It now seems that Europe and Russia is involved in a game of PACE: Boycotting Ukraine and Rejoining Russia. The question is, who determines the colour of pieces on the desk of the Council of Europe? Elina Morhunova examines this stakes at play and looks at the cost involved.
This last week, Europe is experiencing another diplomatic game in Strasbourg – the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) allowed Russia to return to the session hall, which was banned as a sanction for the annexation of Crimea. The voting, which took place within the framework of the plan signed by the foreign ministers of 47 countries of the Council of Europe in May 2019, opens up the possibility for the Russian delegation to present its powers and return to the assembly.
The Board is set up to play out
The Ukrainian delegation responded to the decision quickly & sharply and, together with its supporters, achieved a repeat consideration of this issue.
Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Poland and Slovakia state that unconditional restoration of the rights of the Russian delegation without fulfilling any of the numerous demands of the Assembly contradicts the core values of the Council of Europe and its charter.
This step sends a very wrong signal to a country that has resorted to armed aggression, poisoning, does not respect the rights of its citizens and Europe.
The Russian delegation lost its voting rights in PACE as early as 2014, and since then its attempts to return to the Assembly have constantly failed. But in early June, the regulatory committee of the organisation approved a resolution on the new mechanism of sanctions, and PACE supported it on the night of 25 June 2019.
Russia obtained the opportunity to return to PACE without fulfilling any conditions. Neither the edits from Ukrainian parliamentarians, nor the proposal to postpone the meeting saved the situation. As a result, 118 delegates voted in favour, 62 against, and 10 more abstained. Unanimously opposed by Ukraine and Georgia.
Most of the representatives of Poland, the Baltic countries, the United Kingdom and Sweden did not agree with the changes either.
But the story in Strasbourg is not over. On 25th of June 2019, at the suggestion of the delegate from Georgia Nino Gogadze, the process of appealing the powers of the Russian delegation began. In addition, the chairman of the Ukrainian delegation to the PACE, Vladimir Aryev, once again raised the issue of Russians, against whom there are personal sanctions of the West. At the same time, Russia has threatened to stop working in PACE, if the country’s rights are at least somehow limited. The Ukrainian delegates have already decided to suspend participation in the Assembly. The only exception will be questions of the powers of the Russians.
The unwise game
The Council of Europe risks to lose the confidence of the people and the values that it is supposed to protect. The recent move has been seen as a setback for basic principles of international law, peaceful coexistence, democracy and human rights. Rule of law has succumbed to the rule of force. This is a very worrisome precedent that makes us all wonder what the is value of such institutions when it comes to the fundamental issues that are at stake. If we see this as a chess game, one could claim that the Council of Europe has sacrificed a queen (core values) to gain one horse (Russian membership). It was the unwise game with few winning prospects for the liberal world.
Emphasising one of the most famous quotes by Walter Reuther may let us think whether the Game of PACE is worth playing:
“If you are not big enough to lose, you are not big enough to win”.