European Muslims Assume Great Importance for PACE: Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni

European Muslims Assume Great Importance for PACE: Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni

France, Strasburg, 12 April /corr. Trend A.Maharramli/ Trend interview Ms Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Director General - Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport of the Council of Europe.

Question: Recently a meeting 'Teaching religious elements in education' took place in the USA. How is it important?

Answer: We, as a Secretariat, were very satisfied with the balanced composition of the participants. This balance is very important. On the one hand, our satisfaction is the participation of the representatives of great religions - Islam, Iudaism, Christian - which have historically existed in Europe, as well as the representatives of the civil society, and on the other hand, we are satisfied with the conduct of the meeting under title 'Teaching religious elements in education'. It is an urgent issue. Additionally discussions are organized in this regard within the Council of Europe and at the level of organization participating countries. Thus, the European Court on Human Rights also expressed its attitude towards the issue of teaching religious elements in education. The two elements - composition of the participants and selection of topics - are common for us. The closing results of the meeting also assume great importance. The main fact is that how the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers will support and guarantee the conclusions made at the meeting.

Question: What means of influence does the Council of Europe possess to prevent religious discrimination and abuses of the religious values?

Answer: There are two activity types in this regard. On the one hand, the European Court on Human Rights made a collection of judgments regarding freedom of expression specified in the European Convention on Human Rights (article 10). It provides an opportunity to the European Court to more accurately explain the article 10. In addition, it more clearly describes importance of the freedom of expression. This freedom should not be used to insult others. In order to prevent such a situation for a long time, the education on democratic citizenship is a mean to train the young generations. Our activities with regards to the education are part of works done by the European Court. As you see, the Council of Europe focuses on the issue of how to teach the freedom of expression. In addition, the European Convention on Human Rights contains article 9 on freedom of thought and opinion.

Question: What actions does the Council of Europe's Secretariat take to study the situation with the cultural, historical and religious monuments which are situated in the occupied territories and sustained destroy during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

As you know, appealing to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Ministries of Culture of Azerbaijan and Armenia expressed their preparedness to co-operate and assist in organizing visits to both countries to study and prepare reports on the situation with the cultural, religious, architectural and archeological monuments. Currently at the level of Council of Europe's Secretariat, we consider the lists of the monuments and samples of cultural heritage which were presented by both countries. The main issue is to establish a group of international experts who to visit the countries, assess the monuments and prepare reports.

The other stage will cover the studying possibilities of reconstuction of these momuments. Of course, it is earlier to speak of reconstruction works at present as we have not yet carried out the first stage with the group of independent experts.

Its implementation will not take long. I belive, the political will expressed by Azerbaijani and Armenian miniters of culture, who admit the need for implementation of fact-finding mission of that kind in both countries, is positive. From this stanpoint, there is a need to protect cultural and architectural heritage in this region.

Both counties have expressed their interests in this regard and have intorduced their lists. As I stated, our group of independent experts are considering both lists now. We want to make sure that both list are comprehensive. If we want to have a global and impartial view on the situation, visits must be made to all areas.

At present, we are considering the lists so that Council of Europe can make its proposal to the both governments on the technical visit and our experts can offer their itineraries to get familiar with the state of monuments. We wish to carry out this visit in current year. The date of visit is not available yet. Currently, we are working at the report of proposals and itineraries of technical mission. Furthermore, we must make sure that there will be access to all the areas that will be visited in full security conditions.

Question: Can the problems that emerged regarding the itinerary of visit by O'Hara, the PACE reporter on Cultural Heritage in Caucasus appear once again regarding the visit of technical mission that will be carried out within Council of Europe Secretariat?

Answer: I do not want to express my opinion on visit by O'Hara, PACE reporter. It would be better to contact with the counterparts dealing with his visit. We are working within the seperate Secretariat that is cooperating with them. As I do not have information, I can not speak of the problems that O'Hara faced in connection with where he should start his visit. As to the itinerary of visit by group of independent experts, I can say that we will have to ask questions not only regarding their arrival to the monuments, but regarding everything. What is important for us is that the comprehensive lists will cover all monuments that will be visited; it means that they will be checked beforehand. It is issue of top priority. The second important issue for is their arrival to these areas in safe conditions. Once we pay a visit, we do not rule out that we can visit the monuments in Georgia. At present, it is one of the issues under discussion. We should understand that our approach is a scientific and technical approach on government level while PACE's approach is more political.

Question: Is there any othet proeject that CE Secretariat can be carry out on Azerbaijan and South Caucasus in general?

Answer: We have 'Kiev Initiative' regional programenvisaging cooperation among five countries, Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. This Initiative was supported within inter-culture dialogue. Cultural events are expected to be carried out to bring together these five countries within the cultural projects. These events include activities on national legislations in culture, a number of cultural events on the cultural itineraries (itineraries covered by Alexander Duma) and events on cinematography heritage of different countries. The last project aims at harmonization of cinematography traditions with that of Eurиmage Fund.

Question: How do you assess the relogious tolerance in Azerbaijan?

Answer: It is difficult for me to answer this question as I have never visited Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan, which is a Muslim country, is well-aware of this particularity and we appreciate it. Azerbaijan is also a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Therefore we are going to launch a new campaign through media to put an end to anti-Semitism, discrimination and Islam phobia. We do all of these to make sure that Muslims live in comfortable conditions and are respected.

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