REPORT OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE ON THE 110th ASSEMBLY
Endorsed by the IPU Governing Council at its 173rd session
(Geneva, 3 October 2003)
- The Inter-Parliamentary Union is the international organisation of the parliaments of sovereign States. It aims fundamentally at promoting peace and democracy through political dialogue. It has functioned for more than one hundred years on the basic premise that membership of the organisation involves acceptance by all its Members of the principle of dialogue between the representatives of different, or even opposing, political, economic and social systems. Indeed, meetings of the organisation can only take place when all delegates freely designated by Member Parliaments as stipulated in Article 10.1 of the Statutes are also assured of receiving the required visa for participation.
- For these reasons, the IPU concludes an Agreement with the host country for every meeting organised by the Union which includes an Article 5 as follows:
"In conformity with the Union's principles, an Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union can only be held if all the IPU Members/National Groups duly affiliated or the members of the Parliament requesting affiliation to the Organisation, as well as the observers on the list established by the Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, are invited and if their representatives are assured of receiving the necessary visas for participation."
- The Chairman of the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union has informed the IPU that the United Kingdom Government has concluded that the Agreement cannot be signed as drafted. Their principal objection concerns Article 5 of the Agreement, which they wish to see amended either directly or indirectly. The reasons for this are set out in the British Group's communication in the following terms:
"Government ministers cannot guarantee to issue visas to all participants in the Assembly. This would involve a commitment to issue visas to people who may be subject to an international travel ban or may be unacceptable to the UK for legitimate reasons. As you will appreciate, travel bans implemented through an EU Common Position or UN Sanctions are binding upon members of the EU or UN respectively. Arguing for an exemption to those commitments for those attending the Assembly would be politically unacceptable, would run contrary both to our international commitments and to our policy of keeping up international pressure on those regimes which are subject to sanctions."
- When examining this issue, the Executive Committee has noted that there are no travel bans or similar restrictions issued by the United Nations that could affect delegations wishing to attend the 110th Assembly in London. However, there are sanctions established by the European Union through a common position that affects one Member Parliament of the IPU.
- The IPU has faced this dilemma in other situations in recent years. On those occasions, the travel bans were similarly worded and the Union obtained an exception from the governments concerned so that the delegates involved could attend the IPU meetings in question. The British Group of the IPU has informed the Executive Committee that the UK Government has concluded that the current formulation of the travel ban does not allow for an exception to be made and that it will not request such an exception.
- The Executive Committee holds the view that the principle that is involved lies at the very heart of the organisation's raison d'être and to put it aside would be tantamount to violating the Union's Statutes. Moreover, it believes that the IPU, which is a universal parliamentary organisation, cannot be bound by a sanctions regime established by a regional intergovernmental entity.
- The Executive Committee wishes to place on record its deep appreciation to the British IPU Group for the outstanding preparations it has already made to host a successful 110th Assembly in London. The Committee also wishes to thank the different parties who have been trying during the last few days to find a solution to this problem, albeit to no avail.
- However, in view of the fact that the British Authorities are not able to fulfil the requisite conditions for hosting the Assembly and in view of the considerations outlined above, the Executive Committee can only conclude, to its deep regret, that the 110th Assembly cannot be held in London and will need to be transferred to another venue where all delegates can be assured of receiving visas for their participation. The Executive Committee welcomes the statement made by the leader of the British delegation to the Executive Committee in which he underlined the British IPU Group's continued commitment to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
- Finally, the Executive Committee has also instructed the Secretary General to take up this matter with European Union officials with a view to ensuring that any future sanctions regime makes exceptions for meetings organised by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
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