13 & 14 March 2022
by Pavel Chikov, head of Agora International Human Rights Group, and Kirill Koroteev, head of international practice at Agora International Human Rights Group
Pavel Chikov [13 March 2022]: Tomorrow, 14 March, an extraordinary plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will meet to discuss “The consequences of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.” The meeting will begin at 14:30 Moscow time and, at 15:00 Moscow time, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address PACE.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided to consult PACE over the possibility of further measures following a decision to suspend the Russian Federation’s rights of representation in the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe because of serious violations of statutory obligations as a member-state.
PACE will continue its meeting on 15 March. According to the decision it reaches, PACE will draft its opinion, which will then be submitted to the Committee of Ministers. PACE’s decision must be approved by two-thirds of the members.
The meeting will also be attended by a representative of Italy, which currently holds the presidency of the Council of Europe, and by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe may decide to expel the Russian Federation from the organization immediately.
Report by Kirill Koroteev, head of the international practice at Agora [14 March 2022]: Opening the meeting [on 14 March], PACE President Tiny Cox called for a moment of silence in memory of the victims of “a war that should not have started and that should end immediately. By illegally crossing the border of Ukraine, Russia has crossed red lines, violating Article 1 of the Charter of the Council of Europe.”
Cox expressed gratitude to the member-states for their solidarity and help for refugees, and to the bodies of the Council of Europe for their speedily coordinated actions to suspend the rights of representation of the Russian Federation in the Council of Europe.
The Committee of Ministers requested PACE’s opinion concerning further actions regarding Russia. A draft of this opinion will be prepared and circulated this evening (there was no mention of its publication).
Today [14 March] the Prime Minister of Ukraine, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and a representative of the Italian Presidency of the Committee of Ministers will address the Parliamentary Assembly. Tomorrow [15 March] there will be a debate on proposals for further measures from 9.30 am to 20.30 CET.
Since it was not possible to include the Prime Minister of Ukraine, the meeting has been postponed until 16.00 CET.
Kirill Koroteev [Highlights from this evening’s emergency plenary meeting of PACE, 14 March 2022]: The Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal, recalled that, in 2019, PACE had restored the Russian delegation’s voting rights. [These had been suspended following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 – trans.] He deplored this as appeasement of an aggressor and a failure to uphold values. He called for Russia to be expelled from the organisation to protect Europe and halt the aggression.
Undersecretary of State at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Benedetto della Vedova, recalled all the measures taken by the organisation since the start of the Russian campaign in Ukraine, applauded the investigation launched by the International Criminal Court and the provisional measures taken by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), but did not propose any other concrete measures. He said that the Presidency of the Committee of Ministers would adopt a decision once it had received the opinion of PACE.
Replying to Spanish parliamentarian Antonio Gutiérrez Limones, who asked how the Committee of Ministers will protect Russians and all those under the control of the Russian Federation, the Italian representative said that the tools of the ECtHR are not very effective in protecting Russians from repression: recently Russia has not implemented a single ruling of the ECtHR. He expressed his admiration for the Russian and Ukrainian protestors.
Dutch delegate Pieter Omtzigt announced that the PACE commission had adopted a draft decision that Russia could not remain a member of the organisation.
Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, spoke in support of Russia’s proposal to leave the organisation. Russia is already not meeting its financial obligations to the organisation, and other states have offered to help close the cash gap. Russia’s withdrawal or exclusion from the Council of Europe will be a great tragedy for Russia, the Secretary General said.
At a plenary meeting tomorrow [15 March], PACE will consider a draft conclusion for the Committee of Ministers as to what the next steps should be. On 17 March, there will be a meeting of the Committee of Ministers, where a decision on future actions will be taken.
Translated by Elizabeth Teague