Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
Rapporteur Group for Democratic Stability
GR-EDS(2002)CB11 27 September 2002
Meeting of 20 September 2002
1. Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
a. Evaluation of the situation and prospects for accession
The Chair recalled that the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers had sent a letter to President Kostunica on 9 September last, expressing the Committee of Ministers’ concern at the lack of co-operation with the Tribunal in The Hague and stressing the importance of this commitment in the procedure for his country’s accession to the Council of Europe. The President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Peter Schieder, in a statement on 10 September last, had underlined the urgent need to implement the Belgrade agreements, including the signature of the Constitutional Charter on relations between Serbia and Montenegro.
The Deputy Secretary of the Venice Commission reported on developments with regard to the Constitutional Charter: the two parties had not yet reached a consensus, particularly on how elections to the parliament should be organised - by direct or indirect suffrage - although an agreement was expected in the next few days. The Constitutional Charter had been drafted in close co-operation with the Venice Commission and, once it had been finalised and signed, it would constitute an excellent legal basis in conformity with European standards in anticipation of the forthcoming accession of the country to the Council of Europe.
During the discussion, several delegations welcomed the initiatives taken by Ms Polfer and Mr Schieder, placing an emphasis on key factors for regional stability and the fulfilment of the commitments entered into vis-à-vis the Organisation. They stated once again that they wanted the FRY to accede to the Council but that they were expecting progress on the points raised by the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers and the President of the Assembly. They understood that the electoral context was currently taking up a lot of time and energy of the Yugoslav authorities but they hoped that a reply to the Chairman’s letter would be sent in the near future.
In this regard, the debate to be held by the Parliamentary Assembly on 24 September was of particular importance.
The Group decided to defer consideration of the proposals on the procedure for monitoring of commitments presented by the Secretariat (document GR-EDS(2002)34) until its next meeting, in the light of the decision taken by the Parliamentary Assembly on accession by the FRY to the Council of Europe.
· Exchange of views with Ambassador Civiletti
Ambassador Carlo Civiletti, Head of the Municipal Election Observation Mission, described the background against which the municipal elections would be held on 26 October next:
· participation by minorities, including the Serb minority: there were good prospects for multi-cultural participation and Serbian leaders in both Belgrade and Kosovo had encouraged electors to register and vote;
· little enthusiasm for the elections: the general feeling of dissatisfaction felt by the Albanians of Kosovo suggested the possibility of low voter turn-out (consequences of the change of regime in Belgrade, the fact that the local administration had managed to achieve very little in improving the standard of living, etc);
· organisation of the elections: the excellent organisation by the OSCE-ODIHR should ensure that the elections were conducted in line with international standards;
· the mission had focused primarily on the re-appropriation of powers with a view to laying down the foundations of genuine local self-government. In this respect, there was now a greater number of local agents appearing in the OSCE organisational chart, among staff responsible for organising the elections and on the electoral commissions. All responsibilities should once again be in the hands of the domestic institutions for the legislative elections in 2004;
· the international community’s action on the ground was suffering from reductions in budgetary and staffing levels.
The interim progress report of the Council of Europe’s observation mission (document (SG/Inf(2002)36) was distributed separately.
In the course of the discussion, the Group raised the question of Serbian participation in the voting, the role of the Election Complaints and Appeals Sub-Commission (ECAC) and the issue of parallel institutions, in particular the case of Mitrovica where at present there were still two separate municipalities. Despite pressure from the Serbs, it was essential to ensure that such a situation did not continue after the elections. In addition, emphasis was placed on the readiness to co-operate shown by the NGOs which were of vital importance for the success of multi-ethnic co-habitation in Kosovo.
At the end of the exchange of views, Ambassador Civiletti appealed once again to member states to make available long-term observers. The Chair thanked him on behalf of the Group for the work carried out and the information provided to the Committee.
· Applicability of Council of Europe conventions to Kosovo
The Group took note of the document on the applicability to Kosovo of Council of Europe conventions, particularly in the human rights field. This was an update of the information which had already been presented to the Group by the Secretariat on 28 June last (GR-EDS(2002)CB9) following the Secretariat’s visit to Pristina at the request of the Secretary General in order to discuss with UNMIK representatives the ways and means of applying the Council of Europe’s conventions and their control mechanisms to Kosovo. Consultations were only at a preliminary stage and the most suitable approach seemed to be first of all to tackle the more general question of applicability in respect of two conventions and their control mechanisms: the Convention on the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) and the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities.
The Chair noted that the Group supported this step-by-step approach and the courses of action set out in document DGAP/Inf(2002)15 revised.
· Missing persons in Kosovo
The Chair referred to the Deputies’ decision of 11 September 2002 (807th meeting, item 4.3), instructing the GR-EDS to “consider the request for support which [the Commissioner for Human Rights] had received with respect to the identification of missing persons in Kosovo” (cf document Comm/DH(2002)9).
The Secretariat provided information on the situation: three years after the conflict, the fate of some 3,700 people, Albanians and Serbs, was still unclear and fuelled the animosity and suspicion on both sides. Resolving this issue would help bring about reconciliation between the communities and contribute to stability in the country and region. UNMIK’s Office for Missing Persons estimated that the sum of 300,000 euros would be required to complete, within the timeframe of this year, the necessary exhumations.
The Chair endorsed the appeal from the Commissioner for Human Rights for national delegations to consider the possibility of contributions to the Office for Missing Persons and the Group agreed to resume discussion of this item at its next meeting.
The Chair pointed out that the dispute between Georgia and the Russian Federation had been raised on several occasions by both member states before the Deputies and had been referred to the GR-EDS for consideration. He wanted to see a constructive discussion, without any disparaging remarks and reciprocal accusations, and with due respect for the principles of the Council of Europe, namely conflict resolution by peaceful means, application of the law, respect for territorial integrity and co-operation between states. He also suggested that the discussion focus on issues for which the Council could make a concrete contribution (mutual assistance in judicial and criminal matters, legal consultancy, particularly in the field of citizenship and nationality) and reminded members that the GR-EDS had been instructed by the Deputies to consider two main issues:
- the granting of Russian citizenship to persons resident in Abkhazia and its potential impact in the post-conflict period; on this point, the Group had at its disposal an update of the document drafted by the Secretariat in July 2002, with additional information on Georgian citizenship legislation (DGAP/Inf(2002)16);
- the renewed tension between Georgia and the Russian Federation over the measures to be taken to cope with the alleged presence of Chechen terrorists on Georgian soil, particularly in the Pankisi valley; in this connection he referred to the statements of the Presidents and/or Foreign Ministers of the two countries and the Secretary General’s press release of 13 September.
Lastly, he welcomed Mr Kakabadze, the Georgian Minister of Special Affairs, with whom the Group could discuss these issues in an exchange of views. The Minister’s speech is reproduced in the appendix.
The Georgian Representative added that her authorities had made enquiries and ascertained that there were a number of terrorists on Georgian territory. It was therefore taking the necessary measures to deal with the problem. She referred to the respective sizes of both countries and stressed that dealing successfully with terrorism was no easier for a country the size of Georgia, currently rebuilding its army, than for Russia which had been attempting in vain to eradicate terrorism from its mountains for years. Georgia would willingly accept any assistance from the international community to deal with this problem but it refused to resort to war. She appealed for the support of the international community and for observance of the principles of the Council of Europe.
The Russian Representative said that the Russian Federation had on several occasions drawn the attention of the international community to the situation in the Pankisi valley and had offered Georgia its assistance in dealing with this problem. Given that Georgia was quite clearly unable to resolve the problem on its own, the Russian Federation wanted it to appeal to the international community. The Georgians had to take account of Russia’s concerns.
In the ensuing discussion, the Representative of Denmark, on behalf of the European Union, and several other delegations restated their support for the territorial integrity of Georgia. They aligned themselves with the declaration made on 13 September 2002 by the Secretary General. They welcomed Georgia’s recent initiatives to fight terrorism and encouraged the OSCE observation mission, which included Russian members, to pursue its work. They emphasised the need to find a peaceful solution to the current tension, stressing the fact that a deterioration in relations between the Russian Federation and Georgia was a destabilising factor for the whole region.
Questions were also asked about the Joint Commission of Enquiry which was intended to shed light on the bombardments of 23 August 2002. This commission did not yet appear to have begun its work.
With regard to the question of the simplified acquisition of Russian nationality in the secessionist regions, and in particular Abkhazia, the Chair asked the Secretariat to present its document (DGAP/Inf(2002)16).
The Director of Political Advice and Co-operation said that the problem did not derive from the texts of the laws themselves but from the impact of the application or non-application of concurrent nationality legislation in those conflict areas still awaiting a global political settlement. The Council of Europe could, via its network of experts in the nationality field, help the two countries to find a solution to this problem. Such an approach to this aspect of the matter could lend support to the initiative of the group of Friends of the United Nations Secretary General with a view to a settlement of the Abkhasia conflict, and help restore trust between the two countries. The Venice Commission could also assist in this context, as it already did in the framework of the Pitsunda seminar.
Several delegations spoke in support of Council of Europe involvement, based on its expertise in this field. They considered that such an initiative would prepare the way for confidence-building measures with a view to a peaceful settlement to the conflict. They encouraged both countries to proceed in this way.
At the end of the discussion, the Chair thanked the Minister for his contribution and commented that the debate had been conducted in a positive manner. He suggested reporting back to the Deputies stressing the proposal to use the Council of Europe’s potential to draw up possible confidence-building measures. A first step towards diffusing tension and suspicion could be to study in situ, together with the competent authorities in both countries, and taking into account the context, how the concurrent nationality laws apply and should apply. The forthcoming meeting between the two Presidents could give a positive signal that such initiatives are possible and welcome. With regard to the situation in the Pankisi valley, the Group was awaiting the outcome of a possible fact-finding visit which could be assigned to the OSCE. It encouraged the Georgian authorities to make a determined effort to follow up their action against terrorism by apprehending armed men found on their territory. With respect to the territorial integrity of Georgia, it called on the Russian Federation to abstain from all use of force.
The Group agreed to monitor the question closely and to put it back on the agenda in the event of any new developments.
The Chair recalled that the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers had written to President Voronin on 9 September last to convey the Committee of Ministers’ concern about outstanding questions. To date, no reply had been received to either this letter or the Secretary General’s of 1 August last.
The Representative of Moldova said that President Voronin’s reply to the Secretary General’s letter would reach him before his visit to Chişinau, scheduled to take place on 14 and 15 October next.
The Group agreed to resume discussion of this item at its next meeting.
4. “The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”
The Chair referred to the press release of the International Election Observation Mission of 16 September 2002 and the discussion which the Deputies had already had on this topic (808th meeting, 18 September 2002, item 2.1).
The Representative of the delegation of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, referring to the statement made by her delegation on 18 September 2002, thanked the Parliamentary Assembly for the large delegation of observers it had sent for these elections. The shortcomings in the preparation of these elections – particularly those relating to the electoral legislation which had been noted in the preliminary conclusions of the International Election Observation Mission – would be studied by the authorities and departments concerned.
5. Other business
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Director General of Political Affairs had travelled to Sarajevo in connection with the link diversity programme. The meeting had been attended by the 10 national committees set up in the countries involved in the programme. The overall impression had been very positive: these committees were in the hands of competent people and the projects presented under the Stability Pact were very promising. Accordingly, it would be most regrettable if all the efforts exerted by these committees were reduced to nought because of a lack of funding.
The presence in Sarajevo had also been an opportunity to present Mr Hugh Chetwynd, the Secretary General’s new Deputy Special Representative responsible for the coordination of the assistance programmes. In the course of meetings with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Presidents of the Two Houses of Parliament, it had been noted that even though the country was in an election period, the authorities had begun implementing the post-accession co-operation programmes. A meeting with the OSCE Head of Mission had afforded the opportunity for a constructive exchange of views on the respective roles of the two organisations in particular in the field of education and the need for co-operation. Meetings with the United Nations Head of Mission and the First Deputy to the High Representative also focused on the coordination of the activities undertaken by the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Two delegations from the region confirmed the enthusiasm generated by the link diversity programme and expressed their hope that the shortage of funds would not reduce all these efforts to nought. NGO activities in these transition societies were of particular importance and should be encouraged. The value of this programme having been underlined, the Chair called on the countries that had promised contributions to give concrete form to their support for the said programme.
6. Date of the next meeting
Friday 4 October 2002 at 9.30 am.
Intervention of Mr Kakabadze, Minister for Special Affairs of Georgia
Ladies and Gentlemen
I would like to take the opportunity and thank you for allowing me to participate in this important debate. Today’s meeting is very significant for us, as only year ago a great tragedy of September 11th has shaken the world, which has shown that terrorism is one of the most painful and important problems that threatens the international community. From the very early days of these barbaric acts Georgia joined the US-led international campaign for fight against terrorism.
Our meeting is also important since in the context of these tragic events, on September 11th the President of Russia openly threatened my country to use force against it. It was stated that the reason for this was the situation and problems in Chechnya and south Russia, which originate from Georgia namely Pankisi. We would like to state with all responsibility that the situation is to the contrary, namely, the Pankisi problem is derived as a result of the military operations in Chechnya.
Russian Law Enforcement agencies could not or would not keep the military actions within the boundaries of Russia. They were doing everything possible to spread the conflict over the territory of Georgia. In autumn 1999, when for the second time the conflict re-emerged, the government of Russia requested our President to give permission to Russian troops to move through Georgia to Chechnya. The President of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze, made the only right decision and did not give them the right to cross the border. Since, otherwise this meant Georgia's involvement in this conflict and this would have led to a big Caucasian war with its respectively negative consequences, first of all for Russia itself. And all the consequent events were aimed at punishing Georgia for this decision.
I would like to emphasize once more that Chechen fighters came specifically from Russia. The officials of Russian Federation are complicating the situation by accusing Georgians that Chechens are provided with arms and weapons from Pankisi. Here we would like to note that despite great problems with our IDPs we still received Chechen refugees approximately 8000, most of them were elderly people, women and children.
The international control mechanism such as OSCE, in which Russians participate as well, proves that there is no danger to Russia from Georgia. However, it must be noted that observers' mission have recorded the violation of Georgian airspace 76 times. Among them bombing occurred 8 times, mostly on the territory of Pankisi. The last bombardment has entailed the death of the citizen of Georgia, heavily wounded seven persons, including two children. It is to our regret that Russian Federation denies the fact of participation of its air forces in the above-mentioned incidents.
In respect of this issue, I would like to mention that Russia has a crucial role as the sole troop contributor to the CIS Peacekeeping Forces. At the same time, it is beyond comprehension that the country that contributes the peacekeepers would bomb the host country. In this regard, I am aware that the Committee of Ministers has to reply to written question No. 401 posed by Mr. Adamia last year: "Actions taken by the authorities of the Russian Federation against Georgia which are incompatible with membership of the Council of Europe".
Accusations that Georgia's leadership cooperates with terrorists, who himself was subject of several terrorists attacks, is absolutely groundless and false. There is no evidence whatsoever of our collaboration with the terrorists. We consider such accusations against Georgia as immoral and as an attempt to discredit the member country of the international anti-terrorist coalition.
Moreover, Article 51 of the UN Charter allows the state, which has been attacked, to use armed forces to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Russian Federation has not been subjected to the armed aggression from Georgia, while armed individuals penetrating the territory of Georgia from Russia are mostly the citizens of Russian Federation, who have been forced onto Georgian territory, hence there is no justification for exploiting this Article.
All these facts indicate that Pankisi problem is artificially complicated in order to keep influence on Georgia. This is directed towards the impediment of democratic development in Georgia and towards disruption of the projects such as Europe-Asia Transport Corridor and Transit of Hydrocarbons.
Georgia with the aid of USA managed to organize anti-terrorist groups, which with other law enforcement bodies are performing special anti-terrorist and anti-criminal operations in Pankisi Gorge. It should be mentioned here that the Russian Federation was timely informed about it. The operations are in progress, there have been detainments and unfortunately casualties.
We are grateful to Secretary General of Council of Europe, Mr Walter Schwimmer, for his readiness to help with the implementation, wherever applicable, of legal commitments to extradite or prosecute suspected terrorists in conformity with international treaties and procedures.
I would like to state that as soon as the operation is completed, the Georgian government is prepared to invite monitoring group probably in the framework of OSCE, including the representatives of the Russian Federation, in order to maximize the transparency of the operations performed in Pankisi.
I would like to once again come back to the accusation made against Georgia concerning Georgia's collaboration with terrorists. And I would like to remind you that nowadays the internationally recognized terrorists by Russia such as Basaev, Gelaev, Israpilov, Raduev and others were trained and equipped in Russia and sent to Abkhazia from Russia to fight against Georgians alongside the representatives of official Russian army and Kazaks.
I would like to say couple of words about Abkhazia. From the beginning I have to reaffirm that a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia, remains the only acceptable option for my Government. Nevertheless, I would like to mention all the problems we have encountered in the whole peace process. What happened is difficult to believe but Abkhaz separatists, who originally constituted only 17% of the population with the help of foreign regular army units expelled the majority just because they were mainly Georgians. As a result 300 000 persons have been forced out of their homes and separatist regime cynically refuses to allow them back. This was accomplished alongside ethnically motivated summary executions and mass killings. The question arises: can this be qualified as terrorism and are the perpetrators of these crimes terrorists? In our opinion one of the reasons for the failure of all attempts to resolve this conflict is that what really happened in Abkhazia has not yet been objectively assessed.
However, in the framework of peaceful settlement of the conflict the Abkhaz separatist leadership rejects the cooperation not only with the Georgian side but also with the UN, the Friends of the UN Secretary General, OSCE and other international organizations. There is no secret that the destructive position of the Abkhaz side is backed from outside. "De-Facto" Abkhaz leadership fully ignores and categorically refuses to receive the so called Boden document ”Basic Principles for Distribution of Competencies between Tbilisi and Sokhumi", approved by the UN Security Council and the Group of Friends of the Secretary General.
It should be further underlined that introduction of visa regime with Georgia by the Russian Federation, while granting visa-free arrangements to the separatists regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia, without consent of and consultations with Georgian authorities, has extremely negative impact on the conflict resolution.
In the message conveyed to mass-media lately by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, the Russian side is trying to grant legitimacy to Abkhaz separatist authorities. The high level Russian Officials are openly cooperating with the leadership of separatist regime.
Moreover, despite Georgia's strong objections, Russia continues to grant Russian citizenship to the residents of the Abkhazian and South Osetian regions of Georgia, again without agreement of Georgian authorities, that gives to the certain circles in Russia a good pretext to interfere into the internal affairs of Georgia justifying that by the protection of rights of its own citizens. This trend should be given a proper assessment of the gross violation of international norms and principles.
With regard to these facts I would like to remind you of one incident. In the beginning of the conflict when President Eduard Shevardnadze felt that aggressive separatism was backed militarily, politically and financially from Russia, he made a statement that "aggressive separatism is dangerous illness, which can destroy not only small country but big empire as well". He compared this with the Boomerang effect. He warned that it will return. And it did indeed return in Chechnya in 1994. It seems to me that this warning is still in force.
In conclusion I would like to state once again that according to the above-mentioned problems, the peaceful settlement of the conflict requires urgent and decisive measures from the international community and the contribution of the Council of Europe in particular. Here we have a positive experience. I would like to take the opportunity and thank the Commissioner on Human Rights Mr. Gill Robles, the Venice Commission and personally Mr. Gianni Buquicchio, for their participation in the peace process. We had a meeting with him and he expressed his willingness to continue this cooperation. We express our hope that the Council of Europe, respected international organisation, will continue to exert every effort and employ all resources to keep peace in Georgia and defend it from any acts of aggression from neighbour country and will support to resolve the existing conflicts in Georgia.