring process. Or could they be forgotten ?"
     - "We (CoE) must be, at the same time, Fair, Realistic, but not in the mind that "now we have Forgotten", etc., replied to "EuroFora"'s question Halonen, speaking as a matter of general principle.

    - "When we think of those People that are suffering from the lack of Democracy, of Human Rights, and of the Rule of Law", "we should find a base on how to deal with the (Monitoring) system more rapidly"', she stressed.

    - "Sometimes it's very difficult to combine Transparency and Effectivenes together, particularly in this specific case", she went on to say. But, "I have not found a (CoE Member) Country who could be insensitive in this sens", Halonen answered concerning grave Human Rights violations attested by the ECHR.

    - "I have no ready-made answer. I have the expectations that you, in the CoE, will, step by step, find the different types of the monitoring systems."

    Also "because this is a part of the UN's Post-Conflict system, (fex. when it comes to Cyprus' MISSING persons), and it's a more Global system". So that, "If we make a succes in Europe, the others will follow", throughout the World.  "But they expect that we (Europe) are this opportunity, this Opportunity to make a Succes", Halonen concluded.

    In addition, she advised to extend CoE's Monitoring to all its 47 Member States, "because, as long as we hear that, all these monitoring systems are "OK for the neighbor, but not for me", "it's very difficult" to understand. Something which could make easier to Compare...

    Finnish MEP Jaako Laakso, former CoE Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories of Cyprus and one of the 5 Signatories of the Historic CoE's call to create the "MONITORING" mecanism since 1996, was more specific :  - "We (CoE Assembly) have to find a way for the issue of Cyprus' MISSING People to be better followed", he stressed, anouncing his intention to "speak to Mr. Holovaty" about that. "There might be also other ways", added Laakso.

    - The 2008 "Year had been a very Bad one for Turkey with regard to Human Rights in general, and Freedom of Expression in particular", denounced, meanwhile, Holovaty's preliminary Post-Monitoringh Draft Report by Holovaty, published by the CoE on April 2009.

    "Amnesty International believes that freedom of expression is not guaranteed given the various articles of the Criminal Code that restrict it. .. "For example, 1,300 Websites are said to have been closed down by the (Turkish) authorities in 2008" ! While "the new Turkish Criminal Code was used to bring a total of 1,072 proceedings between June 2005 and April 2008, and led to the conviction of 192 people", for expressing views. "Representatives of the Özgür Gündem newspaper, which specialises in Kurdish affairs, ..complained about Numerous Attacks on their Freedom of Expression ...as was everyone who advocated a settlement to the question by means other than the intervention of the army" "According to their figures, 19 Newspapers had been suspended 43 times between 4 August 2006 and 4 November 2008" !...

    Moreover, on 2008,  CoE's "Ministers adopted its 4rth Resolution on the execution of the judgments of the ECHR, ...and outstanding issues regarding 175 Judgements and decisions relating to Turkey delivered between 1996 and 2008...  concerning Deaths resulting from the excessive use of force by members of the Security forces, the failure to protect the right to life, the DIisappearance and/or death of individuals, Ill-Treatment and the Destruction of property". CoE's " Ministers urged the Turkish authorities ...to ensure that members of Security forces of all ranks can be prosecuted without administrative
authorisation" for "serious crimes". Holovaty reminded.

"Nonetheless", Holovaty heard anew of "Several cases of Violence committed last year (2008) by the (Turkish) security forces". Amnesty International speaks of Many Cases of ill-treatment and Torture in the prisons and by the police". "Including, fex."'the death of Engin Ceber, a young man of 29 who died on October 2008 as a result of the TORTURE allegedly inflicted on him by police officers, prison staff and members of the gendarmerie. He was part of a group of people arrested on September 2008 during a demonstration and Press Conference in Istanbul'. Proceedings against suspects are "on-going" in this case.

- " I therefore noted an Obvious Contradiction between the Government’s stated “zero tolerance” policy.... of Torture and other forms of ill-treatment, and the different testimonies given", denounced CoE's Rapporteur.  Turkish "authorities must make considerable efforts to guarantee that proper investigations are carried out into allegations of abuses by members of the security forces and that perpetrators are effectively punished" "In this respect, I have requested detailed Statistics on the number of Investigations, acquittals and convictions in cases involving allegations of abuse in order to show the positive impact of the measures taken to date", Holovaty said, repeating a permanently unsatisfied CoE's demand to Turkey since a Decade...

    - "The Political Crisis that shook the country in the spring of 2008 highlighted the Weaknesses of the (Turkish) Constitution", which comes from the Military regime of 1982, "and the Urgent Need of Reforms", stressed from the outset CoE's Rapporteur in 2009. In particular, "the ...Democratic functioning of state institutions, including the independence of the judicial system, are crucial", he observes.

    But, "the Electoral  system and the ways in which it is circumvented do not appear to give those elected complete Legitimacy, and tend to pervert the course of direct universal suffrage", denounces Holovaty, observing that, even 5 Years later, Turkey did not yet change the 10% nationwide Threshold for a party to take any seat, which is "far higher" than the "3%" maximum in Europe and already condemned as contrary to European Standards by the CoE.

    + Moreover, EU Parliament's 2009 Report on Turkey, drafted by Dutch MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten and adopted in Strasbourg on March, expresses "Concern over the Failure of the (Turkish) Judiciary to prosecute cases of Torture and Ill-treatment, the Number of which is Growing". EU also "is concerned about continuing Hostility and Violence against Minorities" in Turkey. It also "calls on the Turkish Government to launch, as a matter of Priority, a Political Initiatve favouring a lasting Settlement of the Kurdish issue, (while "condemning violence.. and terrorist groups"). EU "regrets that No progress has been made on establishing full, systematic Civilian suprevisory functions over the (Turkish) Military".

    The final results of Holovaty's 2nd and last visit to Turkley will be known later this year, and, at any case, before EU's December 2009 Summit.


2009 EU Elections were won by Parties against Technocracy and Turkey's controversial EU bid, while the 1999-2004 Majority Abstention trend decelerated. What should be done in 2009-2014 ?


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