Lavrov Says Moscow’s Return to Council of Europe After 2014-19 Exclusion Proves Threats And Ultimatums Are Futile

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that Monday’s visit to Moscow by Council of Europe head Marija Pejcinovic Buric symbolically draws a line under the crisis which engulfed the transcontinental organisation in 2014, RT reported.

At that time, Russia was stripped of its rights to vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), take part in monitoring missions, or have members in the PACE leadership bodies. The schism followed the events in Ukraine and Crimea that year, and Moscow wasn’t fully reinstated until June 2019.

Lavrov said that the resolution of the problems caused by the restriction of the Russian delegation’s rights has shown that ultimatums and pressure are unacceptable and futile in Europe. He was speaking during a joint press conference with Buric, the Council of Europe’s secretary general.

The diplomat said the 2014-19 impasse was down to illegal actions by some members of PACE that contradicted the organization’s statute.

“Now the situation has changed qualitatively, primarily as a result of the session of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers held in Helsinki last May. The rights of Russian parliamentarians have been fully restored since then,” Lavrov explained. “The main lesson of that situation is that using the language of threats, ultimatums and pressure in the Council of Europe is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to try to violate the key principles on which the Council of Europe is based, and which are enshrined in its Statute.”

He noted that Buric’s visit was taking place in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of Russia’s Council of Europe membership. “We will celebrate that date on February 28, 2021. This is probably a good reason to analyze where we are and what tasks we face in the interests of further cooperation between the Council of Europe and the Russian Federation,” he said.

PACE first considered the issue of reinstating the rights of the Russian delegation in 2015, but actually wound up increasing the sanctions. In response, Moscow announced that it refused to work in such conditions and, in 2017, Russia froze the payment of its membership fees to the Council of Europe budget. As the organization’s largest member, and home to around 20% of Europe’s population, some doubted there was a point to PACE without Russia’s participation.

On June 26, 2019, members of the PACE summer session approved the resolution, drafted by a monitoring committee, which confirmed the restoration of full powers of the Russian delegation. This prompted a furious response from Kiev, as Ukraine announced it would leave the institution. However, the Ukrainians returned to PACE just six months later.