HELS INKI, July 5 /TASS/. The 5-day annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will open in Helsinki on Sunday. It is devoted to the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Helsinki Final Act, which laid down the basic principles of European security back in 1975. This time the session will work without the Russian delegation.
On Wednesday, July 1, Finnish Foreign Ministry spokesman Vesa Hakkinen told TASS that Finland had decided to ban entry to Russian State Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin, who was planning to attend the 24th annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Helsinki on July 5-9, because he and other fire members of the Russian delegation were on the EU sanctions list. Naryshkin, in turn, said that the entire Russian delegation of 15 people would boycott the session in a sign of protest.
"My colleagues agreed with me that it was impossible to reduce the level of representation of the Russian delegation at this session - the more so that it is devoted to such a vital date as the 40th anniversary of signing the Helsinki Final Act - the founding document," Naryshkin said.
Russian State Duma Deputy Nikolai Kovalev is expected to be the only Russian delegate to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Finland has failed to meet its commitments with regards to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and has acted impolitely.
"A country hosting an international event fails to meet its commitments. Naturally, it’s also a matter of elementary politeness," Lavrov said last Friday, July 3.
"Our stance consists in the fact that the European Union has got nothing to do with Finland’s decision. Finland is hosting the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly session not as an EU member but as a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It is exactly in this quality that all the members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly accepted the invitation," the Russian foreign minister explained.
Apart from its international commitments, Finland also violated the European Union’s decision on unilateral sanctions against some Russian politicians, including parliamentarians. "In its decision, the European Union wrote that sanctions should not be applied and visas should be issued in case the politicians (under sanctions) travel abroad to participate in events organized by international organizations," Lavrov stressed.
The Russian State Duma (parliament’s lower house) adopted a declaration condemning Finland and a number of other EU countries for denying entrance to part of the Russian delegation at the last meeting of its spring session. Besides, Russia warned it could retaliate with restrictive measures against Finland in the sphere of economy, where Russia and Finland have had particularly close ties for many years.
The Finnish authorities’ decision which was not understood by the Russian side also surprised some Finnish politicians. Several experts said the new Finnish foreign minister, Timo Soini, did not have enough experience to deal with the first serious problem and preferred to be cautious. The former Finnish foreign minister, Erkki Tuomioja, said in turn that it was Finland rather than the EU countries with which it had consulted that had a decisive "right of vote". "Sovereign countries always have options. I myself would have acted in a way to prevent such things from happening," he said.
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Ivica Dacic and Ilkka Kanerva, the president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, will deliver speeches at a plenary meeting on Monday. Its agenda will include the Ukraine crisis; migration and refugees; arms control; climate change, minorities rights, etc.
The standing committee of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will meet in Helsinki on July 5 to discuss if additional documents should be included in the session’s final agenda, including two Russia-proposed resolutions: on the impossibility of imposing sanctions on parliamentarians of the OSCE member states drafted by Sergei Naryshkin and on the need to develop and implement joint measures on averting manifestations of neo-Nazism by the OSCE member countries whose author is Nikolai Kovalev.
The discussion of the Russia-proposed resolutions could be postponed till the next session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly due to be held in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, in autumn.
The Finnish leadership has expressed hope that Finland and Russia will be able to continue a normal dialogue despite the current strain in bilateral relations. "I do not believe that the relations between Finland and Russia are going to cool," Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini said. "Russia certainly understands that (a decision to deny six entry visas to the members of the Russian delegation) was made after a comprehensive analysis. They (in Russia) know that some members of the delegation are on the EU sanctions list. But we are still waiting for the Russian participation," he stressed.