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STRASBOURG, January 23 (Itar-Tass) — The first this year session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is opening in France’s ‘eastern capital’ on Monday. Among the main topics on the agenda of the world's largest parliamentary forum is an urgent debate on the situation in Russia, reports on the functioning of democratic institutions in Ukraine and Belarus.
“The session is expected to become the hardest for the Russian delegation over the past several years,” a PACE official told Itar-Tass. “We expect an interesting discussion.”
Formally, the decision to hold urgent debate was to be made by the PACE Bureau in the first half of the day on Monday. This initiative had been put forward last December by PACE’s two commissions. However, few people in the Europe’s oldest political organisation doubt that the hearings on Russia with the adoption of a corresponding resolution will definitely take place.
Earlier, the Russian authorities repeatedly stated that there is no need to hold parliamentary hearings on the situation in Russia. Deputy head of the Russian delegation to PACE, chairman of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs Leonid Slutsky said that “Moscow will press for holding the debate on this issue in the current format, not in the urgent debate format, which requires mandatory adoption of the resolution.” According to him, “there are no reasons” for an urgent debate.
Slutsky also noted that “a number of Russian and foreign NGOs, as well as a number of Russian political parties that have not passed to the State Duma, and other opposition public associations are artificially fanning tensions in Strasbourg on this issue.” “There is a threat that Russia’s dossier at the next three PACE sessions will be obviously overloaded, which is not conducive to normal working relations of the Russian delegates with their European counterparts,” the deputy head of the Russian delegation said.
In addition, the Assembly’s observation mission headed by Dutch MP Tiny Kox is to make public on Monday a report on the elections to the lower house of Russia’s parliament that were held last December. According to the preliminary findings of PACE observers, during the Duma election campaign “there were no equal opportunities for all political parties and the administrative resource was actively used.” According to some data, the document has an obviously critical nature, it in detail analyses numerous violations at the State Duma elections on December 4. However, Kox is certain, the task of the mission “is not to make assessments whether the elections were lawful or not.” “The PACE welcomes the Russian political circles’ recognition of the need of political reforms,” Kox said. “These changes should be serious and sustained and not turn into a kind of “survival mechanism.” The main conclusions of the observers also will be reflected in the PACE monitoring report on Russia that is to be adopted in June.
Georgia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigol Vashadze is also to address the session participants. Speaking from the Assembly rostrum, he is expected to once again draw the attention of the European parliamentarians to the problem of territorial integrity of Georgia and the humanitarian consequences of the August 2008 war in the South Caucasus.
The parliamentarians will also consider two reports on the functioning of democratic institutions in Ukraine and the human rights situation in Belarus. “Strasbourg intends to give a clear signal to official Kiev with a demand of release of the Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Timoshenko, whose condition is causing a growing concern in Europe,” PACE said. “Also, the deputies are still concerned about the degradation of democratic freedoms in Belarus.” The source recalled that a year ago PACE had already adopted a resolution sharply condemning “the unprecedented wave of violence, intimidation, mass arrests and prosecutions of political opponents of Lukashenko’s regime.”
Among other events of the session there are the elections of a new chairman of the Assembly. It is already known that Vice President of the European People's Party (EPP), member of the National Assembly (Parliament) of France Jean-Claude Mignon will become new PACE chairman. His office term will expire in 2014.