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Save the Council of Europe from Russian blackmail

[editorial]On October 9, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will vote for a resolution which, if adopted, will effectively allow the Russian delegation, which was sanctioned after the country occupied Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014, to return to PACE as full-fledged members. This would have grave consequences not only for Ukraine but for the entire human rights situation on the continent. If PACE gives into Russia’s blackmail and changes its sanctioning rules, the Council of Europe would be rendered toothless to punish violators not only in Russia but any other European country. Then what’s the point of its existence? [/editorial]

The human rights situation in the European Region is under threat, as the key organization protecting it might lose its credibility and power – PACE, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the motor of the Council of Europe, Europe’s leading human rights organization. 

PACE was the first organization to call out Russian aggression against Ukraine by its name. In April 2014, after Russia occupied Crimea, PACE suspended the voting rights of the Russian delegation but called to preserve a dialogue. 

In response, Russia withdrew from PACE altogether and later stopped paying its membership fees for the whole Council of Europe – €33 mn annually; or 7% of the CoE budget. In October 2018, Russia wants to return to PACE on its own terms. They demand to change PACE’s rules, making sanctions virtually impossible. This would pave the way for a violation by any other state, not only Russia. And if it gives in to Russian blackmail, the Council of Europe would cease to be a human rights protector.

Officially, the process through which Russia can be restored is called “strengthening PACE’s decision-making process.” But this is a Trojan horse to weaken PACE, as it would make sanctioning any country which violates the Council of Europe principles very difficult. PACE would be no longer be able to punish human rights abusers.

Since 2014, Russia has occupied Crimea, repressed its minorities, and unleashed a covert war against Ukraine. PACE has called for Russia to stop its aggression in numerous resolutions and said that the Russian delegation could return only if it makes progress in implementing all these resolutions.

Russia has not implemented a single call.

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Russia’s unconditional return to PACE will contravene PACE’s own resolutions and the Statute of the Council of Europe. This decision could lead to PACE’s own moral destruction – a terrible price just for the support of Russian money.

Don’t let the key European human rights organization make a fatal mistake. Save the Council of Europe. Speak out against Russia’s return to PACE.

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