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Council of Europe may pass resolution on PACE reform on May 17 — lawmaker

MOSCOW, April 12. /TASS/. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe could pass a resolution, which will draft attitudes to the reforming of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and will become a step for the Russian delegation’s return to that organization, Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Russian Federation Council foreign affairs committee, said on Friday.

"We hope and we expect that the May 17 session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe might pass a statutory resolution which will reflect intelligible, clear attitudes to the reforming of the Council of Europe and [its] parliamentary assembly," the senator said.

He pointed out that Secretary-General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland had already put forward those attitudes, which "needs being legally finalized."

"Provided that a miracle happens after that, the parliamentary assembly (we have heard of these plans) might convene for an extra session before the June [regular] session and to vote for changes in the procedure at the beginning of June and thus, to create prerequisites for the Russian delegation’s return to PACE," Kosachev said.

Nonetheless, the Russian senior lawmaker added that "many steps should be taken, which have not been taken yet."

"But we cannot predict if they will be taken," he said.

Russia and the 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.

In response, Russia suspended its participation in PACE’s activities until the end of 2015. In 2016-2018, Russia skipped the parliamentary assembly’s meetings due to the ongoing sanctions and did not renew its credentials in the wake of anti-Russian sentiment in Strasbourg.

On 10 October 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’s decision-making bodies - the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly - if the country does not make any monetary contributions. In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pointed out that Russia would quit the Council of Europe on its own volition in case opponents at the council insist on its expulsion.

In January 2019, both houses of Russia’s parliament - the State Duma and Federation Council - unanimously passed statements, which suggested not sending the Russian delegation to the PACE session in 2019. In addition, the State Duma upheld the move to suspend the payment of the country’s contribution. In the wake of the Russia-PACE crisis, an issue of Russia’s further membership in the Council of Europe have been raised more than once.

On April 10, PACE members adopted a resolution on the role and mission of the Assembly, which, in part, mentions the need to maintain Russia’s Council of Europe membership and calls on Moscow to form a delegation to PACE and pay membership dues. The resolution says that PACE’s sanctions against the Russian delegation following Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the country’s subsequent decision to terminate participation in the Assembly’s activities caused discord within the organization.