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Ukraine crisis: ‘There are rules which must be respected’

Strasbourg, 17.03.2014 – The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Anne Brasseur, referring to the crisis in Ukraine at a major conference in Vienna to mark the beginning of the First World War, has said that Council of Europe member states must be reminded of the need to respect the Organisation’s rules.

In a major keynote speech delivered this morning, Ms Brasseur said: “It is our duty to remind all our member states of the rules and to speak out over what is unacceptable. We want to do it in an open and frank discussion. The First World War taught us that imposing a solution is fatally flawed.”

She was speaking at an international conference entitled “1914 – The collapse of a Peace Order: is Democratic Peace an Alternative?” organised by the Austrian Chairmanship of the Council of Europe. The conference was opened by Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann and the Speaker of the Austrian National Council Barbara Prammer. European Parliament President Martin Schulz also gave an address.

Referring to the possibility that Russia could “walk out” of the Council of Europe, or see the credentials of its parliamentary delegation to PACE challenged, the President said: “Membership of the Council of Europe is based on commitments. Joining the Council of Europe is a choice, but being a member implies the respect of the rules of the house. These rules exclude recourse to threats, be they economic or the use of force.”

Referring to the Council of Europe’s long history of preventing conflict, she added: “Are the instruments at the disposal of the Council of Europe able to avoid such a crisis? Yes, as long as member states respect their own commitments. If, however, one member state unilaterally decides not to respect these aims and values, our instruments lose their efficiency.”

The President said it was essential to continue to communicate with both Russia and Ukraine, pointing out that she had recently spoken at length with the Speaker of the Russian State Duma Sergey Naryshkin as well as the President of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada Oleksandr Turchinov. She also announced that she would accompany PACE’s Presidential Committee on a visit later this week to Kyiv, Donetsk and if possible to Crimea.

There has been a request for an urgent debate at PACE’s forthcoming spring session on “threats to the functioning of democratic institutions in Ukraine”. 

Follow Anne Brasseur on Twitter at @PACE_President