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MP: Russia has no plans yet to cut contribution to Council of Europe

February 05, 14:02 UTC+3
Alexey Pushkov, who heads Russia’s delegation to the PACE reminded that a decision was taken to pay one-third of the contribution in late February
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© Mikhail Japaridze/TASS

MOSCOW, February 5. /TASS/. Russia is not planning on reducing its contribution to the Council of Europe in 2016, a senior lawmaker who heads Russia’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said on Friday.

"The talk is not about cutting the contribution. The question is that earlier we paid the contribution in advance and this showed our confidence in the Council of Europe. This year we do not pose the question on reducing the tranche," said Alexey Pushkov, who chairs the lower house’s foreign affairs committee.

Speaking at the roundtable, "20 Years of Russia’s Membership in the Council of Europe: Outcome and Prospects," Pushkov reminded that a decision was taken to pay one-third of the contribution in late February.

"Later Russia reserves the right to come to a decision on how it will act," Pushkov said.

The decision came as Moscow protests PACE’s move to deprive the country’s delegation of voting rights following events in Ukraine. Russia’s gesture shows that "this situation has certain consequences."

"That’s why we are deliberately transferring only one-third in the beginning of the year. This is our right," Pushkov said, adding that Russia wants to say that it disagrees with the discrimination at PACE.

This will not downgrade Russia’s status as a major contributor to the Council of Europe. "No one in the Council of Europe poses a question on revising our status," Pushkov said.

The speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, Sergey Naryshkin said last month Russia will pay one-third of its contribution to the Council of Europe in February.

The budget of the Council of Europe for 2016-2017 was approved by the Committee of Ministers at the session on November 25, 2015. The amount of contributions was set at around 260 million euros this year.

According to the intergovernmental organization’s financial regulations, every member state should pay at least one-third of its regular contribution in the first two months of the year.

Russia has been a member of the Council of Europe, an organization set to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law, since 1996. Russia’s annual contribution in 2016 reaches more than 30 million euros ($33.6 million).

Russian delegation’s non-participation in sessions loss for PACE

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) loses in effectiveness when the Russian delegation is not taking part in PACE sessions, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov said on Friday.

"Every day of Russian delegation’s non-participation in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is a loss for this structure," Meshkov said.

He noted that Russia was right when it decided not to take part in PACE sessions. "I am confident that the decision made by our parliament on non-participation of our delegation is absolutely fair," the diplomat added.

"Russia is not the country to sit on the stairs and wait to be called for," Meshkov concluded.

Moscow seeking meaningful dialogue with PACE

Russia is looking forward to a thoughtful and meaningful dialogue with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) rather than a formal response to a letter about the Federal Assembly’s readiness to resume dialogue with the organization, Chairman of the Federation Council upper house International Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev said on Friday. He was speaking at a round-table discussion dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe.

"Now we will expect not a formal response to this stance of the Federal Assembly’s houses but a thoughtful and meaningful conversation, which we hope will eventually result in the fact that PACE’s stance, which we often hear on the sidelines of various meetings and which is not publicized as a rule, that PACE’s stance in favor of resuming large-scale dialogue with the Russian parliament, the Russian delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will finally prevail," the senator said.

Kosachev recalled that the letter sent to the PACE leadership by the speakers of the two houses of Russia’s Federal Assembly "contained an exhaustive proof of the Russian parliament’s readiness to continue cooperation with PACE, but, of course, in a full-fledged format." In our view, this is an absolutely correct statement of the problem that corresponds to the current situation," he said.

Council of Europe ties still of value for Russia despite strains with parliamentary group

Russia looks beyond current problems with the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly to prospects of "moving forward" in future partnership meeting Russian interests and those of its citizens, Konstantin Kosachev went on to say.

Despite strains in the relationship, cooperation should continue with the Council of Europe in all respects, including its parliamentary institution, head of the Federation Council upper house international affairs committee said on Friday.

"Membership in the Council of Europe meets Russia’s national interests," Kosachev told a gathering reviewing Russia's 20-year Council of Europe membership. "We must continue cooperating...despite all the current disturbances."

PACE, the council's parliamentary assembly promoting democracy and human rights across the continent, stripped Russia of voting rights following events in Ukraine.

It suspended both Russia's right to sit on its governing bodies and Russian participation in election observer missions. But, said Kosachev, the parliamentary dimension did not "put in doubt the viability of Russia’s participation in Council of Europe activities as an inter-governmental organisation".

"The key point of our participation is taking advantage for the country, for its citizens after all," he said.

Discussions in the Council of Europe and in PACE should work "to overcome current disputes and move forward," the lawmaker said. "For Russia, the Council of Europe and PACE are still potentially interesting and a very prospective platform."

In 2014, the parliamentary arm of the 47-nation Council of Europe, promoting democracy and human rights across the continent, stripped Russia of voting rights following events in Ukraine. It suspended both Russia's right to sit on its governing bodies and Russian participation in election observer missions.

Russian parliamentary delegates left the April session before its official completion as a gesture of protest and refused to take part in future PACE activities, staying away from the assembly's summer and autumn sessions. At the January session in 2015, PACE extended its sanctions against Russia’s delegation until April. In response, Moscow severed contact with the group for another year. The Russian delegation repeatedly stated that it will return to PACE only if all sanctions from Russia are removed. The Russian delegation is not taking part in PACE’s winter session underway in Strasbourg.

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