The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has found a way out of the conflict with Russia

On Friday, may 17, ended a two-day meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which celebrates its 70th anniversary. At the jubilee session of foreign Ministers of 47 countries members of the organization “without discussion” took the statement, giving the opportunity to resolve the crisis in relations with Russia. In June, the issue of further membership of Russia in the Council of Europe could formally be on the agenda. France, where for six months took over the chairmanship in the COE Committee of Ministers, advocated the preservation of Russia in the Council of Europe.

At the jubilee session in Helsinki was attended by 30 foreign Ministers of the countries members of the organization, including Russian foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. The head of Ukrainian diplomacy Pavlo Klimkin refused to participate in the meeting by sending to the capital of Finland his Deputy. Ukraine also threatened to review its relations with the Council of Europe in the case of softening his stance towards Moscow.

In its statement , the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe called for the full restoration of cooperation with Russia. Recently, for the preservation of Russia in the Council of Europe spoke French presidency Emmanuel macron. “The Council of Europe needs Russia, as Russia and the Russians need the Council of Europe”, — said on may 6, President of France from 17 may, and for six months he became Chairman of the Ministerial Committee of the COE.

“Step in the right direction”, said the Ministerial statement of the Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev.

“This is not diplomacy, and surrender,” said France-Presse the representative of Ukraine in the Council of Europe Dmitry Kuleba, adding: “We want Russia to remain in the Council of Europe, but to also honour their commitments in the framework of all decisions made in response to Russian aggression against Ukraine.”

After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) deprived the Russian delegation’s voting rights and rights to participate in its decision-making structures and Supervisory missions. In response to the Russian deputies ceased to attend the meetings of the PACE, and in 2017, Moscow has suspended payment of contributions to the budget of the COE (33 million euros, or about 10 per cent of the budget). According to the rules of the organization, the non-payment of dues for two years may lead to suspension of membership in the Council of Europe. Leaving the organisation would free Russia from the implementation of a number of agreements in the field of human rights, and would deprive Russians of the right to appeal to the European court of human rights (ECHR).

On 17 may, the Ministers of the Council of Europe stated that “all member States should be given the opportunity to participate on an equal basis in the work of the Committee of Ministers and the parliamentary Assembly ‒ the two statutory bodies” of the organization. They also said that “the payment of obligatory contributions to the regular budget” is “one of the fundamental obligations of member States” SE.

The Committee of Ministers has held that “the delegations of all member States could participate in the June session of the PACE”. At this session the deputies will have to choose the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and judges of the European court of human rights. France-Presse reminds us that, while Russia was deprived of voting rights in PACE, without the participation of Moscow was elected more than half of the judges of the ECHR, and also the new Council of Europe Commissioner for human rights Dunja Mijatovic.

Not an option, but the stage of settlement

Press Secretary of the Council of Europe Daniel Holtgen called the statement of the Committee of Ministers “step towards a final settlement” of relations with Moscow. “The parliamentary Assembly should take into account the decisions of Ministers and to decide whether it will change its internal rules so that Russia could participate in the June elections” (Secretary-General), — Reuters quotes the speaker of the organization.

PACE has deprived the Russian delegation of rights on the basis of their own regulations, which the Committee of Ministers to change the law. The Ministers deputies suggested creating a joint mechanism for punishment of violator States.

In a statement on may 17 “the Ministers stressed the need for coordinated action” to “more effectively respond to situations when a member state is in breach of its statutory obligations or fails to comply with standards, fundamental principles and values of the Council of Europe”. The Ministerial Committee proposed to “develop a clear additional procedure which could be initiated by either the parliamentary Assembly or the Committee of Ministers or the Secretary-General in which they will participate.”

Russia softened its tone

Before the meeting of the Committee of Ministers in Helsinki on 16 may the Russian foreign Ministry made a special statementin which the Agency France-Presse he saw “soften the tone” of Moscow in dialogue with the Council of Europe.

The foreign Ministry said that “Russia is interested in preservation and strengthening of the Council of Europe”. The Council itself is called “one of the most authoritative and representative international organizations of the European continent” and “a unique mechanism of sectoral cooperation of the countries of Europe.” The Russian dipvedomstva also noted the “great importance” of the European Convention for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the European court of human rights. Participation in the Convention and the ECHR “has contributed to the improvement of the judicial and penal systems” in Russia, noted the Ministry of foreign Affairs, stating that the current “Ministerial session in Helsinki is crucial for the future of the Council of Europe”. Depriving the Russian delegation’s rights in PACE, the Council of Europe was in the “institutional crisis”, said the Russian foreign Ministry.
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