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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Why Russia’s return to the Council of Europe is bad?

This week, Brussels celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership. But on the background of this celebration, the headline did not concern neither the "partnership" nor even the European Union. On May 13, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Pavlo Klimkin came out to journalists and unexpectedly said that the Minsk Agreements could be killed because of the actions of several European states. The reason for such a radical forecast is the crisis unfolding in the Council of Europe.

For two consecutive years, "European truth" has been writing about how Russia is financially blackmailing the Council of Europe (Russians stopped paying contributions to the budget of this organization) and politically (threatening to withdraw from the organization). The Russians' demand is categorical: the Council of Europe should cancel the sanctions without any preconditions for Moscow. First of all, it is necessary to confirm that the talks about "Minsk" and the Council of Europe in Brussels really took place. The stumbling block is the processes that can lead to the lifting of sanctions imposed against Russia in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Officially, according to the requirements recorded in the documents, sanctions on the Russians can not be lifted, at least not until Russia will not leave the Donbass and won’t stop the occupation of Crimea. And since few people believe that the fulfillment of both requirements is possible, the documents provide for the possibility that PACE will make concessions even if the requirements are partially fulfilled.

The next PACE session is scheduled for the end of June, and it will be a key one. Firstly, at this session, the Assembly will elect its Secretary-General, Jagland's successor. There is already a threat from Moscow: if a top official is elected without their votes, Russia will not recognize him. Secondly, in summer it will be two years since Russia did not pay contributions to the budget of the Council of Europe. According to the Charter of the organization, this means that new, additional sanctions may be imposed against the Russian Federation. In Western Europe, many believe that this process will eventually lead to the exclusion or withdrawal of Russia from the Council of Europe. And although the Ukrainian side repeatedly insists that we will not initiate such a severe punishment of Russians (it is beneficial for us them to remain, in particular, under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights), this prospect is so frightening for European diplomats that they are ready to be blackmailed.[1]

But why has this topic become relevant now, more than a month before the session? As it turned out, "lawyers of the Russian Federation" made the first decision on the way of "forgiveness" of Russia. In addition, it has received a furious majority of votes. On May 14, when Klimkin was still conducting negotiations in Brussels and tried to convince his European colleagues about the inexpediency to return the Russian delegation to PACE, a meeting of the Committee of Ministers, the key governing body of the Council of Europe was held in Strasbourg. According to sources from the European Parliament, 39 of the 47 member states supported the Draft Ministerial Decision, in which the Committee of Ministers opened the door for Russia to return to an extraordinary procedure. "European truth" has previously reported that the forgiveness of Russia is most promoted by the Germans. As Minister Klimkin said: "the Germans heard it, and the French heard it, and the Dutch. Ask them whether they agreed (with arguments of Ukraine. – European Parliament). But we discussed it separately with the German Minister for a long time today", he said. The Strasbourg poll showed that the Germans, the French and the Dutch, though heard, but did not agree with us.[2] But, fortunately, it was not the last fight. Since the Committee of Ministers did not go for the "mayhem" and did not sort out the powers of other bodies, "forgiveness of Russians" should still be supported in PACE. This is our main chance.

The return of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the conditions of Moscow will lead to a new crisis in the organization. According to the "European truth", this was stated by the head of the Ukrainian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Volodymyr Aryev said in an interview with "Deutsche Welle"."To make concessions means to accept Russian blackmail, which will be a bad example for other members of the Council of Europe. This political process may result a significant breach of trust to the Council of Europe on the part of human rights defenders, public organizations and reformers. It will be very bad if the Council of Europe demonstrates that someone has won, and someone defeated. This will lead to a new crisis in the organization, perhaps more serious than it was," Aryev said. He stressed that the Council of Europe is trying to change the regulations in order to meet the Russian Federation and prevent it from leaving the Council of Europe.

"I can agree with the fears of human rights defenders that in the event of Russia's withdrawal, it will cease to be part of the European Court of Human Rights. That's a pretty strong argument. However, on the other hand, Russia has not made a single, even the slightest step to meet the requirements of the Council of Europe," Aryev said. According to him, Ukraine, Georgia, Sweden, Poland have a more or less close-knit, united position among the national delegations. They believe that there can be no unconditional return of Russia to PACE. "The positions of other delegations were divided depending on political groups, personal beliefs of deputies. At the last meeting of the PACE Standing Committee in Paris, the overwhelming majority of speakers were critical about these plans. But I can't make firm conclusions because many said nothing", the Deputy noted.[3]

What will Ukraine do? Kyiv has already officially warned the Council of Europe that we are ready for tough actions. In fact, it is an ultimatum. "On May 14, at the meeting of the Committee of Ministers, Ukraine issued a statement that Russia's return to the PACE without complying with the requirements of the resolutions is unacceptable and the assistance of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to this process is shameful. We stressed that this decision will have extremely negative consequences not only for the Council of Europe itself, but also in a broad context. If the decision leads to the unconditional return of Russia, then Ukraine will significantly reconsider the scope of its cooperation with the Council of Europe until the withdrawal from this organization, which has lost confidence in itself. The immediate consequence of this decision is the cancellation of the participation of Pavlo Klimkin in the Ministerial meeting.

Parliamentarians are also preparing to counteract. "Many are ready until the termination of the work of the delegation. Tough measures will be in accordance with the decisions adopted by the Assembly. Personally, I see no reason to stay in PACE if the Council of Europe destroys the principles on which it is based," Aryev said.[4] " The main thing for President Zelensky is to understand that the mood in the key capitals of Europe is very similar to the events of 1938. Now there is also a desire to develop relations with Russia at the expense of third parties. Not everyone shares this policy, but several key capitals do have the mood to move this way. And the team of President Zelensky must realize this risk and as soon as possible to form its foreign policy bloc," Dmitry Kuleba said. "The problems are very serious, we have been holding this front for five years, but there has never been such pressure as now," the diplomat admitted.[5]

At the same time, Russia sees no obstacles to participate in the June session of PACE. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Alexander Grushko during communication with journalists on the sidelines of the VI European Conference of the Valdai Discussion Club said: "At this stage, I see no obstacles for our delegation to participate, if the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe directly stated that all delegations are welcome at the June session".[6]

Unfortunately, the situation begins to get worse and Russia is trying by all means to keep everything under its control. This condescending attitude of the Council of Europe to the aggressor state will not only lead to the final self-discrediting of this organization, but also to the destruction of the European values that the Council of Europe is called to protect. That is why Ukraine is making incredible efforts to prevent the return of Russia to the Council of Europe.



[2] Ibid. 



[5] Ibid.