The summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which began on Monday, June 20, in Strasbourg, opened with a minute of silence in memory of those killed as a result of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine. PACE President Tiny Cox called on the Russian leadership to “immediately stop the war, for which there was not a single reason.”
This session is the first after the spread of COVID-19, which is being held in full face-to-face format, in the conditions of the physical presence of PACE deputies. An exception was made only for the Ukrainian delegation. The leadership of the assembly took into account that, for obvious reasons, not all Ukrainian deputies will be able to personally come to Strasbourg.
Tikhanovskaya invited to PACE
But, as Aleksey Goncharenko, a member of the delegation from Ukraine, told DW, most of his colleagues are present in the PACE session hall. “Ukraine’s task is to make the most of this platform in order to voice all the topics that are important for us and place all the accents,” Goncharenko explained. He also noted that in the context of the full-fledged work of the session, the Ukrainian deputies had the opportunity to communicate behind the scenes with “representatives of the political elites of the member countries Council of Europe (CE)” and they are going to take full advantage of it.
If we talk about the agenda of the session, then it was almost completely “shaped” by Russia’s war against Ukraine. On Tuesday, June 21, the deputies will discuss and adopt a resolution on how the Council of Europe should respond to the latest security challenges in Europe. On the same day, the leadership of the Council of Europe, the heads of the PACE political groups and special guests of the session – the foreign ministers of Ireland and Finland – will hold a high-level interactive debate on the topic “Support for democratic security in Europe.” The leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was also invited to the debate.
A block of humanitarian questions related to the consequences wars in Ukraine, consisting of three resolutions, the deputies will consider on Wednesday, June 22. They are devoted to the problems of migration caused by Russian aggression, the protection of refugee children who are unaccompanied by their parents or guardians, and the problems of the legal protection of women during and after military conflicts. In addition, during the opening of the session, the deputies voted to hold the current debate on the topic “Consequences of the blockade of the Black Sea.”
Removal of the Russian flag in front of the Council of Europe building in Strasbourg, March 16, 2022
About Russia without Russia
A feature of the current PACE session is that the deputies will debate and vote on two resolutions that directly relate to the issues of human rights violations and the principles of the rule of law in Russia. As you know, March 16 this year Russia was excluded from the CE because of “an unprovoked military invasion of Ukraine.” Thus, the delegation of the State Duma of the Russian Federation automatically lost its representation in PACE, and the assembly itself lost the right to carry out comprehensive monitoring of human rights observance in Russia. Nevertheless, the resolutions “The need to restore human rights and the rule of law in the North Caucasus region” and “The cases of political prisoners in the Russian Federation” were submitted for discussion at the current session on Tuesday, June 21.
As the CE press service explained to DW, the preparation of PACE resolutions is not a matter of several weeks or months. And work on reports on human rights violations in the North Caucasus and political prisoners in the Russian Federation began in 2017 and 2020, respectively, when Moscow was still part of the Council of Europe, so the speakers continued their activities after the exclusion of the Russian Federation.
In addition, in the PACE resolution on the response of the Council of Europe to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, adopted during the April session, the deputies promised that, despite the strong rejection of the Kremlin’s policy, PACE would consistently strengthen cooperation with Russian civil society. That is why the situation with human rights in the Russian Federation will more than once become an occasion for discussion in the PACE session hall, despite the fact that Russia is no longer a member of the Council of Europe.