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Russia to be back in PACE as soon as discriminatory norms are revokes - Volodin

Russian delegation has been skipping PACE sessions for several years, speaker of the Russian State Duma lower parliament house said

YUZHNOSAKHALINSK, December 16. /TASS/. Russian will be back in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) as soon as it revokes those provisions of its regulations that discriminate national delegations, speaker of the Russian State Duma lower parliament house Vyacheslav Volodin said on Sunday.

He recalled that the Russian delegation has been skipping PACE sessions for several year. In his words, these are not the relations the Russian side would like to have with the PACE. "This is entirely the fault of our colleagues from the Parliament Assembly of the Council of Europe because they think they can pressure any country into silence and have it continue to pay money, big money - tens of millions of dollars, as a contribution to the PACE," he said in an interview with Russian television Channel One.

"We don’t think this is the right thing to do today, in the 21st century," he stressed.

According to the Russian senior lawmaker, there is no sense for the Russian delegation to take part in PACE’s work until "all the national delegations, not only Russia, are granted equal rights to speak up their point of view."

"Because we cannot represent the interests of our citizens, our country efficiently. More to it, as we represent these interests, we must discuss quite serious matters but once we have no right to vote, we cannot discuss candidates [to PACE statutory bodies], we cannot express our point of view," he noted.

"We are not going to take part in such a Parliamentary Assembly. We will try to find our formats of cooperation [at international venues]. And we are doing it already and will continue to do it until they [at PACE] change their mind and pass decisions promoting democratic principles, norms and standards of parliamentarism," Volodin stressed.

On the other hand, he noted, Russia’s refusal to participate in the PACE’s work has helped save budgetary funds. "Why should be pay for what brings about no results for people of our country? It’s better to save money and, naturally, when they change their mind we will be back in this format," he added.

The Duma speaker pointed to the conflict between the Council of Europe’s Charter, which says that all member states enjoy equal right, and the PACE’s rules of procedure, which have a provision giving the right to the majority of those present at a session to strip any national delegation of the right to vote.

According to Volodin, PACE is now a "hostage in the hands of radicals" represented by the Baltic republics, Poland and Ukraine. "Bearing in mind that in this format they are actively supported by the United Kingdom and the United States, they are actually forcing their opinion onto the entire Parliamentary Assembly," he said.

However he stressed he is convinced that other countries don’t like such state of things. "And we hear that not only in the course of our dialogues with the national parliaments of Europe’s biggest countries, it is the position of Secretary General [of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn] Jagland who visited Russia and met with my colleagues in the State Duma. I discussed this matter with him - he doesn’t like what is going on in the PACE," Volodin underscored.

Russia and PACE

In April 2014, the Russian delegation to PACE was stripped of 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 is deprived of the right to vote and cannot take part in the Assembly’s governing bodies and elections of monitoring missions. In response, Russia suspended its participation in the PACE activities till the end of 2015. In 2016-2017, Russia skipped PACE meetings due to the ongoing sanctions.

In late June 2017, Russia said it was suspending payment of its contribution 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 the lawmakers of their rights but for their voters.

In January 2018, Russia refrained from applying for confirmation of its rights for 2018.

Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland told the PACE autumn session in October 2018 that the organization's Committee of Ministers will have to expel Russia from the Council of Europe if the country does not make any monetary contributions.

Meanwhile, speaker of Russia’s Federation Council upper parliament house, Valentina Matviyenko, said that Russian will take a final decision on its membership in the Council of Europe by January 2019. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that Russia would withdraw from the Council of Europe if its opponents insist on its expulsion.

On December 10, 2018, the PACE Committee on Rules of Procedure spoke out against stripping national delegations of their right to take part in electing the organization’s secretary general, judges of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.

However, according to Russia’s Permanent Representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov, Russia will not be satisfied with partial reinstatement in the PACE and insists on "full and unconditional reinstatement of all the rights of our delegation" and adjustment of the rules of procedure "in a way to exclude recurrence of such actions by an arithmetic majority in this assembly.".