Open Letter to PACE con­cern­ing Russia

Foto: (c) Council of Europe/​Ellen Wuibaux

An Open Letter to the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly of the Council of Europe: Please don’t deprive your­self of the right to impose sanc­tions on member states that are vio­lat­ing the statutes and the spirit of the Euro­pean Com­mu­nity. We don’t want Russia to leave the Council of Europe, but PACE should defend its prin­ci­ples and not give in to extortion.

To the atten­tion of the
Members of the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly of the Council of Europe (PACE)

Dear Sir or Madam

On 24 June the res­o­lu­tion “Strength­en­ing the deci­sion-making process of the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly con­cern­ing cre­den­tials and voting” of the Com­mit­tee on Rules of Pro­ce­dure (3.6.2019) will be put to the vote in Stras­bourg. The inten­tion of this res­o­lu­tion is to have the attempts of the Com­mit­tee of Min­is­ters to keep Russia in the Council of Europe (A shared respon­si­bil­ity for demo­c­ra­tic secu­rity in Europe, Helsinki 17.5.2019) approved by the Par­lia­men­tary Assembly.

We support the efforts to enable Russia to remain in the Council of Europe. Mem­ber­ship of the Council of Europe offers Russian cit­i­zens the oppor­tu­nity to file com­plaints before the ECHR and has numer­ous impor­tant and pos­i­tive effects in many areas of law and society. However, Russia’s mem­ber­ship of the Council of Europe will only be mean­ing­ful and ben­e­fi­cial if the Council of Europe can sanc­tion non-com­pli­ance with its basic rules. We see this option threat­ened by the draft resolution.

The draft res­o­lu­tion pro­vides for an amend­ment of the Rules of Pro­ce­dure (§ 10), accord­ing to which PACE would largely lose the pos­si­bil­ity of sanc­tion­ing members who violate the prin­ci­ples of the Council of Europe. PACE would thus no longer be able to fulfil its oblig­a­tion to monitor com­pli­ance with the prin­ci­ples of the Council of Europe. The func­tion­ing and cred­i­bil­ity of the Council of Europe would be seri­ously damaged. In the Council of Europe, the Council of Min­is­ters would become empow­ered in favour of PACE, which would con­tinue far beyond the current con­flict over the Russian Federation.

In 2014, the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly of the Council of Europe adopted Res­o­lu­tion No. 1990 by a large major­ity, thus not exclud­ing the Russian del­e­ga­tion from the Council of Europe, but depriv­ing it of its voting rights and its right to elect the Sec­re­tary General and judges of the Euro­pean Court of Human Rights until Russian troops have been with­drawn from Eastern Ukraine. Since then, there have been no pos­i­tive devel­op­ments in the Minsk process. On the con­trary — due to further mil­i­tary aggres­sion in the Sea of Azov, ongoing human rights vio­la­tions in Crimea, the illegal arrest of over 100 Ukrain­ian pris­on­ers, and the dis­tri­b­u­tion of Russian pass­ports in Eastern Ukraine, the gov­ern­ment of the Russian Fed­er­a­tion is further esca­lat­ing the con­flict and has not yet made any serious attempts to fulfil the require­ments of the PACE Res­o­lu­tion 1990. Russia is now threat­en­ing to leave the Council of Europe to pre-empt its exclu­sion and is using the non-payment of its mem­ber­ship dues as a tool to exert pressure.

We are con­vinced that such a far-reach­ing lim­i­ta­tion of future PACE sanc­tions, as pro­vided for in the draft res­o­lu­tion, would in this sit­u­a­tion under­mine the cred­i­bil­ity of the Council of Europe and per­ma­nently damage the rep­u­ta­tion and com­pe­tences of PACE.

We call on you to

- vote against the planned amend­ment of § 10 of the Rules of Pro­ce­dure and thus to main­tain the func­tion­al­ity and inde­pen­dence of PACE from the exec­u­tive branch (Com­mit­tee of Ministers)

- enable the Russian Fed­er­a­tion to remain in the Council of Europe by waiving the strict appli­ca­tion of § 9 of the Statutes of the Council of Europe (the exclu­sion of a member state for non-payment of con­tri­bu­tions) in its 1994 version (‘Dec­la­ra­tion of Com­pli­ance’) in this case

- work to ensure that the budget bot­tle­necks caused by the Russian Federation’s failure to make pay­ments are offset by con­tri­bu­tions from third parties and that the Council of Europe’s ability to func­tion fully is main­tained despite the lack of Russian contributions.

Yours sin­cerely,

Ste­fanie Schif­fer, Euro­pean Exchange

Marieluise Beck, Center for Liberal Modernity

Stefan Melle, DRA – German-Russian Exchange/​Berlin

Ralf Fücks, Center for Liberal Modernity

Marie Mendras, Sci­ences Po Uni­ver­sity, Paris


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