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EU: Council's Assembly Begins Session Today

Prague, 21 April 1997 (RFE/RL) - In Strasbourg this afternoon, the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly will begin its regular Spring session that will deal largely with issues involving both Eastern and Western Europe.

The week-long meeting of elected national parliamentarians from the Council's 40 member states will debate and vote on resolutions dealing with progress in economic reform in Central and Eastern Europe. It will also discuss citizen participation in and the impact of new information technologies on representative democracies. The protection of refugees and asylum-seekers' human rights will be examined as well.

Tomorrow morning, the Assembly will examine the on-going conflicts in the three Caucasian States. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have all applied for Council membership and already enjoy Special Guest status at the Assembly. That status allows their parliamentarians to participate in Assembly debates, but without voting rights.

Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov is due to address the Assembly on Wednesday. Greek President Constantine Stephanopoulos will deliver a speech at this afternoon's opening meeting.

On Thursday morning, the Assembly will take up the issue of Romania's honoring of commitments made to the Council when it became a member three-and-a-half years ago.

Council officials confirm that the Assembly is likely to end its special monitoring of Romania's pledges. But they say the body will continue its general monitoring of Romania's human-rights implementation as a part of its overall surveillance of members' actions in the area.

The Council of Europe has been promoting democratic values and human rights in the continent since its creation almost a half-century ago. Since 1990, the Strasbourg-based Council has granted membership to 16 Central and East European nations.