Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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PACE under control of Russia

On January 16, it became known that Verkhovna Rada instructed the Ukrainian delegation to submit its credentials for approval to participate in the annual session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 2020. This is stated in the statement that the deputies adopted on January 16, 2020 by 348 votes."The purpose of the Ukrainian delegation's participation in the PACE work is to prevent the existing situation in Europe that has developed as a result of the aggressive foreign policy of the Russian Federation, to provide objective information about the illegal actions of the Russian Federation in the occupied territories of our state and Ukraine's efforts to stop the armed aggression by the Council of Europe member state and overcome its consequences, as well as to prevent the use of the PACE rostrum to spread false narratives about the situation in Ukraine" the statement said.[1]

Nevertheless, the decision of our delegation to return to PACE turned out to be a complete fiasco, since during the winter session there were clearly expressed sentiments favorable to the Russian Federation. On January 28, the election of Russian Pyotr Tolstoy as Vice-President of the PACE was a sign of such pro-Russian sentiments in PACE.

In the second round of elections, 132 PACE delegates voted for Tolstoy's appointment, while another 117 voted against him.[2] Further, on January 29, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe agreed on a preliminary draft decision to challenge the powers of the Russian delegation due to the breach of obligations to the Council of Europe by the Russians. It is worth noting that the project was prepared in the monitoring сommittee by one of Russia's key lobbyists in PACE, the Dutch left-wing Tiny Kox, and its content meets expectations, taking into account the author. He offers to avoid imposing any restrictions on the Russian Federation and claims that Russia has shown progress in meeting the PACE requirements. In addition, the document reminds that in June last year, PACE decided to restore the rights of the Russian delegation, "having сalled it for a meaningful dialogue on the implementation of obligations", and planned to consider a separate report on the actions of the Russian Federation.  According to Tiny Kox, Russia corrects the problems, for which it was under the pressure of the sanctions. He cited two such examples: the exchange of prisoners, including the return of Ukrainian sailors captured near the Kerch Strait and the resumption of Russian payments to the Council of Europe budget.[3]

On January 29, the vote on the credentials of the Russian delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe revealed a clear distribution between states, of which, however, there were several exceptions. This decision became the absolute loss for the Ukrainian delegation. The credentials of the Russians who issued an ultimatum to PACE were confirmed in full, and almost all the amendments  proposed by Ukraine were rejected[4].

Instead PACE decided to attack Poland, whose delegation has always been in solidarity with Ukraine. On January 28, 2020, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted by a majority vote the decision to resume the monitoring procedure for Poland, which is carried out only for states that systematically violate the conditions of membership in the Council of Europe. The decision was adopted on 28 January 2020 within the framework of the resolution on judicial reform in Poland. The resolution is filled with extremely harsh criticism of the initiatives of the Polish authorities. Changes in the justice system, which are being initiated by the ruling party in Poland "Law and Justice (PiS)", have been recognized by the PACE as "contrary to European norms and standards". The Polish authorities were accused of putting pressure on judges, persecuting those who are prone to criticism, trying to subordinate the judiciary to the government, failing to comply with the decisions of disloyal courts, and so on. Based on this, the Assembly decided to resume the monitoring procedure for Poland. Thus, Poland became the first EU member state under PACE monitoring.[5] Will it be normal if PACE starts systematically "punishing" Warsaw, and turns a blind eye to the gross violation of humanitarian human rights and democratic standards by Putin's pro-fascist authoritarian regime in Russia? After all, such a scenario is quite real - the desire not to offend Russia is still very strong in PACE.[6]

Thus, we can highlight three devastating defeats of the Ukrainian delegation: firstly, Ukraine, despite all efforts, failed to renew sanctions against the Russian delegation; secondly, it failed to block the appointment of Russian Pyotr Tolstoy as PACE Vice President; thirdly, the Assembly rejected all Ukrainian amendments to the decision on the new sanctions procedure without exception. At the same time, the new procedure turned out to be "unconquerable": it is almost impossible to punish it for Russian aggression. The real mockery of the democratic standards, for which the Council of Europe was created, and the height of cynicism was that the draft report on the possibility of renewing sanctions against Russia was entrusted to Tiny Kox – a deputy who is considered to be a lobbyist for Russia's interests. This ensured that the draft document was completely pro-Russian– however, it was changed during the review. Thus, the result of the week is as follows: those PACE members who sought "dialogue with Russia" won. [7]

However, when voting for Russia's full participation in the PACE, the Europeans made two important edits to the final document. Crimea is Ukraine and Russia is the aggressor. And all of the requirements to the Russians, set out in previously adopted resolutions remain in force. But it is quite clear that against the background of such a passionate desire to protect the authoritarian regime in Russia, all these resolutions are nothing less than empty declarations that will have no consequences for Russia, Moreover, they indicate the loss of PACE's own designation. When PACE accepts the aggressor state into its circle, moreover, it gives full support by appointing its representative to a high managerial position, then what is the point of being in such an organization? This means that being in such an organization, we support the aggressor, and do not protect democratic values.

The overall conclusion from the PACE winter session for Ukraine is that representing our interests there is becoming a new challenge for Ukrainian diplomacy. In the context of growing loyalty to Russia and a new European "normality" - the desire for dialogue with Moscow in spite of military aggression and remaking the borders of sovereign states in the XXI century.[8]

It sounds cynical, but that’s life: the events of last year proved the era under the slogan "values above all" in PACE has come to an end. And Ukraine has no right to pretend that it is playing chess when the state that plays "Chapayev" there returned to the Assembly. Through the efforts of the "lawyers of Russia", the Council of Europe entered a difficult period of its existence. It will not be easy for Ukraine to win it, but we have no right to lose.[9]

Thus, not only the return of the Ukrainian delegation was an absolute foreign policy mistake, but the decision to remain in the winter session when PACE expectedly was on Russia's side. In fact, having returned, we treated contemptuously to those states that expressed solidarity with us against the Russian Federation and declared a demarche last year. Therefore, as a result, the PACE attacked Poland, our ally, and put Tolstoy to preside over the PACE, which brought won to Russia and capitulation to Ukraine.