Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 10.10.2018
The Russian Federation will not be returning to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). The Putin regime that is invading Ukraine and committing horrific crimes against humanity in Crimea and Donbas will not be able to send a delegation to PACE until it respects that body’s resolutions and restores the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
On October 9, a procedural motion was put before the session of the Assembly that would have effectively lifted the sanctions on the Russian delegation without requiring the Russian Federation to stop its war against Ukraine or to stop its gross abuse of human rights in temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. Having no majority support, the motion was sent back to committee. Until the end of 2019 at least the Russian Federation has no chance of returning to PACE on its own terms.
At the ambassador level of the Council of Europe and at the executive level of PACE it looked like the Russian Federation would get its way. But at the level of the democratically-elected delegates who make up the Assembly there was stronger defence of Ukraine, of the principle of upholding human rights, and of PACE keeping effective political power to enforce its resolutions. A powerful pro-Kremlin faction, led by PACE Secretary-General Thorbjørn Jagland, led the charge to have the Russian delegation readmitted without having to obey any of the resolutions of PACE or to uphold the principles of the Council of Europe.
It turns out that Thorbjørn Jagland was too aggressive. Jagland lobbied hard for the Putin regime, starting in 2017. Before this week’s session of PACE, Jagland heavily promoted a secret legal note written by Jörg Polakiewicz – another pro-Kremlin mandarin at the top of the PACE hierarchy. Leaks of this secret legal note revealed that it said PACE has no right to sanction any national delegation – including, naturally, the Russian Federation. On receiving this bit of last-minute arm-twisting, most PACE delegates were dismayed at being told they should deprive themselves of the power to enforce their own decisions.
The pro-Kremlin faction in PACE attempted to bring the Russian delegation back into the fold with a procedural amendment contained in a report by the Rules Committee, called “Strengthening the decision-making process of the Parliamentary Assembly concerning credentials and voting.” The report was submitted by Rules Committee chairperson Petra de Sutter, a delegate from Belgium.
The Russian Federation was not mentioned once by PACE rapporteur, Petra de Sutter. But every one of the 70 speakers who took the floor in the debate on October 9 talked about Russia. This shows the dishonesty of submitting the question of re-admitting the Russian delegation to PACE as if it was a question about ‘reforming’ or ‘strengthening’ the procedures for applying sanctions within PACE.
The mood of the Assembly was to reject the Rules Committee proposal to “Strengthen the PACE decision-making process on credentials and voting.” Most PACE delegates do not want to readmit the Russian delegation without any adherence to PACE resolutions about the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine. If Rapporteur Petra de Sutter’s amendment had been voted down it would have been killed. Choosing delay rather than defeat, Ms de Sutter hurriedly withdrew her amendment and petitioned to move the matter back to the Rules Committee of which she is the chairperson. The Assembly voted to stall the question – effectively for another year – by a vote of 99 in favour to 79 against, with 16 abstentions.
After the vote against the Russian Federation and for human rights in Europe, an information warrior for the Russian propaganda channel Rossiya-1 attempted to bait the Ukrainian delegates at PACE. When she did, the Ukrainian delegates gave the traditional greeting “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heroes!” and then sang the Ukrainian national anthem.
The Russian Federation will never return to the Council of Europe’s “talk shop” on its own terms. The invader of Ukraine cannot vote in PACE and ignore the resolutions of PACE and the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights at the same time. What happened in the Assembly on October 9 puts an end to Muscovy’s four year campaign of bullying.
The Russian Federation could now respect the resolutions of PACE. It could restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine – specifically by leaving the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol. The Russian Federation could stop committing abuses of human rights against the Crimean Tatars and against ethnic Ukrainians. It could start to pay its dues to the Council of Europe again and pay its arrears. If the Russian Federation did these things, then its application to have the credentials of its delegates accepted at PACE would likely be approved.
What the Russian Federation is likely to do is to continue to wage war against Ukraine. It will continue to illegally occupy territories which are integral parts of Ukraine: Crimea and part of Donbas. The Russian Federation will continue to commit gross abuses of international human rights law and commit crimes against humanity as part of its invasion of Ukraine. It will continue to ignore resolutions of PACE and violate rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. The Putin regime will continue refusing to pay what it owes to the Council of Europe.
Moscow has threatened to quit the Council of Europe. Western European diplomats are afraid this would be a “catastrophe.” But central and eastern Europeans know better. Led by Europe-defender Ukraine, more and more delegates at PACE are talking about how letting invader Muscovy quit the Council of Europe – or kicking it out – would be a good thing for upholding human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Europe. The Russian Federation doesn’t belong in the Council of Europe because it aggressively attacks every single one of its guiding principles.
When the Russian Federation is included in international organizations – the UN, the OSCE – it wreaks destruction from within. When the Russian Federation is excluded from international organizations – NATO, the EU, PACE – those organizations are stronger, more principled, and more effective. The Council of Europe doesn’t need the Russian Federation – the Council of Europe must get rid of the Russian Federation in order to achieve its highest ideals.
Photo: Ukraine's delegation to PACE