MOSCOW, September 20. /TASS/. Russia is considering the possibility of withdrawing from the Council of Europe, Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Speaker Valentina Matviyenko said at a meeting with President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Liliane Maury Pasquier on Thursday.
"I tell you frankly, we are close to a decision on pulling out of the Council of Europe," Matviyenko said, addressing Maury Pasquier. "If the Council of Europe is ready to accept it, if it does not value Russia’s membership, then so be it," she added.
In her opinion, "it is no use dragging this process out" because the situation is at a standstill despite several years of negotiations and Russia’s efforts to clarify things.
According the Russian senate speaker, Moscow is interested in strengthening the Council of Europe as "a universal European organization" with unique mechanisms, which would ensure "a united humanitarian and legal space."
"At the same time, we consider that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is going through a crisis," she went on to say. "We believe that PACE should ensure equal rights and opportunities for all the 47 member states of the Council of Europe," Matviyenko added.
The Russian senate speaker pointed out that Moscow had been losing interest in activities within PACE. "We have been losing interest in activities within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe," the Russian senate speaker said, adding that the Russian delegation to PACE had been stripped of the right to vote several years ago. She added that Russia cooperated with all parliamentary organizations. "We have enough platforms to work on," Matviyenko noted.
"PACE does not have the right to ignore the rights of lawmakers elected by the people of various countries because it runs counter to the basic right allowing people to express their will," Matviyenko stressed.
She also noted that PACE continued to make decisions though the Russian delegation had been stripped of the right to vote. "We now question the legitimacy of many processes," she said, pointing out that PACE "continues to elect the Strasbourg court’s judges," while next year, a new Council of Europe secretary general would be elected. "All this does not involve Russia… so these decisions are not fully legitimate," Matviyenko concluded.
Russia and PACE
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, following the developments in Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia. The issue of restoring the rights of the Russian delegation was raised at PACE twice throughout 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 2016-2017, Russia skipped PACE’s meetings due to the ongoing sanctions.
In late June 2017, Russia said it was suspending its monetary contributions to the Council of Europe over its non-participation in PACE. Concurrently, it suggested PACE’s regulations be amended to ensure that no one could deprive lawmakers of their rights except their voters. On January 11, 2018, Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Leonid Slutsky said that Russia would not submit an application to confirm the Russian delegation’s powers for 2018.
In September, Slutsky said that PACE would consider a report on the powers and voting rights of national delegations on October 9. According to him, a resolution and recommendations for the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers will be passed after the issue is considered. "Depending on their content, the issue of introducing amendments to the Assembly’s regulations on repealing the sanctions, which provide for stripping national delegations of their key rights, including the right to vote, could be raised during the autumn PACE session (on October 8-11)," the senior Russian lawmaker said, confirming that based on the outcome of the discussion, Moscow would finalize its stance on its future activities in the Assembly.