The chairman of the Russian State Duma’s International Affairs Committee, Leonid Slutsky, is skeptical about the idea to make Russia pay off its contributions to the Council of Europe for the period when it was suspended from the Parliamentary Assembly.
"Why should we pay huge money for the years when we were absent, when 70% of judges to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights were elected, when the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights was elected, when resolutions and recommendations from the Committee of Ministers were passed, a great many of them — openly anti-Russian?" he asked a news conference.
The payment "of these lump sums looks questionable," Slutsky is quoted as saying by TASS.
The lower house’s Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin dubbed the demand that Russia should pay contributions to the budget of the Council of Europe for the period when its delegation was absent from PACE as unfair. "This is not about the money, it is about justice," he stressed on Thursday.
Russia and PACE
In April 2014, Russia’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was stripped of its key rights, including the right to vote, over the situation in Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia. The issue of restoring the rights of the Russian delegation was raised at PACE twice throughout 2015 but sanctions remained in place. In response, Russia suspended its participation in PACE’s activities. The country did not apply for confirmation of its rights in 2016-2018. Moscow suggested PACE’s regulations be amended to ensure that no one could strip lawmakers of their rights except their voters.
Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjorn Jagland said on October 10 that Russia’s membership in the organization’s Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly might be suspended starting from June 2019 due to non-payment of monetary contributions. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded that Moscow would quit the Council of Europe if opposing member states called for expelling Russia.
In January 2019, the two houses of the Russian parliament issued statements pointing out that there were no reasons for Russia to return to PACE in 2019. In addition, the State Duma upheld the move to suspend the payment of the country’s contribution.
On April 10, PACE members adopted a resolution on the role and mission of the Assembly, which, in part, mentioned the need to maintain Russia’s Council of Europe membership and called on Moscow to form a delegation to PACE and pay membership dues. The resolution says that PACE’s sanctions against the Russian delegation following Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the country’s subsequent decision to terminate participation in the Assembly’s activities caused discord within the organization.
On May 17, the Council of Europe published a statement by the Committee of Ministers, which stressed that all its members "should be entitled to participate on an equal basis in the Committee of Ministers and in the Parliamentary Assembly." According to the document, "one of the fundamental obligations of member states is to pay their obligatory contributions to the ordinary budget." The ministers also noted that they would welcome the delegations of all member states to participate in the next June session of PACE.
On June 26, 2019, the PACE session adopted a resolution, enshrining three key procedural norms saying that "the members’ rights to vote, to speak and to be represented in the Assembly and its bodies shall not be suspended or withdrawn in the context of a challenge to or reconsideration of credentials."
The next day, all powers of the Russian delegation were confirmed in full without any exceptions. The Russian parliamentarians started working in PACE. On July 2, Moscow paid its membership dues to the Council of Europe for the year 2019.