Why PACE prepares to lift the sanctions on Russia?

Author : Serhiy Sydorenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

The first day of the Parliamentary Assembly session ended with a sensational statement by its President Pedro Agramunt
11:15, 25 January 2017

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Spanish politician, who heads the Assembly in 2016-2017, for the first time publicly acknowledged that he not only wants to return to Russia of PACE, but also to fully restore its rights – that is lift all sanctions imposed on Russia before.

The basic idea - to return the Russians as soon as possible - gradually “melts,” it does not have enough votes.

Thus a new plan was born - shoot sanctions from Russia through a comprehensive reform of the Council of Europe. Spokespersons acknowledge these plans in official comments: Strasbourg institutions must "adapt to new realities." And to be frank, "new realities," among other things, require to give up the principles for cooperation with Moscow.

Revelation of Pedro Agramunt

Agramunt’s public statement about the need to fully restore the rights of Russians in PACE was made for the first year of his presidency of the Assembly. Moreover, his statement was not unexpected. Assembly President’s support of the Russians, including the closed parliamentary meetings, became a subject for jokes among the members of the assembly.

Related: Ukraine’s PACE Delegation head: We’ve got to hope for EU-Ukraine visa free regime

His statements were not highlighted by the media though. After being elected as a president Agramunt stopped communicating with journalists, abolished the mandatory press conference before the session and did not give any interviews, he limited with written responses to questions.

Briefing for a narrow circle of journalists was held on January 23; it was the first briefing of PACE president on his post and immediately brought sensational news about the desire to lift the sanctions on Russians. But more interesting was the other statement of President of PACE, which did not cause a similar reaction of the readers.

Pedro Agramunt announced plans to convene a summit of the Council of Europe, which could solve "the problem of Russia."

The format of the summit would be an exclusive event for the Council of Europe. During its nearly 70-year history, the organization has held only three summits. Today began preparations for the Fourth Summit of PACE.

Related: Agramunt encourages lifting sanctions against Russia in PACE

The idea of the meeting was voiced before, but the connection between Agramunt and the Russian side was not publicly acknowledged.

Meanwhile, preparations for the event, which is to bring together the leaders of all 47 member states Council of Europe, has already begun.

A year ago more than 20 parliamentarians, including leaders of political groups issued a statement on the need for the summit. In November 2016, the Standing Committee (the governing body) of PACE adopted a declaration of Nicosia and approved the start of preparation for this meeting.

Distant plans

Currently, no one officially called the expected date of the summit, but sources in the European Parliament say the preliminary decision is taken. If there is no disruption of the arrangements, Summit to be held in May or the summer of 2019, during the French presidency of the Council of Europe (which starts in May and will last until November).

Related: Sanctions against Russia in PACE should remain until Ukrainian territorial integrity is restored, - MFA

This time the meeting will be symbolic because exactly 70 years before that, May 5, 1949, London agreement establishing the Council of Europe was signed.

Formally, this decision is consistent - at least have to wait for the French presidential elections (eg in the case of Le Pen victory all the ideas of the summit will be successfully buried). And despite this, the experts started working on the summit documents concerning Russian question.

The goal is simple: to give the Duma clear guarantees that if the arrival of Russians in Strasbourg against them will not be updated.

Related: Savchenko may be excluded from PACE, - Ukrainian official

Russia remembers its shame in 2015, when hard landing led by then-Speaker of the State Duma Naryshkin came to PACE. Then he was let to enter France even despite of his "banned" status.

However, despite all entreaties and meetings with the Russians, the assembly not only lifted the sanctions, but tightened restrictions imposed in 2014. The delegation of the Russian Federation was denied the right to vote, to head any institution of the Assembly, and participate in observation missions.

Related: Pedro Agramunt re-elected as President of PACE

Russia does not want to repeat this experience, so during one of Agramunt’s visits to Moscow a certain agreement was reached: the Russians will return if the PACE changes its rules, and Ukraine has no practical opportunity to challenge their authority.

MPs, who were sympathetic to Russia, even drafted relevant amendments to the regulations of PACE and planned to approve in the fall. But autumn session showed that there were no chances to hold it through the Assembly.

This is why Russia’s friends are forced to play a "long play". And that is why the idea of returning Russia after the summit is now considered as a major one.

Who is in?

The events of 2019 at first glance may seem not that significant, but Ukraine will make a huge mistake if postpone the problem "for later." Then it would just be too late - key decisions will be prepared for the summit this year, and in 2018 some of them will be finally approved. There is good news. Diplomats and deputies are aware of the danger, and some of them are now trying to "keep abreast" the opaque arrangements.

Related: Russia will not join PACE plenary and committee sessions in 2017

So, who will be the players in this process? First - the good news. Pedro Agramunt, who had extremely controversial reputation in recent years, and became the target of constant criticism for his friendly relations with authoritarian regimes, is moving away from the scene.

Rather, representative of conservatives would become the new PACE chairperson. The majority of this group include three national delegations - the Turks, the British, and the Poles, and it is believed that British MPs have the best chance to lead the Assembly.

Related: "PACE considers not expulsion of Russia but maintaining current status quo", - Ariev

Of course, the specific name of the deputy, nominated for the presidency, is also important. And the whole group of conservatives, which takes "pro-Ukrainian" positions in the Assembly, is in majority; so we have reason for optimism.

The second important player is France. This variant is unfortunately, somewhat less optimistic. But its importance for the Presidency of the summit is much less than the value of the PACE President.

And finally, one more player, which should not be underestimated. This is not surprising ... Ukraine itself. Namely - Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and the Ukrainian mission in Strasbourg.

Related: Tricks of Trump: Why nuclear disarmament in exchange for lifting of sanctions is deception?

Formal decisions regarding the announcement of the summit, its results, and the documents will be prepared by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers. De facto, this is the level of ambassador and, in some cases, Foreign Minister. And this is their responsibility to track, find and stop a dangerous initiatives.

The Council of Europe really needs changes (including through Russian aggression, actual dictatorship in Azerbaijan and Turkey; these complex processes are difficult to ignore).

But the main problem is the organization has become weaker after this reform. And Russia became a winner. At least now we have all the levers in order to prevent such a scenario.


Related: Brok: Cancelling anti-Russia sanctions means to give up Ukraine

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