Statement by Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) approved changes to its rules of procedure that would allow for the return of the delegation of the Russian Federation after it was banned following the occupation of Crimea. A vote on restoring the mandate of the Russian delegation is held as early as tomorrow. Unfortunately, restoring Russia’s mandate in the current circumstances and in this manner goes against the values of the Council of Europe and does not serve the interests of Europe.
The circumstances that led to the decision by PACE to limit Russia’s voting rights after the annexation of Crimea have not changed. Russia’s aggression has caused the deaths of more than 13 000 people in Ukraine, Russia clearly continues to escalate the conflict, and it continues to hold Ukrainian sailors detained on the Black Sea as prisoners.
Russia’s unwillingness to adhere to the values of the Council of Europe is vividly demonstrated by a statement of the Russian State Duma on the formation of the Russian delegation to PACE. The delegation would reportedly include persons who have been added to the list of sanctions of the European Union. This is a clear provocation. In the past decade, as a member of the Council of Europe, Russia has attacked two other members of the Council of Europe.
Even though it is unlikely, I hope that PACE will reject the proposal to restore the rights of the Russia delegation tomorrow. The return of Russia’s delegation to PACE without it complying with the terms set out in PACE’s resolutions sends a completely wrong signal at a time when Russia continues to violate the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and Georgia, including the illegal annexation of Crimea. We must be resolute when one of the members violates the rules, international law, and human rights. Estonia will always vocally stand up for these principles.
PACE is the oldest international parliamentary assembly in Europe; its first session was held on 10 August 1949. The role of the Council of Europe is to protect the fundamental values of its members: human rights, the rule of law, and democracy.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia
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