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We should not give Russia reasons to believe that it is forgiven

Author : Egidijus Vareikis

Respondent : Egidijus Vareikis

10:28, 1 November 2016
We should not give Russia reasons to believe that it is forgiven

Author : Egidijus Vareikis

Respondent : Egidijus Vareikis

Egidijus Vareikis, one of the most respected delegates in PACE, speaks on the inner PACE-Russia conflict and dialogue with Moscow

10:28, 1 November 2016

Read the original text at eurointegration.com.ua.

Alex Williamson

During the autumn session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President Pedro Agramunt tried to ensure that the Russian delegation assured painless return to the Assembly next year.

In January 2017, all PACE delegation should receive formal confirmation of their powers. Russia is well aware that the existing procedure does not prevent the continuation of sanctions, because the Kremlin has offered a proven method of totalitarian regimes that "uncomfortable" law must be redrawn.

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This mechanism was agreed at the level of the PACE, it had to be endured in the session hall... but this attempt coincided with news of Russia war crimes in Aleppo, so it was failed - any faction did not support Ahramunt.

However, negotiations on the return of Russia continue.

Lithuanian parliamentarian Egidijus Vareikis (Group of the European People's Party), one of the most respected delegates in PACE, told about the nature of PACE dialogue with Moscow.

* * * * *

Mr. Vareikis, in your opinion, does the situation that arose with the Russian delegation in PACE need special consideration?

Russia in PACE has always been a problem. Ever since the country joined the Council of Europe, the Assembly began having trouble with the delegation of the State Duma.

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For 12 years am I a member of the PACE, and I can say that every session we are dealing with one or more so-called "Russian question." Russian first had the problem in connection with the war in Chechnya, the conflict in Transnistria, permanent warning signs of violation of human rights, then there was the war in Georgia, and now - in Ukraine. Finally PACE decided to limit participation of Russian delegation to the Assembly, put forward to them a number of clear and strict conditions.

Formally, Russia will remain a member of the Council of Europe, PACE but the Russians are offended and decided to limit themselves by refusing to participate in the Assembly.

Now in Russia began to impose conditions that it is willing to return to the assembly.

Of course, it would be good if the Russian delegation were with us, because the idea of Europe is that if Russia is among us, we can control it to some extent, educate and retrain making more European.

Although I am rather skeptical about the idea of imparting European values.

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What conditions does Russia impose?

Moscow says it will return to PACE only if the Assembly does not require any conditions and resolutions. And there are people in the Council of Europe who say, let them do it, the Russians will do it later, it is important to have dialogue with Russia.

But this is an eternal story.

First, Europe highlights of certain conditions, then Russia does not fulfill them, but at the same time said, "We need you to let us come back. Soften your requirements, let us be pragmatic," hoping that we would forget all about the conditions and requirements. We must ask ourselves, whether we need such a delegation.

What PACE can offer Russia?

We need to devise a formula for how to communicate with the Russian State Duma delegation without returning to full membership in PACE.

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Does the Council of Europe have such a strategy? I think not. But I see that the PACE and the Council of Europe do not have common position concerning cooperation with Russia.

Of course, we need dialogue and communication, but communication does not necessarily mean extensive cooperation.

That is you do not believe in a full dialogue with Russia?

I always encourage communication, but communication with Russia does not mean that we do not have any problems with it.

For example, I was appointed PACE rapporteur on the humanitarian consequences of the conflict in Ukraine. I have visited Mariupol, I planned to visit the occupied territories of Donbas, occupied Crimea, talk to refugees not only those who left the zone of conflict to other regions of Ukraine, but also from those who went to Russia. But I could not do it without communication with the Russian authorities.

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As a specialist in military conflicts, I can say that even the warring parties have communication. We need communication, but we should not give Russia reason to believe that we are forgiven and forgotten.

The PACE proposed to edit rules that Russia could easier return to work in the Assembly.

The Council of Europe must not invent a special status for one country. And this is very important to emphasize.

Council of Europe includes 47 peer countries. But Russia always wants to demonstrate that it has different size or importance, and it cannot be treated the same way as, for example, Georgia or Lithuania.

Perhaps in some international instances it works. But here, in PACE, this is not out of the question. This is not the Security Council, where Russia has veto power. I think, Russia should behave as an equal, not as a special member of the Council of Europe.

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How do you treat the statements of the Ukrainian delegation about the possible refusal to participate in the Assembly if in January the State Duma delegation will return to PACE?

My friendly practical advice for the Ukrainian colleagues: do not leave the assembly, do not miss the opportunity to take part in it.

In addition, this position "if you come, we will go" is the reason for the internal war in PACE. If the Ukrainian delegation is against the return of the Russian delegation some other countries might also be against Ukraine and leave.

Of course, it will be very bad if PACE invites Russia to back without any conditions. This certainly will cause protests in some countries or even refusing to participate in the sessions.

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Do you know that the Ukrainian delegation wants to initiate early dismissal PACE President Pedro Agramunt because of its political bias?

Yes, I heard about it. Frankly, I do not know whether there is such a possibility in the regulations, and if it is, it can be realized, it is democracy. I think it would be better to convince Pedro Ahramunt change his political views. And it can be more difficult than initiating his resignation.

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