The current relationship between Ukraine and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) needs serious reevaluation, says Chairman of the Ukrainian delegation to organization Volodymyr Ariev.
The politician believes that the recent developments that saw Russia’s return to PACE and Ukraine’s subsequent withdrawal was a “breakdown of principles and values.”
Ukrainian Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs assembled on July 1 to discuss further steps to be taken by Kyiv. Interfax-Ukraine reports that the Committee recommended Ukrainian delegation to suspend participation in PACE until the Venice Commission announces the results of its investigation into Russia’s unconditional return to PACE. In particular, Ariev notes the argument of the legal status of Russian parliamentarians elected through constituencies in annexed Crimea who could become members of the Russian delegation.
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On top of that, the Committee suggested the Parliament Speaker Andriy Parubiy withdraw the invitation for PACE observers to monitor early Ukrainian legislative election on July 21. Ariev mentions that PACE failed to take into account the problem of Russian observers on Ukrainian soil.
The delegate notes that the trust in the organization is “seriously undermined”, which made it easier for Ukraine to decide on further steps. Ariev’s colleague, Mariia Ionova adds that the biggest shame was that PACE’s discredit was “what Russian President Vladimir would have wanted”.
“The war goes on”
European parliamentarians named a number of reasons to vote in favor of Russia’s return during the debate on June 24, but Ionova believes that the question of money was not crucial, considering the “budget [surpluses] of big European countries”. She goes on to cite that even a country as small as Georgia offered to pay a share of Russia’s unpaid contributions. As of June 24, Russia owed PACE around 66 million euros.
The question of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), access to which Russians would lose if the country chose to leave Council of Europe (CoE) permanently, was also played down by Ionova. She mentions the journalist investigation which revealed that despite Russian citizens’ regular appeals to the European court, only a fraction of ECtHR resolutions was implemented by Moscow. In 2015, Russia’s Constitutional Court ruled that it was not obligatory for the state to implement decisions of international courts since Russian law prevailed.
Ionova argues that despite the battle being lost, the “war goes on due to Russia’s credentials not being ratified in full”.
Ukrainian delegation has high hopes in the Venice Commission, whose decision could strengthen Ukraine’s position, but as things stand, Ukraine only suspended participation in the summer session of PACE. Ionova mentions that repercussions of “bad decisions” could have been grave for Ukraine in light of the forthcoming parliamentary elections, the consequent formation of new delegation and potential change of line. She draws attention to Ukraine’s participation in CoE and its “international obligations”.
At the same time, Ukrainian delegates stress the importance of taking actions in coordination with Ukraine’s partners – Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, and Georgia – who signed a joint statement condemning Russia’s return to PACE. Ionova highlights the need to “be tougher with Germany and France,” in particular.
Regarding the position agreed internally, she emphasizes the importance of formulating a “common position” with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a similar fashion to “what Ukraine had over the past five years”. Thus, Ionova hints at the recent conflict between Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin who dismissed Russia’s proposal – to transfer the 24 captured Ukrainian sailors to Ukraine where they should be indicted according to Russian law – without first consulting with the President. On July 1, Klimkin announced “political vacation” even before the Ukrainian MPs get a second chance to dismiss him on July 9.