Secretary General of Council of Europe speaks about the crisis in PACE due to the conflict with Russia
Depriving Russia of the right to vote in the Parliamentary Assembly neither improved the human rights situation in Russia nor made Russia to return the Crimea. Instead, it caused a crisis in the Council of Europe, said Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the organization, at the PACE winter session on Tuesday, January 22. A report on his speech was published on the website of the Council of Europe.
Jagland noted that the Assembly’s decision to deprive the Russian delegation of the right to vote had not led to the “return of Crimea to Ukraine or improved the human rights situation in Russia”. Instead, it had created a crisis within the organization. Jagland urged the Assembly and the Committee of Ministers to sit down and work concretely on clarifying the rules and the distribution of power between the two organs, in a way that will strengthen the authority of the organization, based on equal rights and equal obligations.
In addition, Jagland referred to a letter sent to him by 59 leading human rights defenders in Russia, in which they called for a compromise solution to avoid the departure of Russia from the Council of Europe. The letter warned that such an outcome would hurt the Russian people most, because it would deprive them of protection under the European conventions. The Secretary General concluded by saying that in the Council of Europe’s 70th anniversary year, a compromise solution to the Russia crisis would be a great gift for Europe.
The Russian delegation was deprived of the right to vote in PACE in April 2014 after the annexation of the Crimea by Russia. This ban has been extended several times. In 2016, the Russian delegation refused to work in the Parliamentary Assembly. Russia has not paid membership fees since 2017.
The winter session of the PACE started on January 21 and the organization invited the Russian delegation. On January 16, the Russian State Duma made a statement, according to which the Russian side was not going to send an application to confirm the authority of the members of the Russian delegation to the PACE and refused to pay contributions to the Council of Europe in 2019 as long as there exists a possibility of political sanctions against national delegations in PACE. Earlier, a similar statement was adopted by the Russian Federation Council.