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France to use its weight to have Russia in Council of Europe, says senator

Senator Gerard Longuet said France is among the countries that see Russia as a major actor and partner in Europe

MOSCOW, April 17. /TASS/. Russia must remain in the Council of Europe and get back its right to vote in its Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), Senator Gerard Longuet said on Wednesday, adding that the French government was using its weight to achieve this goal.

"We know that the French government is exerting all its influence so that Russia retains its membership and wins back the right to vote [in PACE]," said Longuet, the head of the group for cooperation between the French Senate and the Russian Federation Council upper house of parliament.

France is among the countries that see Russia as a major actor and partner in Europe, he said. "We know how big was Russia’s role in preventing the creation of a permanent Islamic State (outlawed in Russia) in the Middle East. The French people know about this, and that is why the French Senate expresses its wish to see Russia getting a rightful place in the Council of Europe," the French senator stressed.

Longuet brought along a letter from French Senate’s President Gerard Larcher for Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, which emphasized the importance of relations between the two countries. "We hope that the Federation Council will take part in a session of the Association of European Senates due in Paris on June 13-14," he said.

Rocky relationship between Russia, 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.

The Russian delegation said it refused to work under these conditions and from 2016 to 2018, Moscow refused to file a request to confirm its powers. It also suggested adding a provision to PACE’s regulations stipulating that no one has the right to strip deputies of their rights, except for those who elected them.

On October 10, 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 of Europe if the country does not make any monetary contributions. In response, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Russia would leave the Council of Europe on its own volition if its opponents in this organization insist on Moscow’s expulsion.

In January, the State Duma unanimously adopted a draft statement, which suggested not sending the Russian delegation to the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in January 2019, and sticking to the decision to freeze Russia’s membership fee payments to the Council of Europe. A parallel statement came from the Federation Council. 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, 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.