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Experts at odds over Russia’s further membership of Council of Europe

February 02, 2015, 15:53 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© Mikhail Japaridze/TASS

MOSCOW, February 2. /TASS/. Russian experts polled by TASS have conflicting opinions as to whether Russia should terminate its membership of the Council of Europe.

At the end of January the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe prolonged sanctions against the Russian delegation and stripped it of the voting rights till April 2015 over the crisis in Ukraine. In response Russia’s Federal Assembly suspended participation in PACE activities till the end of the year. Some legislators even argued that Russia should leave the 47-nation Council of Europe altogether. "It is not ruled out that in a year from now the question will be raised of the expediency of Russia’s presence in the Council of Europe. But that is a matter of the future," State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin said.

"Any international organization is necessary for conducting a joint policy or at least for a joint discussion. But the Council of Europe in its present shape plays the role of the US Department of State’s backyard. Washington uses it against Russia’s interests. For Moscow it makes no sense to participate in an organization where it is barred from discussions and voting and now and then finds itself in the role of a whipping boy," the director of the Centre for Military-Political Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), Alexey Podberyozkin, told TASS.

"In the modern world there are more than 2,500 international organizations and new ones emerge every year. Russia appreciates its membership of such organizations as BRICS, the SCO, the EEU, and the CSTO. The world will not change if Russia leaves the PACE and the Council of Europe. In fact, although Russia is present on the list of their members, it does not take part in their activity even on an equitable basis, let alone on privileged terms, although it pays impressive membership dues: more than 30 million dollars, or one-tenth of the Council of Europe’s budget," Podberyozkin said.

"The Council of Europe and the PACE have stopped playing the role of international organizations promoting cooperation by European countries in legal standards, human rights, democratic development, legality and cultural affairs. The Council of Europe is lobbying for the national interests of individual countries, and not all countries of the European community. As a matter of fact, the PACE and the Council of Europe have exhausted themselves," Podberyozkin said.

The deputy director of the Centre of European and International Research at the Higher School of Economics, Dmitry Suslov, emphatically disagrees: "Although the wish to slam the door is easy to explain emotionally, a walkout from the Council of Europe would deal a terrible blow on Russia and its foreign policy interests and make the country far less appealing in the eyes of its neighbours."

"Firstly, withdrawal from the Council of Europe - the oldest pan-European international organization - would symbolize Russia’s expulsion from Europe as a cultural, civilizational, political and geo-political space, which would merely give the Russophobes an extra argument to back up their stance ‘Russia is not Europe.’ Russia’s policies have all the way been geared to creating in Europe a common humanitarian and economic space and an indivisible system of security," Suslov said.

"Refusal to remain a member of the Council of Europe would be a real gift to the United States, Poland and the Baltic countries, which would have a fresh excuse for claiming that Russia in its current shape is a country alien to Europe, that a policy of containment against it is the best solution, and that contacts and cooperation with it should be minimized. Those who have been lying that Ukraine’s choice in favour of Europe would necessarily imply its choice against Russia would be able to declare how very right they were all the way. By leaving the Council of Europe Russia would have ruined the still existing fragile opportunities for starting a dialogue over Ukraine," Suslov said.

"The activities of the Council of Europe are based on a code of laws and human rights conventions. Most of these laws and conventions are humanitarian, which is consonant with Russian mentality and Russian values. It is in the interests of Russia and its human resources to remain a member of the Council of Europe, to rise above the current skirmishes, to stay within the framework of European law and to preserve the benchmarks of democratic development," the honorary president of the Foreign and Defense Policies Council, member of the OSCE Council of Wise Men, Sergey Karaganov, has told TASS.


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