The delegations of Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have denounced restoring the Russian Federation its rights to vote.
In a joint statement of June 26, the delegations said “the unconditional restoration of the Russian delegation’s rights without the Russian Federation honoring any of the Assembly’s numerous demands runs counter to the core values of the Council of Europe and its Statute.”
“This step sends very wrong signal to the country that has resorted to armed aggression, poisoning of individuals, does not observe human rights of its citizens and does not promote but seeks to destabilize democracies throughout Europe,” the delegates said.
Today we, as delegates of our nations have no answer to our people how exactly the CoE is protecting their rights if it comes across as more interested in protecting the well-being of an aggressor than the victims of aggression and repression,” they added.
The delegates also said that the future of CoE “is under threat” because it is “losing the trust of people it stands to protect.” “We return home to consult our parliaments and governments about the joint actions in the Assembly in the next session,” the delegates then noted.
Resolution to restore the Russian vote
With 118 votes in favor, 62 against and 10 abstentions PACE adopted a resolution on June 25, based on a report of Petra de Sutter (Belgium, SOC) at its spring session held in Strasbourg on June 24-28.
According to the resolution, “the members’ rights to vote, to speak and to be represented in the Assembly and its bodies shall not be suspended or withdrawn in the context of a challenge to or reconsideration of credentials.”
Yesterday, PACE finally voted to ratify the credentials of the Russian delegation, which were previously challenged on substantial grounds. However, in return the Assembly called on Moscow to fulfill a series of recent Assembly recommendations, as well as:
- Release 24 Ukrainian sailors captured in the Kerch Strait;
- Immediately pay all fees due to the Council of Europe budget;
- “Unconditionally and fully” cooperate on bringing to justice those responsible for downing Flight MH17;
- Take effective measures aimed at preventing violations of the rights of LGBTI people, especially in Chechnya;
- Cooperate fully with the international community in the investigation of the murder of Boris Nemtsov;
- Cooperate fully with all human rights monitoring agencies, including enabling their complete and unfettered direct access to all locations in which Russia has operational activities.
Georgian delegation position during the debate
During the debate on June 25 ahead of adopting the resolution, the members of Georgian delegation, both from opposition and ruling party, have addressed the Assembly.
Davit Bakradze of the opposition European Georgia said the decision to restore Russia its rights “will have fundamental influence on the future of this organization” and “will shape the future of our work.”
We are discussing the return of a country which violates the basic principles of European security, by continuing occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, by continuing annexation of Crimea in Ukraine, by continuing war in Donbas, we are talking about the return of a country which deprives hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and refugees from their basic fundamental human rights to live in their families and their houses,” Bakradze said.
“We are discussing return of a country which continues daily and weekly abductions, kidnappings and torturing of peaceful civilians in my country in Georgia. We are discussing the return of the country which in these five years demonstrated total disrespect of all decisions taken by this assembly,” he added, noting that his “choice is clear” and that he does not want “to be supporter and co-sponsor of crimes done by Russia.”
Nino Goguadze of the ruling Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party said in 2014 when Russia started to intervene in Ukraine and annex Crimea, violating the fundamental principles of CoE, PACE “took a very strong stance against the Russian aggression and imposed sanctions on Russian delegation.”
“That was a strong message towards an aggressive country that Europe will not tolerate aggression and occupation. And today, it’s very unfortunate that we are discussing the possibilities to change the whole sanction system of PACE just only to accommodate demands and interest of one particular country… to enable the Russian delegation return unconditionally,” Goguadze state.
Asking other delegates what has changed since then when the Assembly imposed sanctions on Russia for its aggression, Goguadze answered herself that while discussing the return of the Russian delegation, conflict in Ukraine and occupation in Georgia still continue.
Those developments are not happening far from your countries… They are happening in Europe. And how many European countries have to be affected by Russian aggression to consider those conflicts as a serious threat to all the European countries,” Goguadze asked.
Confirming Georgia’s “very consistent and strong position against unconditional return of Russian delegation to PACE,” Goguadze said “what we really need today is a strong parliamentary assembly with strong powers to deal with the crisis and to respond to it effectively… When member states permanently breach core principles of the organization, the parliamentary assembly should be very vocal without any reservations.”