On June 24th, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted to make it possible for Russia to return to the chamber.
In an unprecedented late-night vote on the opening day of its summer plenary session, the @CoE Assembly affirms its members' rights "to vote, to speak and to be represented in the Assembly and its bodies" https://t.co/UosdsaVqNl pic.twitter.com/ZVwlkuRc8T
— PACE (@PACE_News) June 24, 2019
The Council voted in favor of all members having their “rights to vote,” meaning that Moscow received its voting rights for the first time since 2014.
In addition, Moscow was invited to present a delegation on June 25th.
“Citing the “exceptional context” of a recent decision by the Committee of Ministers, the Assembly also decided, in a derogation from its Rules of Procedure, to invite the parliaments of Council of Europe member States “which are not represented by a delegation to the Assembly” to present their credentials at the June 2019 part-session.”
All PACE member states have the “rights to vote, to speak and to be represented in the Assembly and its bodies shall not be suspended or withdrawn in the context of a challenge to or reconsideration of credentials,” an amendment said.
It won with 118 votes to 62, with 10 abstentions.
The head of the Russian State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Leonid Slutsky, said PACE “made a huge step toward defending the rights of national delegations.”
Russia’s delegation will not tolerate “any more sanctions, no matter how insignificant,” Slutsky also said.
Naturally, Ukraine was in a hysteria.
The head of the Ukrainian delegation to PACE, Volodymyr Ariyev, said the assembly’s decision sent “a very bad message: do what you want, annex another country’s territory, kill people there, and you will still leave with everything.”
Member of the Ukrainian delegation to PACE Iryna Gerashchenko also criticized today’s session on Facebook, stating that statements about Russia’s return to PACE is the betrayal of the principles.
“The majority of the Europeans say terrible things. Like, the sanctions against Russia have not lived up; the Council of Europe and PACE should not deal with the issues of the security and defense of the territorial integrity; it is not our tasks and competences; we should not deal with the decision of the inner conflicts between the countries-members of our organization; we should take care of the future of our organization and demand the payment of the contributions from Russia; money is very important issue, the most important; we should think about the Russians, not the Russian authority but defend the right of the Russians for the protection at the ECHR,” Gerashchenko said.
Gerashchenko said that the lifting of the European sanctions from Russia may be the next step.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that reintroducing Russia to PACE meant weakening it.
“Lifting Russia’s ban in PACE is obviously not the right policy silver bullet that could #StopRussianAggression. Conversely, it would weaken this reputable organization, subverting the fairness and transparency of rules in the CoE #SaveCouncilEurope,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Kateryna Zelenko said on Twitter on June 24.
On June 25th, when the Russian delegation came to PACE, deputies challenged the powers of the Russian delegation.
So the issue of allow Russia back would be considered by a special commission. For this, another commission – according to the rules of procedures – should prepare a report within 24 hours.
The report will be presented on the afternoon of June 26th. The delegation, whose powers are being challenged, participates in the work of the PACE, but does not vote on its issues, the head of the Assembly, Lilian Mori Pasquier, recalled.
Ukrainians asked to postpone the consideration of this document, but the notion was rejected.
Kiev said that it might suspend its membership in PACE if the Russians received their powers back.
Moscow stressed that it’s delegation would return to its duties and pay contributions only after the restoration of all rights.
The situation leading up to this was the following:
- In 2014, Russia was stripped of its voting rights in PACE following Moscow’s “takeover of Crimea and its backing of militant separatists fighting in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed some 13,000 people since April 2014.”
- Russia responded in 2016 by boycotting the assembly, and has since 2017 refused to pay its annual contribution of 33 million euros, roughly 7% of the council’s budget.
- The Russian side warned that no future payments would be made until the rights of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe “are fully restored.”
So basically, more than anything PACE understood that 7% of the budget is a large portion and it wanted Moscow to resume paying its membership fee. Because it became apparent that Russia wouldn’t walk back on its decision and ask to be allowed back, PACE itself voted to allow Russia back.
It is furthermore quite obvious that the anti-Russian narrative, at least in Europe, is shrinking and is losing traction. In spite of Ukraine’s efforts and its sponsors, it has become quite apparent that there are no “human rights violations” in Crimea.
There is no actual evidence of ‘tens of thousands Russian troops’ in eastern Ukraine.
Despite the Joint Investigation Team’s best efforts to construct reality out of thin air, there is also no real evidence that Moscow is involved into the downing of the MH17 in 2014. Evidence provided by Russia was neglected by the JIT, but it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen, or it isn’t if not conclusive, at least goes contrary to the “popular narrative.”
Thus, the time for Europe to decide has come, and the PACE decision is a huge blow against the sanction regime against Moscow.
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