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Russia wants PACE to change its work regulations

Moscow is convinced that the participation of any delegation in PACE’s work is "meaningless" in the absence of certain powers

MOSCOW, July 10. /TASS/. Russia has proposed introducing provisions into the work procedure of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to stipulate that no one has the right to deprive deputies of their powers, except for their electors, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

The Russian Foreign Ministry thus commented on Russia’s decision to suspend its 2017 fee payment to the Council of Europe in the wake of some foreign and domestic media reports.

By its decisions of April 10, 2014 and January 28, 2015, PACE deprived members of the Russian delegation of their main powers in the wake of the recognition of the results of the referendum on Crimea’s reintegration into Russia.

Moscow is convinced that the participation of any delegation in PACE’s work "is meaningless" in the absence of certain powers. Accordingly, the statements that the Russian delegation allegedly left PACE "of its own will" are "unfounded", the diplomats emphasize.

"Nevertheless, as indicated in the statement of June 30, the Russian Federation continues to work in a full-fledged manner in the Council of Europe, including the fulfillment of obligations under the conventions, in which it already participates," the Russian Foreign Ministry noted.

"At the same time, the federal bodies of all the branches of power are also actively working on joining a number of other CE conventions, that is, on the development of the pan-European legal space from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean based on the law of the Council of Europe as one of the fundamentals for equal and mutually beneficial cooperation of the states of the continent."

Overcoming the crisis

"Therefore, the Russian Federation cannot but be concerned about the increasingly frequent manifestations of the language of hatred and enmity in PACE, the demonstrative ignoring of the supremacy of law and democracy," the ministry said.

"It is necessary to avoid the situation when, following the decisions of the Assembly, the governments of the member states of the Council Europe may become hostage to false stereotypes and the false goals of confrontation that it has declared. We are convinced that the Parliamentary Assembly as an advisory body of the Council of Europe has neither the rights nor the mandate for such actions," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Russia proceeds from the premise that "one of the measures on the way to overcome the crisis in PACE would be the quickest introduction into its regulations of the provision that no one has the right to deprive elected deputies of their powers, other than their electors at the next elections."

"Russia’s decision to suspend its fee payment to the Council of Europe in 2017 is an expression of deep concern over the threat of the spread of the crisis in the Council of Europe due to the confrontational course of some members of the Parliamentary Assembly," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

"Russia calls on all responsible members of governments and parliaments, political parties, the civil society of the member states of the Council of Europe to prevent the ‘spillover’ of the crisis from the Assembly to other bodies of the Council of Europe."

Russia is also interested in a strong and effective Council of Europe and is convinced that other members of the organization also need this, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Council of Europe fees

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov earlier informed Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland about Moscow’s decision to suspend its 2017 fee payment to the Council until the Russian delegation’s powers in the PACE are fully restored.

In early June, Speaker of Russia’s State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin told reporters that Russia had blocked a third of its fee payment to the Council of Europe for this year. According to Volodin, the issue at hand is about 11 million euros.

Russia and PACE

Russia is among the Council of Europe’s five basic payers. The fee payment to the CE is currently indivisible and represents a general contribution to PACE, the Committee of Ministers, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, and also to the European Court of Human Rights. The overall sum is about 40 million euros.

In April 2014, the Russian delegation to PACE was deprived of its main powers, including the right to vote and take part in the work of the assembly’s governing bodies and observer missions for monitoring elections in the Council of Europe’s member states. This step was taken in the wake of the events in Ukraine and the reunification of Crimea with Russia.

In 2015, PACE had considered restoring the Russian delegation’s rights twice, but the sanctions still remain in effect. In response, Russia announced the suspension of its participation in PACE’s activities until the end of 2015. In early 2016, Moscow refused to apply for the participation at the assembly’s January session during which the delegations’ annual mandates were confirmed.

Chairman of the State Duma Committee for International Affairs Leonid Slutsky said early this year that Russia would continue close cooperation with PACE but would not participate in the assembly’s plenary sessions and in the work of its committees in 2017.