Finnish leader to discuss Russia’s involvement in Council of Europe’s activitiy with Putin

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HELSINKI, April 8. /TASS/. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto plans to discuss Russia’s future participation in the activities of the Council of Europe with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at their St. Petersburg meeting on April 9, as he himself said in an interview with TASS before departing for Russia to attend the International Arctic Forum.

“Every time we meet, and this time as well, we will definitely discuss pressing bilateral and global issues. In particular, I would like to discuss the Arctic. At the same time, it would be good to discuss the situation in the Council of Europe which we [Finland] are chairing now and we would like Russia to remain a member,” Niinisto pointed out.

He added that he planned to touch upon the situation in eastern Ukraine and once again highlight the importance of achieving a ceasefire. In addition, “the agenda will also involve relations between big powers and the situation in Syria,” the Finnish president noted.

According to him, there will also be a discussion of economic and environment cooperation.

Russia and Council of Europe

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.

Council of Europe Secretary General 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 said in response that Moscow would quit the Council of Europe if opposing member states called for expelling Russia.

On December 10, the PACE Committee on Rules of Procedure spoke out against depriving national delegations of their right to take part in electing the organization’s secretary general and judges of the European Court of Human Rights. However, Russian Permanent Representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said that Moscow would not be satisfied with a partial restoration of the Russian delegation’s rights, as it expected the rights to be restored in full. Chizhov added Russia also called for developing rules that would exclude the possibility of such actions in the future.

In January 2019, the two houses of the Russian parliament – the Federation Council and the State Duma – issued statements, pointing out 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.

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