PACE votes for Russia's return

PACE votes for Russia's return

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has voted today to welcome Russia back into PACE. The Russian delegation led by State Duma's Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy has arrived in Strasbourg to take part in the session of the PACE.

Following almost nine hours of heated debate the resolution was prepared on the basis of the 'Strengthening the decision-making process of the Parliamentary Assembly concerning credentials and voting' report.

"The members’ rights to vote, to speak and to be represented in the Assembly and its bodies shall not be suspended or withdrawn in the context of a challenge to or reconsideration of credentials," the adopted PACE resolution said.

A total of 118 parliament deputies agreed to welcome Russia back into PACE immediately and to blunt the assembly's ability to impose sanctions similar to those on Russia in the future, while 10 abstained and 62 voted against.

"Taking into consideration the [Council of Europe] Committee of Ministers’ decision in Helsinki, as well as the exceptional context which led to it, the Assembly decides ... to invite the parliaments of Council of Europe member States which are not represented by a delegation to the Assembly to present the credentials of their representatives and substitutes at the June 2019 part-session of the Assembly. These credentials shall be submitted to the Assembly for ratification at the next sitting following their transmission," the document said.

At the same time, the resolution has provisions concerning the possibility of challenging the credentials of a delegation.

On June 26, the election of the new secretary-general will take place to succeed Norway's Thorbjorn Jagland.

The deputy dean of the Faculty of Global Economics and International Affairs of the Higher School of Economics of the National Research University, Andrei Suzdaltsev, speaking with the correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that PACE, despite all the scandals, allows Russia to conduct an equal dialogue with Europe. “We were outraged that our status was limited. We practically left PACE. However, we left the possibility for our partners in this organization to restore our equal rights, and they did it,” the expert said.

At the same time, he added that Russia was thus able to prevent international isolation, despite the resistance of Georgia, Ukraine and the Baltic states. "The second thing is the main thesis of the Ukrainian propaganda that it is possible to return Crimea to Ukraine, that there should be international solidarity on this issue, and so on. There has been such solidarity in PACE for some time, but now this  front of solidarity against Russia was broken. Therefore this is a serious victory," Suzdaltsev noted.

According to him, PACE is interested in Russia, since the meaning of t this organization's existence is lost without the participation of Moscow. "The majority of PACE members are EU states. Initially, they say that the EU is the pinnacle of democracy. When there is no Russia in PACE, there’s simply no point in this organization. We are totally against this attitude, but it’s still a discussion. And all the parties involved in the dialogue are forced to understand the position of their partners," Sudaltsev concluded.

The deputy head of the Council of the Russian Diplomats Association, Andrey Baklanov, in turn, drew attention to the fact that it is premature to draw conclusions about the Russian delegation's fate in PACE. "For a number of years, PACE has developed a serious set of requirements for Russia, which led to the fact that we did not work as part of PACE. In order to overcome such a negative attitude, it will take time and PACE representatives' clear understanding of what mistakes they made. For now I did not see such a shift in the PACE approach," he noted.

According to Baklanov, it's more about a forced step by the PACE, not about a change of approach towards Russia. The expert suggested that the Assembly was in a difficult financial situation, therefore, it needs contributions from the Russian Federation. "I think we need to analyze what exactly has changed in the assessments, approaches and readiness of the PACE leadership in its work with Russia. Perhaps it's just a forced step," the expert recalled.

At the same time, he called the return of the Russian delegation to PACE a movement in the right direction. Baklanov stressed that Russia's return provides PACE an opportunity to build relations with Moscow on the basis of a dialogue. "It gives them an explanation of our interaction position. On the other hand, sometimes everything is perfectly clear to everyone, but the interests of countries are different. But in general, if PACE rethink the format of our participation seriously, it may become a potentially useful platform for Russia," the expert concluded.