Results of PACE’s Summer Session: Debut in the Chess Game with the Council of Europe Remained with Russia

In 2017-2019, Moscow deliberately sought to aggravate relations with the Council of Europe and the European Union, which runs the international organisation. The stakes were high. Russia stopped multi-million-euro payments to the organisation’s budget in order to force the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE to lift the sanctions it had imposed on the delegation of Russia’s Federal Assembly. Moscow insisted that blacklisting members should be impossible in principle and that its delegation be invited to resume participation in the Council’s work on an equal and non-discriminatory basis. This financial blackmail plunged the CoE into a severe financial crisis, and forced Brussels to make a difficult decision.

It was had to decide: either PACE would surrender and make concessions to the ‘hated authoritarian regime’, or ties between Moscow and Strasbourg would be severed, with far-reaching geopolitical consequences. These consequences were easy to calculate. The West was set to lose one of its last channels of influence on Moscow. The degree of confrontation in Europe would have escalated further. Russia's was expected to drift towards Asia and foster rapprochement with China, frightening the EU and NATO. Those who had continued to dream of a hypothetical legal, economic and humanitarian family of nations stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean faced a rude awakening.

The EU has chosen the first option. At the Council’s Committee of Ministers meeting, they recognised that all states should have the opportunity to participate in the work of all the governing bodies of the CoE, including the assembly, on an equal and non-discriminatory basis. PACE obeyed. On the night of June 24-25, despite the fierce resistance from the delegations of Ukraine, Poland, Georgia, the UK and the Baltic countries, it voted to make the necessary changes to the rules of procedure and invited the delegation of the Federal Assembly to resume participation in PACE without any restrictions. Then, on June 26, it confirmed the contested powers of the Russian legislators.

Russia and the Council of Europe: Values Against Prejudice
On January 29, 2019, the Valdai Club hosted an expert discussion, dedicated to the uneasy relationship between Russia and the Council of Europe. The situation is as follows: in 2017 Russia suspended payments to the organization’s budget after it was stripped of voting rights in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Club events

 Thus, having conducted a brilliant parliamentary and diplomatic operation, Moscow, as it seemed to it, was able to solve several extremely important strategic and geopolitical tasks at once. It broke the chain of sanctions. It managed to insist on choosing its own path, without making concessions on any of the international, foreign policy or domestic political issues. It proved to the whole world that it was right and can defend its interests, even under the most difficult conditions.

However, for any victory you win, you have to pay. The price of this victory, if proactive measures aren’t taken, may be too high. Our Western partners also know how to calculate their moves and play multi-move combinations. They figured that by “surrendering” PACE, they lost absolutely nothing – the absence of the Russian delegation had only made its activities meaningless. However, it gets a lot of funding. In monetary terms, Russia owes the CE less than the 100 million euros. In political terms, it gets the opportunity to once again put pressure on Russia along parliamentary lines, criticise it for nothing, insist, demand and threaten.

These are deputies from Ukraine and the entire anti-Russian coalition who hysterically denounced the “rest” for betraying Kiev, due to the connivance of the “aggressor”, and the outrage upon European values. The “others” calmly argued: It’s stupid, of course, we all need Russian legislatures to be with us – only then can we hold them accountable and present all our complaints to them. They will be able neither to escape nor get out anymore because we have agreed with all their demands. 

This position has been unequivocally reflected in the PACE resolution on the recognition of powers. It includes an order for Moscow to accept all fact-finding missions, representatives of the Commission on Monitoring the implementation of commitments, and rapporteurs for individual cases. It lists all the violations committed by Moscow, for which it was proposed to take immediate action. The main thing is, it states that not later than next April, a synthesis report will be prepared on all that Moscow is charged with.

In fact, the EU, in PACE’s hands, is outwardly making concessions and accepting all Russia’s demands, but has in fact prepared the prerequisites for launching a new campaign to discredit Moscow, exerting systemic pressure on it from all directions, eliminating concessions from it, and thus increasing confrontation. Such a threat is quite real. The idea is an open secret. To verify this, it is enough to read the text of the resolution and listen to the recording of debates. Such a development must be prevented.

Required countermeasures:
  • to all members of the delegation of the Federal Assembly – imbued with the importance of the moment and devote all their time and energy to work in PACE, explaining, conquering, dragging over to their side; 
  • to the government – allocate no less funds to support the activities of Russia in the Council of Europe than is paid to the Organisation’s budget; 
  • to supporters of the normalisation of relations in Europe – create a society for the support of the CoE, capable of proposing a new CoE and PACE agenda;
  • to the Presidential Administration – ensure control over the harmonisation of the legal system with the standards of the Council of Europe and the formation of Moscow’s negotiating position on their revision.
It’s high time for Russia to abandon catching up with related legal developments by initiating, through the Council of Europe, the creation of a legal framework for the formation of a Comprehensive Greater Eurasian Partnership, which will reflect the interests of all peoples of the continent.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.