Russia In, Ukraine Out: Latest Developments at PACE, Explained by Experts
27 June, 2019
A summer session at PACE in Strasbourg, France on June 24, 2019. Council of Europe / Candice Imbert

The Ukrainian delegation has left the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) after Russia regained its powers within the body this week. 

Earlier this week, PACE adopted a resolution that would see Russia return to the assembly hall, with 118 deputies voting in favor and 62 against. 

In doing so, PACE de facto lifted sanctions against Russia imposed for its aggression against Ukraine. The body imposed sanctions on Russia in April 2014 following its annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the war in Donbas, depriving Russians of their right to vote. Therefore, the Russian delegation stopped participating in the work of PACE.

They were officially invited to return to the assembly this week. Russia will now be able to resume its work with PACE – and introduce deputies from the occupied Crimean peninsula to its delegation.

READ MORE: Ukraine Suspends its PACE Membership Following the Decision to Bring Russia Back

Hromadske spoke with Ukrainian diplomats, experts and delegates to PACE on how the country should proceed. 

Representatives of Ukraine: The Country Must Take a Tough Stance

Dmytro Kuleba, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the Council of Europe:

The Ukrainian parliament’s participation strategy in the activities of the Parliamentary Assembly should be determined by the parliament itself. And until we have a parliamentary decision on whether, for example, the delegation will come to the October session, I would not make far-reaching conclusions.

I am convinced that Ukraine should respond to what happened strongly – this is a matter of self respect. And this reaction should concern not only the PACE inter-parliamentary cooperation block, but also the intergovernmental cooperation block. Thus, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is exploring various options to develop a comprehensive policy regarding the Council of Europe. But the fundamental principle of this new policy is the thesis that the “old” Council of Europe has ceased to exist after (this week’s) events. And now we have a new reality, a new organization, which has been discredited.

The point of cooperation with any state or organization is to be able to defend our interests there. Of course, what happened (this week) is, in essence, a suspension the Council of Europe’s principles. But not all its possibilities are exhausted. My personal position as an ambassador is that we, of course, have to take a tough stance and develop a new policy that will hurt the Council of Europe. But at the same time we must remain members of the Council of Europe.

READ MORE: Ukraine Officially Leaves PACE, Calls it a "Discredited Organization"

At the beginning of this year, the situation radically changed due to the fact that in certain European capitals they decided to return Russians at any price. Everything began to unfold rapidly. And we got this result. Therefore, we need to congratulate not the Russian diplomacy, but the European one for Russia’s return. I am convinced that our opponents will make every effort so that the appeal will end in a positive result for them.

Oleksiy Honcharenko, member of the Ukrainian delegation to PACE

Our decision is to stop participating in the work of this session of PACE, except when it comes to issues relating to the imposition of sanctions on the Russian Federation. 

We use all the mechanisms that the Ukrainian delegation has. Even if we manage to impose at least some sanctions on the Russian delegation – we cannot impose them in full, since some of these sanctions have already been simply liquidated – we will still leave PACE, but this will be important from a moral point of view, and will tie in with our next steps.

READ MORE: MEPs, Politicians and Intellectuals Call to "Save the Council of Europe"

The Russians have argued over the past few years that they will only work with PACE if they have full powers. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how they behave if we manage to impose certain restrictions.

But in any case, what has happened is that the Council of Europe has lost much of its authority and is attempting to create a new reality in which they try to talk with and pacify the aggressor. 

Kateryna Zelenko, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson

We must note that PACE shot itself in the foot, depriving itself of mechanisms to influence violating countries when they don’t adhere to the norms and principles of the constituent documents. Of course, we will continue to cooperate with the Council of Europe. We have a lot of problems that need to be solved with the use of Council of Europe’s tools: political prisoners, illegally detained Ukrainians, sentences against activists and Crimean Tatars.

We need to quickly develop mechanisms for future work, because the situation has changed. We have moved from the phase of normal relations to the period when we will look at our interaction with the Council of Europe, especially its parliamentary component, in a purely pragmatic way.

READ MORE: Russia Might Rejoin PACE. What Would That Mean?

Experts: We Lost the Main Battle

Maria Tomak, Coordinator of the Media Initiative for Human Rights

On June 26, the Parliamentary Assembly will consider the reports of the committees. A report, which deals with substantive issues (and was considered by PACE on June 26 -ed.), will propose sanctions that may be imposed on the Russian Federation. But these will certainly not be the significant sanctions imposed over the years. That is, Russia will be able to participate in the meetings of the Parliamentary Assembly. These might be very minor restrictions: for example, restricting delegates’ ability to submit any written requests. In any case, the main battle is already lost.

Volodymyr Ohryzko, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine

After June 25, it's a different Council of Europe. We must say goodbye to this structure as a symbol of the protection of human rights, an international organization where the rule of law reigns. This is a very sad and unfortunate fact, and not only for Ukraine. This applies to all European states that today have lost an important instrument. I agree with the sentiment that the Council of Europe will turn into a kind of “mini-UN Security Council”, where they will debate and urge, but not make decisions.

READ MORE: PACE Restores Russia’s Voting Rights

To pretend that nothing has happened – we have been insulted, but we will “swallow” this – that’s the worst thing to do. If Ukraine takes this position, then we will be a doormat. And not only in the Council of Europe. The question is how tough should our reaction should be. I’m more inclined towards a tough position.