MOSCOW, November 10. /TASS/. Russia’s expulsion from the Council of Europe is not on the agenda, as the CE will unlikely have any future without Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said in an interview with TASS.
"No expulsion is on the agenda," he said. "We know that there exist forces which would prefer to drive this crisis towards Russia’s expulsion from the Council of Europe, but this stance is absolutely dead-end, since the organization will unlikely have any future without Russia.".
The crisis has stemmed from inconsistencies in internal procedures of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and fundamental principles of the Council of Europe, according to the Russian senior diplomat.
"In this regard, we support the efforts of Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland and of all those who are doing their best to seek solutions to the crisis in the organization caused by the PACE notorious decision which the aggressive minority imposed to strip the Russia delegation of some key rights," he emphasized.
"The main objective at the moment is to make PACE internal procedures fully compliant with the fundamental principle of the Statute of the Council of Europe - equal rights and equal commitments for all member states," he said.
"We hope that these efforts will create the basis for pulling the organization out of its present deplorable state, which it has happened to find itself in, and for the restoration of a whole range of Russian lawmakers’ rights," he stressed.
Grushko pointed out that the situation is inadmissible when Russia is deprived of its key rights in the organization.
"As of today, 25 out of 47 judges have been elected without Russia’s vote. The human rights commissioner was also elected without our vote, while the secretary general of the Council of Europe is to be elected next June," he said. "That is why each sensible [person], and their number is growing in the organization, realizes that this outrageous judicial inconsistence in PACE rules and procedures must be overcome."
According to the Russian deputy foreign minister, Moscow views the organization as a major element of European architecture and as a unified humanitarian space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
"Let me remind you that Russia is a signatory to 65 conventions and partial agreements, with many of them laying the basis for wide international cooperation on the continent," he stressed.
In April 2014, the Russian delegation to PACE was stripped of its key rights, including the right to vote and take part in the assembly’s governing bodies, in the wake of developments in Ukraine and Crimea. The issue of restoring the rights of the Russian delegation was raised at PACE twice in 2015, but the sanctions are still in place. Russia has been deprived of the right to vote and cannot take part in the assembly’s governing bodies and election monitoring missions.
In response, Russia suspended its participation in PACE’s activities until the end of 2015. In 2016-2018, Russia skipped the parliamentary assembly’s meetings due to the ongoing sanctions and did not renew its credentials in the wake of anti-Russian sentiment in Strasbourg.
In late June 2017, Russia said it was suspending its monetary contributions to the Council of Europe due to non-participation in PACE. Concurrently, it suggested PACE’s regulations be amended to ensure that no one, except their voters, could strip lawmakers of their rights.
On October 9, amid anti-Russian sentiment, PACE failed to pass the resolution drafted by Petra de Sutter (Belgium) on strengthening the decision-making process in the assembly concerning credentials and voting. The issue is expected to be debated again next January.
On 10 October 2018, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland told the PACE autumn session that Russia’s right to representation at the Council’s decision-making bodies - the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly - might be suspended in June 2019 for non-payment of monetary contributions.
In the meantime, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has pointed out that Russia will quit the Council of Europe in case opponents at the council insist on its expulsion.