The Russian delegation will not attend the winter session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) unless the organization signals its readiness to fully restore all delegation’s rights prior to the session.
According to the established procedure, in January PACE national delegations have their mandates confirmed. The rules say that to resume the authority an official request for approval signed by the Chairman of the National Parliament must be sent to the President of the PACE at the beginning of the year. The time limit for submitting the request expired on January 15. The delegations from the UK, Lithuania, and Poland, Sweden and Estonia have supported the initiative to challenge the credentials of the Russian delegation on the grounds of alleged «failure» to carry out the previous resolutions of the Assembly and keep Russia deprived of voting rights at the upcoming PACE winter session to kick off on January 25 to last till January 29. Russian newspaper Izvestia (Jan.13 edition in Russian) confirmed the information about the initiative to resume the sanctions against the Russian delegation to PACE citing its sources in the Assembly Secretariat.
To start the proceedings, the anti-Russian initiative should be supported by at least 30 deputies from five states. The PACE Monitoring Committee is to prepare a relevant resolution to either confirm the credentials of the Russian delegation to PACE, or cancel them completely, or confirm with certain restrictions.
The sanctions against Russia were imposed by PACE in April 2014 due to the reunification of Russia with Crimea. According to the resolution, Russian deputies were denied the right to vote in PACE and the right to be represented in its governing bodies. At the end of January 2015 PACE adopted a resolution to prolong the restrictions. In response, the Russian delegation left the Assembly till 2016.
The head of Russian delegation Sergey Naryshkin has said on many occasions that Russia had no illusions about the restoration of its authority in 2016, and that the PACE’s approach was unacceptable.
First Deputy Chairman of state Duma Committee on international Affairs, member of the Russian delegation in PACE, Leonid Kalashnikov said, Russia is likely not to attend the organization’s winter session.
Chairman of the State Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee Aleksey Pushkov warned that Russian delegation would not participate in the January session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe if there will be no prospects of a full-fledged participation.
Russia could refuse to pay the fee it sends to the Parliamentary Assembly, if the restrictions were in force. The fee – the total of about $40 million – to the Council of Europe is indivisible and it is an aggregated fee to PACE, the Committee of Ministers, the European Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and to the European Court of Human Rights.
The decision to keep Russia out of PACE proceedings is strange enough, to put it mildly. PACE has always prided itself on its democratic tradition. The deputies of the Assembly always emphasize that it's very important to hear what Russia has to say on hot issues and acute problems faced by the continent. At the very same time an initiative is launched to exclude Russia, a key security actor in Europe and one of the top five donors to the Council of Europe, from participation in the Europe’s most representative parliamentary forum that unites 47 member-nations.
Expressing his personal opinion, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland said some time ago that the time was right to deescalate the tensions, because the world has to deal with such serious problems as Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts and the refugee crisis.
He said that in his opinion, it is necessary to unite all the efforts to remove the wall separating the sides and try to find a solution together.
Now the ball is in PACE's court.
The inter-parliamentary dialogue plays a special role in promoting parliamentary involvement and cooperation at the time when Europe is hit by huge economic difficulties, seemingly unsurmountable refugee problem, and terrorist activity. The very survival of Europe, as we know it today, is questioned. The absence of Russia will bring to naught all the activities related to the key burning issues faced by the Old Continent today. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has shot itself in the foot.