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Reconsideration on substantive grounds of previously ratified credentials of the Russian delegation (Rule 9 of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly)

Report | Doc. 12045 | 29 September 2009

Committee
Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)
Rapporteur :
Mr Andreas GROSS, Switzerland, SOC
Origin
Reference to committee: Doc. 12014, Reference No. 3590 of 28 September 2009 2009 - Fourth part-session
Thesaurus

Summary

The Monitoring Committee reaffirms that the war between Georgia and Russia in itself constitutes a serious violation of the Statute of the Council of Europe, as well as of specific obligations and accession commitments of both countries. In this respect, the committee regrets that, one year after the war, most of the Assembly’s key demands have not been implemented and that very little progress has been made in addressing the consequences of the war in a satisfactory manner.

However, the committee recognises that, in such a complex situation as that of the consequences of the war, the fulfilment of the Assembly’s demands may not be easily achieved within the strict deadlines fixed. In addition, it acknowledges that these demands were directed to the Russian authorities whose policies are not in the hands of the members of the Russian delegation. Therefore, also taking into account the importance of a continued dialogue between the members of the Russian delegation and the Assembly, the committee proposes to confirm the ratification of the credentials of the Russian delegation to the Assembly.

At the same time, the committee considers that a culture of mutual respect should be created and proposes to step up its monitoring procedure with respect to Russia, including in relation to the demands made in the respective resolutions of the Assembly dealing with the consequences of the war between Russia and Georgia, and, in that context, to draw up a specific roadmap for compliance, including timelines.

A Draft resolution

1 On 11 September 2009, a motion was tabled, signed by 72 members, requesting the reconsideration on substantive grounds of previously ratified credentials of the Russian delegation, under rule 9.1a of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliamentary Assembly, in view of the persistent failure of Russia to honour its obligations and commitments imposed upon it by the Assembly Resolutions 1633 (2008) and 1647 (2009) and its lack of co-operation in the Assembly’s monitoring procedure within the meaning of Rule 8.2.b of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure. In particular, the authors of the motion pointed out that Russia had not only “failed to fulfil the key demands of Resolutions 1633 (2008) and 1647 (2009) adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly” but had also “undertaken steps that further depart from their implementation”.
2 The Assembly reiterates that the war between Georgia and Russia in itself constitutes a serious violation of the Statute of the Council of Europe, as well as of specific obligations and accession commitments of both countries (Resolution 1631 (2008)). In Resolutions 1633 (2008) and 1647 (2009), the Assembly therefore formulated a series of concrete demands on both Georgia and Russia, which together form an impartial and transparent roadmap for both countries, as well as for the Assembly itself, to address the consequences of the war.
3 The implementation by both countries of the above-mentioned demands of the Assembly has been a main point of focus in the work of the Assembly over the past year. Regrettably, the Assembly has to conclude that one year after the war most of its key demands have not been implemented and that very little progress has been made in addressing the consequences of the war in a satisfactory manner.
4 However, the Assembly also considers that, in such a complex situation as that of the consequences of the war, especially in the light of the ongoing controversy about the precise circumstances surrounding the outbreak of the war, the fulfilment of its demands may not be easily achieved within the strict deadlines fixed. In this respect, the Assembly notes the publication of the report by the international fact-finding mission on the origins and course of the conflict between Georgia and Russia established by the European Union due on Tuesday 29 September 2009. It recalls that it has resolved to return to that specific issue after the fact-finding mission has presented its report.
5 While regretting that members of the Russian delegation have publicly spoken against compliance by Russia with the Assembly demands, it acknowledges that its demands were directed to the Russian authorities whose policies are not in the hands of the members of the Russian delegation to our Assembly. Moreover, the Assembly remains convinced that the establishment of a genuine dialogue between Russia and Georgia and between the Assembly and the parliamentary delegations of these two states is the only way forward for the resolution of the conflict and for securing the long-term stability of the region.
6 Therefore, the Assembly, notwithstanding the lack of compliance by Russia with most of its demands, decides to confirm the ratification of the credentials of the Russian delegation, on the understanding that this will enable the Russian authorities to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue with a view to addressing all the issues mentioned in the Assembly resolutions on the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia.
7 The Assembly considers that a culture of mutual respect should be created, whereby partners can disagree with each other but accept the obligation to engage in a dialogue to explain the disagreements and declare readiness to look for mutually acceptable compromises. Such explanations would contribute to a better mutual understanding and, in so doing, would be the best contribution to possibly overcoming the disagreement one day.
8 The Assembly reiterates its resolve, as expressed in Resolution 1633 (2008), to step up its monitoring procedure with respect to Russia, including in relation to the demands made in its respective resolutions dealing with the consequences of the war between Russia and Georgia, and, in that context, to draw up a specific roadmap for compliance, including timelines.

B Explanatory memorandum

1 Introduction

1 On 11 September 2009, a motion (Doc. 12014 (2009)) was tabled by Mr Michael Jensen (Denmark, ALDE) and 71 other members, requesting the Parliamentary Assembly to reconsider the previously ratified credentials of the Russian delegation on substantive grounds, on the basis of Rule 9.1.a of the Rules of Procedure of the Parliamentary Assembly, in view of the persistent failure of Russia to honour its obligations and commitments imposed upon it by the Assembly Resolutions 1633 (2008) and 1647 (2009) and its lack of co-operation in the Assembly’s monitoring procedure within the meaning of Rule 8.2.b of the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure. In particular, the authors of the motion pointed out that Russia has not only “failed to fulfil the key demands of Resolutions 1633 (2008) and 1647 (2009) adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly” but also has “undertaken steps that further depart from their implementation”.
2 In Resolution 1633 (2008) on the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia, adopted on 2 October 2008, the Assembly considered that, during the war and in its immediate aftermath, both countries had violated human rights and principles of humanitarian law as well as the Statute of the Council of Europe and specific accession commitments. On that basis, the Assembly formulated a series of concrete demands on both countries to address the consequences of the war in a manner incumbent on them as a member state of the Council of Europe.
3 In Doc. 11726 of 2008, I already reported on a request to reconsider the previously ratified credentials of the Russian delegation on substantive grounds. From this report drafted one year ago, I would like to recall the following paragraphs:
“8. Let me first of all state that the escalation of what used to be called by some a “frozen conflict” into a war between two member states of the Organisation is simply unacceptable.9. Since the early 1990’s, the various parties to the conflict had numerous opportunities to de-escalate the conflict and put an end to human hardship. Instead, they pursued various forms of provocation leading to a deterioration in the security situation.10. It is clear that the recent war between two member states of the Organisation constitutes in itself a serious violation of the Statute of the Council of Europe and has led to further infringements of the obligations and commitments that both Russia and Georgia took on when acceding to the Council of Europe.[…]13. Therefore, both states are, to different degrees, responsible for the disproportionate use of armed force, including in civilian areas. This is a violation of international law principles, as well as of the obligation and commitment of the two states, as member states of the Council of Europe, to resolve conflicts by peaceful means.[…]18. On the basis of the above-mentioned considerations, there appear to be good reasons for sanctioning both Russia and Georgia, the latter at least as regards the outbreak of an open war.[…]21. The added value of the Council of Europe and of our Assembly, in particular, is that both Russia and Georgia are part of it. By punishing one of the two delegations at this stage we would simply amputate ourselves and deprive ourselves of the possibility of a dialogue. I believe that it would be more important to ensure that dialogue can be pursued between the two sides, but also between each of them and our Assembly.”
4 In its Resolution 1647 (2009) on the implementation of Resolution 1633 (2008) on the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia, adopted four months later, on 28 January 2009, the Assembly reconfirmed its position and its demands as expressed in its earlier Resolution 1633 (2008). The consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia, including its humanitarian aspects,Note as well as the compliance of both states with the Assembly demands, have been a main point of focus of the work of the Parliamentary Assembly for the last year.
5 It is important to recall that, in Resolution 1633 (2008), in the light of the controversy over the start of the war and the diametrically opposed views on these events of both Russia and Georgia, the Assembly called for an independent and impartial international investigation into the precise circumstances regarding the outbreak of the war. In Resolution 1647 (2009), the Assembly therefore welcomed the establishment by the European Union of an international fact-finding mission on the origins and course of the conflict between Georgia and Russia and resolved to return to that issue after the fact-finding mission has presented its report. The report of the international fact-finding mission (“Tagliavini” Report) is due to be presented in Brussels and made public on 29 September 2009, two days before the debate on the credentials of the Russian delegation.

2 Limitations with respect to compliance with the Assembly demands

6 The developments with regard to the consequences of the war and the compliance by Russia and Georgia with the demands made by the Assembly in this respect have been described in detail in the reports of the Monitoring Committee that were debated by the Assembly in January and April 2009 (Resolution 1647 (2009) and Docs 11800 and 11876), as well as in the most recent report on “The war between Georgia and Russia: one year after” (Doc. 12010), which was adopted by the Monitoring Committee on 9 September 2009 and was debated by the Assembly on 29 September 2009. These reports give a detailed overview of the developments with regard to the consequences of the war and I therefore have no need to repeat them here.
7 It is clear that our Russian colleagues should understand the disappointment of many of the members of the Assembly about the fact that, one year after the war, little tangible progress has been achieved in addressing the consequences of this war, and that, in particular, Russia has not implemented most of the demands, including those that have no bearing on the status question of the two regions. However, as an Assembly, we should also recognise the limitations of our own power and resolutions and acknowledge that no country will accept our resolutions as a dictate. We cannot impose ourselves, we can only convince others. Assembly resolutions are an expression of a political opinion.Note Their implementation is rather a process of constant dialogue and co-operation in which both sides show mutual respect and understanding. In this report, I will therefore take a closer look at the factors that have influenced the implementation by Russia of the demands of the Assembly and the lessons the Assembly should draw from that. Those considerations will be the basis for my recommendation regarding the ratification of the credentials of the Russian delegation.
8 First of all, one has to consider the ongoing controversy regarding the exact circumstances of the war and the precise responsibilities of both Georgia and Russia in this respect. The consequence of the adoption by the Assembly of its political position and the formulation of its demands on Russia before the finalisation of the international inquiry into the origins of the war has been that many people in Russia, especially among its political elite, have concluded (rightly or wrongly) that the Assembly’s position was not based upon an objective analysis of different factors, but, instead, was influenced by anti-Russian sentiment.
9 While I personally would not subscribe to such a view, I do realise that, for that reason, it became politically very difficult, if not well high impossible, for our Russian colleagues to put pressure on their authorities for ensuring compliance with the demands of the Assembly. In this respect, it should not be forgotten that, regrettably, a segment of the population, including members of the political elite is sceptical towards the Council of Europe, probably due to misunderstandings, and will all too happily use any perceived lack of understanding for the Russian position against our Assembly and the whole Council of Europe.
10 Such an attitude is as wrong and misleading as the bad feelings of many colleagues who suffered too long and too heavily under the totalitarian rule of the USSR and still blame today the Russian Federation and its authorities for all the sufferings and wrongdoing they had to endure in the past. This historical heritage is often re-enforced by a kind of revanchism and the unrealistic idea that it would be possible to cast off the heritage of hundreds of years of autocratic regimes within a few decades.
11 Another point that needs to be acknowledged, and which I feel is often underestimated, is the limits of the influence of the Russian Parliament, and by extension of our Russian colleagues, on the political course of the government. The members of the Russian Parliament represent the Russian electorate, which, as said earlier, is to a certain extent sceptical towards the Council of Europe. Moreover, it is frequently observed in many democracies that, in practice, the government aims at influencing the position of the parliament rather than strengthening its function of democratic oversight of government policies.
12 Lastly, we should recognise that a number of our demands have a direct impact on the security and foreign affairs policy of Russia. As in many, if not all, member states of the Council of Europe, these policy areas are considered to be areas of national interest which are directly related to the sovereignty of a country, especially in young democracies, where, rightly or wrongly, no outside interference is accepted and the parliament’s influence, especially if it argues against mainstream assumptions, is rather weak.
13 However, having said the above, it is also of the utmost importance that the Russian colleagues, and indeed the Russian political leadership, understand the frustration of the Assembly about the lack of any response to its resolutions and the questions they raise in them. The Assembly not only does not see its demands being implemented, it also does not see any dialogue on the reasons why that is so, or any willingness of the Russian authorities to engage in a dialogue with the Assembly on how, a number of its concerns can be addressed.
14 While Russia rightly demands respect by the Assembly, it likewise has to show the same respect to the Assembly and it does not do so by ignoring the latter’s position completely. A fruitful co-operation between Russia and the Assembly can only flourish on a basis of mutual respect and mutual willingness to engage in a genuine dialogue. In this respect, I repeat my proposal that the highest political authorities in Russia should accept the possibility to have an exchange of views on the position of the Assembly with respect to the war and the concerns it has raised within its midst.

3 Consequences of sanctions

15 When considering sanctions, the Assembly should have in mind what it is that it wants to achieve if it were to impose such sanctions and the effect they would have. In this respect, it is important to note that, while the Assembly is rightly frustrated about the lack of change, despite all its efforts, this change will not suddenly come about if the Russian delegation is expelled from the Assembly.
16 On the contrary, it is my firm belief that change can only be achieved on the basis of dialogue and dialogue cannot take place with the Russian delegation if we expel them from our midst. On the contrary: we can only try to convince those who do not share our convictions and ideas as we have no means to impose them on to anyone. But in order to convince someone, he or she has to be a member of our Organisation; one cannot establish a relation of mutual trust and understanding, factors which support efforts to convince, after having expelled a delegation from the Assembly and generated distance and mistrust.
17 There are two diverging views with regard to how the core values of our organisation affect our member states. According to one of them, the core values are absolute criteria that all member states are obliged to stand for if they do not want to face expulsion from our Organisation. According to the other view, representing the opposite concept or self-understanding of the Council of Europe’s identity, it is acknowledged that many states became members when it was perfectly clear that they were not fully up to our standards and we should therefore value their efforts to live up to the standards of our Organisation as a sufficient expression of political will.
18 I would urge for the acceptance of a third view, where we see adherence to the core values of the Organisation as a continuous individual and collective (societal) learning process that can only be stimulated and accelerated by dialogue, intense communication efforts and better mutual understanding. In this view, the Council of Europe is not so much the “House of Democracy” but a kind of European hospital of democracy and a healing process can not be based on the expulsion of the sick and wounded.
19 One of the main reasons why we have to put all our efforts into continuing the co-operation and dialogue with Russia is the fact that we are the only Organisation dealing with democracy and human rights in which countries like Russia are full members and bound by our Statute to pursue dialogue and co-operation on these values. It is our raison d’être to confront all the difficulties which are the consequence of membership and to try to invest as many human resources and efforts as possible to overcome the heritage of the past which still undermines the common implementation of our basic values on a daily basis in the day-to-day life of all people.
20 Just like Georgia, Europe has to deal with Russia because it is our common neighbour. Nobody can choose its neighbours. But everyone has to live with them. The only way to establish good and peaceful neighbouring relations is together with, and never against, the neighbour. In this sense, the only manner to live together and next to a neighbour peacefully is to engage with him or her in a first difficult dialogue which hopefully always improves.
21 In this respect, I should like to stress that, unfortunately, as regards Georgia and Russia, that relationship has now been stained by violence and violence is always very hard to forget, if at all. However, we should not give in to pessimism and should not give up on dialogue as there are many examples to guide us – Cyprus being one of them – where violence eventually gives way to the start of a dialogue and a healing process.
22 Lastly, when discussing the question of sanctions and credibility, we have to ask ourselves in the interest of whom we are working. Are we working for the political elite or for the people at the grassroots? Surely, all Russian citizens, including those whose human rights are most seriously put at risk, would be the last ones to benefit from an expulsion of the Russian delegation from this Assembly as we are one of the few who can actually help them to achieve their human rights.

4 Conclusions

23 The motion presented by Mr Jensen and others proposes to the Assembly to reconsider the previously ratified credentials of the Russian delegation on substantive grounds under Rule 9.1.a of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly. According to Rule 9.1a, the Assembly may reconsider the ratified credentials of a national delegation as a whole in the course of the same ordinary session, inter alia, “on a motion for a resolution to annul ratification on the grounds set out in Rule 8.2”.
24 According to Rule 8.2 the credentials of a national delegation may be challenged on substantive grounds for:
a serious violation of the basic principles of the Council of Europe mentioned in Article 3 of, and the Preamble to,Note the Statute; or
b persistent failure to honour obligations and commitments and lack of co-operation in the Assembly’s monitoring procedure.
25 The motion presented by Mr Jensen and others is based on sub-paragraph b of Rule 8.2, namely on the persistent failure of Russia to honour its obligations and commitments imposed upon it by the Assembly Resolutions 1633 (2008) and 1647 (2009) and its lack of co-operation in the Assembly’s monitoring procedure.
26 It is important to note that, from the outset, the Assembly has placed the consequences of the war between Georgia and Russia in the context of the fulfilment by these member states of their commitments and obligations to the Council of Europe, as is clear from Resolutions 1633 (2008) and 1647 (2009). It should be noted in this respect that these Resolutions were adopted by the Assembly on the basis of reports presented by the Monitoring Committee of the Assembly
27 In the chapter above, I have tried to outline the obstacles faced by the Russian delegation in its co-operation with the Assembly, and the limitations the Assembly has to accept with regard to the compliance of a country with its demands, especially when they deal with a highly controversial issue that has far reaching implications for a country and its sovereign policy-making process. At the same time, the Russian delegation should understand the frustration of the Assembly about the total lack of dialogue and of willingness of the Russian decision-makers to engage in an open discussion with the Assembly over its concerns.
28 This lack of comprehension for each others’ rightful demand to be respected and taken seriously, has led to a situation where almost none of the demands of the Assembly, including very reasonable demands that have nothing to do with the status issue of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, have been implemented by the Russian leadership.
29 Moreover, to my great regret, members of the Russian delegation to the Assembly have publicly ruled out any possibility of compliance by Russia with the Assembly demands, which appears to be the expression of a strange relationship with an Organisation you seek to be part of because you share its normative commitments. Nevertheless, the Russian delegation cannot be held solely responsible for Russia’s non compliance with each and every demand the Assembly has placed on the Russian authorities.
30 In its Resolution 1633 (2008), the Assembly stressed – and reconfirmed this in its Resolution 1647 (2009) – that it believed that the establishment of a genuine dialogue is the only way forward for the resolution of the conflict and for securing the long-term stability of the region. However, it equally stressed that a number of minimum factors, outlined in Resolution 1633 (2008), needed to be met for such a dialogue to be meaningful.
31 The need to ensure a genuine dialogue between the two sides, as well as between them and the Assembly, was also the main argument for the Assembly’s decision to confirm the ratification of the credentials of the Russian delegation in its Resolution 1631 (2008) on the “Reconsideration on substantial grounds of the previously ratified credentials of the Russian delegation”, adopted one year earlier, on 1 October 2008.
32 Under Rule 9.4 of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly, the report issued as a result of a motion for a resolution to reconsider the credentials of a delegation on substantive grounds shall contain a draft resolution proposing in its operative part:
a confirmation of the ratification of the credentials;
b annulment of the ratification of the credentials;
c confirmation of the ratification of the credentials together with depriving or suspending the exercise of some of the rights of participation or representation of members of the delegation concerned in the activities of the Assembly and its bodies.
33 Notwithstanding the lack of compliance by Russia with the demands of the Assembly, as expressed in Resolutions 1633 (2008) and 1647 (2009), I would propose that, given the utmost importance of fostering and consolidating a meaningful dialogue between Russia and Georgia and between these two delegations and the Assembly, as well as taking into account the obstacles faced by the Russian delegation in explaining, let alone complying, with its demands, the Assembly confirms the ratification of the credentials of the Russian delegation, in line with Rule 9.4a.
34 However, I would strongly recommend that the Assembly step up its monitoring procedure with respect to Russia, including in relation to the demands made by the Assembly in its respective Resolutions dealing with the consequences of the war between Russia and Georgia, and that, in that context, a specific roadmap for compliance, including timelines, be drawn up.
35 Furthermore, I would plead for the creation of a culture of mutual respect. In such a culture, it should be acceptable that partners can disagree with each other, but accept the obligation to engage in a dialogue to explain the disagreements and declare readiness to look for mutually acceptable compromises. Such explanations would contribute to a better mutual understanding and, in so doing, would be the best contribution to possibly overcoming the disagreement one day.
36 Such a culture would be based on a communicative engagement and not on sanctions. At the same time, sanctions would of course still be applicable if one country’s regime or one delegation, or the other, would reject this culture of respect for disagreement and reject a genuine dialogue in a total and absolute and never ending way. I would suggest that the Assembly committee concerned could be seized to develop a code of conduct for such a culture of respect for disagreement. Moreover, such a culture can not be based on a constant threat of sanctions. I would therefore suggest that an amendment to the Rules of Procedure could be considered that would limit the number of times that previously ratified credentials of a delegation can be challenged on substantive grounds to once a year.

***

Reporting committee: Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)

Reference to committee: Reference No. 3590 of 28 September 2009

Draft resolution adopted by the committee on 29 September 2009

Members of the committee: Mr Serhiy Holovaty (Chairperson), Mr György Frunda (1st Vice-Chairperson), Mr Konstantin Kosachev (2nd Vice-Chairperson), Mr Leonid Slutsky (3rd Vice-Chairperson), Mr Aydin Abbasov, Mr Pedro Agramunt Font de Mora, Mr Miloš Aligrudić, Mrs Meritxell Batet Lamaña, Mr Ryszard Bender, Mr József Berényi, Mr Luc van den Brande, Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Mr Sergej Chelemendik, Ms Lise Christoffersen, Mr Boriss Cilevičs, Mr Georges Colombier, Mr Telmo Correia, Mrs Herta Däubler-Gmelin, Mr Joseph Debono Grech, Mr Juris Dobelis, Mrs Josette Durrieu, Mr Mátyás Eörsi, Ms Mirjana Ferić-Vac, Mr Giuseppe Galati, Mr Jean-Charles Gardetto, Mr József Gedei, Mr Andreas Gross, Mr Michael Hagberg, Mr Holger Haibach, Ms Gultakin Hajibayli, Mr Michael Hancock, Mr Davit Harutyunyan, Mrs Olha Herasym’yuk, Mr Andres Herkel, Mrs Sinikka Hurskainen, Mr Kastriot Islami, Mr Mladen Ivanić, Mr Bjørn Jacobsen, Mr Michael Aastrup Jensen, Mr Miloš Jevtić, Mr Hakki Keskin, Mr Haluk Koç, Mrs Katerina Konečná, Mr Jaakko Laakso, Mrs Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, Mr Göran Lindblad, Mr René van der Linden, Mr Eduard Lintner, Mr Pietro Marcenaro, Mr Bernard Marquet, Mr Dick Marty, Mr Miloš Melčák, Mrs Nursuna Memecan, Mr Jean-Claude Mignon, Mr João Bosco Mota Amaral, Mrs Yuliya Novikova, Mr Theodoros Pangalos, Mrs Elsa Papadimitriou, Mr Alexander Pochinok, Mr Ivan Popescu, Mrs Marietta de Pourbaix-Lundin, Mr Christos Pourgourides, Mr John Prescott, Mrs Mailis Reps, Mr Andrea Rigoni, Mr Ilir Rusmali, Mr Armen Rustamyan, Mr Indrek Saar, Mr Oliver Sambevski, Mr Kimmo Sasi, Mr Samad Seyidov, Mr Sergey Sobko, Mr Christoph Strässer, Mrs Chiora Taktakishvili, Mr Mihai Tudose, Mrs Özlem Türköne, Mr Egidijus Vareikis, Mr José Vera Jardim, Mr Piotr Wach, Mr Robert Walter, Mr David Wilshire, Mrs Renate Wohlwend, Mrs Karin S. Woldseth, Mrs Gisela Wurm, Mr Andrej Zernovski.

N.B.: The names of the members who took part in the meeting are printed in bold

Secretariat of the committee: Mrs Chatzivassiliou, Mr Klein, Ms Trévisan, Mr Karpenko

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