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Powers of Russian delegation at PACE must be restored before June — diplomat

He said the election of the Council of Europe's secretary general would be a "red line" in deciding whether Russia should remain a Council of Europe member
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko Sergei Bobylyov/TASS
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko
© Sergei Bobylyov/TASS

MOSCOW, April 20. /TASS/. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) must restore the powers of the Russian delegation before the new secretary general is elected in June, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told TASS on Friday.

He said the election would be a "red line" in deciding whether Russia should remain a Council of Europe member.

"If no solution is found, then we will have to make the ultimate decision about our future in the Council of Europe," the high-ranking Russian diplomat said. "At the same time, we see that many Council of Europe members realize that it has no future without Russia. This is what many leading politicians have said clearly."

He said that the issue of Russia’s contributions to the organization’s budget should be settled not through forcing Russia to pay, but through removing the current systemic flaws within the organization.

"We have said it several times, and our message is clear to everyone: as soon as this gross contradiction between the rules of procedure and founding documents is eliminated, and the rights of the Russian delegation are restored in full, we will pay our fees. Not only for this year, but for the previous year as well," he said.

"I would like to reiterate that the discriminatory measures against our delegation were introduced in 2014, while we halted our contributions in 2018. For more than three years, we have been waiting for the issue to be fixed. We waited for the countries, who really care about maintaining the Council of Europe’s role of an instrument bringing together vast areas stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok, to take measures to overcome this crisis. But this did not happen. Therefore, we were had to demonstrate our attitude to this discriminatory and absolutely intolerable situation," Grushko said.

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. 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 January 2019, both houses of Russia’s parliament - the State Duma and Federation Council - unanimously passed statements, which suggested not sending a 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.

On April 10, PACE members adopted a resolution on the role and mission of the Assembly, which mentions the need to maintain Russia’s Council of Europe membership and calls on Moscow to form a delegation to PACE and pay membership fees. 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.