MOSCOW, May 18. /TASS/. The State Duma, lower house of the Russian parliament, will study all possible risks when making a decision on the return the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin told reporters on Saturday.
"The national delegation of the Russian Federation in PACE is formed taking into account the views of all factions of the State Duma, and we will discuss further actions with them, study all the risks when making a decision so that no more situations similar to those that occurred earlier in PACE occurred again. Only after that we will apply for participation," he said.
Now it’s necessary to wait for the PACE’s reaction to the statement of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, he added.
"In any case, the Parliamentary Assembly should amend its regulations, fixing the norm on equality of all national delegations, or delegate the relevant authority to the Committee of Ministers," the speaker added.
The lawmaker noted that the Charter of the Council of Europe provides for equality of 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
"This rule was violated by PACE, when the delegation of the Russian Federation was deprived of the right to vote. That was direct violation of the Charter," Volodin stressed.
According to him, Moscow has always "emphasized the importance of Russia's participation in this Council of Europe institution," but the situation within the organization aroused concerns.
"Depriving the national delegation of their right to vote, the discriminatory principle on which work in the PACE is built, cannot leave us indifferent. We will take the decision based on the interests of our citizens and our country," Volodin concluded.
After the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Council of Europe countries in Helsinki on May 16-17, the organization’s website published a statement by the Committee of Ministers that all CE member countries should have equal opportunities to participate in the work of the Committee of Ministers and PACE. The Foreign Ministers also stated that they would welcome the participation of delegations from all member states in the June session of the Parliamentary Assembly, given the importance of the choice of the Secretary General and the judges of the European Court of Human Rights.
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 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.