PARIS, June 17. /TASS/. France is striving to prevent Russia’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe (CE) because it would contradict the interests of the Russian citizens, French President Emmanuel Macron told a press conference held following his meeting with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky.
"France, by the virtue of heading the [CE] Committee of Ministers, doesn’t stand for lifting the sanctions… but [for] prevent Russia’s exit from the Council of Europe," he said. "This would affect the goal we are pursuing, as well as the Russian citizens, who see the CE as a means to protect their rights."
Macron underlined that France, as a co-chair of G7 stands for keeping the international sanctions against Russia in place. However, he underlined that Russia exiting the CE in line with the desire of certain powers will primarily "affect the interests of non-governmental organizations and activists who see the CE as a tool of protection." "The CE membership gives citizens an access to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) jurisdiction, belonging to the legal space [of the organization]," Macron stressed.
"We have seen an outlined trajectory of Russia’s full exit from the CE. Even when Finland was the chair, therefore, the work started, which we supported. It consisted of calling on Russia to respect the conditions, namely respect legal and principled decisions of the organization, and pay membership dues [to the CE budget]," he specified.
PACE and Russia
In April 2014, the Russian delegation to PACE was stripped of its key rights, including the right to vote, participate in observing missions and holding seats in the assembly’s governing bodies, following the developments in Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia.
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 refused to work in such conditions and, since 2016, ceased applying for the Russian delegation’s credentials. Russia also offered introducing a provision stipulating that it be prohibited to strip parliamentarians of their powers apart from the voters.
Since 2017, Russia also froze the payments of membership dues to the CE budget. In view of this, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland told the PACE October 2018 session that Russia’s rights to be represented in the CE statutory institutions - Committee of Minister and Parliamentary Assemble - could be suspended in June 2019 for systematic failure of payment.
In January 2019, however, both houses of Russia’s parliament - the State Duma and Federation Council -passed statements, pointing to the absence of grounds for Russia to return to PACE in 2019. In addition, the State Duma called to uphold the decision of freezing the payments to the CE budget. The issue of the prospects for Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe has repeatedly been raised in the context of the crisis in the Russia-PACE relations.
On May 17, following the meeting of PACE member states’ top diplomats in Helsinki, the CE Committee of Ministers published a statement on the organization’s official website, reading that all CE members should be entitled to participate on an equal basis in the Committee of Ministers and in the Parliamentary Assembly, the two statutory organs of the Council of Europe. The heads of Foreign Ministries also said that they "welcome that delegations of all member states be able to take part in the next June part-session of the Parliamentary Assembly, considering the importance of the elections of the Secretary General and of judges to the European Court of Human Rights."
The PACE summer session will be held in Strasbourg from June 24 to June 28. The Council of Europe new Secretary General will be elected then.