There has been much speculation lately in the media regarding the situation within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and Russia’s contributions to the Council of Europe budget.
As is well known, in seeking to “punish” the delegation of the Russian parliament in 2014-2015 for the free choice by the people of Crimea to become part of Russia, the Assembly restricted the rights of Russian parliamentarians to such an extent that it made it impossible for them to continue their work in PACE. For three years, the Russian Federation continued to honour its financial commitments to the Council of Europe in full, despite the fact that its representatives did not participate in the work of the Assembly. This could not go on indefinitely.
In the summer of 2017, a decision was taken to suspend the payment of contributions to the Council of Europe “until the delegation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation to PACE is fully and unconditionally restored in its rights.” A year has passed since that time, and the rights of Russian MPs have not been restored. Accordingly, there is no reason to resume contributions.
The Parliamentary Assembly has not responded in an appropriate manner to Russia’s justified criticism of the approach whereby the Assembly suspends the rights of a member country’s parliamentarians, which runs counter to the Statute of the Council of Europe. Moreover, decisions of this kind violate the principle of sovereign equality of states, which lies at the basis of international law. So the question is whether PACE will be able to resolve on its own the issue of ensuring equality of rights and obligations among all Council of Europe member states.
PACE’s thoughtless actions have already resulted in the fact that almost one half of the judges of the European Court of Human Rights and the Commissioner for Human Rights have been elected without the participation of Russian parliamentarians. In June 2019, the Secretary General will be elected. For Russia, the legitimacy of high-ranking officials of the Council of Europe is in question if they have been elected without Russia’s participation.
At the same time, it has to be emphasised that Moscow greatly appreciates the proactive efforts by all those seeking to overcome the system-wide crisis that threatens the very existence of the Council of Europe. Russia notes the consistency with which Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland advocates the preservation of the Council of Europe as a foundation of a unique pan-European legal space. We hope that the countries that chair the Committee of Ministers in the next twelve months will also play an active role. The Ad hoc Committee on the role and mission of PACE, chaired by Michele Nicoletti and featuring Russian parliamentarians, worked from January through June 2018, achieving substantial progress in efforts to remove the imbalance in PACE’s regulations.
Russia reaffirms its commitment to honouring all its financial obligations from the moment when it was forced to suspend payments, once the rights of the delegation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation are fully restored within PACE.