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Russia hopes to remain in Council of Europe, but not to its own detriment

Moscow expects to keep its delegation to the Council of Europe, though not to the detriment to its interests

MOSCOW, January 29. /TASS/. Russia expects to keep its delegation to the Council of Europe, though not to the detriment to its interests, Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department for European Cooperation, Andrey Kelin, said on Tuesday.

"We value the Council of Europe as a major mechanism of European cooperation in whose development we are interested, with its system of legal standards that we have joined and hope to develop further," the diplomat said at a ceremony to unveil a project entitled: "Cooperation on the Implementation of the National Action Strategy of the Russian Federation for Women (2017-2022)".

"The general task is to maintain cooperation within the Council of Europe’s framework, but of course not to the detriment of our parliamentarians and those who work in these organizations," Kelin stressed. "We expect that constructive tendencies and reason, including in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will eventually prevail," he added.

"Everybody must be equal and equally represented, and for this we will need a lot of patience, understanding and professionalism," the diplomat noted. "We appeal to the leadership of the CE and EU institutions, which are an inalienable part of the activity of the Council, in order to jointly arrive at a constructive mutual understanding and a normal path of cooperation," he noted.

The year - 2019 - marks the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe, he pointed out. "This year is not an easy one, we hope that the Council of Europe will be able to celebrate its 70th birthday properly and won't vanish, since unfortunately this possibility does exist," he said.

The Russian diplomat hoped that Moscow and the Council of Europe would manage to maintain a common humanitarian legal space from Lisbon to Vladivostok, stressing that Russia values it highly.

On behalf of the ministry, the senior diplomat also voiced support for these humanitarian projects "against the current foreign policy backdrop which looks rather uninviting."

"Collaborating on concrete trajectories is traditionally a positive factor in our cooperation with the Council of Europe. We appreciate the bilateral projects that we have, especially those that concern the training of lawyers and business people. We are happy that this useful project regarding the rights of women and their position in the society has joined up," Kelin emphasized.

Rocky relationship between Russia, Council of Europe

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. The issue of restoring the Russian delegation’s rights was raised at PACE twice in 2015, but instead the sanctions were only tightened.

The Russian delegation said it refused to work under these conditions and from 2016 to 2018, Moscow refused to file a request to confirm its powers. It also suggested adding a provision to PACE’s regulations stipulating that no one has the right to strip deputies of their rights, except for those who elected them.

On October 10, 2018 Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland told the PACE autumn session 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. In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia would leave the Council of Europe on its own volition if its opponents in this organization insist on Moscow’s expulsion.

In January, the State Duma unanimously adopted a draft statement, which suggested not sending the Russian delegation to the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in January 2019, and sticking to the decision to freeze Russia’s membership fee payments to the Council of Europe. A parallel statement came from the Federation Council.