The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) held its autumn session in Strasbourg from September 30 to October 4. The main topics of the assembly were protection of victims of terrorism and whistleblowers, reports on climate refugees and labour migration. One of the memorable moments of the session was French President Emmanuel Macron's speech, who noted that he was glad about the return of Russia to PACE.
First Deputy Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security Vladimir Kozhin, who attended the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the first time, described his thoughts: "People should gather in PACE, who when calling on everyone to equal rights and opportunities, must follow this principle themselves." However, Kozhin saw few such people in Strasbourg. "A large number of PACE members, deputies from different countries, calling on us to be very democratic, are still not free from Cold War stereotypes. They call for dialogue, but repeat the same theses that Russia is to blame for everything. They absolutely do not hear simple, clear arguments reported by their colleagues," Kozhin lamented.
At the same time, he also saw people who are "ready to listen, ready to work together." “I really liked the speech of French President Emanuel Macron, who emphasized several times that PACE and Europe without Russia are not Europe and not PACE. Although, of course, he could not help but sweep our opponents a curtsey, saying that they have many questions for Russia and they will ask them. That's fine. We returned to PACE to listen to these questions and answer them, but most importantly, we want to be heard. But that's a problem. However, I’m sure that we have prospects in PACE, we just need to work harder, join the work of committees, the organization's governance bodies. It would be difficult to reach out to our colleagues without it," Vladimir Kozhin said.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Economic Policy Sergei Kalashnikov said that as compared to April 2014, he had other impressions of the session: "The hatred, rejection that was at that session contrasts with the one held today. The attitude [toward the Russian delegation] has changed a lot since 2014. There are more than 400 deputies in the Assembly. If I’m not mistaken, 72 people - ardent opponents of Russia in any situation - voted against Russia's return to PACE. But more than 300 people, with varying degrees of consent, support us. We can’t say that these are our friends, we don’t expect special love from them, but at least these are those people who are ready for a constructive dialogue."
According to Sergei Kalashnikov, PACE has changed over the past five years: "Now there are more people aimed at constructive dialogue. Well, I’ll give you just one example. Until 2014, we could hardly get representatives of the Russian delegation to be rapporteurs on a number of issues. This is a very long procedure, and we were usually suppressed. I can only recall two or three our rapporteurs. Now, for example, [First Deputy Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Social Policy] Igor Nikolaevich Kagramanyan has been named a rapporteur on the very urgent topic of vaccination. This indicates that the PACE members are focused on a working dialogue. A number of amendments proposed by our delegation were welcomed, although earlier the amendments were rejected purely for political reasons. This, in my opinion, is very indicative."