Council of Europe poised to restore Russian voting rights

Council of Europe poised to restore Russian voting rights

Russia is due to have its voting rights in the Council of Europe restored, despite the conflict in Ukraine, to avoid the troublesome member from leaving this year, the body’s chief.

Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of the pro-democracy organisation, said the 47-member council, which oversees the 1949 human rights convention and European Court of Human Rights, was heading for a crisis in June.

Pro-Kremlin RT said, in 2017, Russia contributed €33 million to the council’s budget out of a total of €454 million. Moscow’s decision forced the body to freeze 9 per cent of its budget expenditures and still left the it with a deficit of €1.5 million, the unreliable source said.

The Council of Europe is not to be confused with the European Council, which represents member states within the EU.

In June 2017 Russia stopped paying its membership fees in protest at the suspension of its voting rights in 2014 and 2015. After two years of non-payments, a member can be suspended, although Russia says it would leave first.  

“The Council of Europe is the only place where Russia is connected to Europe in a binding judicial way,” Jagland said. “We will see a different Russia. We will have a new dividing line in Europe.

“We should not underestimate the negative consequences, especially if we combine it with Brexit for the EU. We could have two developments that could really shake up Europe,” the former Norwegian prime minister said.  

The comments will anger Ukraine.

Dmytro Kuleba, the permanent Ukrainian representative on the council, said Kiev was “interested in making Russia abide by the commitments and obligations it has undertaken” in the loose-knit body.

“The narrative that ‘we will lose Russia if we don’t accommodate its demands’ is manipulative and aims at spreading fear among member states … in order to nudge them towards taking decisions favourable for Russia,” Kuleba added.

Russia suspended financial contributions, which amounted to about 7 per cent of the organisation’s budget, in June 2017.

On Friday, head of the Russian Senate’s International Relations Committee Konstantin Kosachev said Russia “entertains a possibility of leaving the Council of Europe”, according to RT.

Jagland said 140 million Russian citizens would br the victims if the Kremlin left the council, because they would no longer be able to appeal to the ECHR to enforce their human rights, obtain compensation or oblige the authorities to change any contravening law. Russia makes up about a third of the council’s business.

The Council of Europe. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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