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Russia warns it may leave PACE for one year

Russia is warning it may suspend its activities in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for one year, adding, though, that it will not raise the question of leaving the Council of Europe right away for the time being. Experts approve of this stance, saying that it would make sense to preserve the achieved level of participation in the leading international organizations.

Russia will suspend its activity in the PACE at least for one year, if this year it is stripped of the voting rights again, State Duma Speaker Sergey Naryshkin told the daily Kommersant in an interview. In the meantime Russian delegates at the PACE are going ahead with attempts to influence the assembly's decision to restore the delegation's rights at the forthcoming session, to be held on January 26-30.

At the April 2014 session the PACE suspended part of the Russian delegation's powers (such as the right to speak and vote at sessions and participate in the activity of the leadership bodies) till January 2015 following Crimea's re-unification with Russia. The Russian legislators then left the session ahead of time and refused to take part in further activities. At this session the powers of all delegations are to be formally re-affirmed.

"We appreciate the Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of Europe in the first place, as a major international discussion site very suitable for an open dialogue on crucial issues. But if we are denied a chance to conduct such an open dialogue, what is it we should appreciate this organization for? Then the question will arise of suspending our PACE activities at least for one year. And if a different decision fails to be taken during this year, then the question will be brought up of Russia's further membership of the Council of Europe," Naryshkin said.

In a word, the question whether Russia may walk out of the CE has been postponed at least for one year. Naryshkin believes this is the correct tactic: "It is more balanced and better agrees with the code of conduct worthy of a large country that respects itself and sincerely wishes to be in dialogue with all - including those in the European continent."

Dutch legislators have drafted a resolution with proposals for suspending part or all powers of the Russian delegation to the PACE, the daily Izvestia said several days ago.

The idea of stripping Russia of all rights at the PACE will not gain support, but the anti-Russian segment at the assembly will be firmly pressing for restricting the Russian delegation's rights, the chairman of the State Duma's international affairs committee, Aleksei Pushkov, told TASS earlier. He pointed to what he described as a stable anti-Russian bloc, incorporating such countries as Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Georgia, Sweden, and Denmark, as well as Britain that joined them a year ago. "The other delegations' opinions are varied, so the question is whether this anti-Russian bloc will be able to gain a majority," Pushkov said.

Political scientist Igor Bunin is quoted by the Rosbalt news agency as saying Russia should try to preserve the degree of involvement in the affairs of leading European and world organizations achieved over the previous years. "If we are going to become a rogue state, we should turn our backs on the PACE and all other organizations of this sort," Bunin said. However, in his opinion "as many ties as possible with the global politics and the global economy should be preserved."

In the current conditions Russia should use any floor for interaction with the European counter-agents, Igor Nikolaichuk, an expert at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, told TASS. "Our ill-wishers keep arguing that we are not Europeans and they are literally dreaming of the day when we will leave Europe."

International cooperation sites are many and varied, Nikolaichuk said. But interaction with NATO is now very bad. So it is in relations with the EU, although it is slightly better than that with NATO. As for the PACE, although this organization does not have a great political weight in contrast to others, it is there, as Western observers say, "where Russia has most of its friends these days." First and foremost, this applies to opposition parties' legislators, who are critical of their countries' governments for their stance towards Russia.

"It would be utterly inexpedient to say in a situation like that we will leave the Council of Europe for good," Nikolaichuk said.

[Source: By Lyudmila Alexandrova, Itar Tass, Moscow, 22Jan15]

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