In late September, the Ukrainian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe officially refused to participate in the autumn session of PACE due to Russia’s return. PACE President Liliane Mori-Pasquier stated that the dialogue with the Ukrainian delegation is important for her personally and for all members of the assembly. At the same time, the Ukrainian side claims a crisis of confidence in PACE and, if nothing changes, will continue to sabotage the work of the assembly. But first things first.
What happened between Ukraine and PACE
In April 2014, PACE deprived the Russian delegation of the right to vote and expelled its representatives from all the governing bodies of the assembly after the annexation of Crimea. In this regard, Russia has not paid contributions to the Council of Europe since June 2017. Many of PACE members and politicians called such actions of Russia blackmail.
On June 26, 2019, PACE profile committees considered the issue of the powers of the Russian delegation. Based on the results of the review, a recommendation was made to confirm them without imposing any sanctions, despite the violation by Moscow of the principles of the Council of Europe.
It was also reported that PACE resolution was adopted, it changes the sanctions mechanism and allows Russia to return to work in the organization without restrictions on voting rights.
In protest of such a decision, the delegations of Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine to PACE left the summer session ahead of schedule.
In early September of this year, it was reported that Russia paid PACE arrears for 2017-2018.
September 23, the Ukrainian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe officially refused to participate in the autumn session of PACE due to the return of Russia.
According to the official statement of the Ukrainian delegation, during the autumn session, the Ukrainian delegation will consult with PACE partners to find "common approaches and solutions that would return PACE to its reputation as an important model of democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human rights and freedoms in Europe."
Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, and Estonia also joined the boycott. In turn, representatives of the previous delegation of the Verkhovna Rada to PACE, which were included in its new composition, said that they plan to attend the PACE session.
Bogdan Yaremenko, the head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Foreign Policy and Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation, said that the Russian delegation was returned to PACE, ignoring all the recommendations of Ukraine. He added that the Verkhovna Rada decided to form a new delegation to PACE, but did not accredit it.
“We have made a decision – we have formed a delegation because we want to work in the Council of Europe, this organization is important for us, ideas, standards are important for us, but if they exist. If they are not there is a completely different situation, and we want to understand, there is whether they are or not. We created the delegation but decided not to accredit it. There was an idea to accredit the delegation but to decide that it is not in the PACE hall, but we could not implement this approach, because there is a group in our delegation of the Verkhovna Rada people who would go in there," he said.
According to Yaremenko, the PACE considers many important decisions for Ukraine.
"One of them is a report on the situation with the Crimean Tatars... Speaking about this report, we do not like the absolutely inappropriate comparison of the situation with human rights in Crimea and with the Crimean Tatars during the occupation, and especially the statement that there were problems before that. This has nothing to do with the situation of occupation, annexation; it’s a way of eroding our moral right to represent our people, including the interests of the indigenous people - Crimean Tatars - in international institutions. We would like to change this," Yaremenko noted.
Since the Ukrainian delegation will not be able to work in committees, the Ukrainian partners in PACE will be able to convey the pro-Ukrainian position.
Ukrainian delegation to PACE signed a statement on the establishment of the Baltic Plus permanent group in the organization with the participation of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Georgia as well. The task of the group is to continue the policy of not recognizing the annexation of Crimea, condemning the occupation by Russia of Crimea, parts of eastern Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova.
In addition, Yelyzaveta Yasko, the head of the Ukrainian delegation, said that after Russia returned to PACE, a crisis of confidence in this organization appeared.
“I think something needs to be done with the crisis. Such an organization should be very strong and very strict. If double standards are used there, it’s very sad. And we should clang all the bells, saying: no, an assembly can exist in this format in the XXI century," said Yasko.
PACE President Liliane Mori-Pasquier stated that cooperation and dialogue with the Ukrainian delegation "are important for her personally and all members of the assembly."
“After all, Ukraine is a member country of our organization. Ukraine can count on our full support. In this regard, I am disappointed that the Ukrainian parliament has not submitted the authority of its new delegation to open this session,” she said.
At the same time, the PACE President expressed the hope that Ukraine would do this as soon as possible. She also noted that PACE should continue to work together with the Russian delegation "on the basis of an open and honest dialogue."
The Russian delegation in PACE is supposedly ready to communicate with Ukrainian colleagues in Strasbourg.
“I am for talking. I understand that the new head of the Ukrainian delegation (Elizaveta Yasko) is also for talking,” said Petr Tolstoy, head of the Russian delegation, vice speaker of the State Duma.
At the same time, Yasko noted that "the French side (and all those who voted for the return of Russia to PACE) must be declared: something needs to be changed or we will continue to sabotage the work of the assembly."
She also added that “when a resolution is issued that specifically states: Russia must fulfill all the conditions for peace. When all the requirements will be put forward without exception. When the Russian Federation fulfills everything. Then we can say that the organization (PACE) regained its reputation that it is effective. "
Yasko summed up: she is 100% sure that the Ukrainian position is correct from the point of view of national interests.