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MADRID, March 10. /TASS/. Russia’s delegation will take part in the discussion as part of the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Friday on the ways out of the long-running crisis in cooperation between Russia and PACE.
The Russian MPs and senators arrived in Madrid on Thursday at the invitation of PACE President Pedro Agramunt. The delegation is led by Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy. The lower house of parliament is also represented by chairmen of committees on international affairs and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Eurasian integration and relations with compatriots Leonid Slutsky and Leonid Kalashnikov. The upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, will be represented by the head of international affairs committee, Konstantin Kosachev, and his deputy Vladimir Lukin.
The Standing Committee will consider 15 issues during the so-called mini-session in Madrid, but the Russian delegation will attend only the discussion on one issue - the exchange of views with representatives of the Russian parliament on modalities of cooperation between PACE and the Federal Assembly in 2017.
A source in the State Duma told TASS that Russian parliamentarians may also meet on the sidelines of the session with the leadership of the Assembly and heads of its political groups.
The talks will focus on "discussing the current situation and the ways out of the crisis in cooperation between the Parliamentary Assembly and the Federal Assembly of Russia," Leonid Slutsky told TASS. "We call for full-format cooperation with PACE, but on equal conditions, without mentoring and blatant Russophobia. That’s why we suggest changing the Assembly’s regulation so that no one could discriminate national delegations in the future depriving them of key parliamentary powers such as the right to vote. Until this is done, Russia’s return to the Strasbourg platform is unlikely," he said.
Tolstoy said at the moment the most important task is to "launch a dialogue with the Assembly’s leadership, specify Russia’s position on the key issues and try to secure support of members of the Standing Committee for further consideration of issues on the regulation." "This does not mean the return of Russia’s delegation to the PACE session, this is our bid for the beginning of an open and fair dialogue on the rules of functioning of this international structure so that the opinions of all states, all nations and all elected politicians are taken into consideration," he said.
Agramunt has called for resuming contacts with Russia and returning its delegation to Strasbourg. At his meeting with State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin in January, he said that the delegations of all 47 member-states of the Council of Europe should be represented at PACE, and not 46 countries as now. He said there is the need to restore Russia’s rights in participating in the organization’s activity.
The Russian delegation was stripped of its right to vote, the right to participate in PACE’s governing bodies and in its monitoring missions. On January 12, the head of the State Duma’s international affairs committee, Leonid Slutsky, said Russia would continue to closely cooperate with PACE, but would not attend its plenary sessions and would not participate in the activity of committees this year.
Moscow insists on having all parliamentary sanctions lifted, as well as on amendments to PACE’s regulations giving it powers to strip any national delegation of the right to vote.
The Standing Committee acts on the Assembly's behalf between plenary sessions. It coordinates the activity of committees, arranges PACE’s sessions and gives recommendations for the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The Standing Committee consists of the President and Vice-Presidents of the Assembly, leaders of five political groups, chairs of national delegations and Assembly committees.
Russia still remains one of the key contributors in the Council of Europe. Russia’s annual contribution in 2016 totaled 33 million euros.