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Finnish top diplomat says important to keep Russia in Council of Europe

Finnish foreign minister Timo Soin pointed out that Helsinki currently presided over the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

MOSCOW, February 12. /TASS/. Finland believes it is necessary to keep Russia a member of the Council of Europe, Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini said at a press conference following talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

"Russia is a European country so it is important to keep Russia a member [of the Council of Europe," he said.

The Finnish foreign minister pointed out that Helsinki currently presided over the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. "We discussed issues concerning Russia’s rights and contribution payment. Finland cannot resolve the issue alone, there is a need to search for compromises, political processes are necessary," Soini said.

Russia and PACE

In April 2014, Russia’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was stripped of its key rights, including the right to vote, over the situation in Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia. The issue of restoring the rights of the Russian delegation was raised at PACE twice throughout 2015 but sanctions remained in place. In response, Russia suspended its participation in PACE’s activities. The country did not apply for confirmation of its rights in 2016-2018.

Moscow suggested PACE’s regulations be amended to ensure that no one could strip lawmakers of their rights except their voters.

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said on October 10, 2018, that Russia’s membership in the organization’s Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly might be suspended starting from June 2019 due to non-payment of monetary contributions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in response that Moscow would quit the Council of Europe if opposing member states called for expelling Russia.

On December 10, 2018, the PACE Committee on Rules of Procedure spoke out against depriving national delegations of their right to take part in electing the organization’s secretary general and judges of the European Court of Human Rights.

In January 2019, both houses of the Russian parliament issued statements pointing out there were still no reasons for Russia to return to PACE.