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President Kersti Kaljulaid’s statement following a meeting with the future members of the Riigikogu delegation to the PACE

Kohtumas Riigikogu tulevase Euroopa Nõukogu Parlamentaarse Assamblee delegatsiooni liikmetega, et mõned Eesti jaoks olulised väärtusteemad tulevaste liikmetega läbi arutada, enne kui hakatakse juuni lõpus toimuvat sessiooni ette valmistama.
Meeting with the future members of the Riigikogu delegation to the PACE.
© Mattias Tammet/presidendi kantselei

31.05.2019

President Kersti Kaljulaid met today with the future members of the Riigikogu Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to discuss the values Estonia will be taking to the new session, preparations for which will begin at the end of June.  President Kaljulaid made a statement following the meeting, in which she said the following:

“As we know, in April 2014, the Russian delegation was denied voting rights and the right to be elected to lead the PACE’s management bodies and to participate in observation missions. It is important to remember that the reason for these sanctions was Russia’s gross violation of international law. This was not a procedural but a value-based decision.

If we look at the situation again now, in 2019, we see that Crimea remains occupied. There are still battles going on in Donbass every day. If we look at Russia’s behaviour, a considerable part of Georgian territory continues to be occupied, too. Nothing has changed for the better. Now, the PACE is to discuss whether we should waive the sanctions imposed five years ago, because Russia has threatened to leave the Council of Europe altogether if they should be left in place.

The question has once again attracted public attention, because last week, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe recommended that the PACE should take steps to restore the Russian delegation’s voting rights. It is true that the purpose of this was to ensure that Russia remains a member of the Council of Europe and Russian citizens maintain the opportunity to turn to the European Court of Human Rights to protect their rights. Here, there are two important conflicting principles– protection of Ukraine from Russian aggression and protection of the rights of Russian citizens from the arbitrariness of their country’s national authorities.

As I said, the PACE’s decision to suspend the Russian delegation’s voting rights because of Crimea was bold and based on values. However, today, there is also another reason to suspend these voting rights: namely that Russia has failed to pay its membership fees. If these are left unpaid for two years, the voting rights will be suspended anyway.

Today, I spoke with the members of the Estonian parliament from all factions who are to become members of our delegation and they all agreed that we need strategic patience. This is a situation where interests and values clash. For a small country, it is simple to make their choice in such a situation – we can always, and only, be on the side of values. Interests can change and be reversed but not the value compass.

The solution to the stalemate and problems in PACE cannot be resolved in its halls via political compromises and votes. The solution can only come from Russia changing its behaviour in Ukraine and Georgia. It can come from making international law valid again. Only then can we discuss whether or how the results of these moves are transferred to the PACE and other bodies related to the convention system of the Council of Europe.

This was also the essence of the discussion held today with members of the parliament. We know that the proposal that is to be discussed is not specifically about the restoration of Russia’s voting rights; it is an attempt to bypass the problem by using procedural changes. We discussed how to tactically ensure that all factions are aware of Estonia’s position despite that the texts laid before us seem to talk about procedures while in reality, it is all about the elephant in the room, i.e. Russia. The discussion was substantial and I thank the future members of the delegation who agreed to come here today.”

 

The Council of Europe is an international organisation that joins 47 European countries in order to promote and strengthen human rights, rule of law and democracy. Belarus is the only European country that does not belong to the organisation.

 

The European Court of Human Rights, founded on the basis of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, is an independent institution that rules on cross-border disputes and alleged violations of the rights set out in the convention of the citizens of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.

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